Tag Archive: Tanith Lee


Just a short update on works in progress, since I talked a lot about these projects in my last blog post and there’s not much to add yet except I’m working hard on them.

I’ve been concentrating on the non-fiction title, ‘Coming Forth By Day’, which is based upon a correspondence course in Egyptian Magic I ran some years ago. At first, I planned simply to convert the course material into a book, but soon realised some of it wasn’t really suitable for that and required feedback from a tutor. So I revamped it completely. At the moment, the book concentrates upon the Ennead, the ‘royal family’ of Heliopolis. These are the gods of the creation myth for that area – and it seems just about every area of Ancient Egypt had their own take on the gods, changing them considerably in some cases to local preferences. Anyway, the book explores the Ennead and its myths in depth, including both visualisations and rituals for each deity: Atum, Shu, Tefnut, Geb, Nut, Osiris, Isis, Set, Nephthys and Horus, as well as for the later generation’s offspring and consorts. The book also includes an overview of Egyptian magic and techniques. I’m about two thirds of the way through writing the chapters, and hope to bring the book out in the summer.

As there is so much material, I decided to break the project down into at least two volumes, maybe three. The second book will focus on gods and goddesses beyond the Heliopolitan dynasty of divine beings. I’ve not included any of the feline or leonine goddesses (except for Tefnut who’s intrinsic to the Ennead), as Louise Coquio and I will be writing a revised, expanded edition of ‘Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra’ once I’ve finished work on ‘Coming Forth by Day’.  ‘Bast and Sekhmet’ was first published in 1999, and as with the ‘Egyptian Birth Signs’ book I co-wrote with Graham Phillips about the same time, Louise and I now think that it’s time for a new edition. The original is 20 years old and needs a little reshaping to make it relevant to a modern audience. There have also been new discoveries in archaeology, which Lou and I feel should now be included. There’s information about some of the feline-related deities out there nowadays that wasn’t around when we wrote the original.

I’ve also been working on my new novel, ‘Breathe, my Shadow’, which is at around 160 pages. However, I want to finish off ‘Coming Forth By Day’ before really getting down to working on the fiction project. ‘Breathe, My Shadow’ is planned for a December release.

As for other Immanion Press books, two which are just about to be released, are ‘Lord of the Looking Glass’ by Fiona McGavin and ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata and Other Uncollected Tales’ by Tanith Lee.  I spoke about these titles extensively in my last blog post so won’t repeat myself!  Danielle Lainton is currently at work on Fiona’s cover, so it’ll soon be ready for release. John Kaiine produced the cover art for ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata’, and it also appears on his new Instagram page devoted to his artwork. There are some amazing and intriguing pieces of work on this, some of which he has prints of for sale. The link is https://www.instagram.com/johnkaiineartist/

For the non-fiction list we have ‘My First Book of Magic’ by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki, illustrated by her son Carl Ashcroft, with a cover designed by Danielle Lainton, featuring one of Carl’s drawings. The book explores witchcraft and paganism for a young audience, and will undoubtedly appeal to pagan adults wishing to teach their offspring about the craft. And who better to teach them than Ms Ashcroft-Nowicki? She is a renowned author, practitioner and teacher of the occult sciences and was once a director of studies for The Servants of the Light, an esoteric order formed by W. E. Butler.  The book will be released under our Megalithica Books imprint in the summer.

9781912241095

We recently released through Megalithica Books a revised edition of ‘The Green Stone’ by Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, which was responsible for initiating the psychic questing phenomenon in the UK in the 1980s. The book has been long out of print, and difficult to get hold of, with Graham receiving repeated enquiries from readers about if and when it might be available again. Late last year it came to light that not only were second hand copies selling for hundreds of pounds, but that some nefarious outfit had produced a pirate version  and was selling it at an inflated price, claiming it was the original. Graham and Martin had not sanctioned this, nor were they receiving any royalties for it. The bootleg version proved difficult to remove from online stores. Second hand book sellers were selling dog-eared copies for a fortune and a dodgy unlicensed publisher was trying to flog ‘new’ copies of the book, with prices often beyond the reach of an audience who desperately wanted to read it. So for all these reasons Graham and Martin decided they must re-release ‘The Green Stone’ themselves, at a fair price and with a wealth of new photographs (around 4 dozen) and a new introduction by Graham. When I first came to read through the book to copy edit it, I’d forgotten what a great story it is – a really exciting supernatural thriller, but which actually happened. A classic study of the paranormal and a riveting read.

That’s all for now. Back to the grindstone! More news soon.

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I have a lot planned for this coming year – 2019 is poised to be as busy as 2018 was.

First up – new books I’m working on.

I’m currently writing a Wraeththu novel called ‘Breathe, my Shadow’, which is based on ‘The Emptiness Next Door’ a short story I wrote for the ‘Paraspectral’ anthology last year. As can happen with a short, this piece wanted desperately to be longer. I had hoped to finish it in time for Yule 2018, but because I was so busy with other projects, I wasn’t able to meet that deadline. I’m not going to specify exactly when this year I hope to publish ‘Breathe’ but will get to work on it in earnest once I have a few important short stories out of the way. I’ve been researching a lot for this novel, some of which explores the lore of bees, honey and bee-keeping. This isn’t the main focus of the story but is still important as it’s an interest of one of the characters that has bearing on the plot.

Two of the stories I’m working on are for the next ‘Para’ anthology, which is ‘Para Mort’, a study of love and death in the world of Wraeththu. The idea for this theme grew from suggestions given to me by Mythos writers Martina Bellovičová and Maria Leel. I want to go for an outright Gothic feel for this one – doomed love, tragic desire and so on. I did specify in the brief I sent to the Mythos writers that the stories don’t have to be total downers – they can have upbeat endings. I’ve just finished the first draft of a tale called ‘The Shade of Q’orlenn’ but need to go back through it, adding in scene details and fleshing out some of the interactions between the characters. But that one’s almost there. I’ve a choice of two others to write for my second story for the anthology and haven’t yet made a decision about which to go with. The third piece I need to work on before turning to longer projects is my story for ‘Shadows on the Hillside’, the weird fiction anthology I’m editing for NewCon Press. I’ve an idea for that and have written a few pages. Research for this involves studying old maps and a particular kind of folklore, which I won’t reveal, as it would be a terrible spoiler for the story. I’ve also been looking into Middle English and the ancient meanings of some modern words.

One of the most interesting things I discovered yesterday is that English in the Middle Ages had a gender-neutral pronoun ‘hit’, but also that ‘he’ could be used instead. So I wasn’t so wrong about using ‘he’ for Wraeththu as some might claim! I’m not interested in the fuss around the politics of gender and pronouns, and in fact am uncomfortable with the way extremes of certain politics are infesting – and at worst stifling – creative media nowadays, but I am interested in presenting my androgynous characters as they are – beings who are both male and female, greater than the sum of their parts and endowed with faculties and abilities beyond human experience. I was writing about hara when I was a teenager, (and had met them in my imagination years prior to that), long before modern ideas about identity politics arose. I wrote from the heart, not trying to invest my fantasy world with any one agenda. Wraeththu are what they are – in the way they evolved in my imagination very early in my life. They owe more to mythology and folklore than anything else. And that’s the nearest I’ll get to talking about my personal opinions in a public place!

Anyway, back to book news after that little diversion. I aim to get ‘Para Mort’ out this year, probably with a Yule release and accompanying launch party, which is becoming traditional now. It’s down to whether the writers can get their work to me in time. I’ve already had one in from E. S. Wynn so maybe that will spur the others into action! ‘Shadows on the Hillside’ should also be released this year. I’m still waiting on a few stories to come in for that one.

I’ll also be working on a new non-fiction book this year. Around 15 years ago, I wrote a correspondence course on Egyptian Magic, back when people were more inclined to get involved in correspondence courses. Once this trend tailed off in favour of other forms of learning, the course gathered dust in isolated chambers on my computer. It was only when someone mailed me a couple of years ago to enquire whether that course was still available that it was brought once more to my attention. I didn’t feel I wanted to run the course again, as it requires quite a lot of input from me, discussing the work with students, and reading and responding in depth to their coursework, for which I no longer have time. I offered to let the person have the course as one PDF at a very cut price, for them to work through how they wanted, but I couldn’t act as mentor for it anymore. The person concerned was happy with this, so I transformed all the separate modules into one document to send to them. As I was doing this, I realised the modules could actually be a book. A lot of the material would have to go, because it wouldn’t be suitable for a non-interactive project, but I could add new chapters to replace what I’d take out.

I’m writing this book under the very unimaginative ‘Egyptian Magic’ working title, but intend to come up with something more colourful for the finished work. It won’t be a quick project by any means, as I’m having to change the entire structure and come up with a lot of new pathworkings for it. A proportion of what was in the correspondence course was based on material in ‘Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra’ which I co-wrote with Louise Coquio in the late 90s. I don’t want to rehash that, or just focus upon feline deities, so there’s a lot to be written for it. At the moment, I’m looking into the creation myths of Ancient Egypt, and creating workings based upon them. That will be the starting point of the work, after an introductory section discussing the beliefs and practices of the Egyptians and how we can reinterpret them for a modern practice of magic. Again, I intend to get the book out this year, but as with the novel it depends on how much time I get to finish it.

Moving on from my own work, there are plans for several books by other writers. Since Taylor Ellwood parted company with the Megalithica Books imprint, releases have inevitably slowed down somewhat for this list. Even last year, when Taylor was still with us, Megalithica Books published only three titles that weren’t co-written by me. I do have books in the pipeline for the list, but in three cases am waiting for news from the respective writers with whom I’ve been talking over the past couple of months. I can say for definite that we’ll have a new book from Cornelia Benavidez, expanding her work on the legacy of Victor H Anderson, and there’s an exciting re-issue of a legendary work that’s currently in production. Only the fact that a contract with an individual connected with the original work has to be sorted out prevents me from talking more about this book. Sometimes, after a lengthy period of time, it’s difficult for people to get back in touch with those they might have worked with in the past. This is in the case in this situation but as soon as it’s OK to talk about this project the author and I will do so wholeheartedly!

On the fiction side, I’ll be publishing a book I’m delighted to have edited. This is ‘Lord of the Looking Glass’, the short stories of Fiona McGavin. Louise Coquio and I met Fiona way back when we were producing the magazine Visionary Tongue. Fiona provided two stories for us and another one for Jamie Spracklen when he took over custodianship of the magazine. Lou and I both loved Fiona’s stories – they were among the best we received. Later, once I started Immanion Press, I brought out the trilogy ‘A Dream and a Lie’ by Fiona, her first full-length works. In hindsight, I wish I’d published this book some years later, after I’d gained more experience as an editor and publisher. Fiona’s were among the first novels Immanion Press published. I’d do things a bit differently now, as I know more about what I’m doing!  It was only when I had to contact Fiona again concerning two of her stories, which I wanted to reprint in the Visionary Tongue anthology I edited for NewCon Press, that I asked whether she had enough stories for a book of her own. She did, and ‘Lord of the Looking Glass’ is the result. These are astounding stories. Fiona, like Tanith Lee, has the gift for taking genre tropes and turning them on their heads. She has a wonderful imagination. I never thought a zombie story could bring tears to my eyes – but ‘The Contraption’ did. Fiona tackles vampires, fairy abduction, ghosts, fairy tales, alternate realities, science fiction and post-apocalyptic worlds, but all in a way you won’t have read before and in a fluid, lyrical style.  I’m happy to report that her story ‘A Tale from the End of the World’ is included in an updated form, (it was always my favourite) as well as a sequel to it, ‘He May Grow Roots’. Fiona has intimated she might write a full-length novel set in the world of these two stories, which I really hope she does. I can’t wait to release ‘Lord of the Looking Glass’ – which should be in late spring – and ask any of you with genre blogs or review sites to help me get Fiona’s work out there. She is a marvellous writer and her work should be better known.  I hope to plan a kind of blog tour for her and am happy to send advance copies of the book’s PDF for review. Please mail me at editorial(at)Immanion-press(dot)com if you’re interested.

Other new fiction publications for 2019 include three more anthologies of Tanith Lee’s stories, which focus upon her uncollected works – stories that appeared briefly in magazines or on web sites and have not yet been included in a printed book. The first of these, ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata and Other Tales’, is scheduled to appear in April, so that Tanith’s husband John Kaiine can promote it at this year’s Eastercon. John will also be creating the cover art for the book. For the majority of readers, most of these stories might as well be newly-written as they won’t have been seen before. Much thanks must go, as has become usual for Tanith collections, to Allison Rich, Tanith’s bibliographer, and also to Jeremy Brett and his staff at the Cushing Library and Archives in Texas, who will provide scans of these often difficult to source stories.

That’s about it for news now. The DVD of the film of one my favourite novels, The Little Stranger, is due to arrive today and tonight I intend to watch it with Lou and our respective males. I saw this at the cinema initially and was impressed with what the director did with it. It’s not very often adaptations are so satisfying!

 

 

 

I’ve struggled how to begin this post…

My friend, mentor and inspiration – Tanith Lee – died on Sunday. I got the news today (Tuesday). I knew she’d been ill for a while. She sent me a letter some weeks ago – we usually talked on the phone regularly, but her cancer treatment had affected her voice, so we could no longer do that. In the letter she told me she was dying. I sat there, the paper in my hand, unable to take it in, not sure what to feel or to think. This was a woman who’d inspired me all my writing life and had eventually – through luck and circumstance – become a dear friend. How do you reply to a letter like that without sounding clichéd or over sentimental? It was difficult. I was under the impression that although her prognosis was poor, she’d still have some time with us. Only last week, she was working on the edits I’d sent for her latest book with Immanion Press. I had no idea the end would be so close.

But while it’s in the hearts of all those who loved Tanith to grieve and mourn, we should also remember all that was wonderful about her, the way she touched our lives.

I remember being in W H Smiths and seeing the newly released ‘The Birthgrave’ on the fantasy shelves. I picked it up, browsed the pages a little, and was immediately taken with Tanith’s engaging first person narrative. I bought it, devoured it, and subsequently bought everything else she ever wrote, in some cases tracking down very hard to find small press titles in the days before the Internet made such searches less difficult.

At that time, Tanith was the same age I was when I first got published – around 26. There was a 10 years age gap between us. I wrote her a fan letter after reading a few of her books, and she replied, sending me a photo. I still have that letter.  Over the years, my collection of her books grew, and then I reached the stage in my life when my own writing began to be published. I asked people in the industry about Tanith, curious about her, but at that time she didn’t attend conventions and was regarded as rather retiring. This changed in 1988 when I met her at a Worldcon in Brighton.  She was charming, not at all the terrifying creature I’d been given to believe she was.

It has to be said that many reports I’d been given about Tanith over the years painted her as a ‘difficult’ author. This was from editors who’d worked with her. She was regarded as rather fearsome. But I have to say that when I eventually had the privilege of working with her as an editor, I never had one difficult moment with her. I think this was because I respected her work and didn’t try to change it. When I was editing, I’d mark things I thought were typos, and query them, but I’d never try to meddle with her ‘voice’. Sometimes, her sentences were unconventional, but they were hers – her voice – which I recognised, because I’d read everything she’ d ever written. So I didn’t interfere. When we began working together, I saw it as a partnership. I provided the publishing, but we worked together on the appearance of the books and their covers, most often incorporating artwork from her husband, John Kaiine (a wonderful artist) or even drawings or ideas from Tanith herself. I let Tanith have free rein with the content.  This was an enjoyable experience for the three of us.

When Tanith first asked if Immanion Press would be interested in taking some of her work, I was – as you can imagine – over the moon about it. She wanted to publish a series of books that didn’t fit into any particular genre. These were the Colouring Book series, which are thrillers, mysteries, supernatural stories and even one spy story. Sad to say, Tanith didn’t finish this series. She still had a couple of colours she wanted to write about, but even so, we published seven of these titles. Her other interest was in publishing themed collections of her stories, which we’d just begun working on, with the Ghosteria collection, and latterly with Legenda Maris, stories of the sea. Tanith had other titles she planned to do involving werewolves, vampires and dragons, but sadly these will not see light of day now, since she always included unpublished stories in her collections and wasn’t able to write any before she died.  We had an arrangement: whatever she wanted to publish, Immanion  Press would see to it. This enabled her to produce titles that otherwise might not have been published, although to be fair, I think any of the independent presses who supported her would have been happy to help out.  People like Ian Whates, Vera Navarian and Craig Gidney, along with myself, (and others whose names unfortunately I don’t know), were eager to publish and promote Tanith’s work, in a time when big publishers just weren’t interested in it. This was unforgiveable by them. So much trash gets published, and we see constantly the lesser writers who are launched into success and prominence. It’s not about what’s good, but about spin and PR. So many excellent authors, who were active when I was first published, fell by the wayside – and they shouldn’t have done. They gave up in the face of great indifference from the major publishers. The only reason I’ve survived is because I took the bit between my teeth and created my own publishing house. It’s interesting that nearly all the independent presses who’ve supported Tanith in recent years are run by people who are writers themselves. We’ve never had any sense of competition between us, because we all loved and respected Tanith, and she was respectful of us all too. There was plenty of her to go around. In fact, in some cases she brought us together. I wouldn’t know Craig and Vera if it wasn’t for Tanith making the introductions.

I was also lucky to republish John Kaiine’s remarkable novel ‘Fossil Circus’. I wish he’d write more! This would never have happened if I’d not met the pair of them.

So, apart from our professional connections, what was Tanith like as a person? To me, she was wry, wise and magical. If I had a problem, talking to her would make sense of it. She was the archetypal British eccentric – a dying breed, sadly. When I was down, she would lift me up. She’d enable me to see things from a different perspective, always with a touch of humour.  We’d bitch about things we didn’t like and applaud films, books and writers we both adored. It’s only now, once she’s gone, I realise how much a part of my life she had become. I took her for granted, but in a good way. Now I’ll never get those lovely phone calls in the afternoons, when we’d fritter away an hour or so just nattering.

In a way, Tanith will never be gone, because her work lives on and is eternal. This evening, I felt tired and lay down on the sofa in my work room. Cats joined me, as they tend to do. I dreamed of Tanith, and in that dream, we were both on the sofa, surrounded by cats – more than I actually live with. She was warm and breathing, and even in my dream I marvelled at that, because I knew she was dead. She didn’t say anything ponderous to me; we just chatted as we always did. What are dreams? Wishful thinking, a glimpse of another reality, or something else? I don’t know, but the dream comforted me, and I awoke from it feeling less distraught than I was when I went to sleep.

I don’t want Tanith to Rest In Peace, as is always said of someone who leaves this life. I want her to be soaring somewhere else, somewhere amazing, beyond our comprehension. I’m glad to have known her, and glad also that her work will always be there for me. Such are the brightest stars that shine upon us.

Back to the novel at last!

I’m happy to report that I’ve been able to work on my novel this week – I refused to write another blog post until I could say something positive about the book. I’ve also started another short story for a forthcoming collection. But the most important thing is that I’m able to get back to the full length work. One thing I find I need when working on a novel is immersion – I need to be on it every day, thinking about it, listening to music that inspires scenes, and so on. I can’t just do a bit and leave it for weeks, then go back to it and find it easy to write. If I’ve slipped out its world, I need to get back in.

I had a number of scenes for which I’d written notes and have spent time writing those up. I’m not sure yet where these scenes will go, but as they were there, determined to come out, they needed to be written. These scenes were ‘eerie happenings’, ideas that came to me for the Tower in the story. It’s not exactly haunted but its occupant is.

I wanted to finish off the Alba Sulh sequence of the Wraeththu books, begun with ‘The Hienama’ and ‘Student of Kyme’. In the second one, the story took a rather miserable turn. Unfortunately, that’s what wanted to be written, and few of the characters came out in a good light. For the third one, I wanted a departure and to leave all that angst behind. The main character is Ysobi, who ended up being rather a villain in the previous book. A little punch drunk from his experiences, and also contrite, if not confused as to his earlier behaviour, he takes on a commission to help a rural community establish a spiritual system based upon the landscape and local folklore. He finds a magical, almost surreal environment, where in some of the harish families their human roots are still very important. The family who have hired him still live in the ‘ancestral home’ and it quickly becomes obvious that – like any ancestral home family worth its salt – there are secrets in its past. It’s also clear something unusual happened to the hienama of the community, with hints he disappeared into the landscape, leaving his son in the care of the ruling family. But while it seems Wyva, his brothers, and his chesnari Rinawne are the benevolent leaders of the community, there is another mysterious family, the Whitemanes, who appear to wield more power, certainly in a magical way. The community holds them in awe. Ysobi is soon involved in ancient plots and a personal haunting, while trying to complete the job he was given to do, against a nebulous opposition that seeks to terrify him and drive him away. Ignorant of this undercurrent, the harish community simply sees him as a replacement for their vanished hienama, a job Ysobi really doesn’t want. He’s had his fill of such positions of responsibility and yearns only for the life of a scholar. But nohar else seems keen to take on the position, and Ysobi is shuffled into it, despite his misgivings. He also refuses to be intimidated by his shadowy enemies and resolves to fight back.

Anyway, that’s the idea and there’s a lot more to go into it, but I’m glad I’ve got back to it at last.

Immanion Press news:

We’ll be publishing some of Tanith Lee’s work in e-book, as well a new printed novel called ‘Turquoiselle, which is part of her ‘Colouring Books’ sequence. The e-books will be ‘Kill the Dead’, followed by the Flat Earth series: ‘Night’s Master’, ‘Death’s Master’, ‘Delusion’s Master’ and ‘Delirium’s Mistress’. ‘Kill the Dead’ should be on Kindle very soon, with the others following after.

I have Tanith fans writing to me all the time, bemoaning the fact her work isn’t available in e-book. This is because her work is tied up in rights, and a couple of years ago the UK publisher, Orion, bought up most of her back catalogue for e-book publication (but not all of it.) As I’ve said to those who’ve written to me about it, there’s no point going on Amazon and requesting e-book editions from the original publishers of her books. This is simply because that in most cases they do not hold the rights. The best option for those wishing to campaign on Tanith’s behalf is to contact Orion, who have the majority of her titles. A little nudging, and a clear fan interest, might help the books appear sooner rather than later.