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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

A To Z Blogging Challenge Reveal 2023: Myth, Legend And Fairytales In Modern Fiction

 So, it’s nearly that time of year again, when I rise to the A to Z blogging challenge!

This year’s theme will be on myths, legends and folk tales in modern fiction. 

I admit, my original idea was for food in fiction. Next year, perhaps! 

In fact, I was inspired by the book I reviewed in my last post, The Norse Myths That Shape The Way We Think, only it won’t be just Norse myths. I simply adore novels that are based on stories that are familiar to me. (In fact, I’ve done it myself, in both short fiction and in my only novel so far, Wolfborn, based on a Marie De France story, “Bisclavret”. I am plotting a YA novel based on another of her stories, “Lanval”, set in the present day, with a teen hero) 

I have some favourite authors of this kind of fiction, whose work I will be telling you about in these posts, three of whom live right here in Australia - Sophie Masson, Juliet Marillier and Kate Forsyth. 

I’ll talk about both retellings of fairytales and myths and modern stories that are inspired by them. 

I hope you will enjoy it! 

Saturday, March 25, 2023

Just Finished Reading…The Norse Myths That Shape The Way We Think by Caroline Larrington. London: Thames And Hudson, 2023



Ever noticed how much myths and legends, including the Norse myths, are a part of our daily lives? The author of this book, an Oxford university professor of Medieval Literature, certainly has, and has proved it by showing the connections between the Norse myths and several pieces of fiction from the 19th century till the present day, including Wagner’s operas and modern authors such as Francesca Simon, George R.R Martin, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman and Joanne Harris. 

Interestingly she doesn’t mention Harry Harrison’s The Technicolor Time Machine in her chapter about the Norse in America(which, by the way, she isn’t convinced about, at least not the places where people think they lived during their stay in Vinland). That novel is about a near-broke film company that is still able to sponsor a scientist who has built a prototype Time Machine, so that they can make a very cheap film about the Norse settling in America, using actual Norsemen as extras. She has a whole chapter about Vinland, but doesn’t mention that novel.

However, there is plenty more to enjoy. I have to admit that it has been years since I read Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently novels, all I can remember is the refrigerator with food so old that it has become a living thing; I really must go back and reread. I do remember that the sixth Hitchhiker’s Guide novel, written by Eoin Colfer, but based on notes by Adams had a scene with Thor, who owns a spaceship.

The Song Of Ice And Fire series(aka Game Of Thrones) was inspired quite a lot by Norse tropes. There are the ravens as message carriers, for example, like Odin’s Hugin and Muninn. And “Winter is coming” hints at the Norse Fimbulwinter, which comes just before Ragnarok. 

Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods is about the battle between the new and old gods in America. There are plenty of old gods, of course, from many different countries, from which they were brought by immigrants, but one of the main characters is Odin, who goes by the name of Mr Wednesday. 

I haven’t read the Francesca Simon books, though I intend to, after reading this one, but Joanne Harris’s Runemarks quartet is very much about the Norse myths. The first two are seen from the viewpoint of Loki, the third and fourth from the viewpoints of daughters of gods, living on Earth after Ragnarok, which is only a few hundred years in the past. People are living quite normally, while the Norse gods are mostly in the Underworld(Loki and Odin are still around on Earth, Odin as the mentor of the heroine of the third novel, Loki as her friend). 

It’s a fascinating and very readable book, well worth dipping your toes into. I bought it in ebook, but as a Thames And Hudson title it is probably a physically beautiful book. Most of their titles I have had over the years ago were art-themed. 

Available on all good web sites.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Some Good News!

 Just a short post to share my good news. I have made my second sale for the year - the first story, anyway. I sold an article to the NSW School Magazine a short time ago, on the subject of the Artemis program which will take us back to the moon, then Mars. That is very exciting too, and the issue is coming out in September, edited by the wonderful Geoffrey McSkimming, author of the Cairo Jim novels. It will be paid on publication, so a while to go still.

This sale is to the newest Ford Street Publishing anthology, Borderlands - Stories From The Edge. I have been lucky enough to have stories in the other three anthologies, and wanted to make sure this wouldn’t be the first time I got a rejection.

     These books are more or less aimed at schools. As a former English teacher I can tell you that they work well. There are stories in various subject areas - fantasy, crime fiction, etc. which gives teachers a choice. I used the books myself, as we had them in class sets. 

I am always asked for historical fiction. The first two stories were set in the 1960s, then the publisher, Paul Collins, asked me to write about bushrangers. So I wrote a story about the Eugowra gold robbery, which happened in 1862 and was witnessed by a 13 year old boy. Perfect for the planned readership! 

This time, Paul asked for a dual themed story. He wanted historical fiction again, so I offered a historical mystery. 

And this is where I really learned the idea of “kill your darlings”. My original idea was a story about Mark Twain’s visit to Melbourne in 1895. My hero was a boy who worked at the Atheneum Theatre, where Mark Twain gave a talk. The mystery solved was about a missing first edition book he had planned to give away as a prize after  the show. I wrote it…and rewrote it…and rewrote it… And it just didn’t work. Every time I rewrote it, I found something else wrong with it.

So, I dropped it, despite having an entire story I am never going to sell. A pity. I liked the idea, still like it, but it doesn’t work.

I wrote, instead, a story set fifty years after the Eugowra robbery. The young hero of the first story is now middle aged and is still telling his story at the pub, and people are buying him drinks, because there is a local legend that there is still some gold from the robbery hidden nearby by bushranger Frank Gardiner, who was exiled from Australia and went to live in the US. It’s based on an actual story that his American sons came back here to find the gold. It has been called a myth, but I like it. It’s seen from the viewpoint of another young hero. 

This story did work. It took me about four days to write, edit and submit it. It really does show the difference between a story that works and you enjoy writing and one you don’t. 

If you are a writer, have you had a similar experience?

Just Watched… The 13th Warrior

Poster. Fair use

 I have just watched The 13th Warrior on Disney+. I have to admit, I only watched it because I read about it in a book on the effect of Norse myths on our way of life, but thoroughly enjoyed it. It was based on a novel, Eaters Of The Dead, by Michael Crichton, of Jurassic Park fame. He was also involved with this film.

Some years ago, when teaching Year 8 history, I discovered the story of Arab traveller Ibn Fahdlan, who described a Norse funeral in Russia. That involved a slave girl being sacrificed and sent off with the dead chieftain. She was a volunteer, though, and just before she was killed she spoke a sort of prayer about seeing her family and friends and so on. The warriors made a lot of noise to cover her screams as an old woman killed her, so as not to discourage volunteers next time around. 

The second thing he saw was the Norsemen’s disgusting wash habits in the morning - sharing a bowl of water, rinsing the mouth and spitting the water back into the bowl. He said they were horribly dirty, but he still admired them as being handsome people.

I mention both of these because they happen in the film, of which Ibn Fadhlan(played by Antonio Banderas) is the hero. In the film, he is a young man who has been sent off to be an ambassador far, far away from Baghdad after the matter of a married woman, whose husband complained to the Caliph. He is accompanied by an older man who acts as his interpreter for a while(Omar Sharif, still acting in his older years). While they are with this friendly bunch of Vikings, a ship arrives with a young boy who pleads for help, as his kingdom is being attacked by scary beings. It is declared by a shaman woman that thirteen men must go to help, including one who isn’t Norse.

 This is where it turns into a sort of cross between The Hobbit and Beowulf. Twelve warriors volunteer and poor Ibn Fahdlan, very much Bilbo Baggins, finds himself having to go with them. His interpreter cheerfully waves him off, but it doesn’t take long for him to learn their language. I suspect it was to make the rest of the film easier, with everyone speaking English, as Hunt For Red October in which a Russian character says, “Let’s talk English.”

The Norsemen eventually like and respect Ibn Fahdlan and he comes to like them too. 

The quest finds them in a country where there are regular attacks by bearlike beings, who turn out not to be bears. They are cannibals, though. Our hero throws up when he first sees evidence of that, and the others also feel sick. But they fight anyway. 

At one point, where they think they might die, they chant the words of the sacrificed slave girl, and Ibn Fahdlan joins them. 

     Although there is not just one “Grendel”, I couldn’t help thinking of Beowulf. I’m quite sure the name “Hrothgar” is mentioned, though the King here is called Wolfgar. 

I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this at the cinema, but it was nice to lie in bed and watch it on my iPad before dozing off. It was good fun. If you have Disney+, it’s worth watching.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Just Finished Reading… Beyond The Wand: The Magic And Mayhem Of Growing Up A Wizard by Tom Felton. Penguin, 2022

 From Borrower to wizard, Tom Felton's adolescence was anything but ordinary. His early rise to fame saw him catapulted into the limelight aged just twelve when he landed the iconic role of Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films.

Speaking with candour and his own trademark humour, Tom shares his experience of growing up on screen and as part of the wizarding world for the very first time. He tells all about his big break, what filming was really like and the lasting friendships he made during ten years as part of the franchise, as well as the highs and lows of fame and the reality of navigating adult life after filming finished.

This is Tom Felton’s memoir, beginning with his first work in a commercial and his first film The Borrowers and going on to his career in Hollywood, during which he needed to go into rehab treatment. He is honest about the problems for which he needed help, which were, he admits, his own fault.

Tom began his acting career very young, with a TV commercial filmed in the US. As a little boy, he was understandably more thrilled with the room service and such than with the job. Once, he was surprised to see crowds waving and cheering for him because they thought he was Macaulay Culkin! He enjoyed the attention anyway.

He admits to his cockiness and naughty behaviour, even during the filming of the Harry Potter films, when he hung out with Jamie Waylett and Josh Herdman(Crabbe and Goyle). It wasn’t always on purpose, but usually disastrous. 

He also hung out with Michael Gambon(Dumbledore), who used to hide a cigarette in his beard, and they announced they were going out for a “breath of fresh air” between takes, but were having a smoke together!  

Tom says that, because he wasn’t always having to film, unlike the main  trio, he was still able to live a more or less normal life, riding his bike to school when not filming. Emma Watson, who was cast at only nine years of age(who knew that?), never went back to a normal school. She became a dear friend (and wrote the foreword to the book). There is something sad about this aspect of child actors’ lives. 

He says positive things about everyone with whom he worked, and mentions his excitement about working with some of the big name cast members, especially Alan Rickman, whom he had seen as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves

He played in some very strange films after Harry Potter and describes them in great and humorous detail.

In fact, the book is filled with humour; I found myself smiling and chuckling all the way through, but also touched by his honesty about his later problems. It is very readable and chatty, as much for teens as adults. 

If you are interested, it’s available on all good web sites. I bought my ebook on Apple Books.  

Monday, March 06, 2023

Bruce Dorluin: A Guest Post!


Here is a guest post from SF author Bruce Dorluin, who kindly agreed to write for the Great Raven about his space opera/dystopia. He has supplied links to where you can buy his books. 

And here is a very impressive book trailer for Bruce’s series!

I admit we have one thing in common, which is playing Dungeons And Dragons, though I never got as far as playing the Dungeon Master! 

Take it away, Bruce!

My whole, adult life, as I struggled to pay the bills, I have always wanted to write at least one book. As a teenager, I loved creating storybook format Dungeons and Dragons games for my friends. Oftentimes, while playing, four hours would pass before someone would say, “Wow, look what time it is!” The enjoyment and emersion of the players into my games was genuine and I felt appreciated and encouraged to create more. 

Well, after twenty years since I hung up my dungeon master hat, I finally got to write a book. 

Just for context, my youth was filled with video games, Star Trek, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To this day, I would choose to watch Stargate SG-1 over any other TV show. When I wasn’t glued to a TV screen, I built custom Lego castles. My brother and I spent hours assembling our Lego armies and having castle battles with a dungeons and dragons style battle system applied to each figure, based on their equipment. Those days will never come back. 

Today however, I have new opportunities to enjoy life. I have four children who each have their own personalities. I spend a good share of my time with them, helping and guiding them to be productive, emotionally stable individuals. My motto is, “Raise good adults, not kids.” So far, as I try to instill in them all the wisdom I can muster, teaching them the failures of my life, I am encouraged and excited to see each of them grow into adulthood.  

As far as book writing, I have considered writing a book for some time. For instance, I have had a dungeons and dragons campaign that has been stuck in my head, unplayed for twenty years. I plan to advance that campaign, but it will be in a book rather than rolled by dice. But I didn’t want to start with writing a fantasy series, relieving my imaginary story queue into a sea of other fantasy books. I wasn’t ready for that. 

However, there was story I had in mind. It’s a story, or at least a memory I kept in queue for much longer than the dungeons and dragons campaign. When I was a youth, in my early to mid-teens, I had many episodes of déjà vu and vivid dreams. 

One night, I had a dream I was an older version of myself. In my dream, I was a person of reasonable dexterity, but not exactly youthful. I was on the rooftops of city brick apartment buildings, jumping from one building to the next. It was dark and I was afraid but driven. Inside one of those apartment buildings, was a young blonde woman who I loved very much and was trying to rescue. Within in the dream, in my mind I held the image of a blonde woman I did not know. 

As I jumped from building to building, part of me wanted to seek the local police to help me. After all, police were trustworthy and could help me. However, within the dream, I pushed away the thought. My trust of the police, replaced by betrayal and fear, drove me to vigilantism. Within the dream, I reminded myself of who I feared with an image of the new police. These police were different from the heroes in blue. These police wore black outfits with matching knee-high black boots and black hats. These police were more likely to beat you and send you to jail for nothing, than help. 

The fear of the police in black startled me awake. For thirty years, I have held the memory of that dream. 

While in my twenties, that dream remained in my mind as a permanent memory. The dream had little meaning, until I met my would-be blonde wife. I thought for several years that the woman in the dream was her. 

As the years passed, and we didn’t get police in black, I considered the dream was drawn from my imagination and not an example of a precognition dream. However, as life would have it, my eldest daughter looks like my wife. My daughter is eleven. Needless to say, I will be on high alert for police who wear black for the next twenty years. 

That’s enough about the ‘police in black’ story. 

In 2019, I sat awake night after night, lying in bed, reliving a new story in my head. After a time, I wrote it down on paper, refining the story as it progressed. While I always wanted to write a book, I didn’t consider myself great at writing and I didn’t know how to publish. However, I had a ‘Go-For-It!’ moment and I have not looked back. At the end of 2021, after many re-writes, revisions, and WTF’s from my wife, I published my first book. 

For my first book, The Shards of Space: Echoes of Destiny, I created a future when the police in black exist. Additionally, I love sci-fi and I came up with a plot where humans search for planets to colonize. For this book series, I mixed the despotic future, space exploration, and sci-fi components. 

The entire series is about Curtis Jecker, 16 sent on missions to find a new planet to colonize, to save humanity. Along his search for a new planet, his ship collides with a space anomaly causing his ship to spiral out of control causing a rift in space. He is lost, alone, and out of fuel when he arrives on an Earth-like planet. On this Earth-like planet, he finds humans and an angrier Curtis Jecker, who is hell-bent on killing him. 

In the second book, The Shards of Space: Frequency Stone, Curtis tries to find his way home as hostile aliens and more Curtis Jeckers are in search of him. Curtis falls in love and begins to unravel the mystery that is his life. 

Overall, after finishing the first book and ready to publish my second book, I am happy to have experienced the trials of writing a book. I learned many lessons the hard way. And unfortunately, if you read Echoes of Destiny, you can likely tell it was re-written several times. For those who want to know how this story progresses and ends, you will not be disappointed. 

For my next series, which I will write next and is intended for a younger audience, I am excited to apply the learned lessons. 

Thank you Sue, for letting me take up precious blog space. And to anyone reading this, feel free to reach out anytime. 

I am taking pre-orders for book 2 at brucedorluin.com_book2

If you want book 1 and 2 together, you can order them together

Also, some people have read the first book and rated/reviewed it. If you read it, please provide feedback directly or on these sites. 


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