Category: News


Every time I start a new blog post, it always seems as if I have to begin with ‘sorry for not having posted for ages’, or something similar. I’m not the best of people with social media and blogging. I know what good things they are in many respects, especially for the self-employed, and extra-especially for writers. ‘Get yourself out there more!’ I’m told, by informed friends and acquaintances who use the internet to its limit to promote their work. ‘I will,’ I answer, (usually just to shut them up). I don’t mean it, of course. Is it because I’m lazy, or too busy, or simply feel distaste for this voracious medium? Maybe a bit of all three. I’m certainly not the type to share intimate details of my life with strangers online, or even people I know vaguely. Close friends will get to hear news over the phone, and that’s where it’ll stay. Sometimes I’ll post pictures of my friends and I on Facebook when we’re visiting a site of interest. The only other personal thing I’ll post is pictures of and anecdotes about my cats. (A little disappointing how they always get a ton – literally a ton – more ‘likes’ than posts about writing, whether that’s my writing or someone else’s.) Otherwise, to me, Facebook is for work.

I had a submission the other day, whose accompanying mail began by explaining in great detail the social media success of the writer, how they were such a booming youtuber and so on. Eventually, this mail said, (and here I’m exaggerating just because I can), ‘Oh yeah, and they just wrote this novel.’ My first instinct was to reply with a succinct profanity, but then I let it simmer for a few days and replied, along the lines of: the work is more important than the social media popularity of the author. Unfortunately, the work, when I got to it, was dull, derivative and not any great shakes style-wise. Pass! However, I was so tempted to end my rejection email with, ‘This one isn’t for me, but I guarantee the author will find great success elsewhere.’ I know a lot of (perhaps more sensible) editors and publishers will take one look at all those thousands of ‘youtube’ hits and think to themselves, ‘magnificent, look at all that potential self-promotion’. And quite honestly, they’ll be right. No matter how mediocre the work, if thousands of people are into your blog, there’s a good chance they’ll buy the book you write. I’m old-fashioned and curmudgeonly, I know, but I find that depressing. Does success really have to depend so heavily nowadays on social media and the fleeting popularity you can get on there – often for sod all? For people who share my distaste, I recommend the Charlie Brooker ‘Black Mirror’ episode (series 3 on Netflix), ‘Nosedive’. That to me says it all.

Anyway, onto more cheerful subjects. One of the reasons I’ve not posted is, as I’ve stated honestly (honest) above, is that I’ve just been really busy. For some reason, I took it on myself to produce six books this year – books that will involve my own work, not just other people’s. Five of those titles are through my own Immanion Press, and one is through Ian Whates’ NewCon Press. First off, I’ll talk about the latter. A mockup of the cover (which might be slightly different eventually) is below:

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Back in the 1990s, Louise Coquio and I ran a small press fiction magazine called ‘Visionary Tongue’. I suspect that the majority of people who read my blog and look at my posts on Facebook already know about this venture, and perhaps even contributed to it. But for those who don’t, the thing that set VT apart from other little magazines was that we recruited a team of successful, established writers to act as editors and mentors for new authors. Each accepted contributor got to work with a ‘pro name’, who passed on tips and advice about the stories, as well as a thorough edit. No-one had done that before. Lou and I didn’t realise what a huge job this would turn out to be, and as other commitments mounted up, we realised we hadn’t got the time to continue running the magazine. We passed custodianship to Jamie Spracklen, who kept it running for around a dozen more issues. Some of our contributors went on to have strong writing careers – such as Liz Williams, Justina Robson and Tim Lebbon. When Ian asked me last year if I’d ever published a collection of VT stories as a book and, if not, he’d happily do one, I said yes at once. But… tracking down authors proved impossible in some cases, and even with the help of Jamie and his co-editor Donna Bond, I’ve not managed to trace them all. Ultimately, Ian and I have decided to publish the stories and poems of these ‘missings’ in the book, with the disclaimer that we searched as much as we could, and free copies of the book will be waiting to be handed to ‘missings’ should they ever come across it. Another time-consumer was translating all the stories into electronic versions, since the files for many of the older issues have been lost, as were some of the magazines themselves. Some stories had to be scanned and then carefully edited, which is always a long job. Still, the book is shaping up now and is all but done. I’ve used illustrations that artist Ruby did for the original magazine throughout. The cover too is by Ruby, an adaptation of cover art she did for issue 20. This book is due to be published in September through NewCon Press.

Projects 2, 3 and 4 are Wraeththu-related. Not all of them might appear this year – that depends on contributors. First off, there’s ‘Para Spectral’, a collection of supernatural stories set in the Wraeththu mythos. Whenever Wendy and I start a new ‘Para’ anthology, I always want to get it out the same year. This never happens. The books always take longer than I’d thought – but this is generally down to contributors being so busy and needing extra time to finish submissions. Wendy and I usually write two stories each to go in the ‘Para’ books, so that’s more time I need to find.

The next Wraeththu book is ‘Songs to Earth and Sky’, which revolves around the Deharan Wheel of the Year. This is a reimagining of the familiar Pagan cycle of the seasons, with its eight festivals – several of which survived into the Christian era as Christmas, Easter and so on. The Wheel of the Year in the mythos is known as Arotohar, and each has one – or in some cases two – dehara (or gods) connected with them. I invited a few authors to contribute to the collection, which I’ve long wanted to write. I knew this would be a huge job to do alone, (as I have plans for its interior, as well as simply writing stories), so I chose a few writers to help with the work! Each selected a seasonal festival to base their story around. At the moment, I have two stories to write myself for this anthology but it might end up being three. The proposed (and most desired) release date for this book is December 2017. I want to try and bring it out on the day of Adkaya, which is a few weeks before the winter solstice, a ‘sub-festival’, when the dehar Solarisel delivers the pearl of the sun-harling Elisin, which hatches at the solstice. This seems a propitious time to release the book, so I hope we can keep to the deadline! I’ve just finished writing a story based on Rosatide (or Imbolc), which is currently entitled ‘A Message in Ashes’. This title might change. I’m really pleased with this piece, and again (as with a couple of my recent mythos stories) I’ve been drawn to a harish community out in the wilderness, who are very much in touch with nature. My dream world, obviously. This story took on a life of its own once I began writing it, and has some poignant, if not tragic, moments. I really enjoyed writing it.

The final book related to Wraeththu is the third volume of the ‘Grimoire Dehara’ series I’m writing with Taylor Ellwood. The Deharan magical system is based upon the fictional system in my Wraeththu books, which we’ve expanded into a pop culture magic system. As there was over ten years between book one and two, Taylor and I both feel we need to bring the third one out as soon as possible after the second. This will be the volume that focuses upon ‘Nahir Nuri’, the third tier of the system. We’ve endeavoured to keep these books of interest and use to practitioners who aren’t familiar with Wraeththu, but are intrigued by its androgynous nature in a magical sense. The book will again be fully illustrated by Ruby and me, and will be out in the final quarter of 2017 – all being well.

After these titles, we have ‘The Darkest Midnight in December’, which is a book of traditional Christmas ghost stories. Again, I’m not sure if this will be out this year or the next, but will endeavour to make it this year.

The next book I’ll talk about is currently entitled ‘Brides of Blood and Shadow’, although I’m desperately trying to come up with a different word to ‘Brides’, which has a good ring and rhythm to it, but it’s not what I want to convey about the book. This is a book of pathworkings with what are known as ‘dark goddesses’ – not the motherly types, or love goddesses, or goddesses of hearth and home. These will include deities such as Hecate, Ereshkigal and The Morrigan. Andy Collins and I will write the actual pathworkings together, although I’m doing all the accompanying essays, explaining the symbolism of each goddess. Caroline Wise is writing a guest article for it. Again, I don’t have a firm release date for this. Researching each goddess is taking me some time, (as we’re including some quite obscures ones), along with all the other projects I’m working on simultaneously.

It’s strange but I’m finding it most effective to spread my work out over my working week on these books. I’ll do a chapter of the Dehara, then work on one of the short stories, then write essays on a couple of goddesses. It might be an illusion, but I feel I’m making more progress this way.  Of course, with some books I’m having to wait on the work of others so can’t do much about that. This is good, though, because it means I can concentrate fully on the other books (and stories) and hopefully have them finished by the time I have enough material to put the anthologies together.

So that’s about it for current projects. If anyone would like to submit to ‘Para Spectral’ or ‘The Darkest Midnight in December’, please let me know and I can send details. Mail to editorial(at)Immanion-press(dot)com

 

2016 has been a productive year for me, with a lot of work going on behind the scenes for both Immanion Press and its non-fiction imprint, Megalithica Books. I’ve written quite a few short stories, released the ‘Dark in the Day’ weird fiction anthology (edited by Paul Houghton and me), as well as ‘Grimoire Dehara: Ulani’, (written by Taylor Ellwood and me). I have lots of plans for the future.

Yesterday was publication day for my new Wraeththu Mythos book, ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’. It’s also having a simultaneous release in e-book. The latter will be on sale at the end of the month in a Kindle promotion. This book, a trilogy of connected novellas, began life as a collection of all the Wraeththu stories I’d begun over the years and had never finished. However, it changed course almost immediately as, once I began work upon the first story ‘Song of the Cannibals’, I knew I had something bigger than a short on my hands. It became a layered tale that folds back on itself, a narrative delivered by three different characters. While each story focuses on a different part of their shared history, there are some overlaps, which are subject to personal interpretation on the part of the narrator. That kind of thing really interests me.

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The story begins around 20 years after the fall of Fulminir, the stronghold of the Varr leader, Ponclast. I’ve always been intrigued by that dark fortress and what happened there. Part of its history I didn’t know myself until recently, when it opened its doors to me in a creative sense. When, as a young author, I first wrote about the Varrs, I wanted to ensure they appeared brutal, almost unharish, and was extremely heavy-handed with certain details of that, as I didn’t have the experience and skill to make it chilling in a more subtle way. Wendy Darling, my editor, spoke to me recently about Ponclast’s unspeakable murder of his son Gahrazel, in ‘The Bewitchments of Love and Hate’ and how it related to the new work. The repulsiveness of the method Ponclast employed is almost worthy of ‘Game of Thrones’ for nauseating ghastliness. Looking back, I wouldn’t write the scene in precisely that way now. It closed certain doors upon that aspect of the mythos and its characters. Then I realised that ‘Bewitchments’ was told from the character Swift’s perspective – and first person narrators can be unreliable – plus the fact that he learned of Gahrazel’s death in a vision. I haven’t challenged what Swift reported; it’s simply not commented upon, not least because the characters in the new book wouldn’t have access to that information.  Some of the original narrative may be true, some of it not. Perhaps all true or all untrue. Or else even Gahrazel’s perception of his death – or his ghost’s perception – is skewed. I’ll leave it open for now.

There is one particular, distressing scene in ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’ that when told from two perspectives offer a different story. Both, in fact, are true, but subject to personal filtering. Fascinating stuff to write about.

When I first came up with the character of Ponclast, he was a rather one-dimensional, ouana-prevalent baddie, but as time has gone on, and through different novels and stories, he’s become a more rounded individual. Not a kind and fluffy type by any means, but not a stereotypical evil overlord either. His origin story, ‘Pro Lucror’, which appeared in the Mythos anthology ‘Paragenesis’, provides some insight into why and how he turned out the way he did. In ‘Shades of Time and Memory’ and ‘The Ghosts of Blood and Innocence’, from the second Wraeththu trilogy, he changes considerably, and perhaps goes part way to a kind of redemption. My colleague, Taylor Ellwood, who works with me on the Deharan magic system, felt that Ponclast should be part of the second book in the ‘Grimoire Dehara’ series. His complex character takes the role of an underworld deity in the system. I’ve come to realise that Ponclast has captivated quite a lot of people over the years, who are interested in his character development. Quite an achievement for a har who was initially supposed to be little more than a bit part player. ‘Grimoire Dehara: Ulani’ came out earlier this year. As well as adding depth and detail to Ponclast’s character, it also includes other mythos-expanding aspects that may be of interest to readers of the Wraeththu books, as well as practitioners of magic.

Now for next year’s plans… Some of them are at the developmental stage, when they might or might not happen, so I can’t give too many details. But I can mention the ‘Visionary Tongue’ anthology I’ll be compiling, which has been commissioned by Ian Whates for his NewCon Press, and is earmarked for an autumn release next year, to coincide with Fantasycon. ‘Visionary Tongue’ was a magazine edited by Louise Coquio and me about 20 years ago. Writers who went on to be quite famous names contributed stories to it, such as Liz Williams, Justina Robson and Tim Lebbon. After issue 16, Louise and I handed the caretaking of the magazine to Jamie Spracklen, as we no longer had the time to devote to it, nor the personnel to help us. Jamie has produced about 10 more issues since and is helping me, along with one of his editors, Donna Bond, to compile the anthology. I’ll be getting in touch with writers over the coming couple of months. Some I’ve already contacted and have received permission for reprints.

Taylor and I will be working on ‘Grimoire Dehara: Nahir Nuri’, which we intend to publish around autumn time too. This will appear, like the second volume, in a limited edition hardback, a paperback and e-book. As with the other books, this expands upon the pop culture magic system based on the Wraeththu Mythos.

I will begin work on a new novel, or series of stories, but I’ve yet to decide exactly what. There is also another non-fiction title I want to write. More details in the New Year when things are more certain.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported my work over the past year. I hope those of you who read ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’ will enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Here’s to exciting new projects for next year! May all of you have an exceptional Yuletide.

 

 

 

Summer is virtually here already, but at least most of my plans this year have worked out. A couple of projects have slid into the cupboard under the stairs, but at least one of those is due to be hoiked out and dusted down very shortly.

I’m putting the finishing touches to the ‘Dark in the Day’ weird fiction anthology, which I’m co-editing with Paul Houghton, the Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing at Staffs University. The book will include the work of several students at the university – both past and present – as well as stories by established writers, and maybe (still not quite decided on this), one or two authors from the early 20th century, whose work is now public domain. The main problem with the latter idea is that the work of dead writers Paul and I would most like to include – Robert Aickman, Oliver Onions and Algernon Blackwood among them – is still very much tied up in copyright, mostly with agents and estates (rather than actual relatives), who demand high sums for reprinting. This is beyond our means. There is other writers’ work available to us, but these wouldn’t be our first choices. But anyway, we do have some great stories from current writers, a few of whom have donated previously unpublished works. I’m also really pleased that John Kaiine, Tanith Lee’s husband, has allowed me to print one of her stories in the collection – as far we know, this has not been published before. Other new stories are from Rosie Garland, Elizabeth Counihan and – me.

I didn’t intend to write something new for this book as I’m so busy, and thought my piece ‘At the Sign of the Leering Angel’ would be a fair example of a weird tale to include in the anthology – it has previously only been published in ‘Dark Discoveries’, a magazine in the States. However, one night in bed last week, while I was reading the ghost (and weird) stories of Edith Wharton before going to sleep, one line from ‘The Looking Glass’ stuck in my mind. From that, a whole story grew. I wrote it in two sessions a couple of days later. The line was ‘…like a guide leading a stranger through the gallery of a palace in the twilight, and now and then lifting a lamp to a shimmering Rembrandt or a jewelled Rubens…’ An image came to me entire of a secret gallery of unsettling works… the story grew swiftly from there.

At the time, I was – and still am – working on a science fiction story for an anthology to which I’ve been asked to contribute. I was keen to get this piece finished last week, as I want to return to ‘Blood, The Phoenix and a Rose’ (my next full length work). But because ‘The Secret Gallery’ made its presence felt so strongly, I had to write it without delay. As a tribute to Ms Wharton, one of the paintings in the gallery is named ‘The Looking Glass.’

This story was also influenced from another direction, or rather the influence insisted to be included whether I wanted it or not. A few weeks ago, I saw the film XXY on DVD, a story about an intersex teenager growing up in an isolated community in Uruguay. The film had a beguiling, fairy-tale ambience, (not least that the family name is Kraken, a mythical sea-monster), and I loved the main character, played by a young female actress, who captured perfectly a shifting ambience of gender. I felt that this character, who might or might not have sharply-honed senses, if not a degree of psychism, would surely go on to have a life of strange and wondrous adventures. She is named – appropriately androgynously – Alex, and my character in ‘The Secret Gallery’ also has this name. The Alex of the film haunted this story. When I’d finished writing and was re-reading the piece, I thought ‘it’s clear now my character is that Alex, who she grew up to be.’ The gallery itself, unintentionally on my part, seems to mirror the protagonist’s life. But then, I suspect, that gallery mirrors the life of any who find their way to its hidden gate.

The weird anthology’s cover will feature a photograph by author Michael Marshall Smith. I always enjoy seeing the strange and haunting photos he posts on Facebook, so asked him if he’d mind if I used one as cover art for this book. Happily, he said yes. The book should be out in the early autumn.

Taylor Ellwood and I have finished writing ‘Grimoire Dehara: Ulani’ and are now only waiting for the final few pictures from Ruby to go in the book. I envisage this title will be out in July at the latest. We’ll then start work on the final book in the series, ‘Grimoire Dehara: Nahir Nuri’, rather than wait another ten years to do the next one – as happened with the first book! ‘Grimoire Dehara: Ulani’ will be published through Megalithica Books, as part of our non-fiction list, as it’s a pop culture magical system based on the magic in the Wraeththu books.

‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’, my three linked Wraeththu novellas have been left alone for a few weeks while I completed the grimoire and worked on short stories, and the editing for ‘Dark in the Day’. However, if all goes well, and I get my science fiction piece finished before Tuesday, (writer meeting that night, so I want to take it with me), I’ll get back to the novellas later in the week. Two of them are written, although need a little work, and I have the idea worked out for the third. I hope to get this book out later in the year, if I don’t get too distracted by other tasks.

I noticed in the ‘Blog Post’ folder, when I was creating a Word document for this post, that my post from June 2015 was about ‘The Shadowbirds’, a novel that was a follow-up to ‘The Moonshawl’. I can’t believe a year has passed since I first thought about that book. I’d begun writing it, too, but then ideas for the current project elbowed it out of the way, and I had to run with that as it was demanding to be written! However, I do still intend to return to ‘The Shadowbirds’ at some point.

Early in my career, I managed to write one novel a year – and this was when I had a day job too – but as time passed, and work for Immanion Press increased, it’s been difficult for me to produce novels so regularly. I’ve also upped my output for short stories, as this is a good way to get your work better known out there in the world. Plus, I enjoy writing them.

My ‘Through the Night Gardens’ project has been put on hold too, and part of the reason for that is I’m not as happy as I used to be in the game Rift, in which I’m creating landscapes to go with the story. The world of Rift is still enchanting to me, but I’m not enchanted by the way the developers now treat their customers and seek to milk relentlessly people who enjoy creating dimensions (the landscapes) in that game. I forgave a lot, but when it got to the point where new art assets were concealed within ‘gambling bags’ you had to buy with real money – and then not be guaranteed contents you’d want or could use – my dissatisfaction spilled over into actual resentment. I understand parting with cash is part of the deal. Rift is free to play, (although I do have a patron subscription to help support it), and needs income to survive. I shelled out quite a lot at the start of my project to fund it, but I prefer to spend my money on what I want and need, not be cheated by randomness, the dreaded RNG of all MMOs. I don’t think that belongs in an activity like dimension-building. I hate leaving projects half finished, especially as I’ve created a special blog for ‘Night Gardens’ and made a fanfare about this transmedia endeavour, so I expect I will return to it at some point, but I can’t escape the fact the experience has been soured for me. This, coupled with all the other work I’m doing, means ‘Night Gardens’ got pushed further back in the queue.

That’s it for current work news – more when I know it. I do want to put down my thoughts about the Warcraft movie, but will save this for a WoW blog post (The Necklace of Evil Faces) – I’ve neglected that blog for a while.

I’ve realised that it’s almost impossible to plan precisely my writing in advance. I’ve written blog posts over the years describing my intentions but a lot of the time these get modified – not least by the writing taking over and deciding for itself what’s going to happen. I’ve been thinking a lot about my career recently, not least because I hit sixty this year. Can’t believe so much time has passed! It’s frankly very scary. Anyway, I’ll talk about my realisations concerning writing – and Wraeththu – later on. First, current plans (but I – and you – might as well accept now that some of them may be subject to change):

After the successful launch of both the Wraeththu short story collection ‘Para Animalia’ and my new anthology ‘Splinters of Truth’ (the latter published by NewCon Press), I’m now concentrating on other projects. I’d planned initially to release all my Wraeththu short stories in one collection this year, including half a dozen or so new tales. But I’ve had to revise that idea. First of all, after discussing it with various friends, I’ve realised that as nearly all my Wraeththu pieces are still fairly recent, in the ‘Para’ anthologies, there probably isn’t much of  a market for a collected anthology yet. And even if there were, wouldn’t that be short-changing readers somewhat? Another consideration was that when I put all the stories into one book file and formatted it, it was already quite hefty – before any new pieces were added. So to me, this led to one major change in my work schedule this year: ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’ would comprise all new stories. A comprehensive collection can come later. I’d intended for this book to be fairly simple to compile, with just a few new additions, but no, the book has decided it’s something else entirely, and has clear views on how I must write it.

The initial idea for Wraeththu came from several directions, but primarily it was through my fascination with magic and the unseen. When I began reading books on these subjects as a teenager, I discovered alchemy, and this arcane art enchanted me. Even as a fledgling writer, it filled me with creative ideas. The alchemical rebis, the sacred hermaphrodite, was one of the most compelling images of all, and of course kick-started the idea of a race superior to humanity who were androgynous. In ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’, those words in themselves alchemical symbols, I want to explore the idea more fully.

So what has this alchemical beast evolved into? So far, the book will consist of three connected novellas, rather like a mini-trilogy, plus a few other pieces that are unconnected with them. I’ve completed the first two novellas. The first story was actually another of those ideas I’d had knocking around on my computer for decades. It was called ‘Song of the Cannibals’. When I began writing it, I didn’t know why it had that name – it had just come to me and I liked it. I imagined I could make the story fit the title as I wrote it and produced at most about three pages of it. Then I let it lie for around thirty years. Looking at my old notes (because I hate to see ideas wasted, however antique they might be), I came across ‘Cannibals’ again, and knew exactly what happened next and where the cannibal aspect came into it. Unfortunately it required junking nearly all of what I’d written, but for the name of the main character, the house where it’s set, and a somewhat sinister visitor. Here is a brief synopsis:

Tambril goes to work for a renowned alchemist/teacher named Melisander, who lives near Ferelithia. In the sprawling house, Sallow Gandaloi, which bustles with students and staff, Tambril discovers an important shrouded secret – his employer’s brother lives in a suite of secluded rooms and is most definitely ‘not right’. Melisander calls the weird Gavensel his ‘brother’, yet they are of completely different skin colours and clearly not related in blood. Yet Melisander never speaks about this. He is a fair and generous employer and teacher, and those living in his establishment, whether to learn or to work, are prepared to ignore or put up with the unnerving and ghostlike Gavensel in order to enjoy all the benefits of Melisander’s patronage. But then, one day, a mysterious visitor, a ‘crow of hara’, arrives at Sallow Gandaloi with an apparently priceless artefact to sell. Or is that his true purpose? Is he not perhaps there to steal rather than sell? And what is it he knows lies hidden in the house, something that is above priceless? Tambril, inevitably, becomes involved in the mystery, which becomes increasingly dark and threatening.

The second tale in the collection, which I finished this week is called ‘Half Sick of Shadows’, and is partly inspired (or perhaps informed) by the poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’, although bizarrely the characters themselves found the connection while I was writing, rather than me choosing deliberately to fit the story around the poem. During one conversation, a har refers to another present as ‘the Lady of Shalott’, and the whole thing took off from there. I didn’t plan this; it just came out. When the har in question seeks out and reads that poem, intrigued, he sees his own life reflected there, as he feels it fits him perfectly. That was pure coincidence rather than design. Or perhaps not coincidence at all! I can’t say any more than this about the story, as to do so would cause spoilers for the first piece.

The final story in this mini-trilogy doesn’t yet have a name. All I know is who the narrator is going to be, and an intriguing one he is too. Can’t say more – sorry! He has to be a surprise. I intend to start working on this piece once I’ve got another short story written, for a science fiction anthology to which I’ve been invited to contribute.

Something that’s been made abundantly clear to me while writing this new material is the thing that fascinates me most at the moment about the world of Wraeththu is how the original, incepted hara have adapted, a hundred years after their species was created. I’ve been hinting, and even overtly saying, for a long time in my stories that the incepted, the First Generation, are often regarded unfavourably by the later pureborns, who equate the incepted with madness, ignorance and instability. As one character in ‘Half Sick of Shadows’ says, ‘Hara like us are obsolete. We were merely mechanisms to get the whole thing going.’ The dust has settled, Wraeththu have gradually evolved into their potential, and continue to do so. But the casualties of war, those who fought for survival at the very start, the progenitors of Wraeththu, how do they fit into the new world, when very often they are scarred veterans of ancient conflicts? In Immanion, there is an establishment for such hara… I suppose much of my fascination lies in the fact that I am so much older now than I was when I first wrote feverishly of Wraeththu and their world. My dust has settled too, to a large degree. Now I’m able to observe my own youth in what I created, my own aspirations and hopes and ideals – my own silliness too, which I look upon with affection rather than regret. Wraeththu, if anything, have become even more intriguing to me.

I’ve written a great deal about hara over the past few years, and until quite recently have sometimes heard this niggling little voice in the back of my mind telling me I shouldn’t just luxuriate in the harish world. Write something else – something more commercial, harps the voice. While I’ve produced quite a lot of short stories not connected with Wraeththu over the past decade, the Magravandias Trilogy was the last full-length work not set in the world of Wraeththu, and that was released around sixteen years ago. That’s far too long, wheedles the voice. Stop indulging yourself! With this in mind, I began work on my ‘Through the Nightgardens’ project late last year, and wrote the first two instalments of this fantasy novel. I planned to write a chapter a month, and allow the first six to be available free online, illustrated by landscapes I created in the MMORPG, Rift. The first two are up, but… I’ve been so busy since the New Year, not just with writing, but with administration tasks and ‘any other business’. I’m also nearly at the end of ‘Grimoire Dehara: Ulani’, the book of pop culture magic, which I’ve been writing with Taylor Ellwood. We want to get this out around summer time. There have been short stories to write as well, as I hate to turn down offers when they appear in my mail. And shorts, while short, still take some time to write. So ‘Nightgardens’ hasn’t progressed as much as I’d hoped. It hasn’t been helped by the fact that Trion, the company who developed and maintain Rift, have changed a lot. I dislike the way they operate now and how they treat their loyal customers. This has soured my feelings towards the game and quite honestly has contributed towards me feeling less inspired to go and work on my landscapes for ‘Nightgardens’ in there. I will take both story and landscapes up again eventually, as I don’t like to leave projects half-finished, especially when I’ve already done so much work on them, but my desire to work on this was so much less than my eagerness to work on ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’. I love that project and want to complete it before I consider doing anything else.

It was a dilemma I struggled with for a while. My first love really is Wraeththu, and although my books about them have never been popular in the mainstream, they’ve always had a consistent and loyal following. That world has allowed me to explore so much about ourselves, as humans, and so much about gender, through the medium of these sexually unsundered beings. As I said earlier in this post, I’m sixty this year, and I feel now I have to write what I most want to write. I might have another 30 years left to me – or not. We don’t know these things about ourselves, but there comes a moment when you have to accept that the first half of your life is long gone, and time becomes a far more precious commodity. My writing is my legacy. I’m never going to be rich and famous; I got over the hope of that years ago. I’m never going to be the sort of writer who’s in the spotlight, grinning at cameras while I win awards. The disappointment about that disappeared some time ago too. But I do believe in what I write, consider myself a good writer who has worked hard at her craft, and know instinctively it’s what I’m here to do. I’ve never found writing incredibly easy, or felt it pour out in beautiful, perfect streams as if I’m a channel for it – as my late, much-missed friend Tanith Lee experienced. But I do feel I’m approaching the height of my powers as a story-teller, and have decided I don’t want to waste a minute of that trying to write things to please other people, in the hope it will make me more successful. My work is more precious than that and deserves more respect. I often day-dreamed wistfully of living in a big old house, much like the sort I sometimes write about, but know now that’s unlikely to happen. I comfort myself with the thought that if I’d ever had a house like that, I’d probably have been terrified in it – my imagination being what it is. Once I’d cast off these unrealistic hopes and dreams, I got down to the real reward – loving the act of writing, cherishing my developing stories, simply enjoying my work. The freedom that accepting all this gave me, which can only come with age and experience, simply opens up myriad avenues into new creative areas to explore, new stories to discover. And that’s the greatest prize of all.

Happy New Year to everyone – hope you had a good seasonal holiday. I have lots of plans for writing projects this year so it’s time to share news of these forthcoming ventures!

First off, I’ve put the next Wraeththu novel on back burner (although safely with a great many notes on the story) for a while, as I’ve launched a new fiction venture – ‘Through the Night Gardens’ –a novel told in part as a serial, which will appear for free on the blog Through the Night Gardens This is a transmedia project, in that it encompasses landscapes created in the MMORPG Rift, and I have plans also to produce an audio book of the story, as well as videos of the landscapes I’ve designed for it. Eventually, this will become a novel produced in the traditional, printed form – and will then include sub-plots and other additional material. For the interactive part, I need to keep it relatively simple, but I hope also this will whet readers’ appetites for the larger work to follow. The first chapter is now online and I intend to release at least one more chapter this month.

However, even though ‘Night Gardens’ is taking a larger part of the stage this year than I thought it would, it doesn’t mean my Wraeththu stories will be totally neglected. Wendy Darling and I are in the latter stages of producing the next shared-world anthology ‘Para Animalia: Creatures of Wraeththu’, which I envisage will be available round about March at the latest. The book includes two new stories from me, and from Wendy, and also tales by E. S. Wynn, Fiona Lane and Nerine Dorman, as well as other Mythos writers. Here is a preview of the cover art by Ruby:

Para Animalia front smaller

I’m also working on a Wraeththu short story collection of my own that will include previously unpublished early works, as well as completely new stories, plus all the Wraeththu Mythos stories I’ve written to date, so as to collect them all in one volume. I don’t yet have a title for this book, but will be writing the stories alongside the chapters for ‘Through the Night Gardens’ throughout the early part of this year. It will contain around half a dozen completely new tales. I’m loosely planning for the Wraeththu collection to be available in the summer.

Additional to these projects, I’m working on ‘Grimoire Dehara: Ulani’ with my colleague Taylor Ellwood, again with the aim of publishing it this year. This is the pop culture magical system based on the Wraeththu mythos, the first volume of which was ‘Grimoire Dehara: Kaimana’. We’ve been asked repeatedly to release the other two volumes in the series, and now have the time to commit to this project.

My short story collection ‘Splinters of Truth’ will be published by NewCon Press to coincide with the Mancunicon convention, this year’s Eastercon, which is held in Manchester.  I will be on hand to help promote the book, as well as appear on a panel with my fellow Night’s Nieces, the writers who donated stories to the Tanith Lee tribute of the same name, which Immanion Press published in December last year.

Immanion Press will be releasing a paperback edition of ‘Animate Objects’, the short story collection by Tanith Lee, which was a special limited edition hardback published to commemorate her ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the World Fantasycon in 2013. Tanith fans are often completionists concerning her work, and as only 35 copies of this book were printed, we’ve had a lot of enquiries about it from readers who are desperate to acquire it. Tanith’s husband, John Kaiine, has given the go-ahead for new paperback edition, which will include an additional story and different interior artwork to the original.

That’s the news round-up for now. More to come later.

When I was deciding on what to write next, I contacted a previous editor of mine, asking if they’d be interested in seeing something new from me. Not *publishing* it, mind – nothing so demanding – just *seeing*, considering. I was not even given the politeness of a reply in the negative. I received simply, as has so often been my experience of editors and agents, a deafening, indifferent silence. This is part of the same attitude that kept Tanith Lee’s work away from major publication for years, as well as many others of my generation.

But anyway, resigned and not surprised, I thought, what’s the point of trying to write something that might appeal to editors who are simply looking for the current *hot* topic? Even if you somehow manage to hit the spot, perhaps submitting under an alias, so that your age and experience don’t go against you, the chances are you’ll be discarded just as quickly once the next hot topic or author comes along. Unless you’re J K Rowling or some other, often lesser, writer who’s somehow hit the Young Adult screen/book jackpot, the chances are you’ll be treated dismissively, almost as a necessary nuisance. And that’s even when you have a contract. Screw that!

I’m glad to be out of that carnival of miseries. Creating your own publishing house has its drawbacks – no fat advances for one, learning how to market and promote your work another – but the freedom is exhilarating. Plus the fact that if I’m rude to myself, I can be rude back! It’s very difficult to ignore yourself too. It’s important to secure a trusted editor to work with, who can be a writer friend or colleague willing to do it – because I believe even the most accomplished and experienced author still needs impartial eyes to examine their work prior to publication. But given what happened to Tanith, to me, and to many others, I do advise any authors out there, who are in the same position, to give self-publishing a go. Get all those back catalogue novels out there again that you had published in earlier decades. Allow a new generation of readers be able to immerse themselves in your worlds and visions. It’s not expensive now, either. You can opt, as I did, for a printer/distributor (Lightning Source in my case) who works only with publishing houses – i.e. you have to give yourself a company name and buy some ISBNs for your books from Neilsen’s Bookdata or the US equivalent. Or you can give outfits like Amazon Createspace or Lulu a go. The latter two being more helpful to those who are mystified by the actual publishing process and need a bit of handholding concerning book and cover design.  I could write a whole article on the pros and cons of various publishing routes, and the whole self-publishing experience, and might well do that at some point, but for now, just want to say: you can do it. You don’t have to give up and think there’s no writing future. The internet is our friend. It’s freed us from being manacled to big publishing houses in order to be published at all.

Anyway, that particular rant over, I’ll return to the initial subject. What was I going to start working on next? I’d considered taking the Young Adult path, as most people making pots of money nowadays seem to have tapped into that vein, with huge movie franchises erupting from their books: Hunger Games, Divergent, City of Bones, Twilight, et al. But that’s not something I *want* to do. Even the lure of potential big money doesn’t inspire me to start thinking of a suitable story. In order to write, I have to love what I’m working on and, most importantly, believe in it. Friends have often said to me ‘churn out some chick lit’ or to write about whatever is the current fictional flavour of the month, but I haven’t the heart. Even if I tried, I know my efforts would inevitably turn into something supernatural or weird, because that’s just the way I’m wired. Ordinary simply doesn’t interest me. In my hands, Bridget Jones might possibly have become a psychic mass murderer!

I have synopses for a lot of books on my computer, but inevitably the one that drew me the most was another supernatural mystery, in the same vein as ‘The Moonshawl’, again set in the world of Wraeththu. I’m just not done with those characters, and am still very much *in* that world.  Plus the idea for a story had already come to me, while I was finishing off ‘The Moonshawl’. I’m fascinated by the concept of mass hysteria, how fear itself can be an infection, how superstitious beliefs can become reality if a collection of minds focus strongly enough to vitalise it. I had a vague vision of where this story would happen. Not in the gilded fey lands of Alba Sulh or the exotic yet civilised countries around Almagabra. Not even in the uncharted regions of Jaddayoth, which even in the original Wraeththu trilogy were already feeling the effects of civilisation. I expect it has become a popular tourist location by now!

I wanted to go further, into the corners of the world where the civilising influences of the strongest and most organised tribes had not reached. I saw misty mountains, immense forests, silence, sacredness, savagery, mystery. I saw a pristine body of water worshipped as a deity. I then discovered such a place actually exists: Lake Baikal in Siberia. So I had my basic premise – hara affected by mass hysteria – and a suitable locale.

In the Wraeththu world, civilisation has been pushing both east and west, from cultures who – in the time frame of that world – are only just making contact again following the fall of humanity. Decades have passed, nearly a century. And in that time, all the flotsam of Wraeththu has been driven into the most unfrequented areas. Where else but the frozen north? Into the great territories of Siberia and Mongolia, natural wonders that even in our world are not that familiar to the average person.

But this being a Storm story, the mass hysteria is not simply hysterical. There are supernatural elements at play, or maybe hypernatural. The tribes around Baikal (which will have a different name in the book – just not decided on it yet) have been fashioned from feral hara escaping Gelaming justice (i.e. remnants of Uigenna and Varr tribes), and  others driven out from various once-European countries, who have mingled with hara derived from the native human population of the area.  This is a melting pot of different cultures and beliefs that have dissolved into each other to form a new whole.

A young har falls dead inexplicably in the shallows of the lake, and then his companions, who’d been with him, become ill, debilitatingly so. As these are hara, and sickness is rare and when it does occur short-lived, these developments are terrifying. The local braihara (shamans) cannot cure the condition. They do not know what it is or what caused it. The ruling hara know how to protect themselves physically and psychically, but this is something else they cannot defend against. And it’s targeting their sons. Reluctantly, the most prominent phylarch seeks the aid of the Gelaming, who have an agency in the area. The Gelaming are regarded with contempt and suspicion, but their help seems the only path left open. The Gelaming agents, though, cannot help. They too are mystified, so they contact Immanion, seeking the bigger guns who might eradicate the threat.

So that’s the setup. I then had to decide upon the characters, the protagonists who would be sent to this wild land to solve the mystery. I wanted this to be Ysobi and Nytethorne’s first case, and Ysobi’s old friend Malakess can conveniently involve him in it. But I wanted more than that, something that might potentially interfere with the case. That’s when I decided to include Gesaril, Ysobi’s erstwhile nemesis, in the party heading into the unknown.

It’s not my intention to have another angst-ridden emotional nightmare enacted between them. Fourteen years have passed since the original events described in The Hienama and Student of Kyme. Both hara have found contentment in their lives. Gesaril has powerful friends in Immanion; he’s eager to progress in his career, which involves working with underdeveloped tribes that might require help. This new case, endorsed by Malakess (very powerful), and offered by Gesaril’s mentor Fernici (very influential) is too good to turn down. The downside is that Ysobi is part of the deal. Gesaril can overcome any lingering personal feelings, yes, but when faced with an ex who was part of a fraught and messy breakup, it’s not easy to feel totally comfortable, no matter how much time has passed. Also, Gesaril is aware he’ll have to prove himself among his own party, not just to his supervisors in Immanion. And what he has to face amongst the savage, throwback tribes in Akruviah, as the area is known, will test his strength of every type immeasurably. None of the group have any idea of what they’re heading into.

There is one particularly unpleasant event I’ll have to write I’m not looking forward to, as I’m rather squeamish. I don’t do graphic details of such things, as I hate that sort of torture/killing porn found so often now in books, films and TV shows, but even so, can see them in my head as I’m carefully writing the scenes – implying rather than describing. As a writer, you can’t avoid horror completely, because it’s part of life, and to try and ignore it is to create a simplistic world that’s cosy and fluffy and – well – not real.

So far, I’ve got copious notes to work from and am doing a lot of research on the area and on mass hysteria. I see there’s a new movie out soon, called ‘The Falling’, on the subject, which I’ll have to see. I’ve also read Meg Abbott’s novel ‘Fever’, which is a real page turner and a fascinating study of this group phenomenon, especially among younger people. (Typically, there are synchonicities. Even though I’d decided to write about Baikal before reading this book, ‘Fever’ also features a lake as a possible cause, although that’s where the similarities end, other than the basic idea of group hysteria.) I’m also reading about eagle shamanism, and other aspects of Siberian/Mongolian pagan beliefs.

As far as the plot goes, I’m weaving that as I go along, as I did with ‘The Moonshawl’. So far, I’ve written twenty pages of the book, and that’s really just setting the story up. It’s taking some work to include enough information to satisfy readers new to Wraeththu, but not too much for readers who’ve read all the previous works. As I said, I don’t want to dwell too much on the past history of Gesaril and Ysobi, but it must inevitably play its part, because it contributes to what makes them the hara they are. Also, I think readers enjoy reading about awkward situations and character conflicts. It’s like hearing gossip!

I don’t know how long it will take me to write this book, as I don’t get as much time to write as I used to, and also don’t write as fast as in earlier years. However, I’m aiming to release it early next year at the latest. I feel that once I get over all the setup and can get to the meat of the story, the writing will speed up, as it did with my last novel. But I am working very carefully on the setup, with lots of rereading and rewriting, it’s so important to the frame of the story and has to be just the right balance of past, present… and of course future.

As a taster, here is a segment told from Gesaril’s point of view (at this moment, I’m intending to give both Gesaril and Ysobi first person narratives of their own, as I did for Gimel and Rayojini in ‘Burying the Shadow’). This is not the finished draft by any means, so forgive any roughness and gaps. I’d just like to share the experience of creating this new story.

Except from ‘The Shadowbirds’

Piegull was eight years old when he died. Only a few weeks past feybraiha, vibrating with lust and energy he was ready to throw at life, there was no clear reason for his collapse. They said it was sudden. One moment he and his friends had been racing their hounds beside the great lake, the next Piegull’s body had arched backwards into an unnatural, tortured bow, yet amazingly remained on its feet. A plume of liquid, which the observers said smelled of pus or rot rather than vomit, spurted from his mouth, which was drawn into a rictus grin.  For a few stultifying seconds, as his friends either closed in to assist or shrank back in disgust, Piegull shuddered on his feet. Then his eyes closed. His mouth closed. He fell dead into the shallows where the lake licked the shore.

Two of the young hara who were with Piegull when this event occurred swore later that strange dull green lights had danced above the surface of the lake for nearly a minute. Not far off, quite near, but not close enough to touch. Others did not see these lights.

The young hara carried Piegull home; perhaps they should not have done. Perhaps he should have been burned where he fell. For within hours of Piegull’s body being laid on a bier outside the braihar’s dwelling, other young hara of the tribe fell sick. Illness: a terrifying thing for hara because in extreme forms it is rare. Our bodies are resilient, can fight back, laugh at the organisms that seek to dominate and wither our flesh.

The other young hara did not die, but they were crippled. Haunted by hallucinations of shadowy figures loping around their beds, or eyes gleaming from the dark corners of night time rooms, they became weak, listless, the skin loose upon their bones as if from dehydration. Water, they could keep down, but not milk, nor indeed any solid food. Their eyes sunk into their heads. They whimpered piteously like abandoned puppies.

At first, only the hara who were with Piegull by the lake were affected, but after a week, another young har fell sick, this one not yet at feybraiha. This was the son of Catblood, a har close to the tribe’s leader, Talysman. The braihar of the tribe, and even those called down from the mountain forests to assist him, were not only unable to cure the affliction, but could not divine its cause or origin. Had the lake poisoned the young ones? Had the malediction of another tribe erupted within them? Nohar knew the cause, although many suppositions were offered.

At last, driven by need more than desire, Talysman sent his theruna, Grail, to the Gelaming station fifty miles south. These prissy interlopers, these sly do-gooders, these mealy-mouthed, would-be conquerors, perhaps they might be able to help, seeing as they were super-hara, or considered themselves to be. Talysman was torn. Part of him didn’t want to believe the Gelaming could succeed where his most trusted hara had failed, while another, perhaps more sensible part, hoped that they could. Grail told the Gelaming this when he arrived. He said also that Talysman had to keep his position firm within the tribe; he must solve all dilemmas, vanquish all foes, make miracles. ‘So make a miracle happen for him,’ said Grail, to the astonished har, Therumin, who interviewed him.

Therumin went to investigate the case himself, found only a mystery. He took a healer with him, whose powerful agmara – the life energy of all – had no effect whatsoever on the afflicted hara. Therumin later admitted to us freely he’d anticipated only an afternoon’s work, for the healer to practice his art, then they’d return home. He’d expected a happy result: the tribe would be grateful, and – more importantly – perhaps the beginnings of a more trusting relationship would be forged. This did not happen – any of it.

Talysman would not speak to the Gelaming himself; Grail and the braihar led them round.

After a few hours, the healer murmured to Therumin, ‘This is beyond us. This is… I don’t know what it is. But we should know. We must know.

The implications hung like burned rags in his words. If these hara could be made sick like this, might not the illness travel, become an epidemic? Was this perhaps a remnant of some human biological weapon? Humans had tried many things to kill hara; such weapons had been generally the most effective. Yet we believed we’d conquered those long ago, made them toothless. Had something survived in the soil around the sacred lake, something we’d not encountered before?

The lake too was mysterious, always had been, long before Wraeththu walked the earth. Could its waters be responsible, as some had suggested? But the lake was regarded as a hostling to those who lived around it; inexorable, inscrutable, but ultimately benign.

Therumin knew he should not waste time. As soon as he returned to his station, he had his pod of listeners contact Immanion.

In Immanion, after some discussion had taken place, the Guild of Listeners contacted the Temple of Wellbeing, who contacted the office within it presided over by my mentor and employer, Fernici. I knew he’d always had an interest in that part of the world – mostly our work revolved around hara from the earliest of times of our species, who’d not evolved as they should have done, who were afflicted or maimed in one way or another, if only socially or culturally. Occasionally, the work had involved sizeable groups of hara, not merely individuals.

Fernici summoned me to his office. He is an ethereal creature in some respects; a century old yet appears still kissed with the fine brush of feybraiha. His inception, they say, was unusual, yet he does not speak of it. ‘The thing is, Gesaril,’ he said, his long hands expressive as they moulded the air, ‘throughout our history, the flotsam of Wraeththu has been continually swept northeast from the west, or northwest from the east. Up into the cold – I expect that was the idea. But what lives there now…’ He was pacing. He always paces when his interest is most ignited. ‘…strange evolutions, throwbacks… They killed some of our agents up there around a decade ago. Now, the station near the lake is heavily fortified. Yet it is intriguing, like a nature reserve. Dangerous predators, beautiful in their savagery perhaps…’ He shook his head, laughed. ‘Listen to me! Almost salivating!’ He paused, fixed me with his swift arrow stare. ‘I’d like you to go. Investigate. If possible, solve the problem.’

While I’d been on field trips before, they had not been particularly major cases. I was flattered Fernici wanted me on this job. ‘When do we leave?’

‘Oh, not me,’ he said, waving an arm at me and turning his back to examine a sheaf of papers he’d left on the low table that served as a desk, ‘much as I’d like to go, I can’t at present, so I’ll send only you from this department.’

Not you?’ I said, alarmed.

‘There will be a team,’ he said, ‘security, a couple of other investigators. I’ll speak to Malakess.’

‘Oh…’ A heaviness dropped over me that was faint dread. I hoped Malakess wouldn’t be on the team. Despite our attempts to be polite to one another, there was still discord between us; slight and easily ignored in the vastness of Immanion but perhaps prickly and uncomfortable within a small team far from home.

‘I doubt he’ll go himself,’ Fernici added, having read my discomfort accurately. He peered at me keenly, ‘Gesaril, it must be at least fourteen years ago, surely?’

I glanced away from him. ‘One of my faults is I find it hard to forget excruciating embarrassment.’

Fernici smiled. ‘Well, this is work, so overcome your personal feelings.’ His smile widened to a grin. ‘Also, it could be worse, couldn’t it? Malakess is the least of your historical demons.’

I grimaced at him, wishing wine on the occasional nights we had spent together had not loosened my tongue.  We’d swapped stories of our histories, (or more accurately I had told him much of mine), but the problem is that however therapeutic such spillings might be, the result is always that somehar knows more about you than you’d like. Still, Fernici’s words tolled a bell within me like an omen. Malakess har Kyme, with whom I’d once been intimate back in our home country of Alba Sulh, was a pale ghost in comparison to the one he’d once reminded me of. Malakess was a substitute, an imitation. I realised I’d not thought of the original demon for perhaps nearly a year: Ysobi har Sulh. So, that was healing too, I suppose.

I thought that in the absence of any spectacular news – life is fairly uneventful apart from writing and dealing with Immanion Press – I could give a sneak preview of the novel I’m working on. Now under the working title of ‘The Moonshawl’ (which may change), this is the third book in my Wraeththu Alba Sulh sequence and, as I’ve already said, it will be a mystery/ghost story – rather different from its prequels. Whether I get the book finished this year is difficult to tell, but I’ll certainly get most of it done. This will free me up to explore other projects, and the mountains of notes, ideas, half written things and synopses I have on my computer.

But all that is in the future. For now, here is a scene from ‘The Moonshawl’, where Ysobi is doing some psychic investigating. It’s not the final draft so might be expanded, and certainly refined, before publication. Apologies for lack of first line indentation – can’t work out how to do it on here! Enjoy!

Excerpt from ‘The Moonshawl’ by Storm Constantine © 2013

As soon as the glade opened up before us, I could tell that Moonshawl Pool was an ancient sacred place, and perhaps was still regarded as such among the local hara and used for rites. The damp grass was vivid with new growth beneath our feet; Rinawne’s pony was eager to tear at it, devour it.
Rinawne led me to the edge of the clear water. I could see that the pool was maintained by a spring and that a quick stream gulped away from it, perhaps to join with the river. Opposite me was an immense mossy rock, from which it seemed ideal for harlings to jump into the water. Sunlight came down in rods through the unfurling leaf canopy above, but even so the glade was partially in shadow.
‘Eldritch place, isn’t it?’ Rinawne said carelessly. ‘You should drink the water. It’s supposed to be lucky.’ He knelt down and scooped a handful to his mouth.
I knelt beside him. ‘I’d like to meditate here for a few minutes, if that’s all right.’
‘Of course. Do your hienemarly thing.’ Rinawne grinned. ‘There are usually mushrooms in the hedgerow to the next field. I’ll go gathering while you ponder the mysteries of life.’
Not until Rinawne had left me, his departure accompanied by a theatrical wave of his hand, did I stoop to drink the water. It was as cold as winter, and so pure as to be almost without taste. There was a faint sparkle to it that fizzed in my throat.
‘May the guardians of this site reveal to me it secrets,’ I said aloud, and then composed myself upon the grass, sitting cross-legged with my hands upon my thighs, palms uppermost and open.
I tried to concentrate on the story Rinawne had told me, visualising the har he had named Grass coming through the trees to the pool, his harling in his arms. The image wouldn’t stick in my mind, and on the brief occasions it did, I felt Grass was always looking behind him, as if pursued. I sensed urgency. But another image wanted to impose itself across that of Grass, and it was so strong, eventually I let it have its head.
In the mind picture, I was unsure whether it was day or night time. I caught brief glimpses of something pale through the trees, drawing haphazardly closer to the pool. Within the visualisation I got to my feet, cautiously approached whatever was weaving towards me. I saw a pale figure, its arms held out in front of it, touching the trunks of the trees, as if blind, and trying to feel its way forward. It wore a tattered white robe, and very long white hair fell over its face, obscuring its features completely, but it was not the white of human old age, more like the platinum white found rarely in hara. This must be a har. He was stumbling, disorientated, and now I could hear he was moaning softly, monotonously.
‘Tiahaar,’ I said softly, and the har paused. Then he began to grope his way in my direction.
‘Help… I need…’ The words were broken, ragged with the most awful despair, and shook me from my visualisation.
Opening my eyes, for a moment I too was utterly disorientated, unsure even of where I was, but then the sound of breaking undergrowth brought me to my feet. This was no visualisation. A har dressed in white – a torn robe, filthy to the knees – and with long white hair hanging over his face was trying to reach me. Pitifully, he patted the trees around him, turning in a circle, his robe catching on shrub branches, tearing further. All the while he uttered that relentless, frightened moan.
‘Tiahaar!’ I ran towards him. ‘Stay where you are. I’ll help you.’
As I reached him, the har fell heavily into my arms, and I staggered backwards beneath the burden. His hands clutched my arms, the fingers digging into my flesh, then withdrawing, then digging in again. He smelled… of sickness. ‘Wraeththu,’ he gasped, ‘help me, help me…’
And then… Then there was nothing in my arms, no sense, no physical memory even, of the weight against me. Nothing.
‘So this is your secret,’ I murmured shakily to the glade.
Around me was silence, no birds singing, no rustle of life in the bushes. Not even the soft gurgle of the water as it flowed away to brighter realms.
I sat down heavily where I stood, put my head in my hands, experiencing a strong desire to weep, yet no tears came. Something horrific had happened here once. There could be no mistake. It had left its mark, its imprint, and it was so strong it could feel like the physical weight of a har in my arms.
Ten minutes of deep breathing restored me almost to normality, yet I could still feel quivering anxiety within me, the gift of whatever apparition it was I’d seen.
I heard the sound of a har whistling and guessed this was Rinawne returning to me. For some reason, I knew I would not tell him what had happened; it was as if the har of my vision had begged me to silence.
‘You look like you’ve seen a ghost,’ Rinawne remarked cheerfully as he emerged from the trees.
I smiled, gestured with both arms. ‘Well, I went… quite deep into the landscape.’
Rinawne rolled his eyes. ‘By Aru, don’t end up like Rey and not come out again!’ He sat down beside me. ‘No mushrooms to pick today, sadly. Shall we go back to the Mynd? You can stay for dinner again if you like. And I can show you the whole house. Would you like that?’
I sensed he was speaking to me as if I were… well, perhaps slightly ill. Did I look that bad? I tried to pull myself together, put aside what I’d experienced.
‘I’d love to see the house. Not sure about dinner, though. I need to write up some notes, so I don’t forget things.’
Rinawne slapped my shoulder. ‘Oh, plenty of time for that. You can sit in the library for a while to do your writing. The day is young. Come on!’ He dragged me to my feet.

Still had at work on short stories, not least one I have to finish for a friend’s anthology, and also a couple for the new Wraeththu collection, ‘Para Kindred’. Wendy Darling, my co-editor, and I have announced it in a few places, but I’ll also do so here. The last two collections have been very successful, with great submissions.

Here’s the Call for Submissions text. Please feel free to circulate this.

Para Kindred: Call for Submissions

Following on from the Paragenesis and Para Imminence anthologies of Wraeththu Mythos stories, this new collection will focus upon the enigmas that might be found within the disparate tribes of this androgynous race – how Wraeththu might have – or will – develop in strange and unimagined ways.

We are calling for submissions to this anthology, of stories between 3,000 and 10,000 words. As with the former anthologies, we are mainly looking for pieces that do not involve characters from the original Wraeththu books, although such characters may have ‘cameo appearances’ if it suits the story. Writers who were included in the previous collections may also expand upon characters (or their descendants or ancestors) who they created for their earlier stories, if they so wish.

This collection gives writers a broad canvas for their ideas. Contributors can explore how the mutation from human to har might have unforeseen consequences; how new strains of hara might have come into being with unusual attributes; how tribes might have developed in hidden corners of the world that are vastly different to the mainstream population. Or even within ‘regular’ Wraeththu communities, harlings might be born who are different in some way, who might have additional mutations to their parents, thus taking them further away from their human progenitors.

Are hara as they exist within their world the ‘finished product’ or are they perhaps a stage on the way to further evolution? Or would some harlings born to hara be throwbacks to their earlier human roots? They are many avenues to explore, no matter how strange.

Please let us know if you are interested in contributing and provide a short synopsis of your idea, by mailing Storm at editorial (at) immanion-press (dot) com. The deadline for completed submissions is 31st August 2013. Contributors are welcome to submit more than one.

If you know of anyone who might like to contribute, please feel free to pass this document to them.

Other News:

I’m just putting the finished touches to the new cover for ‘The Way of Light’ the third book in my Magravandias trilogy. The books have been out of print for quite some time in the UK, and I’m glad to be able to republish them. I’ll be doing Kindle versions also in the near future. The printed copy will be available within the next couple of weeks.

I’ve had a story accepted for Allen Ashley’s ‘Astrologica: Stories of the Zodiac’ anthology. The story is called ‘The Order of the Scales’ and was inspired by the zodiac sign Libra. Allen’s anthology is being published by Alchemy Press on 1st November 2013.

Another story has been accepted, but at the moment I can’t say where as the editor is still making choices over final submissions.

I had an ‘attic tidying’ session on my computer over the weekend, looking at a lot of my half-finished stories, notes about ideas for stories, novel synopses and so on. There are several ideas for novels that I just never took up, or other ideas took over so I had no time, and these to me are just wasted lying about doing nothing. I think a lot of them could work simply as short stories, so that even if the full length books never get written, at least the work I have done won’t go to waste. I also have a number of half-finished Wraeththu stories. For Para Kindred, I’m working on a new one, but there are also a few that could be finished to fit the theme. As before, I’ll aim to get two stories into the collection.

Sharon Sant’s young adult novel, ‘Runners’, is now out through Immanion Press. This is the first YA title we’ve done, so I’m hoping it’s the first of many. Sharon is really good at promoting her book, and tirelessly working to make sure people know about it. I wish I had her energy! Anyway, hoping this will have a really good effect on sales. ‘Runners’ is a science fiction/dystopia story, and will appeal to any readers of good writing, not just young adults. Here’s a link to it: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=448&referer=Hp

The other new novel due within the next few days is John Kaiine’s reprint of his novel ‘Fossil Circus’. This is a dark and strange, but beautifully written horror novel, set in a disused mental asylum, which has been inherited by a group of previous inmates. As its editor, I was astonished at how John made me care about characters who are really quite repulsive in a lot of ways. You really do find youself rooting for them! Again, here’s a link: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=450&referer=Catalogue

First… A book I’ve just read.

For some years, the only fiction I read was that which I edited, and that HAD to stop. I had to find time to read other books, so as not to lose out on fantastic stories. I’m happy to say over the last three years or so I’ve stuck to this resolve and had read many wonderful novels.

But this week I finished reading what I regard as one of the best supernatural novels I’ve ever encountered. Lent to me by my friend Louise Coquio, ‘The Little Stranger’ by Sarah Waters was an absolute delight.

This book embraces all that makes a spooky story good. There is not just the gloriously underplayed supernatural element (and all the more un-nerving because of that underplaying), but a competence and silkiness of writing that is exceptional. Sarah Waters might not tease the senses with a sensual and sumptuous writing style, such as we find in the works of Alice Hoffman and Tanith Lee, but her prose is faultless, smooth and flowing. She tells a story well, the unravelling is perfect, the denouement, though again understated, absolutely chilling. I read this fat book in under a week, and I get little time to read. With this one I made time. I just couldn’t put it down.

The premise is the story of an aristocratic Warwickshire family, post Second World War, struggling to keep an unwieldy family pile solvent. The father of the family is dead, his son is crippled by war injuries, his surviving widow is a rather wilting anachronistic violet and his daughter, the sole strong survivor, is hampered by her apparent ‘plainness’ and clumsiness in social skills. Their huge home ‘Hundreds’ is falling to bits. They struggle to keep their estate farm alive, and half the time they don’t even have the money to light or heat their home properly. Beautiful artefacts are falling to ruin. Irreplaceable architectural treasures succumb to weather and wear, and the family have no money to prevent it. Into this situation comes the local doctor, the narrator, whose mother was once a servant at the house. He is intrigued by ‘Hundreds’ and its inhabitants, and wants to help them with their mundane trials, but then, slick as the thinnest of blades, the supernatural slices into this story of Post War troubles, the emergence of the National Health Service, and the problems that beset Britain, across the social classes, in those times. The knife is keen and cruel. It’s also subtle. You are left wondering. I don’t want to say more than that. Just read it for a real treat.

It’s not often I feel a bit breathless after reading a novel, because I read so many, but for those who love good writing, plus a supernatural slant, with a bit of ‘Downton Abbey’, without the riches, thrown in, this is a super read. 10/10

Writing News

Well good and bad. Good in that the short stories are progressing, and I’ve placed two. More news when I get release dates for the collections.

Bad is that I still find I have little time to write my novel. On the one hand, it’s great that life is full and I’m doing things many days of the week with other people, getting me out into the world, but I also wish I had more private time to work. Even so, despite this lack of time, I’m thinking about my novel and working on it in that sense.

It amazes me now, looking back to when I wrote the first Wraeththu novels, that I only had nub ends of time, in between a day job and a house full of lodgers, to write those books. I guess youth had something to do with it. Or maybe my life was less full in… responsible ways. Now I run my own business, and if I look at my email at the start of a day, you can guarantee my muse flits off in disgust. By the time I’m through with admin, the urge to create has long gone.

What I am happy about is that when I do get time to write, I enjoy it and am pleased with what I produce. Just wish I was doing more of it!

I have my friend Andy Collins up for a long weekend this week so look forward to some magical times. We will be meeting up with Deb and Yvan Cartwright and Graham Phillips for a day out, so sure to be… intriguing!

Back to the Immanion Press side of things, we’ll be bringing out our first Young Adult title in June, ‘Runners’ by Sharon Sant. This is an experiment for us, as we’ve not ventured into this genre before. Sharon is an editor at Immanion, and YA is her forte. We hope ‘Runners’ is the first of many YA titles in the SF, fantasy and horror genres we publish.

Please take a look at http://www.immanion-press.com for our latest releases.