October 10

Podcast Interview Now Live

WodeLogoLAST WEEK I spent some time talking to the delightful, extraordinarily nice people of the WROTE podcast about the new release of Winterwode, writing life, subtext and research and many thought-y things. Hey, they didn’t even threaten me with duct tape!

As I said, Vance, Angel and Baz were very nice folks… and very patient interviewers. 😉  Check it out!      WROTE podcast with J Tullos Hennig

August 14

Sasquan Approacheth…

sasquanOff to Sasquan next week (19-23 Aug) for some immersion therapy with like-minded Speculative geeks. DSP Publications will have a table chok full o’ books, and yours truly will either be there or be sitting upon various panels and programming.  Like:

Legends and Lore of the Pacific Northwest–the Rapid Fire Reading with Broad Universe–a belly dance workshop (yes, in my other, less mild-mannered ego I like to shimmy to odd-metre dumbek music)a kaffee klatsch and a reading and a signing–and spending some lovely research hours at the Gonzaga library.

Come say hullo!

Well, at the con, not the library. I might growl if you disturb me in the stacks. 😉

July 10

Winterwode! Cover!!!

WinterwodeCover-webWinterwode is available for pre-order with DSP Publications!

I’m sharing the news and the cover goodness not only online, but this weekend as a guest author at BritishFest 2 in Council Bluffs Iowa. Pics to come later. Because, cover. ——>>

It is beautiful, isn’t it?
Shobana Appavu is a goddess of all things art.

You can find more info on Winterwode by clicking on the amazing cover art —–>>>>

June 24

Off to the HNS conference!

This week I’m away to Denver and the Historical Novel Society conference! There will be book signings, a broadsword workshop, a costume pageant, and overall indulgence in the world of things historically geeky. Looking forward to it!  http://hns-conference.org/

Hope to see some of you there. If you’re in Denver, let me know.

And here’s a lovely 12th century archer, just to get us all in the mood.  😉

RobynIcon

June 5

Attending Anglicon!

AngliconLogoNext week, 12-14 June, I’m off to Anglicon, a British media convention at the Seattle Airport Doubletree Hilton.  I’m heading a few panels and will be in the dealer’s room with the Wode books and various Robin Hood goodies, accompanied by a glass of wine and Amazing Spouse.

Click the logo for more info and, if you’re in the area, come say hullo!

March 27

Retro Recs — THE KING MUST DIE

HERE’S THE PLAN: to pull out a book from my tight-packed bookshelves and share it. Qualifications? It has to be one I’ve read over and over again, one that has inspired my own writing, and one that gave me a lasting experience of some sort. There are so many older books that are just too damned good to be buried in the mosh pit of publishing fashions and frenzies. So I’m going to pull them out and have another dance with them. And hopefully encourage others to do the same.
———-
In my own pantheon of The Three Marys, there is one whose Historical Fiction was greatly instrumental in prompting me to plunge into the writing of said genre. Mary Renault didn’t need to adopt the detached, oft-pontificating tone in which historical fiction can sometimes indulge. Her works possessed a profound gift–the storyteller’s art in motion. Her characters were real, passionate, often deeply flawed… and you were right in there with them.

My choice for today, out of many excellent novels, had to be The King Must Die. This cover image is from my bookshelves and the mass market edition circa 1979, but the original date is 1958, and my first read was from the public library. TheKingMustDieThe King Must Die was my introduction to Ms Renault’s works–I think I read it when I was eleven or twelve. (We didn’t have or read ‘YA’ when I was of that age–we read books!) Already more comfortable with mythological and speculative worlds than any contemporary reality, I’d not yet realised how fascinating history was–no doubt in consequence of the dry dates and statistics to which public school curriculum rendered it.

This book began to change all that for me. A retelling of the myth of Theseus, it had an undeniable and firm grasp upon the historical personalities and realities that birth legends. It was that seemingly effortless mix that truly comes only with serious application of craft.  Gritty and sometimes unpleasant, yet nonetheless magical in every sense, the novel makes an impassioned appeal for both the fantastic and the historic–together. It was bildungsroman (woot!) at its finest, warts and all, with an oft-unreliable narrator as hero, displaying both the arrogance and virtues of a deeply-inculturated young man. Not much is shied away from or glossed into comfortable platitudes. You root for Theseus, as well as long to give him a good spanking. 😉

It takes little guesswork to hazard that The King Must Die is responsible for my plunge into a lifelong fascination with Sacrifice and Sacred Kingships from all cultures. It also made it difficult for me to be satisfied with a lot of first person narrative. It’s a form that not many can achieve with the same effortless grace as Mary Renault. (Or my inaugural Retro Rec author, Mary Stewart, for that matter.)

Recently, I heard a writer at a convention recommend Mary Renault–with the caveat, however, that ‘she is old-fashioned’. I was rather appalled at anyone attempting excuses for someone who had more talent in one nib finger than most writers possess in their entire repertoire… but, after all, we all say a lot of silly things when we’re baby writers. Though I truly don’t think I had the brass to assume myself able to take a mammoth with a BB gun. 😉 Not with prose that glides like this:

The Great Court was empty under the moon. Tier upon tier rose the pillared balconies, dimly glowing. Lamps flickered behind curtains of Eastern stuff. The pots of lilies and of flowering lemon trees shed a sweet heavy scent. A cat slipped from shadow to shadow, and a Cretan who looked as if his errand were the same. Then all was silent. The great horns upon the roof-coping reared up as if they would gore the stars.
I stretched out my hands palm downward and held them over the earth. “Father Poseidon, Horse Father, Lord of Bulls, I am in your hand, whenever you call me. That is agreed between us. But as you have owned me, give me this one things first. Make me a bull-leaper.”

————-
No question in my heart, I would encourage everyone to read The King Must Die. Or any of Mary Renault’s books. And come on, I read it at the age of eleven; surely it isn’t that insurmountable an experience. If it is, indeed, ‘old-fashioned’, then bloody DAMN but we need more ‘old fashioned’ in this world.

Pax~
J

March 12

Retro Recs–First Up: THE IVY TREE

HERE’S the plan: to pull out a book from my tight-packed bookshelves and share it. Qualifications? It has to be one I’ve read over and over again, one that has inspired my own writing, and one that gave me a lasting experience of some sort. There are so many older books that are just too damned good to be buried in the mosh pit of publishing fashions and frenzies. So I’m going to pull them out and have another dance with them. And hopefully encourage others to do the same.
——–
To choose Mary Stewart was a no brainer, actually, though it was difficult to pick between what I call ‘my rosary of three Marys’ (Stewart, Mary Renault, and Mary O’Hara). But once I decided which Mary, it was a little easier to pick the book. I’m sure others will come into play at a later date, but this time, it had to be The Ivy Tree.
——–TheIvyTree
From those aforementioned bookshelves, (c)1961, this is the first US printing in 1963. Isn’t this cover just deliciously (and a bit painfully) ’60s gothic? From the sweeping cape and hair to the Barnabas Collins coat and the uphill, defiant pose? From the back cover:  If Mary Grey looked so much like the missing heiress, why should she not be the heiress? To the lonely young woman–living in a dreary furnished room–the impersonation offered intriguing possibilities… So plain Mary Grey became the glamourous Annabel Winslow. Only someone wanted Annabel Winslow missing… permanently.

I love old gothics. I miss them. Brain candy, of course, but a specific type of tweak and treat for those doomed with a brain that stubbornly refuses to totally check out. Gothics have their own formula, tiresome as any when cranked out with little skill or craft… but the good ones were complex, character driven, and subtle after their own fashion, with the formula in service to the craft, not the other way ’round. The Ivy Tree was a very, very good gothic.

Mary Grey is, like most of Stewart’s heroines, a real person: independent and capable, conflicted… and with a secret that could be the death of her, if she’s not careful. Inheritance of a small estate, a dying, over-controlling grandfather, and a few sociopaths scattered into the mix, turn a chance meeting on Hadrian’s Wall into a madness of plot and counterplot… did I mention I love gothics? A good one has as many twists as a North Country back road. And the language Stewart uses!

If you stood on the low piece of crumbling wall that enclosed the trunk, you could just reach your hand into the hole. I held on to the writhen stems of the ivy with one hand and felt above my head into the hollow left by some long-decayed and fallen bough. I put my hand in slowly, nervously, almost as I might have done had I known Julie’s owl and seven mythical young were inside, and ready to defend it, or as I might have invaded a private drawer in someone’s desk. The secret tryst; Ninus’ tomb; the lovers’ tree; what right had a ghost there, prying?

What right indeed? Well, you’ll have to read the book and let me know what you think. You won’t be sorry; it’s a thumping good afternoon’s read.

January 28

The Eternal Return of Legends

Celebrating Re-releases, the Collective Unconscious, and the Eternal Return of Legends

It’s in the water, right? Must be.

But it’s not always that simple. In fact it’s staggering–and humbling, really—how creativity channels itself. Not only in our hearts and minds, but in that undeniable cogency oft known as the ‘collective unconscious’. Things really do bide in the ether, surface for breath in the waters of the subconscious. And as of late, a certain Notorious Outlaw is making the rounds again.

Thankfully, that Notorious Outlaw makes those rounds on a regular basis. You can peer back through history and see nice, fat clusters of storytelling. It’s brilliant, in every sense of the word. Because those of us who are fascinated by something, who study it and obsess over it, love, live, and breathe it, are always willing for more. People who crave a well-told story will visit—and revisit—that story again and again. Each incarnation gives us new cause for either shattering insight or groans of utter dismay, brings new adventures and causes… all with which we can ponder the outlaw Robin Hood.

And there is so much to ponder. So much to explore and discover. He’s in the water, all right: a water horse, a kelpie who’ll cozen you to back him then throw you in to drown. Or even better, a pwca, a trickster who’ll give you that wild ride but perhaps relent, share some advice and goodwill to see you back home on wobbly legs.

You see, it was about thirty years ago when I wrote and nearly published my own first invocation and incarnation of Robin (or Robyn, even as the books have always been called Greenwode and Shirewode). England’s greatest archer was popping his wolfish head above the water then, too. Some amazing novels came from that particular surge—Parke Godwin’s retelling being amongst my all-time favourites of any genre. There were also movies: one so-so, one not-so. A man who was to become my friend was, unknown to me and across the pond, working on a very magical Robin Hood at nearly the same time as I was working on mine. Both of these were (and are) akin in their mix of historical tradition, high romance, and old magic. His went on to be an award-winning (and breathtaking) television series; mine was not so fortunate, though it did nearly go to contract twice before ending up in a file drawer as the cycle waned.

Such are the hazards of publishing. Yet bad luck can hold its own share of fortune. Those books that almost were thirty years ago now are. I’m a better writer than I was, and the Wode books are better than they were.  (Now with DSP Publications, a third in the series is slated to release Autumn of 2015.) Even more gratifying, when I dusted off an old manuscript several years ago and decided upon a total rewrite and restructure, it seems Robin was also dusting off the old longbow and taking aim back into the collective mainstream. There’s even talk of a new movie—definite cause for hope and dread and even perhaps a gnash of one’s teeth. 😉 It’s happening again: new tales and retellings, little wildfires popping up here and there… quite apropos to a firebrand archer.

I’m sure the signs have been there for a while, but admittedly I’ve been spending more time larking my own ‘swete greenwode’. Amidst my larking I’ve shaped a story which is garnering some loyal readers and critical acclaim; a satisfying debut for a world that has been poking at my back brain for… well, for much of my life, really. A strange thought, perhaps, to spend so much time in creation when our modern existence extols “hurry, put it out there, now!” But I don’t find it strange, not at all, and it is my sincere hope many others will find my books, sit back… breathe… and enjoy the ride as much as I have.

Robin Hood (aka Robyn Hode), more than perhaps any other figure from myth or history, is discontent to merely bide in the depths of history. In a very real sense he challenges it, both flaunts and mirrors those changes history and society would choose to reveal. How fitting that a figure often connected with the Green Man would be so wrapped up in the spiral of the Eternal Return, both mythic and prosaic. For someone whose historical existence is ever in doubt, Robin has the ultimate extant power: he sparks stories in those of us who are compelled to tell them.

He’s a pwca, all right.RobynIcon

Purchase SHIREWODE through DSP Publications
And GREENWODE is now on sale–a limited time for .99c