I’m off to Fantasycon first thing tomorrow morning, but before I go, here’s the cover for The Cleaving, my Arthurian novel out from Angry Robot in May next year.
We all know the imagery of the Arthurian legends; the sword, the castle, the knightly banners, and most of all, the king. This isn’t his story though. I love how Chris Panatier blends familiar elements with these wonderful portraits of the women who are central to this novel. As their gazes challenge the reader, the artwork mirrors my intent to do that as the writer.
You’d like to know more about the book? At the moment, the cover copy reads:
The Cleaving is an Arthurian retelling that follows the tangled stories of four women: Nimue, Ygraine, Morgana, and Guinevere, as they fight to control their own destinies amid the wars and rivalries that will determine the destiny of Britain.
The legendary epics of King Arthur and Camelot don’t tell the whole story. Chroniclers say Arthur’s mother Ygraine married the man that killed her husband. They say that Arthur’s half-sister Morgana turned to dark magic to defy him and Merlin. They say that the enchantress Nimue challenged Merlin and used her magic to outwit him. And that Arthur’s marriage to Guinevere ended in adultery, rebellion and bloodshed. So why did these women chose such dangerous paths?
As warfare and rivalries constantly challenge the king, Arthur and Merlin believe these women are destined to serve Camelot by doing as they are told. But men forget that women talk. Ygraine, Nimue, Morgana and Guinevere become friends and allies while the decisions that shape their lives are taken out of their hands. This is their untold story. Now these women have a voice.
I’m delighted to say that the next book in this series, The Green Man’s Gift, will be published on October 6th 2022. I continue to work with the outstanding team of Cheryl Morgan of Wizard’s Tower Press, editor Toby Selwyn, and artist Ben Baldwin.
Each time now, one of the real thrills of writing these particular books is sending the draft off to Ben, and waiting to see what he comes up with. He’s given us yet another masterpiece distilling the essence of the story in an unforgettable image.
And that story…?
A teenage boy has turned up in Snowdonia, barely conscious and babbling
about beautiful women and fairy feasts. The authorities blame magic
mushrooms. The wise women say different and they want dryad’s son Daniel Mackmain to
investigate. He needs to watch his step in the mountains. Those who live
in the hollow hills mask their secrets and intentions with sly half-truths.
Far from the woods he knows, Dan needs help from the allies he
has made in past adventures. But he’s a loner at heart. As the
true power of his adversary becomes clear, he must decide if he’s
willing to see those he cares for put themselves in danger.
A modern fantasy rooted in the ancient myths and folklore of the British Isles.
I’m delighted to be able to share the cover art and cover copy of the steampunk novella I’ve written for Newcon Press. The Golden Rule is my contribution to four independent stories which can be purchased individually or as a set, and which are linked by their cover art. The other titles are Under Pressure by Fabio Fernandes, The London Particular by George Mann, and The Visionary Pageant by Paul Di Filippo.
What is my story about? Here’s the link to order it, so you can see the full artwork for a start, and here’s what the cover will tell you…
It is the summer of 1887 and everyone is looking forward to Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Young police constable David Price’s greatest concern is how much drunken disorder he and his colleagues will have to deal with. This changes when he is part of a force sent to a Lascar hostel on the docks to break up a disturbance. The constables arrive to find that trouble hasn’t even started. Close to the scene, David discovers an intricate mechanical rat, which is taken from him by a mysterious woman. He discovers she is a socialite, a friend of the royal family, and the eldest daughter of an Indian rajah. Tracking the princess down to her Richmond home provides the young officer with some answers. Many more questions arise. He finds himself embroiled in a deadly plot to raise racial tensions, set to culminate in a major incident that will rock the capital. Worse, David realises some of his own colleagues are involved. He has no idea who he can trust…
This is just one of the projects that have been keeping me very busy this year. I am pleased to say that my Arthurian novel, The Cleaving, has been delivered to Angry Robot and I should have news on that to share soon. The next Green Man book is being edited at the moment, and the cover art is in hand. As soon as we have a date for publication, I’ll be sharing that and other details.
Meantime, I have an unexpected invitation to write a new short story for what promises to be a fascinating anthology…
The enthusiastic response to this week’s news is tremendously encouraging. I will be doing my very best to reward readers with a book that’s well worth their time and money.
If you want to be certain that you don’t miss out on any of the news between now and publication, you can register with Angry Robot to get all the updates, be first in line for review copies and suchlike.
And now I will get back to writing!
It’s in The Bookseller, so it must be true! “Angry Robot Books has landed an “exciting and fresh” feminist retelling of the Arthurian legends by Juliet E McKenna.”
Now, it’s been a fair while since I was on a panel at a convention discussing the Arthurian myths, but those who remember such conversations may well find this a surprise. After all, my view was pretty clear; how can a writer bring something new to such an oft-told story? Especially when we all know how it ends – and that’s certainly not happily ever after!
So what has changed? Well, a few things came together in one of those accidents of serendipity that every writer will recognise. While I was doing background reading for The Green Man’s Challenge, looking for the roots of myths about giants in British folklore, one source was Geoffrey of Monmouth. He’s one of the early sources for the Arthurian myths, and I found myself rereading those bits as well, and thinking about why Geoffrey told those tales in the way that he did.
I’ve also been reading Kari Sperring’s Arthurian novellas from Newcon Press. Those are as enjoyable as they are interesting, and they took me back to Malory’s version of these myths in the Le Morte D’Arthur for the first time in decades. I had forgotten how much magic, mystery and downright weirdness there is in those particular stories. I’ve had some interesting chats about that with Kari, and with Liz Williams, who’s currently writing rural fantasy that harks back to all manner of ancient British folklore.
At the same time, the wider conversation about epic fantasy within the SFF genre has continued. We see a fascinating range of heroes having adventures in fabulous worlds drawing on intriguing mythic traditions these days. But there are still those who try to insist that ‘true’ epic fantasy can only be white knights on noble steeds rescuing damsels in distress. There’s certainly no denying that a great many of the conventions and traditions of the genre can be traced back to these age-old myths. That doesn’t mean that out-dated ideas and themes can’t be challenged though. As anyone who’s read my epic fantasy novels knows, I’ve been doing that since The Thief’s Gamble was first published in 1999.
It was a smaller step than I expected to go from looking at these ‘heroic’ Arthurian stories from a woman’s viewpoint today, to wondering what the women caught up in that whole myth cycle would be thinking and feeling themselves…
The Cleaving will be out on 9th May 2023
(And just in case you are wondering, yes, I am also working on the next Green Man novel)
You can now pre-order the book from your preferred retailer as follows –
If you want to go through your local bookshop, these are the ISBNs
If you will be at FantasyCon you can order paper editions for pick-up there.
The first early reviews are in from satisfied readers, I’m very pleased to say.
The Middle Shelf – followed by a Q&A with mild spoilers, consider yourselves warned…
Jacey Bedford – do look up her books as well
What’s that you say? Didn’t I mention the bonus short story earlier? Well, having decided to keep Dan’s adventures in the same timeline as the rest of us, I had some fairly major questions about what months of shut-down would mean for Blithehurst, the stately home where he works. I soon had some entertaining answers, but there was no place for that particular thread in the story Dan has to tell here. But I was pretty sure established readers would be wondering the same things as me, so I decided to let Eleanor explain that ‘Luck Is Where You Find It’.
There are now two well-established annual summer highlights from ZNB LLC as far as I am concerned. First, here are the new anthologies to read. This year, I’ve contributed to The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity with a story about classical Greek gods discovering the Internet. There are a host of other great stories by established authors and new voices alike.
The other collections in this year’s trio are equally intriguing. There’s Derelict where a tremendous array of writers offer their takes on the ghost ship, the abandoned vessel drifting through space or over the trackless seas… In When Worlds Collide very different people and cultures meet with a whole array of consequences. As with all ZNB anthologies, the three themes have prompted an incredible variety of entertaining stories.
If you’re one of the many readers who’ve found settling into a novel a real challenge amid the ongoing everything, I can say I’ve found short stories a real boon when that has happened to me.
But wait, there’s more! The second fun thing from ZNB each summer is the new Kickstarter for next year’s anthologies. This will be launched on 11th August, and you can find out about the new themes right now, as well as take a look at the cover artwork.
Since the days of Raymond Chandler and Dorothy B. Hughes, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane, the down, but not quite out private eye has been an archetype of literature and cinema. Some of the most memorable of these lone investigators have been found in fantasy and science fiction. In the filthy lanes of an ancient magical city or the sterile corridors of a lonely outpost in space, there are always crimes to be solved.
SHATTERING THE GLASS SLIPPER:
Fairy tales have been around for thousands of years, but it’s time to turn these age-old stories on their head. Let’s step into realms where princesses plan their own rescues, where princes find a better line of work, and falling down a rabbit hole may be a deliberate act of sabotage…or a trip through a wormhole. Come explore roads less traveled and meet the little match girl determined to light the fires of revolution.
BRAVE NEW WORLDS:
Humans have dreamed of traveling to the stars for generations. Their hope? To discover verdant new planets where they can build new societies or escape past persecutions. Follow our prospective settlers’ uncertain paths—from the heart-wrenching departure from Earth, through the unknown dangers of the long flight through the cold vastness of space, to the immigrants’ final arrival on an alien world.
Remember, ZNB is committed to offering debut authors their first chance at publication when the Kickstarters fund an open call for submissions. You can read some advice on making the grade from ZNB Supremo Joshua Palmatier here.
For all those wanting to know what’s next for Dan – and when – Wizard’s Tower Press is delighted to announce the next book in the Green Man series. With uncanny events in the Cambridgeshire Fens now resolved, will Daniel be able to get back to a quiet life as a carpenter, maybe enjoying a few weekends away with his girlfriend, Fin? Not a bit of it. As autumn deepens, there’s a new supernatural menace stirring down in Wessex. Dan will face, The Green Man’s Challenge…
All going well, the new book will be launched at FantasyCon in Birmingham over the weekend September 24-26. Meantime, we’re into the last few days of the ‘Green Man’ sale. The Green Man’s Foe ebook is 99p on Amazon UK until 31st May, and that’s been matched on other platforms & territories by Wizard’s Tower, with The Green Man’s Heir and The Green Man’s Silence reduced. That means new readers can get all three books for £8.97 as long as they buy before midnight on Monday.
Next, I have an honest to goodness in-person author event in the diary for June 12th! You can find me at Sunhill Park, North Somerset, BS21 7SZ at 3:30PM, as part of the Clevedon Literary Festival. I’ll be discussing fantasy fiction with Anna Smith Spark and John Llewellyn Probert. More details here – and the wonderful Books on the Hill will be there selling books. It really will be great to get out and see people!
July 15th will see this year’s anthologies from ZNB published. My story in The Modern Deity’s Guide to Surviving Humanity sees ancient Greek gods discovering the Internet and social media. The other 2021 titles are ‘Derelict‘ and ‘When Worlds Collide‘, and as you would expect by now, all three collections have a stellar roster of established and new writers. You can get preorders in with your online retailer of choice.
What else have I been doing? I’ve returned to the Aldabreshin Archipelago, believe it or not, to write the fourth of the short stories I started absolutely years ago, to go alongside the Aldabreshin Compass series. There’ll be more news about that in due course.
Last but by no means least, me and mine continue to keep well, and I hope the same is so for all of you.
As of yesterday, that’s the first pass of the next Green Man book completed at a frankly implausibly round 101100 words. That won’t be the final total – I’ll do a polishing pass over the next week or so, then Editor Toby will apply his eagle-eyed editorial skills.
I’m very pleased to have reached this point on the journey. I have always been able to escape trials and tribulations by turning to books -by reading and latterly, by writing them – but maintaining focus and a decent work rate amid the ongoing everything has been a particular challenge this year. I know this is the case for a great many many fellow authors and any number of readers.
I’m extremely pleased with the way this particular story has turned out. I’m confident Dan’s fans are going to enjoy this one. I’m also intrigued to see what Ben Baldwin will come up with by way of artwork for the cover.
So what’s next? Well, the first thing was checking the page proofs for my story in the upcoming anthology THE MODERN DEITY’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING HUMANITY. One bonus of doing that is getting a sneak peak at the other stories by this splendid roster of writers – Crystal Sarakas, Tanya Huff, Edward Willett, Daniel Roman, Jennifer Dunne, Jean Marie Ward, Mike Marcus, A.L. Tompkins, Daryl Marcus, Alma Alexander, Kari Sperring, A.J. Cunder, Irene Radford, and N.R. Lambert.
Among other things, you can see Hera try her hand at marriage counseling, while Macuilxochitl conquers the world of online gaming. Buy a ticket to Anubis’ magic act or roam the back tents at the local carnival and catch Doc Saturday’s medicine show. Take a sip of wine at Dionysus’ winery or grab some potato pancakes at Baba Yaga’s café.
I’ve also been taking a look at the concluding chapters of Eastern Tide. I’ve been promising myself – and readers – a fourth short story to complete the series accompanying the Aldabreshin Compass novels. You can find the first three here, staring with ‘Fire in the Night’.
They say three things make a post, so here goes.
Firstly, I’m involved in another Kickstarter, though in a different role this time. Prospective Press is an inclusive, pro-diversity, feminist-friendly, queer-welcoming, and #ownvoices-embracing publishing house. Jason Graves is the series editor of their Off the Beaten Path paranormal anthologies, Tales from the Old Black Ambulance, and the Concrete Dreams series of urban fantasies. Jason has invited me to write a foreword to the next Concrete Dreams anthology – Fiendish and the Divine. These stories will explore the intersections of what we think we know and what is undiscovered, the prejudices of the past and the startling newness of fresh perspectives. In these pages, you will meet gods, real and imagined; dragons of air and earth; beings alien to our world, with indecipherable intent; and monsters, some human, some not…
Secondly, I’ve mentioned a few times this year that I’ve written a novella for a shared world project. Now all can be revealed! So far Adrian Tchaikovsky and Justina Robson have each written a novel for Rebellion Publishing, set in a fantasy realm that’s recently seen a dark lord overthrown. The series title is After The War, and the novels so far are Redemption’s Blade, and After the Fire. Now there are The Tales of Catt and Fisher, a collection of four novellas by me, Adrian, Freda Warrington and K T Davies, to be published on 3rd December 2020. These two characters from the novels are scholars, shopkeepers, collectors, obtainers of rare antiquities … who can’t resist a lead, even when it takes them into terrible danger. There’s always an opportunity to be found amid the confusion, in the wake of the terrible Kinslayer War. There’s always a deal to be done, a tomb to open, a precious thing to… obtain.
This project was a lot of fun to write for, and I really enjoyed getting back to some epic fantasy. There was plenty of leeway for inventing new aspects and elements to expand on the existing scenario created by Adrian and Justina. Reading the books have already written in this world, I found a handful of lines here and there which added up to something very interesting indeed, when I summoned up my inner GM…
Third and last, but by no means least, I’ve written a guest blog post for my good friend and fine writer, Sarah Ash. I’ve been thinking a lot about mythology lately, and our relationships with folklore, old and new. We had a particularly interesting discussion about these things online at this year’s Octocon, so I welcomed the opportunity to explore this in an article.
So that’s all the latest from me. Have a good weekend!