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[Taken from the Gilgamesh Press website]

Here at Gilgamesh Press, we want to continue with the sneak peaks into our debut book, Ishtar!

The first story in the Ishtar collection is a historical piece, written by the lovely Kaaron Warren. Here are her thoughts behind why she wrote her incredible tale:

'The Five Loves of Ishtar'

When I first began reading for my Ishtar novella, I was living in Suva, Fiji. The public library has two shelves of history books, all of them predating 1970, most of them donated by departing diplomats. I had sporadic internet. I also had an anthropologist as a friend, who had brought with him his enormous library. So that's where I started.

As I read, one message emerged to me; that Ishtar was a powerful presence over many millennia. The stories told of her were in the present; as if she had lived for those thousands of years and people had actual memories of her.

I wondered how she'd change over the years, and if time made her tired.

At the same time, I wondered about her companions, and one in particular. For a long time, I've been fascinated about the washerwoman in history, after watching a documentary by Terry Jones, where he said that there were washerwomen who travelled on the Crusades. Women risking their lives, suffering the hunger and the privations that the men suffered, yet never named, rarely mentioned. I have the image of them working tirelessly, scrubbing, washing, drying, only noticed if they failed to do their jobs.

I wondered what sort of washerwomen Ishtar might have, and what they might know. I thought that perhaps they would know every secret; you can't keep things from the woman who washes your underwear.

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Yes, it's true, I'm becoming a little of a TV series junkie. It was noted a year or two ago when I wrote my post about favourite TV characters at that time but I'd argue that my TV watching has increased somewhat since then.


There are a few factors to this but mainly it's the day job/Morrigan combination, making me work a lot of hours, combined with my reading a lot for the company (and now the job) and making me see reading less as the wind down that I used to.


Don't get me wrong, though, as I still make sure to read for half an hour or so before lights out and I'm enjoying what I read. It's just that I feel that need to sit and veg/switch off after a long day of teaching and publishing.


So being as I'm keeping up with what's going on in the world of TV (granted mainly US programs) at the moment, I thought I'd let you in on what I'm watching. Maybe you've been thinking about a couple of these but can't decide what's worth your time, maybe you fancy them all, maybe you're watching them all, maybe none. There's a lot of variables to be honest and so why don't I just get on with it.


Falling Skies:

The world's over, aliens and have come and taken us slaves but of course we're the human race and we have rebels, we fight back, then we fight each other, then we work together...
You know it all, you've seen it all but to be fair it's done well and I liked several of the characters for various reasons. The finale hinted at something more and I'm quite sure I'll tune in when that gets going again.


Dexter:

The sixth season premiere was too short, there was too much in it, it moved too well, too smoothly, and made me think that this season could possibly be my favourite. A tough call I know but we'll see.


Terra Nova:

Don't let the latin name put you off or the concept of dinosaurs-meets-future-civilisation, travelling back in time to save the earth they destroyed because even if that wasn't enough to put you off then the weak plot, dodgy characterisation and overall silliness involved is enough. I'm on episode three now and am still watching because I have a five episode policy. Not sure it will get past that.


Ringer:

Now no sniggering at the name now or Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) as twin sisters from opposite spectrums of the social ladder because this is quite good fun. There are so obviously things that make me cringe and at times I'm wondering why I'm watching but there's some cool stuff in this and I'm about to watch episode five this week, whilst pretty sure there will be more to watch.


Person of Interest:

Easily the silliest concept for a series ever (yes, even more so that the dinosaur time travel one) and one that niggles me every time the opening credits get going. Man creates a machine to tell the US government when there is going to be some terrorist activity in New York, based on algorithms and other clever teccy stuff that we're not supposed to get. Bollocks I say. However, said creator gets a guilty conscience as every day there is far too much information on the server and so the server deletes the insignificant data, such as someone who works as a lawyer and may or may not be a target for a crime lord. The creator of the program pops a back door into the program which feeds him the insignificant data and then he and a crack commando ex army guy who was a homeless bum (your brain lost it yet?) sort out the case.
Sounds ridiculous and pretty much is but each episode is rather fun nevertheless. Have watched two episodes so far.


Homeland:

Was extremely interested in the first episode of this one - Claire Daines was excellent as a CIA agent going off the rails and taking anti-psycotic drugs to keep her focused. She's incredibly suspicious of a returning war criminal from Iraq and illegally taps his home in order to prove her suspicions to superiors less than enamoured by her claims. There's a lot more to it than that but I'm reluctant to give away much more as you really should watch it.


Supernatural:

Up to the seventh season now and I think Supernatural is destined to be one of my guilty pleasures. It moves along nicely, has some great ideas at times, terrible ideas at times, the characterisation is nowhere near as strong as other series but I still keep watching. I've enjoyed the start of this season and think there is some potential for it being one of the better ones.


The Secret Circle:

Well if Supernatural is one of my guilty pleasures then what is this one? Teenage witchcraft but with some serious Twilight elements. There's two reasons for me watching this one. One is that I used the opening episode to discuss TV vs novels with my college students and they've now asked if we can watch the series as a regular event and discuss the plot/characterisation/use of music, location, etc. The other is that it has witches in. Those who know me don't need that clarifying and those that don't will find out a whole lot more about that early next year...


Fringe:

Just started the fourth season and this is one of the most consistent of the bunch. It is just so strong and the characterisation is incredible. If you haven't been watching Fringe you need to get started and quick.


American Horror Story:

I knew I wasn't going to enjoy this and I thought the first episode was brilliant. Yes, that's right, brilliant! It seemed to press all the right buttons and there was a decent enough mix of the pyschological, the gore and even the quirky to make me very curious about how it is going to develop. One of those on the list I anticipate the most!


What are you watching/enjoying?

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Get your copy now!


Creeping in Reptile Flesh, Kindle edition


Creeping in Reptile Flesh

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Social Networking


Thanks to Andrew McKiernan, I'm finding my way back to the writing world, putting my words on file without the constant distraction of the net and my own failure to switch off my self-editing mentality.

This has been accomplished by Dark Room, (which I'm typing on now) after Andrew's recommendation for TextRoom. Yes, they are different programs but they do very similar things, as they are writing tools, designed to get you writing. They have no grammar checks, spell checks, interesting little extras, etc., etc.

I like both programs but Dark Room is just that more suited to me (in the way that TextRoom is more suited to Andrew). I don't believe either of them are better, just different, a bit like PCs and Macs...erm...wait a second there...

So, the order of the day has been to switch the laptop on, turn off the net and get Dark Room cranked up. It's working like a charm, as you can tell from this short post, getting me to concentrate on what I'm writing and not what may well be happening elsewhere on the computer.

***

My school reports had a recurring comment on them, which was "easily distracted" and not much has changed since. At least two of the staff at Morrigan Books have called me 'magpie' and that's a nickname not unwarranted.

I am in love and awe of the shiny, this is true and there is much to interest me on these machines, especially with me having a late introduction to the whole scene.

Apart from gaming machines (as that's what we used them for) such as: Spectrum, Atari and Amiga, my first serious use of computers was as late as 2000, with me only getting my first e-mail address (Hotmail) in 1999 but then not really using it until I started teaching in Sweden, September 2000.

In fact the first PC I owned was a cranky old desktop, donated by Etina's parents when we moved in together 2002 and it wasn't until 2004 when we bought this laptop (as you can see me typing of course) that the interest really started.

Nowadays I'm helping quite a few people out with software problems, hints, tips, installations and recommending programs for various usage.

I'm still not anywhere near where I'd like to be in terms of the art side but considering where I am on most of the other areas, I am sure, with some serious commitment and study, I'll be up to speed there too.

On my beloved desktop (in the other room), there will be lots of flashing and beeping going on right now, as I have my Outlook open (which is my company e-mail client, containing all of Morrigan's various e-mail accounts), Thunderbird open (the client for all my personal e-mail accounts), Facebook (for Morrigan Books), Skype (for business and to chat to family) and Word Press, to make sure all my blogs are ready to be updated.

In terms of the social network and blogging sites, today I am a member of:

LinkedIn (Morrigan Books and Personal)
Facebook (Morrigan Books, Gilgamesh Press and Personal)
Orkut (Personal)
MySpace (Personal)
Skype (Personal) (markdeniz)
Twitter (Morrigan Books, Gilgamesh Press and Personal)
Word Press (Personal, Fae Awareness Month and others) Beyond Fiction (Reviewing site))
Live Journal (Morrigan Books, Gilgamesh Press and Personal)
Blogger (Personal)
Dreamwidth (Personal)
Insane Journal (Personal)
Tumblr (Personal)
Posterous (Personal)
Digg (Personal)
Last.fm (Personal)
Flickr (Personal)

My aim is to try and keep this all updated and so this post should be appearing on all those, from Dark Room to Semagic and Live Writer to the various blogs and twitter accounts. Wish me luck, as I might need a lie down after this.

Oh and be sure to tweet, Digg, StumbleUpon and like this...


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Being as I want to get myself back into reviewing books, music, TV and film on a more regularly basis and due to a close friend's hatred for this particular film, I thought it a good place to start.

My friend and I expressed shock in equal measures at certain TV programs being missed: for me it was his admission that he had not heard of Justified, let alone seen it and his was that I was not really interested in Band of Brothers, one of his favourite TV series. Yes, I am a convert, I have now seen seven of the eleven episodes and consider episode six one of the best episodes of any series I have ever watched (but that's for a later review).

Anyway, there wasn't much said about why my friend hated Sucker Punch so much that he considered that it is possibly the worst film he has ever seen, as he was aware I was very keen on seeing it but we promised to return to the discussion once I had.

We agree on Band of Brothers’ greatness but there's no way we are going to agree on Sucker Punch, as I was pretty much drawn in from the opening scene and remained fully engrossed throughout. I've become much more of a TV series follower than a film viewer of late, more interested in the characterisation and development of key figures, especially now that a lot of the respected film actors are taking key roles in TV series but Sucker Punch reminded me of things I love about film too.

I have to say I'm a fan of both Zack Snyder as a film director and of Tyler Bates as a composer/arranger, as I thoroughly enjoyed the 2004 remake of an already classic Dawn of the Dead and I was pleasantly surprised by 300, having heard quite a bit of negativity about it beforehand.

Of Sucker Punch I knew nothing, except for several posters doing the rounds on the net, as I am still a fan of watching a film when knowing little to nothing about it beforehand. From the poster the only thing I had gathered/assumed is that there was some Steampunk element to the film and that it would be action-based.

Well I got that but I got a hell of a lot more, as Sucker Punch’s soundtrack is one of the most innovative and punchy around. I was very impressed by Kick-Ass’ music when I watched that earlier this year for similar reasons but I think Sucker Punch takes it to a whole new level. The film starts with two great covers, one of them possibly my favourite The Smiths song, Asleep. The soundtrack continues to move the film along and for me becomes a key character in the plot (for all the right reasons) with tracks chosen for not only their musical quality but for their lyrics too (think Baby Doll's first dance track - Army of Me by Björk - very appropriate and Asleep with its message of suicide).

But the music is only a portion of the film, albeit a very successful one, with Snyder engaging direction seen already in Dawn of the Dead but much more in 300. Sucker Punch shares with 300 the comic book adaptation elements transferred to celluloid. It's colourful, vibrant, over the top, unrealistic and total eye-candy, I just wanted more scenes, more action, more Sucker Punch.

The film is light on plot, the opening scene tragic and dark in contrast to much of what follows and then jumps into the aforementioned blockbuster action sequences, before ending with a predictable but not too disappointing conclusion. If you're looking for something with a bit more depth and substance to it, you've probably been mislead somewhere along the way.

I haven't seen anything written or discussed about the film yet, but my plan is to do that after my review is posted but I'm expecting there may well be a discussion about the favourite of the five heroines in the film.

Mine is ‘Sweet Pea’, by a country mile.

Oh and my last point: clockwork Germans in World War II = class!

Midsummer

Jun. 24th, 2011 10:57 pm
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Maypole

And now I'm feeling all disjointed like something out of a Katherine Kerr novel or a Doctor Who episode, as I'm here wanting to further extol the virtues of a software program that I haven't actually praised yet. Well I have, just that the post itself took a lot more work than originally thought and so...

Oh yes, Midsummer, that's why you're here, yes...

Well you know, today was the first Midsummer I've been involved in as an official Swede (papers came through in November and the council celebrated it early June) and you'd think I might have gotten the hang of the whole thing, you know it's only the second most popular Swedish holiday after Christmas (and if you speak to some Swedes, they even rate it higher).

So gone are the days of painting my father-in-law's house, clearing off to another country and the like. Now is time for real celebrations, you know I have my children to think of, my own Swedishness - these things have gotten a whole lot more serious!

(Not helped here by the fact the wife, who has been here considerably longer than I, is away in Madrid for five days, starting yesterday.)

Started the day then with a late breakfast of cheese and bread (70% of Swedes start their day this way) and so all going well so far before sitting down with the kids to give them their first ever viewing of Ice Age (Sweden was part of the ice age you know...). I know I should maybe have gone for Pippi but...

Ice Age

So semi-failure ignored, I made sure to get the laundry out the machine (argh, laundry at Midsummer - no wonder the room was free, it's like going down to wash at Christmas you numpty...) and got the kids ready for the Midsummer dance around the maypole at the in-laws' (major Swede points coming up here!).

Upon arrival at the maypole, the kids express an interest in getting on the swings and playing in the den house within sight of the jumping, singing, clapping Swedes, leaving me taking photos of English/Assyrian children on swings, rather than the obligatory round the maypole shot...

Midsummer

(real Swedes showing us how it’s done)

Never mind, off we go back to the allotment to get stuck into some sill and potatoes pasta and mushroom omelette...oh god the point drop, the point drop.

What was that father-in-law, you want me to help you put up the small marquee tent you've bought for the allotment? Why ever not, I can't think of a better day to do that.

And so readying for home, under the protests of the youngest, happy as she is at the allotment, we leave her there and the heir and I return home, where tucking into bread and jam (think we might be giving up here) we settle down to watch Ice Age 2 (I think we have given up now).

The boy, sated and excited about big fish and sabre-tooth tigers, journeys to bed and I settle down to a bout of Talking Heads (why couldn't I have gone for Stina Nordenstam?) and plan to watch either Sucker Punch or a couple of episodes of Band of Brothers later on.

I'm not Swedified yet am I?

So honourary Swedes and real Swedes and Swede wannabees, what have you been up to today?

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Following on from the cracking post by KV Taylor regarding the pricing of e-books, I was thinking about vanity press, being as that is seen as much worse than self-publishing. I remember getting my acceptance for my second novel a few years ago along with a £300 fee for god knows what, I can’t remember now, and asking a few in the know for advice. The resounding opinion was that of outrage, that I was being asked to fork out £300 to have my own book published and one of those I spoke to mentioned the self publishing route.

That was even more of a shock to me, as if I was to go out and publish the book myself then what had happened to the whole process of publishing, how could an author just decide that their book was adequately edited and ready for publication and what did that mean for me as a reader?

Two recent cases in point have strengthened my negativity to self-publishing (sorry but I’m not a fan) and that is that two authors who sent books to Morrigan Books and were subsequently rejected by me have suddenly released their books themselves less than a couple of months later. I’m aware I’m off making generalisations again, as merely because these two have done that doesn’t mean that everyone does that but it begs the question when you know it’s self-published, yes?

Something that would sway me would be if someone like Robert Hood were to publish his own novel. Firstly I’d be shocked that he’d done it, mainly because he wouldn’t need to but then I’d be very interested in reading it because it’s Robert Hood (for god’s sake!) and because the work I receive from Rob is generally ready for publication, only minor editing required (“a quick pat on the bum and sent out the door” as an editor I respect once mentioned editing writers like this).

And this brings me back to the early queries I received which are now in print. The rejection was based mainly on shoddy editing, a level I though below par for a book at Morrigan Books, as we want to whip your works into shape, not get ready for a rewrite and extensive editing project. So when I see one of these books on the market, it saddens me and frustrates me, as I gave my comments, explained what needed doing and for it to be released just makes the indie press scene look bad, because someone picking up that book and seeing its flaws might be wary of another indie book and that can’t be a good thing.

However, my post today was supposed to be about something else, as I was going to discuss a mail I got, offering me the chance to be published if I won a competition (yes, only me, you didn’t get the mail did you, suckers?). Oh I love competitions, I’m in, I’m off…but wait a minute you want me to pay $25 for the privilege of me getting a chance to be published? I’m thinking your talking vanity press here, or?

I mean I have entered the 3 Day Novel Contest twice now, being as I think it’s a cracking idea, totally mental and it gets me writing again. OK, I could do the thing on my own but there is something about this event feeling, forums and the like, knowing others are stressing over their terrible manuscripts at the same time I am. There is a prize of publication for the best manuscript sent in after the three days but to be honest it’s not really on the mind when writing, as the book is the focus.

Yet this, was a whole different kettle of fish (I wonder if that’s why Pete found a fish in the percolator):


I mean, you just send in your manuscript before a certain day and then they pick their best and publish it, no doubt using a POD (Print on Demand) facility and a dodgy cover, meaning their outlay is a fraction of what they received in participation fee. Remembering of course they are not going to spend a cent on marketing either.

And KV Taylor mentioned something about not self-publishing more out of a sense of not being able to maybe push herself enough in the promotion arena, and this is also a very tricky topic as how much do we as writers know about marketing? I mean there are degrees and such for this kind of thing and are you sure you know the border between aggressive marketing and just plain annoying. Again referring back to one of the books we rejected, based on the fact that it needed a very heavy edit (which I don’t believe for a minute was achieved in the two months between rejection and publication) the author in question has engaged in a heavy self-promotion campaign, which involves discussing all the different elements required to self-publish in a way that is painful to read.

I am now aware my post is starting to lose a little focus, mainly because it’s a culmination of a lot of thoughts that have been on my mind for a few months now, and make me fear a little bit about the industry we’re in. I’m sounding pessimistic while at the same time very positive about a lot of things in indie press. I mean we are about to announce three books that are extremely well written, require minor editing and will look very comfortable on your shelf, along with your other Morrigan books, (what do you mean you haven’t got them all yet?) and there are a few new publishers on the scene doing rather interesting things too (a later blog post).

It’s KV Taylor’s fault, she darn got me thinking!

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Although it comes as no surprise to me, I want to draw your attention to the fact that Scenes from the Second Storey has made the shortlist for the Aurealis Awards, to be announced 21st May.

Some cracking works in every category, as always and whether the book wins or not, it's in great company already.

Congratulations to all nominated!

All the categories and nominations can be found below:

Aurealis Shortlist 2011
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Dead Souls is now available through both the Morrigan Books website and Amazon.com.

Be sure to scare the bejeezus out of your nearest and dearest this Halloween by gifting them with some wonderful tales, penned by expert storytellers.

And a cover to make you squirm whenever you reach for your copy!
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The lovely Mihai Adascalitei interviewed me for his Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews site:

Mark S. Deniz
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