Tag Archives: urban mythic 2

Urban Mythic 2: Christine Morgan Interviewed

c_formal3Author of “High School Mythical: Asgard” in Urban Mythic 2, Christine Morgan answers a few questions!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. I love language. It’s like Play-Doh, a complete sensory experience that, with patience and practice, can make almost anything you imagine. Among my childhood friends, I was the storyteller who came up with ideas for let’s pretend, and constructed elaborate scenarios for my toys. As a teenager, I got into role-playing games as another outlet. Once I began attempting to write for real, I started with ‘traditional’ fantasy … but horror was my true calling. These days, it’s mostly historical horror and dark fantasy, with an emphasis on drawing from mythology, folklore, and various ancient cultures.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

I have a teenage (only teenage for a couple more months, egads!) daughter, and in watching her with her friends, her with her shows, the way some attitudes seem universal to the young … it got me thinking about the gods of various mythologies. Being immortal, being eternally young, having that sense of invulnerability and freedom from responsibility … and what a dangerous thing that is among those who have power. The behaviour of the Norse gods in the stories, and the Viking heroes in the sagas, can be seen a real high school / frat boy light, brash and boasting, drinking, fighting, sex, joking around. Plus, I grew up on those 80s teen movies, so it all fell together from there.

How strongly do standard mythological stories influence your work and is there a particular type of mythology you favour?

Hugely … my fascination with mythology began with a kids’ book of Greek myths way back in elementary school. From there, I branched out to explore stories of the other pantheons, the differences and similarities they shared. I majored in psychology and, if I had to specify a school of thought, I’d call myself a Jungian/Skinnerian. Archetypes, collective unconscious, and the effects on behaviour. I’m still most familiar with the Greek myths, but since then I’ve studied Norse, Mayan, Egyptian, Celtic, and many others. It’s hard to pick a favourite. A lot has survived from the times of Greece and Rome, which makes them easier to learn about … but so little has survived of the Norse and Mayan that it lends an extra level of mystery.

If you could kill off any character from any other book, who would you choose and how would they die?

That is quite the question! Any other book? By any other author? Hmm. Do I go big, epic? Like, say, Sauron? A smaller but more personal and sinister evil, like Iago? (What a prime bastard that guy was!) Dolores Umbridge, who was way worse than Voldemort, in my opinion? And kill … I’ve killed off plenty of my own characters, some of whom deserved it and some who definitely didn’t … I’ve certainly wanted to slap characters in other books (looking at YOU, Mrs. Bennet and most of Jane Austen’s) … but the only ones I’ve ever wanted to rid the world of were those who were just so badly written that the literary world as a whole would be better off without them. And that’s never really the character’s fault.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Not the old “write what you know” clunker. I think that one’s done, and does, way more harm than good. How dull and limiting that would be. I prefer “write what you want to read.” The drawback, in my case, being that I want to read almost everything. For books on the craft, I’d go first and foremost with Stephen King’s On Writing, and the A Way with Words series of Modern Scholar lectures by Professor Michael D.C. Drout. Most of the truly best advice I’ve received, though, hasn’t come in words so much as by example, the examples of writers who love what they do, who have fun with it, and let that shine through on every page, no matter how dark the subject matter might be.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

The Prophecy. The whole one destined chosen hero balance to the force save the universe no matter what a reluctant dimwit or twerp. Hate that. It usually goes hand-in-hand with boring, insipid main characters who, for supposed protagonists, are never very proactive.

What are you up to next?

My next horror novel, a non-sparkly vampire book called His Blood, is coming out soon from Belfire Press. I have stories in several upcoming anthologies, a lot of which are Lovecraftian or mythology-inspired (or both; myth-meets-Mythos is a blast!), and many Viking-themed tales. I’ve also recently taken on a few editing gigs, helping out with the Grimm Red/Black/White books from Fringeworks, a nature-run-amok anthology called Teeming Terrors from KnightWatch, and the Fossil Lake anthologies. The next convention on my schedule will be Portland’s BizarroCon in November, always an awesome time, though I’m also planning to drop by Bellingham ComicCon in October.

Find more information about Christine at her website here!

Urban Mythic 2: Lou Morgan Interviewed

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Author of “Death and the Weaver” in Urban Mythic 2, Lou Morgan answers a few questions for us!

Tell us a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m a novelist and short story writer, and I bounce infuriatingly between any kind of genre that takes my fancy. So far, that’s urban fantasy and horror for both adult and teen readers, because at the end of the day, I just like telling stories.

My first novel, Blood and Feathers, was an urban fantasy involving hellmouths and sarcastic angels with drinking problems, handguns and secrets, and which was nominated for British Fantasy Awards in both the best newcomer and best fantasy novel categories. The sequel, Blood and Feathers: Rebellion, picks up the story, and has also been nominated in the best fantasy novel category for this year’s BFAs. I’ve also written short stories for people like PS Publishing, Jurassic, Fox Spirit and Solaris – and Alchemy Press, of course.

And I have two cats, because that’s the law if you write fantasy.

What is at the root of your Urban Mythic story?

The idea behind “Death and the Weaver” came from Breton folklore. I spent a lot of time in Brittany growing up, and still go back most summers, so I know the stories pretty well. My favourite was always the Ankou,  a skeletal Grim Reaper figure whose role was to collect the souls of the dead from each parish. On the face of it, it doesn’t sound that unusual, but the interesting thing about the Ankou is that he is always one of the parishioners himself: the soul of the last person to die in the year serves as the Ankou for a year and is then replaced. I love the idea that this could (and probably would) mean it was someone you knew – and I started to wonder how that would change your relationship with death.

Bringing the Ankou up to date was a lot of fun. I read as many versions of the legend as I could, which stretched my French about as far as it could go! In most of them, the Ankou is very tall and usually has long white hair and a head which constantly revolves (so no death escapes him). He carries a scythe with the blade pointing forward and rides a cart pulled by two horses – one fat and one thin. Not all of these would work in a modern setting … but the C in a Citroen 2CV originally referred to “chevaux” (horses), so…

You’re known for having soundtracks for your work – did “Death and the Weaver” have a soundtrack or particular song?

Funnily enough, it did! Along with the Breton folklore, I love Breton music and I have quite a lot of it. I started out having some of the more traditional songs playing in the background, but even modern Breton music still has strong folk roots so there’re lots of bagpipes and accordions in there. I ended up with two songs pretty much on a loop, both by Anthony Chaplain. One was “Marie de la Dondaine” (click here) and the other was “Bzh” – basically a mash-up of several different traditional songs. The title is the abbreviation for the Breton name for Brittany: Breizh. Those two songs between them probably came to feel like a part of the story.

How has the transition between writing adult and YA fiction been? Is there anything you can do with your YA work that you couldn’t do with your adult work? Or vice versa?

I’ve probably been very lucky in that the kind of books I want to write hover around the border between YA and adult fiction. I’m always interested in the idea of identity and responsibility, which are two of the biggest themes in YA and still incredibly relevant beyond that. I mean, who gets to 18 and says, “Yes, that’s it. I know exactly who I am. This is me.”?

I love having the opportunity and freedom to work in both fields and I hope I don’t treat them that differently (although, in fairness, I try to swear a bit less in YA!). The one big change I’ve found, though, is that I feel there have to be more consequences in YA. Not in a judge-y, lecture-y sort of way, but the Blood and Feathers books have, for instance, a fair amount of casual violence in them … and I don’t think I’d be comfortable writing that into a YA.

Room 101 time: what one genre cliché would you get rid of?

Every genre comes with its own set of clichés; they’re what help us identify them as a particular genre, aren’t they? I think I’d rather get rid of the idea that there’s “literary” fiction and “genre” fiction and never the twain shall meet. There’s a fair amount of snobbery in either direction, and that utterly infuriates me. There are as many different stories in the world as there are ideas and not all of them will appeal to everyone … and that’s OK.

What inspired you to run a marathon next year and where can people go to sponsor you?

If only it were a full marathon! I’m actually running a half-marathon (although that’s still 13 miles which is enough to make me weep at the moment): the Bath Half, in March 2015. I’ve thought about it for a couple of years now, and never managed to talk myself into it, but I did one many years ago (the Moonwalk, which takes place at night through central London) and I loved the challenge. I am, clearly, a glutton for punishment.

As part of that, I’m hoping to raise some sponsorship money for Kids Company, who operate centres in both London and Bristol to provide practical, emotional and educational support to vulnerable inner-city children. You can find out a little more about them on their website.

Their work is amazing and incredibly worthwhile, with the potential to make an enormous difference to so many children’s lives, but they need at least £13.5 million a year to keep doing it. Even the tiniest donation helps towards that and is incredibly welcome, so if anyone would like to sponsor my months of running (which, believe me, is something you won’t hear me saying very often) to train through the winter, and for the race itself, you can find my sponsor page here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/runloumorgan

What are you up to next?

I have a couple of stories I’m really excited about which should be surfacing in the near future. Besides “Death and the Weaver”, there’s a story about Oliver Cromwell’s other head which will appear in Fox Spirit’s Missing Monarchs issue of their Fox Pockets series, and I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to the third volume of the Zombie Apocalypse! anthologies. Zombies have never been my favourite monsters, so the chance to create one that interested me was too good to pass up.

The beginning of 2015 also sees the paperback release of Sleepless, my first YA book for Stripes Publishing as part of their Red Eye horror series, which follows a group of friends who take an unlicensed study drug they find on the internet. It’s all set around the Barbican and Smithfield meat market in central London, because ever since I lived there I knew I wanted to set a horror story there! And it’s probably not giving too much away to say that for it won’t end well for everyone…

For more information, check out loummorgan.wordpress.com or @LouMorgan

Urban Mythic 2 Call for Submissions

So, yes then, we’re doing Urban Mythic #2!  Can I get a woohoo?  (Woohoo!)

Official Blurb!

We are seeking contemporary tales with all the magic and wonder of myth and legend, blending modern life with the traditions of folklore from around the world. Whether lurking in dark alleys or brash shopping malls, ensconced in upscale riverside penthouse lofts or humble suburban semis, we want to see the fantastic woven into the everyday. We want fiction that entertains but also pushes beyond the usual urban fantasy boundaries – action, folk tales re-imagined, mythic creatures adapting to the urban environment – be it noir, humour, dark, literary or light, there must be a recognisable mythic thread. Fully realised characters are a must and solid plots extremely desirable.

We don’t want: secondary worlds, steampunk, SF, zombies, human sacrifice, magic help-lines, paranormal romance love-triangles, erotica, religion, gore, and absolutely no poetry.

Electronic submissions only to Jan Edwards and Jenny Barber at tapboum@gmail.com. Send manuscript as an email attachment in standard manuscript format (in RTF/doc/docx). Both the email subject line and the manuscript file name must include: submissions – title – author’s name – word count (e.g., Submissions – My Great Story – Jane Doe – 5000 words). Full contact details must be included on the manuscript’s front/first page as well as in the email. Submission window closes 30 April 2014. No acceptances/rejections will be made until after this date.

We are seeking original fiction between 3,000 and 8,000 words. Payment is £10.00 for the first 5,000 words, then 0.2p per word on publication, plus a copy of the book. Payment is made via PayPal or UK cheque (overseas’ contributors must have a PayPal account).

The Alchemy Press intends to launch this book at FantasyCon in September 2014.

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Right, official stuff having been said, here’s the extra editor Jen bit that I said last year, and mean doubly this year.

Do not assume the guidelines don’t apply to you. Seriously. The wordcount is firm (I repeat, the wordcount is FIRM.  Don’t ask, just rewrite to fit.) and we’re really serious about those things we don’t want to see because, honestly, some of them don’t apply to the theme, and some of them are things we’ve seen so many times in the slushpile our brains automatically shut down as soon as we see a story with them in.

So – to repeat, this is not an anthology for your poetry, secondary worlds, steampunk, SF, zombies, paranormal romance or erotica. We don’t want to see human sacrifice, magic help-lines, heaven/hell as a corporation, mythic-beastie love triangles or relentless gore.

Also – do not send us fan fiction with the serial numbers filed off, main characters who spend the entire story in denial of the supernatural elements around them, anything remotely resembling a mid-life crisis, someone in the midst of writer’s block (or other artist’s block), anything with an obvious twist or dream endings (they rarely work). In fact, check out the Strange Horizons page on what they see too often, that pretty much covers a lot of the stuff that makes us cringe too!

And avoid anything vaguely epistolary. Due to excessive experience in multiple slushpiles, I can’t read any story that’s set out as letters/emails/diary entries/tweets etc.

Don’t go overboard with the covering email – keep it short and to the point. If you use Word, don’t forget to turn off your track changes and accept all changes before you send the doc, because it is very distracting when it all shows up. 🙂

Don’t waste your first page. Open strong, don’t waffle, don’t smack us in the face with an epic infodump on your story’s version of the world or the complete history of your protagonist. We can work these things out as we read. Give us an interesting character and situation to make us keep reading.

Diversity is good.  No, scratch that. Diversity is awesome.  We’re actively encouraging diversity in all elements of the anthology and are particularly interested in settings and cultures not traditionally covered in urban fantasy – just make sure they’re well researched and not exoticised. Picking a location just because it looks shiny is a no-no – give us depth and a respectful understanding of the local culture and folklore. Likewise with your choice of protagonist – we’re very open to diverse perspectives and hearing the stories of people who are traditionally underrepresented in urban fantasy.  See the Resources page for links to useful articles on avoiding cultural appropriation etc.

I like humour and satire and generally fun stories. A bit of subtle social commentary never goes amiss so long as it doesn’t get overbearing or preachy. I like stories that are fast and to the point, with plenty of plot-related action. I like things that introduce new concepts and that mash up genres. I also like stories that are slower and create an atmosphere, things with a decent plot that are also mood pieces. I’ve a soft spot for a gorgeously turned phrase, though watch out that it doesn’t go purple.

Mainly it’s all about the characters. I can forgive a lot in a story, but if the characters are thin or cliche or generally unpleasant assholes with no story logic behind their personality, then I lose interest. I have very low tolerance for obsessively racist/sexist/homophobic characters, even if they meet a grisly end. I like characters whose choices move the plot along, characters who have a strong voice and obvious personality. I prefer characters with a bit of experience in their profession and/or with the mythic element of the story, as I’ve read far too many stories where a newbie is just discovering the weird things and spends the whole story having everything explained to them.

But other than that, we’re flexible.  😉