Friday, April 18, 2014

Para Kindred: The River Flows

Today I'm going to chat briefly about my contribution to the Para Kindred anthology, a story entitled "The River Flows". At the time of writing I was revisiting the first of the Wraeththu tales, that I had last read in 2009, so much of the world-building was fresh for me. Consequently I felt the outsider's fascination with the Wraeththu. 

One of the facets of the Wraeththu Mythos that I find utterly fascinating was the status of women in the new order; how the advent of the Wraeththu had in a sense freed women from the tyranny of men. And that's when Eva came to mind.

She is the not-so-impartial observer who watches the changes unfold and, when her time comes, helps nudge more change into being. She herself takes on a role in the new world yet at the same time she is aware of her status as being an outsider. 

"The River Flows" unfolds in one of my favourite regions in southern Africa: the Cederberg, which is situated slightly inland from our West Coast. This is a semi-desert set within a mountain range cut through by lush river valleys. Many ancient rock art sites belonging to the bushmen can be found here, and the place itself is steeped in history. The contrast between the different landscapes within this region is awe-inspiring. One moment you'll be walking through verdant lucern fields or vineyards then you'll find yourself in a shale band of strange, twisted sandstone rock formations, or wandering across a sand flat covered in restios (reed-like grasses). Venerable cedar trees endure in the kloofs, and if you are lucky, you might find the rare snow protea on the slopes of the Sneeuberg or red disas flowering by a waterfall. Leopards still leave their spoor if you know where to look.

I spent many childhood holidays on a farm here, and there's a part of me that constantly wishes to revisit this world in my fiction (perhaps a subconscious need to escape from the routines of city life). Of course when I saw the call for submissions for the Para Kindred anthology, my plot bunnies began to hop about madly, and I had to ask myself: How would the farmers living in the Cederberg react with the downturn in socio-economic conditions preceding the rise of the Wraeththu? What would happen when the first Wraeththu came calling? Which of my favourite African myths can I work in? (A hint: I'm fascinated by tales of the watermeid.)

Africa is a harsh land, and those who wish to live in her more arid regions must be, by nature, willing to be hard. This is not always easy for those who are of a more sensitive disposition, and I wanted to show the conflict that arose between father and son. I also explored the sense of obligation a woman has to a family she has worked for her entire life. Eva is trapped by her sense of duty, and the Wraeththu Taym does more than enchant the farmer's son; he is the catalyst that allows her to cut her bonds and find her own path and make her own fate.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Para Kindred anthology author ES Wynn #wraeththu

Today I've another Para Kindred contributor on board. A huge welcome to ES Wynn! 
What do you love about the Wraeththu Mythos?  

So much. Honestly. When I first started reading Storm's work, I was drawn by the elegance of these angelic, post-human beings, by the idea that we (as humans) could become something greater, something more than we are. The post-apocalyptic landscape appealed to me, but more than that, I think, it was the unique take on the post-apocalyptic idea that Storm puts forth which grabbed me most fluidly.

I grew up in a pagan household on one side and a wildly pentecostal household on the other, so powerful, ecstatic spiritual experience has always been a part of my life. Seeing that kind of ritual drama expressed so vividly in such a richly detailed post-human race is definitely one of the things which has drawn me to the Mythos most strongly– there's nothing else like it. Nothing else I've seen, anyway. It's that whole “the world has ended, now we can truly be who we were meant to be, and the world is so much wider and more wondrous than we imagined” concept that truly, deeply resonates with me.

Everyone’s story will have that spark that set the wheels spinning? What was yours?  

One of the things I've always found most tantalizing about the early years within the timeline of the Wraeththu universe are the hints and stories which indicate the role that medical experimentation might have played in the creation and spread of the Wraeththu. As a writer, I've always been drawn to the creepy side of sci-fi, the sort of dark, transformational lab experiences where technology which offers such hope and promise for the future is bent toward sinister ends. Story seeds like that are always fun and exciting to explore, and so when I received the notice that Para Kindred was open for submissions, I saw a wonderful opportunity to create something which delved into that darker side on one hand, and into the more dream-like, spiritual side of Wraeththu on the other.

I was also in the final stages of completing a book called Like Oceans of Liquid Skin (which features an antagonist as “fluid” as the main character in Wolf) when the call came in, so I'd mark that as an inspiration as well. I have a soft spot in my heart for skinwalkers and creepy, fleshy shapeshifters.

Without giving any spoilers, can you share a bit about your story?

I like to think that Wolf reflects my favorite aspects of the Wraeththu universe. It's a story of awakening, of transformational experience with its roots in the ashes of the material world and its branches in the sky of a dream-like after-world. It's the story of one being's journey of self-discovery while the world of man and the world of Wraeththu spin on without stopping. In the story, we follow the main character through some of the most recognizable ages of the Wraeththu, but events unfold at a distance, as Wolf is not a central character to change. Wolf is rather something more like an observer, lingering in the hinterlands, with a wholly unique story to tell.

Then, a little bit about yourself and your influences.

When it comes to influences, I am a sponge. I read everything I can, and try to dissect and understand the writings of other authors across any and all genres. My biggest influences are probably Storm Constantine (of course) Cormac McCarthy, Peter Grandbois, Damon Knight and Samuel R. Delany.

As for myself, I like to keep my bio simple. I'm a huge fan of sci-fi and of the surreal. I'm the author of over fifty books and the chief editor of a number of web journals through Thunderune Publishing. I'm always working on something new.

Catch up with ES Wynn here...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Meet Para Kindred author Maria Leel

Today I'm pleased to have fellow Wraeththu Mythos Para Kindred author Maria Leel visiting for a quick Q&A. Welcome, Maria. What do you love about the Wraeththu Mythos? 

The books that comprise the original Wraeththu trilogy, now the Wraeththu Chronicles, have been my constant companions since late 1989 when, during a lunch break from work, a copy of The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit mugged me in Hammick’s bookshop and insisted on being purchased. I confess I wasn’t terribly productive for the rest of the afternoon when I returned to the office. The trilogy has moved house with me more times that I can count; it has travelled around the world with me and to this day still occupies a prized spot on the bookshelf nearest to my bed. If you had told me then that I would have the opportunity to contribute stories to that world I loved so dearly I simply would not have believed you.

I have been fascinated with the ‘post-apocalyptical’ genre since childhood probably because I’ve been at odds with the dominant human culture from a very early age. I grew up in the 70s at the tail end of the hippie era surrounded by beautiful people with long hair and glam rock... And then you give me a whole trio of books set in a post apocalyptic Earth filled with amazingly beautiful creatures with long hair... Well, there was no hope for me!

Everyone’s story will have that spark that set the wheels spinning? What was yours?

Two things really. At the time the call for submissions to Para Kindred went out I was studying some of the work of Dr Paul Stamets, a pioneering American mycologist (check out his TED talk), specifically his work on fungi’s ability to clean up contamination. I mean, did you know that there is evidence at Chernobyl of slime moulds siphoning radiation out of the air and using it as their own power source? That and fungi’s role as a great underground information and resources network in primary forest; a genuine living phenomenon which for me had great resonance with the Na’vi’s ‘deity’ in the film Avatar.

I was reading Paul’s book Mycelium Running and my brain was literally pounding with the possibilities.

Around the same time I happened to re-watch a film called Raise the Red Lantern about a young girl who willingly becomes a concubine in the oppressive household of a wealthy warlord. I found her story both depressing and compelling.

Then the call for submissions came in and I was left wondering how I was going to bolt together a bunch of mushrooms and dynastic China into a workable story... without resorting to something hallucinogenic...

Without giving any spoilers, can you share a bit about your story?

The story centres around Chenga who lives in the dynastic territories of the Far East where ritual, protocol and tradition are valued above all things. Despite this, Chenga enjoys an almost blissful childhood thanks to his hostling, Lian, and his human teacher, Master Deshi-Tu. Chenga is fascinated by herb lore and enjoys a rare ability to hear the whispering chatter of the fungi that grow in abundance in his forest home. Master Deshi-Tu promises to teach Chenga the secret of the threads when he comes of age.

But Chenga’s childhood is tragically cut short and he is sent as a child bride to become the tenth consort of a wealthy and powerful dynastic overlord. Depressed and desperately unhappy, Chenga finds the overlord and the regime of his household cruel and divisive and he longs for freedom. Eventually the threads call to him again and he begins to see how escape might be possible.

Are there any underlying themes you visited?

Primarily the complexity of the living world – we really don’t understand how it all works and we mess with it at our peril. It’s all about relationships.

Oppression is another major theme. The dynamics of controlling and abusive relationships are both hideous and fascinating both in the case of an individual species’ abuse of a natural community and that of a single individual’s abuse of another. Stories need conflict and inevitably oppression is a good source for that.

I also think that literature is a particularly good medium for exploring the dynamics of abuse and bringing this hidden form of warfare into the light.

Then, a little bit about yourself and your influences.

My first degree was in Ecology and much of my work has been in the field of conservation so my stories all have strong link with natural systems and the landscape.  I have travelled widely and lived in some pretty isolated places and those experiences tend to weave their way into my writing whether I wish them to or not. I am deeply grateful to Storm Constantine for welcoming contributors to the Wraeththu mythos and allowing fledgling authors to test their wings in the world of published writing.

I come from a family of dancers steeped in the folk traditions of England. My extended family are Morris dancers and from an early age I was surrounded by people with painted faces, dressed in wild costumes, bearing an assortment of curious instruments. This has led to a fairly relaxed attitude to the unorthodox.

Originally from the flat Fenlands in the east of England I now live on the hilly Welsh borders with my husband, two geriatric cats and a varying number of chickens. We have recently taken on a large urban garden which we are in the process of turning into a permaculture paradise. We’ve just put in a mini orchard and our next challenge is to convince our neighbours to allow us to bring in a couple of piglets to tractor up the patch where we plan to put the forest garden. Wish us luck with that one ;)

See my author page with Immanion Press is where you can also find details of my Wraeththu novel Song of the SulhI can be found on Facebook.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Storm Constantine on Para Kindred

Today I am honoured to host Storm Constantine, who joins us to discuss her latest release, the Para Kindred anthology of Wraeththu Mythos short stories, which features original fiction not only by her, but also Wendy Darling, Martina Bellovičová, Ash Corvida, Nerine Dorman, Suzanne Gabriel, Fiona Lane, Maria J Leel , Daniela Ritter, E.S. Wynn. 
Welcome, Storm... 

One of the best aspects of compiling Wraeththu short story collections, such as Para Kindred, is that it gives me the opportunity to revisit the half-completed Wraeththu stories I have, some of which date back thirty years or more. For this latest anthology, I wrote one completely new story, and then turned to one of the ‘oldies’ for my other contribution.

The first, ‘Painted Skin’, was inspired by an image I remembered from a folk tale – that of a fairy woman who’s a beautiful and bewitching creature from the front, but whose back is hollow and that of a rotting tree. I can’t even remember where I first came across this image, although my friend and fellow writer Tanith Lee also remembers it, and thinks it might have been in a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale. I’ve not yet trawled through my big collection of his stories to find out. I did discover, via a Danish friend and subsequent searches on the internet, that there is a Danish myth about the Elle folk, whose females were as described above, but whose males were hideously ugly and could spread pestilence. Both genders were not actively malevolent, as far as I could gather, but objected strongly to humans reacting negatively to their appearance. Once riled in such a way, through unintentional laughter or horror, they could turn nasty. The idea of the hollow woman has always fascinated me, and the idea came to me how to include it in a Wraeththu story. ‘Painted Skin’ was the result.

I began the other piece, ‘Without Weakness’, way back when writing the original Wraeththu trilogy, not long after I’d completed ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit’. It features two characters from the trilogy – the Kamagrian Kate and the harish Ashmael. A human enclave has managed to survive in the wilderness of Megalithica, despite attacks from rogue Wraeththu tribes. Nicholas, the youngest son of the Ferniman family, is particularly threatened by these enemies, not least because of his innate unusual abilities, not generally found in a human. The barbaric Wraeththu want to claim and incept him.

Ashmael and Kate, representing the more advanced tribe of Gelaming, seek to help the humans, and overcome their hostility. Initially, I planned the story to be a kind of romance, with love conquering all, but when I revisited it, so many years later, different ideas came to me. I had things to say about those who claim to ‘know what’s best for you’, when really all they know is what they consider best for them. In particular, this applies to medical professionals, who are often blinkered to say the least, and prone to promoting the latest fad or obsession. In the story, this involves the subject of inception – is it ever ‘necessary’, and if professional therapists consider it so, are they right? ‘Without Weakness’ was an interesting story to write, even if it was rather more difficult to produce than ‘Painted Skin’, which poured out without much effort on my part. Originally I’d planned for it to be a novella, and despite choosing to make it a shorter work, it still came in at 40 pages or so when it was finished.

Both stories were very enjoyable to write in their different ways. I hope to compile another Wraeththu story collection in the future, again with the help of other writers, to explore other aspects of the Wraeththu Mythos.

After seventeen years of being professionally published, Storm decided that the only way for her books to stay in print for any length of time was to publish her back catalogue herself. With Immanion Press, she intends to rectify the typical fate of books, which is to have the "shelf life of a magazine".

Storm underwent a cursory art college education, but found it too restricting creatively. After a series of mundane jobs, she began writing seriously, and her first book, "The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit" was published in 1987 by Macdonald Futura. Storm has written approximately 1.5 books a year ever since!

In the 80s and 90s, she frittered away some time managing bands, and caught the publishing bug from producing fan club magazines. After giving up the musical distraction, Storm embarked on the fiction project, "Visionary Tongue", which was a regular magazine of dark fantasy/fantasy/sf stories. She enlisted the help of several writer friends to act as editors, so that up-and-coming writers would have the chance to work with a professional, and pick up tips about their craft and the industry.

Immanion Press is undoubtedly an extension of what Storm began with Visionary Tongue. As well as her own work, and the back catalogue of friends and writers she admires, Storm is keen to promote new talent. As to what she's looking for, she says:

'It's difficult to define what I like, but it has to be different. I admire a slick style, believable characters, vivid yet economical description and an engaging story. I also like a certain level of quirkiness, as long as it isn't too self-conscious! A few of my favourite writers are Alice Hoffman, Tanith Lee, Jack Vance, Steve Millhauser and Jonathan Carroll, which might give people a potential idea of what appeals to me. I will edit the books that most appeal to me, but we also have a team of other editors who are all very thorough at what they do. I am known as rather a task-mistress with authors I work with, though - so be warned!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Featured author: Maria Imbalzano

Today's featured author is Maria Imbalzano, who's here to tell us a little bit more about herself and her novel, Unchained Memories (for which there's an excerpt at the end of this blog post). Welcome, Maria, and over to you!

I was born in Trenton, NJ , in the heart of Chambersburg, the Italian section of town. My father was a barber and my mother, a State employee, who also taught me to jitterbug at the tender age of four. We loved to dance in the living room while watching American Bandstand. Hardly star material, but I was driven nonetheless.

The product of a Catholic School education, I learned the basics, and took for granted  I would be successful doing something, even if it entailed cutting hair. I attended Rutgers University as a psychology major, but after three years decided I liked political science better.

My first job led me to Manhattan where I worked as a paralegal for four years before attending Fordham University School of Law. There I learned to think like a lawyer, write like a lawyer, and speak like a lawyer, all while living like a pauper in the city of my dreams. Living in New York City, albeit on a tight budget, allowed me to indulge my love of ballet, art museums, and theater. Did you know you could walk into a theater after intermission and no one checks your ticket? I enjoyed the second half of many plays as well as ballets.

My love of reading dates back to my childhood when I would borrow at least four books from the library every week. During the summer, I would sit in the house and read, until my mother, totally frustrated, would send me outside to play and lock me out. I always found my way back in.

However, I must confess, I hated to write. In every English and writing class throughout college, I dreaded trying to be creative. As a friend from law school so aptly put it, “The reason why we’re here is because we don’t have a creative bone in our bodies.” I agreed.

Despite my dislike of creative writing back then, I embraced legal writing, and was first published in Volume 5 of the Fordham International Law Journal. My article was entitled “In re Mackin: Is the Application of the Political Offense Exception an Extradition Issue for the Judicial or Executive Branch?” I would advise you against reading it, for you will surely fall asleep.

Following law school, I returned to central New Jersey and took a job at a local law firm, where I have been a partner for many years. My area of practice is divorce, and while emotions run high and clients are living through the worst time of their lives, I find the practice very satisfying.  In addition to litigation,  I have added mediation and collaborative divorce to my repertoire, which are much more civil ways of dealing with issues in family law cases.

In addition to practicing law and raising two daughters, I’ve been working towards my second career.  Memoranda of Law and Legal Briefs, although fascinating, pale in comparison to writing romance/women’s fiction. So how does one transition from divorce lawyer by day to romance writer by night? That’s the beauty of having two distinct passions.

As a rising medical malpractice attorney, Charlotte Taylor believes in standing up for the injured, giving them a voice, and advocating for their rights. She couldn't do it for her mother, so she does it for others, even if it means losing the love of her life.

Dr. Clayton Montgomery believes in working hard and playing even harder, until he reconnects with Charlotte. Barely noticing her crush when he tutored her ten years ago, Clay has a chance to make up for lost time when the beautiful lawyer comes back into town...until he discovers her chosen career path.

Now, philosophical differences soon become a reality and Charlotte is faced with the choice of representing a client against the hospital and against Clay. Will Charlotte give up her career and her tribute to her mother for a second chance with the man who got away?

Find Unchained Memories on Amazon, or check out Maria's website. Follower her on Twitter, like her on Facebook, and friend her on Goodreads.

EXCERPTRed. Hot. Sexy.
Like magnets, Clay’s eyes clicked on Charlotte, unable to repel the force holding them. Her chestnut hair was held up in a loose, sexy do that had him itching to pull the pins to release it. Her strapless dress showcased a long neck and creamy shoulders that called out to be kissed. His involuntary focus on her lovely traits throughout the evening had made him a rude dinner companion; unable to answer even the easiest of questions.
He had come here tonight to socialize with the powers that be at the hospital, to talk up the ER, to lay the groundwork for future requests. But his concentration had been directed elsewhere. Since he’d squandered his opportunity to network, he should leave. But here he was at the bar at ten-thirty, waiting for a scotch and soda. The band was heavily into their Motown set and many of the revelers packed the dance floor.
Across the room, Clay zeroed in on Charlotte talking to a group of men, her red gown like a flame in a sea of black. He smiled. She sure knew how to turn heads. His included.
But he knew her better than those clowns. He knew the sweet, tough eighteen-year-old who’d lost her parents within hours of each other. The broken girl whose emotional health had worried Dr. Collins, their Chief of Surgery, much more than her physical wounds.
As the band segued into a slow song, Clay covered the distance between them. “Excuse us, gentlemen, but the lady promised me a dance, and I’d like to claim it now.” He deposited his drink on an empty table and guided her toward the dance floor.
“I don’t recall promising you a dance.” Her beautiful face held the hint of a smile.
“You don’t? I must have dreamed it.”
He pulled her into his embrace, and moved with the music around the floor, feeling like one of the luckiest men there. Although she hadn’t promised anything, she glided around the room, following his lead. Her perfume intoxicated him more than any drink ever could, and the  movement of her graceful body against his had his heart palpitating.
Little Charley Taylor had certainly grown up, and he couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to know her now. As an adult. Ten years removed from the time their lives had intersected. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Para Kindred anthology

Okay, so some of you'll know by now that I have a story that's appearing in the upcoming Para Kindred anthology that's being published by Immanion Press later this month. Well, there's great news, there's a give-away currently happening on Goodreads and you can jump in on the action here. I'm totally stoked that one of my stories is appearing in this collection.

The androgynous and mysterious Wraeththu have risen to replace humanity upon a ravaged world. Following on from the successful anthologies Paragenesis and Para Imminence, this collection of tales focuses upon the enigmas that might be found within the disparate tribes – how Wraeththu could have – or will – develop in strange and unimagined ways.

Based on the world created by Storm Constantine for her Wraeththu novels, the stories in this collection explore different, intriguing aspects of bizarre mutations and specialisations that have arisen, hidden within the developing Wraeththu tribes and throughout the corners of the world. Shape-shifters, semi-mythological beings, or hara who have evolved in other unexpected ways, Para Kindred expands the horizons of the Wraeththu world, touching upon countries – such as those of the Far East and the African continent – that have not appeared in the Mythos before.

Para Kindred features stories from ten writers, some of whom are well known within Wraeththu fandom and/or have written Wraeththu Mythos novels published by Immanion Press. Also included are two new stories each by Storm Constantine and Wendy Darling.

Featuring stories by: Storm Constantine, Wendy Darling, Martina Bellovičová, Ash Corvida, Nerine Dorman, Suzanne Gabriel, Fiona Lane, Maria J Leel, Daniela Ritter and E S Wynn.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Six of the Best with Icy Sedgwick on The Necromancer's Apprentice

We recently celebrated the release of Icy Sedgwick's The Necromancer's Apprentice, published under Dark Continents Publishing's Tales of Darkness and Dismay line. Today I have Icy hanging out here at my spot to answer a little Q&A about her world-building.

Welcome Icy! Sum up The Necromancer's Apprentice up in no more than 16 words. Go!

A young magician gets an opportunity of a lifetime and squanders it through impatience!

Tell us about the City Above and the City Below?

They're not quite one on top of the other – they’re more alongside one another, but one is above ground and the other is below. The City Above is a gleaming sort of place, criss-crossed by a network of boulevards and canals, and the Underground City is a Dickensian warren of slums and 'unusual' emporia selling everything from more time to lost voices. Jyx and his family live in the Underground City but he managed to win a scholarship to the Academy in the City Above, so he has to make the trip above ground every day to get to school.

Jyx constantly overreaches himself. What motivates him as a character?

He desperately wants to prove himself because he's obviously painfully aware of his poor background, and many of the other students at the Academy look down on him because he doesn't come from wealth or status. He knows he's naturally talented, but he doesn't pace himself because he feels the Academy are holding him back. Besides that, he also recognises the application for the magickal theory that he's learning out in the real world, and he's continually looking for ways to earn more money to repay his mother for all of his school supplies that she's paid for.

4) If you could put together an EP with five tracks to accompany The Necromancer's Apprentice, what songs would you choose?

Naturally The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas, which people would recognise from Fantasia. I listened to a lot of Egyptian-themed music and movie scores so I'd also add Enduring the Eternal Molestation of Flame by Nile, and The Legend of the Scorpion King from The Mummy Returns soundtrack. I think I'd probably also add In the Hall of the Mountain King by Edvard Grieg and Toccata and Fugue in D minor by JS Bach.

What happens when people die in Jyx's world and why are necromancers necessary?

So-called “ordinary” people are still buried and mourned in what I suppose we’d consider a traditional Western fashion, but those who possess considerable knowledge or power are interred differently, and a link is maintained between their body and their soul in case anyone ever needs to contact them again – in this case, the necromancer would perform the duties, and would act as ‘interpreter’ between the living and the dead because the necromancer can traverse the Veil between the worlds. There’s only one necromancer, Eufame Delsenza, and she doesn’t just perform this function of mediating between the dead and the living, she also does a lot of magickal research herself, as well as performing more political or diplomatic roles. She probably doesn’t need to mediate between the Cities and other magickal institutions but Eufame is very much of the view that if you want something doing well, you’d better do it yourself.

Will we be seeing more of this setting in the foreseeable future?

Yes, I'm planning a couple of short serials about other characters in the Underground City, and there's a sequel planned in which we'll meet the necromancer general's siblings, which are far older and scarier than she is. It's a fun setting to work in, it lets me explore daft little ideas that I have and spin them into something creepy, or something magickal.

Icy Sedgwick was born in the North East of England, and lives and works in Newcastle. She has been writing with a view to doing so professionally for over ten years, and has had several stories included in anthologies, including Short Stack and Bloody Parchment: The Root Cellar & Other Stories.

She spends her non-writing time working on a PhD in Film Studies, considering the use of set design in contemporary horror. Icy had her first book, a pulp Western named The Guns of Retribution, published in 2011, and her horror fantasy, The Necromancer’s Apprentice, was released in March 2014.

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