This month’s a busy one. On 15th October, I’ll be running an online writers’ workshop for the British Fantasy Society, looking at revising your own work. I’ll share examples of ‘before’ and ‘after’ drafts of a piece I wrote some years ago, and discuss the changes I made and why, to highlight the underlying principles of being your own editor. Full details here on the BFS website.
As I imagine you already know, The Green Man’s Quarry will be published on 21st October. You can pre-order paper editions from the Wizard’s Tower Press bookstore (UK only) which includes the ebook free.
You can pre-order ebook editions from your local Amazon, Barnes & Noble Nook in the US and Kobo. Paperback and hardback editions can also now be pre-ordered through Amazon and in the US from Barnes & Noble. Bookshops, chain and independent, should be able to order through their usual wholesalers.
We will be launching the book on the Friday evening before Bristolcon, 20th October, at the Hilton Doubletree hotel, Bristol. By the way, Wizard’s Tower Press are starting their own newsletter as social media fractures. You can sign up here for all their updates.
The first enthusiastic reviews are appearing on Goodreads – spoiler-free, which I very much appreciate.
Alas, I cannot stay to take part in Bristolcon on the Saturday. The diary gremlins have got me good and proper this year. I’ll be travelling to Sheffield to join dear friends as they celebrate a notable anniversary with family and friends, theirs and mine.
Looking further forward, I’ve selected the short stories for my Polestars collection, coming from NewCon Press. Choosing those and writing a short note for each one has been fascinating. More news on that in due course on the NewCon Press website.
Readers may recall the anthology Fight Like a Girl, from Kristell Ink. I’m delighted to say a second volume is on its way. Following extremely helpful feedback from the editors, I’ve revised my story and I am very pleased with it.
I’m currently working on my story for Ampyrium, the shared world project for the American small press ZNB, now that this year’s Kickstarter has funded. The open call for submissions for their other two 2024 anthologies, ‘Familiars’ and ‘Last-ditch’ has started and will run until December 31st. Remember, ZNB are committed to giving debut writers opportunities.
Looking back, long-standing pals may recall the days when I wrote a review column for Albedo One, Ireland’s foremost SFFH magazine, founded in 1993. As with so many genre publications, this has been a labour of love, and as happens for many reasons, the project has reached the end of this particular journey. Issue 50 is the final, valedictory, fiction edition, and that’s an honourable number for such a conclusion. My story is called ‘The End of the Road’, and you can buy the magazine through Amazon here.
Social media update: I’m using Twitter-as-was less and less as it becomes more and more pointless, and I look forward to the day when I can bin it, frankly. You can find me on Facebook at facebook.com/jemck, on Bluesky @julietemckenna.bsky.social, and on Mastodon @JulietEMcKenna@wandering.shop.
The Green Man’s Quarry will be published by Wizard’s Tower Press on 21st October 2023, following our launch on Friday evening 20th October at Bristolcon. Artwork once more by the supremely talented Ben Baldwin.
So what’s this story about? Here’s the cover copy…
“The Green Man sends Daniel Mackmain to stop threats from folklore making trouble in the everyday world. Now a naiad and dryad want him to deal with the big cat they’ve seen prowling in their woods. Reports like this turn up in the tabloid press from time to time, though no one has ever caught such a cat, or even found evidence of a large carnivore’s kills.
Can Dan discover the truth behind this modern myth before social media turns his hunt into an internet sensation? He knows that not all animals are what they seem. A huge cat which can appear and disappear without a trace must be more than meets the eye. Dan knows one thing for certain. He’s on the trail of a killer.’
Pre-orders are open. Here are the links so for. For more buy links as soon as they become available, check the Wizard’s Tower Press website.
Feel free to spread the word!
Cover art – Ben Baldwin
As regular readers will know, I’ve written stories for various themed anthologies published by this splendid US small press over the past decade. Each year they produce collections of original (no reprint) short stories from a mix of established SF&F authors and new voices found through an open submissions call. Editorial standards are rigorous, and ZNB is a SFWA-qualifying market. Each year, these books offer high-quality reading, as well as the pleasure of encountering writers new to you.
This time around, with the Kickstarter running until 14th September 2023, the projects are as follows:
Animals have been our companions since the dawn of time, but in science fiction and fantasy, often that bond is taken one magical—or technological—step further. From the ubiquitous black cats in witchcraft to the treecats in David Weber’s Honor Harrington universe, Anne McCaffrey’s dragons of Pern to Mercedes Lackey’s horse-like Companions in her Valdemar universe, familiars have played a part in stories since paper met pen. In FAMILIARS, we ask writers to stretch their imagination and give us their most inventive furry, feathered, or scaly companions in tales of fantasy, science fiction, mystery, or horror.
Edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier, FAMILIARS will contain approximately fourteen stories with an average length of 6,000 words each. Anchor authors include Jacey Bedford, Jim C. Hines, Gini Koch & Bebe Bayliss, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, Kari Sperring, and Jean Marie Ward.
In the heart-pounding world of espionage, it’s the spy that gets the dirty work done. From a longshot gamble to reverse the tides of war to a secret operation escaping with stolen plans, the task is often left to the double agent. Whether it’s for King and country or a private backer, the lone operative gets in and gets out…if only it was that easy.
Edited by Troy Carrol Bucher and Gerald Brandt, this anthology will explore Science Fiction or Fantasy stories of back-against-the-wall, desperate purpose–Hail Marys launched when hope seems lost. The actions of the secret agent can change the tides for good or evil; it all depends on which side you are on.
LAST-DITCH will contain approximately 14 stories with an average length of 6000 words each. Anchor authors include: Jason M. Hough, Tanya Huff, Elaine Isaak, Blake Jessop, Lee Modesitt, Jr., Derryl Murphy, Steve Perry, and Edward Willett.
Then there’s the project I’m involved with – AMPYRIUM
Welcome to Ampyrium, a city of a thousand wonders! May the trading be always in your favor.
Powerful magicians called the Magnum have created a massive city contained within eight walls, each with its own portal to another world. Here, eight different magical lands collide. In these streets, all of the races from those worlds come to trade, to politic, to carouse, and to murder. Merchants and royalty, thieves and assassins; caravans and envoys, armies and entourages. Everyone…and everything…can be found in Ampyrium. Every dream can be made real. Every vice is available. Every wish can be fulfilled. All you have to do is stay clear of the Magnum…and their Eyes are everywhere.
Edited by Joshua Palmatier, AMPYRIUM will contain approximately seven stories all set within the shared world of Ampyria with an average length of 12,000 words each. Authors include: Patricia Bray, S.C. Butler, David B. Coe, Esther M. Friesner, Juliet E. McKenna, Jason Palmatier, and Joshua Palmatier.
I’m currently working with my fellow authors on creating the peoples, the places, the customs and practises which will underpin this city and frame the stories we will tell within it. Once that groundwork is done, the plans for future anthologies will include open calls for submissions.
ZNB Kickstarters generate the base funds needed to produce their anthologies — payment for the authors, payment for cover art, production costs etc. The reward levels for the anthologies are set to more closely resemble the cost of the final product when it goes on sale to the general public. In essence, backers of the project are preordering the anthologies, although there will be a special mass market Kickstarter edition produced for backers who help fund the project at the paperback level. This special edition will have a limited print run to cover the orders made by the backers and will not be printed again. After that, a trade paperback edition is issued for the general public with an unlimited print run.
For those who might be curious, this is what I’ll be doing over the Easter weekend, as well as seeing established pals, making new friends and a whole lot more interesting things besides.
If you’re at the convention, feel free to say hello, and I’m always happy to sign books and chat – as long as I’m not actually on my way to a panel.
Hey, you! Pay me!
Balmoral – Fri 12:00–13:00
Even the most experienced authors sometimes find invoices unpaid. Our panel talks about the art of valuing your work, and getting what you deserve – and some of the barriers to that.
With Wendy Bradley, Mike Brooks, John Jarrold
Readings: Adult Orientated and the Fantastical
Balmoral – Fri 19:30–20:30
With F. D. Lee, Sandra Bond and Wole Talabi
I’ll be reading from The Cleaving, and remember, Books on the Hill in the Dealers’ Room will have advance copies.
GoH Interview: I have the pleasure and privilege of talking to Kari Sperring about her work and her involvement with fandom, and doubtless other things as well.
Queens – Sat 12:00–13:00
Thirty-four years, and an interim survey
Sandringham – Sun 13:30–14:30
In 1989, Paul Kincaid surveyed working UK-based science fiction and fantasy writers, and wrote up the results for Mexicon. In 2009, Niall Harrison repeated the questionnaire, and wrote up the results for the BSFA, considering the changes in the SF field during those twenty years. We’re not quite due another iteration, but this panel will ask some current writers to answer some of the questions.
With Niall Harrison, Stew Hotston, Anne Charnock, Neil Williamson, Nina Allan
Queens – Sun 15:00–16:00
As a canon written by many authors down the ages, Arthuriana is uniquely flexible in letting you choose which version canon you want, and how you want to adapt it.
With Russell A Smith, Gillian Polack, Kari Sperring, James Bennett
This time next week, The Cleaving will be published. The Angry Robot team are doing splendid work spreading the word – Caroline and Amy are absolute stars.
Over at Lithub, Natalie Zutter includes The Cleaving in her recommendations for some spring reading, alongside books from Peter S Beagle, Emily Tesh, Fonda Lee, Vivian Shaw, Andrea Stewart, TJ Klune, and Catherynne M Valente.
“Juliet E. McKenna retells the familiar Arthuriana epic through the eyes of enchantress Nimue, who possesses the same magic as Merlin but has more scruples than he does about interfering in mortal lives. So while Merlin helps Uther Pendragon trick the lady Ygraine into conceiving Arthur, Nimue is by Ygraine’s side, disguised as her handmaiden.
While the saga’s familiar male characters—Merlin, Uther, Arthur, Lancelot, Mordred—make their big moves through the rhythms of war, The Cleaving focuses on the women’s work and equally vital intrigues back at court. When Arthur’s half-sister Morgana and future wife Guinevere are brought into the mix, Nimue’s interactions with each provide additional context as to why both women make such dangerous choices that will eventually spell the fall of Camelot.”
I’ve mentioned the various interesting and enjoyable podcast chats I’ve had recently, and you can now listen to a couple of those conversations at the following places.
And here’s where you can find me in person over the next little while.
I’ve had some exciting book post! An advance reading copy of The Cleaving has arrived. And to be clear, this cover is just for the ARC, to distinguish those from the novel that will go on sale. Those will have the full colour cover art that I have posted previously.
I’m looking forward to making plans with the Angry Robot team to get this novel in front of as many readers as possible.
Which prompts me to add a reminder that I’m starting up a newsletter for 2023 – you can sign up here
Today sees The Green Man’s Gift published in ebook, hardback and paperback. Head to your preferred retailer for the format of your choice.
If you’re going to be at Bristolcon, you can pick up a book direct from Wizard’s Tower Press – and let Cheryl know, so she can be sure to bring enough copies.
Dan Mackmain’s heading to North Wales in this particular story. It’s an area I’ve visited on holiday a few times over the years, but thinking about it for this story, and seeing it through Dan’s eyes gave me an interesting and different perspective. Driving through Snowdonia in particular offers such marked contrasts between remote, timeless, numinous landscapes, and then sudden encounters with post-industrial landscapes and modern economic hardship. I already knew I’d be setting this new story there, so the Milford SF Writers retreat at the Trigonos centre that I went on back in May was as much a research trip as a chance to get plenty of uninterrupted work done.
What else got me thinking about Wales? Well, I found a fair amount of overlap between Welsh myth and the stories of King Arthur which I was researching last year for The Cleaving, my novel coming next year. Don’t worry, King Arthur has absolutely nothing to do with Dan’s new adventure, but those encounters prompted me to read more Welsh folklore and reminded me of childhood reading like The Owl Service and The Chronicles of Prydain. I started making notes and I soon began to see the shape of this particular story.
I also knew I had the people I’d need to call on to make sure I got the fine detail right. Kari Sperring was generous with her time as I sought her perspectives on the Welsh landscape and language in the first instance, and Liz Williams may not realise how a few passing comments she made were useful too. Once the story was written, Toby Selwyn and Cheryl Morgan could offer further advice and amendments which were very much appreciated. I am very fortunate in my friends – and any errors or clangers that Dan drops are absolutely my responsibility.
It’s been an interesting story to write as I consider how the changes in Dan’s life over the past few years have affected him. We are the sum of our experiences, after all. We handle some of those experiences better than others…
I had a chat with Cheryl about all this and a whole lot more besides yesterday evening, courtesy of the Octocon Presents online programme of events. You can find the recording here, including a short reading from the book (mildly sweary in a couple of places, just so you know). And the Octocon convention is well worth checking out, in person and/or online.
Early readers over on Goodreads have definitely enjoyed the book. I have no clue what’s going on with Amazon ratings and reviews at the moment, where every book seems to be getting every review of the whole series, but hopefully readers will share their thoughts on this new adventure there and with other retailers in due course.
Today sees the publication of The Golden Rule, my contribution to a collection of four steampunk novellas from Newcon Press which can be purchased individually or as a set. These stories are linked by their cover art, but apart from that, they stand alone. The other titles are Under Pressure by Fabio Fernandes, The London Particular by George Mann, and The Visionary Pageant by Paul Di Filippo.
Steampunk is great fun, in comics, in stories, and in the cogs and goggles aesthetic of the terrific costumes people create. It also draws on the popular literature of the Victorian era that can be too easily overlooked as a significant forerunner of the science fiction and fantasy genres that have evolved in the last century and a half. So far, so good.
However… when I was first invited to try my hand at a steampunk story, revisiting a classic of such literature, I opted for the author H Rider Haggard. Rereading his work for the first time in decades, I was appalled by the racism and sexism underpinning the melodrama. It was scant comfort to realise none of this unpleasantness had made any lasting impression on teenage me. Hopefully, anyway. Certainly, I do know to check for any lingering echoes in my work these days. This rereading did alert me to one major potential pitfall of writing steampunk. While contemporary writers should have the sense to steer clear of the overt bigotry, I realised it could be far too easy to slip into an uncritical pro-Empire mindset, defaulting to Rule Britannia and all that.
Fortunately, as well as H Rider Haggard’s books, those library shelves I had scoured as a teenager held other classics of Victorian literature which offered no such rosy view of their society, such as Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. I also came across non-fiction like Mary Kingsley’s Travels in West Africa (1897) which gave a very different view of colonisation. So I was aware that critical voices were speaking up in that very era. That gave me the starting point for that first story ‘She Who Thinks For Herself’. As I wrote more late-Victorian stories, in the overlap between steampunk and horror, I continued to use the viewpoints of the overlooked and disregarded to shine a different light on the great deeds of the great white men who assume they are in unquestioned charge. You can find those stories in Challoner, Murray and Balfour: Monster Hunters at Law.
In the decades since I was a teenager, the Establishment’s vision of benign imperialism bestowing railways, democracy and afternoon tea on grateful colonials has been increasingly challenged by a wide range of historians and journalists. We are starting to see a far more complex and multi-layered picture of peoples, places and events. When I was invited to contribute to this quartet of novellas, I recalled one such book and wondered if that might give me a starting point for an exciting steampunk story with a different perspective on the alleged Glories of Empire. I found Anita Anand’s “Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary” on my bookshelves and went from there. This story of an exiled Sikh princess, god-daughter to Queen Victoria, led me to the Golden Jubilee of 1887, where I found that celebration had dramatic facets I had never suspected. Here is a photo of the Indian Cavalry who played a central role in the procession. If you want to know their role in my story though, you’ll have to read The Golden Rule – now available from Newcon Press, and you can find the ebook on Amazon.
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.