New Project: Medieval Immersion

CEC128164 Tristram and Isolde Drinking the Love Potion, 1867 (mixed media) by Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Charles  (1828-82); 62.3x59.1 cm; The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford, UK; ( intended for Isolde the Fair and King Mark of Cornwall;); English,  out of copyright
Tristram and Isolde Drinking the Love Potion, 1867  by Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Charles (1828-82);The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford, UK

My new fiction project is a novelistic retelling of the Tristan and Iseult Romance.

This tragic and bitter-sweet tale, set in the Celtic lands of Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland is known from an array of medieval retellings, including a substantial precis in Malory. Originally seemingly separate from the Arthurian legend complex, it has been grafted in and made part of the story, so that Tristan becomes a knight to rival Sir Lancelot while his love for Iseult, wife of King Mark parallels and echoes Lancelot’s love for Queen Guinevere, wife of Arthur.

After an interlude of forgetfulness, 19th and 20th century authors took up the theme, with poems such as Swineburne’s Tristan of Lyonesse and artwork by the Pre-Raphaelite brethren, who immersed themselves in Arthurian lore to escape the ugliness of their industrialised present.

So, for the next while, I shall be immersing myself in things Celtic, Arthurian and medieval as my own retelling of this tale finds its shape and voice. In the process, I’ll share here interesting and useful websites, artwork, book musings, articles and perhaps the odd ficlet.


The Sunday School Prize

The Sunday School PrizeYesterday evening, I published a new short story The Sunday School Prize on Kindle.

It is a dark fantasy set in a North London primary school in the 1980s and it concerns Sorcha, an eccentric nine-year-old girl who lives largely in her own private fantasy world fuelled by tales of myths and legends especially those found in a mysterious old tome Myths and Legends of the British Isles which she acquires from a school fair.

The target of bullying and ridicule, Sorcha retreats ever further into her interior landscape until the fateful day when the dark, uncanny world of Myths and Legends of the British Isles collides explosively with the everyday world of school life.

In creating the background for this book I drew on my own memories of school life, such as the hated school dinners which you could be forced to finish, playground games and Carpet Time when we all sat cross-legged on a rectangle of carpet in a corner of the classroom to listen to a story.

Thirty years on, these memories have a gold-tinted glow of nostalgia of a time and age well and truly lost. It does seem though that one could pack in more joy and anguish in a single fifteen minute Play Time than a week of adult life.

In the Beginning was Chaos – Now Available!

Tonight, I published my book on Greek Creation Myths In the Beginning was Chaos: Greek Myths of the Gods and Creation. It is available on amazon kindle and here is the link for Amazon UK.

The image I finally chose for the front cover is Nyx by Gustave Moreau.

The Goddess Night, according to Hesiod’s Theogony, was one of the first entities to come into existence and she is the mother of many important deities/ personifications, not least of which are Sleep, Death and the tribe of Dreams.

Greek myth Chaos

I also enjoyed Hesiod’s description of how Night shares a great house beneath the horizon with her daughter Day – like the couple in the weathervane, they are never in the house at one time but greet each other on the threshold at dawn and dusk. It would be nice to think that as the sun lightens or darkens they have a few moments to pass the time together.

         Gustave Moreau held out an alternative choice for a book cover that I was tempted by – his depiction of Hesiod himself being inspired by the Muse on Mount Helicon as the poet describes in Theogony 2.22-35.  To me the Hesiod who comes to life in the pages of Works and Days seems much less of a romantic figure than the youth depicted here. I imagine him as a sturdy, bearded farmer with a thick cloak , broad-brimmed hat and sensible

                       I also considered 458px-Gustave_Moreau_-_Hésiode_et_la_Musewhat might be regarded as the most obvious choice for the story of the first generations of the Godes – Goya’s dark and terrifying portrayal of Saturn Devouring his Children, but ,somehow, the moody
Night Sky of Moreau won the um, day.

In the Beginning was Chaos presents an overview of Greek creation myths from the manifestation of the primal entities Chaos, Gaia and Eros to the inter-generational struggles for supremacy between Ouranos and Cronos and then Cronos and the Titans against Zeus and the Olympians.

Subsequent chapters introduce the Olympian deities and their stories, including the Francisco_de_Goya_y_Lucientes_-_Saturn_Devouring_One_of_his_Children_-_WGA10109myth of Demeter and Persephone and the cattle-raiding expedition of the infant Hermes.

The concluding section of In the Beginning focuses on Greek myths of human origins, with emphasis on the story of the heroic Prometheus, the Ages of Man and culminates with the tale of Deucalion’s flood with its remarkable parallels to the biblical tale of Noah.

In writing this book, I wanted to stay close to the ancient texts which were my sources, preserving many of the details and in places, I hope, something of the energy and flavour of the ancient authors comes through.

The main sources for the creation myths of In the Beginning are: Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days, the Homeric Hymns, Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, The Library of Apollonius of Alexandria and Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

Coming Soon – Greek Mythology Ebook – In the Beginning was Chaos

I am currently in the throes of editing the first in what I plan to be a series of ebooks on Greek Mythology.Pandora

In the Beginning was Chaos is a book focusing on the creation myths of ancient Greece, an area which is often overlooked, compared to the many retellings and explorations of the myths of heroes such as Herakles and Theseus and story cycles such as the Trojan War.

This book will focus both on the inter-generational conflicts between the gods, culminating in the victory of Zeus and his siblings, and on the stories of emergent humanity, including the tale of Pandora, Prometheus’ defiance of Zeus on behalf of humanity, and the Greek version of the Great Flood myth that echoes that of biblical and other Near Eastern mythology.

The book should be available on Amazon Kindle within the next couple of months. There will be further announcements when a release date is imminent.