There are days when being a writer makes you feel like you are a Creator God, Designer of Worlds, Breaker and Maker of Destinies. But some characters, like man, are prone to do, they turn around and say, “Fuck you Creator God, I’m gonna do what I want!” and they destroy that perfectly structured PLAN that you lovingly designed for them. I guess what I am trying to say is.. “Fuck you, Merlin! Do as you’re told!….please?”
Note: My Merlin is nothing like the above Merlin character. My Merlin is a temperamental lovable psycho like Alucard from Hellsing crossed with a magical reprobate. It’s just therapeutic for me to watch ANY Merlin get slapped today.
Whenever I am having a bad writing day, I go back and read THIS by Chuck Wendig… but this paragraph in particular is resonating hard with me today:
“Consider: the act of telling a story is you CONJURING AN ENTIRE UNIVERSE INSIDE YOUR MIND and then using words as knives to CARVE THAT UNIVERSE INTO REALITY SO THAT OTHERS CAN VISIT YOUR IMAGINATION. “Today I am going to make a world out of my brain that you can go to in your spare time,” you say aloud, hopefully realizing that this is far more significant and far more bizarre than tying your shoes or blowing your nose. Creating whole worlds is pyroclastic. It is volcanic. It’s heat and fire, it’s molten rock, it’s lightning inside black smoke amid the nose and clamor of thundering earth and boiling air. It is an astonishing, generative act.
And it’s sometimes hard.
Sometimes what we do is stage magic. Sometimes the magic is sacrificial.
Stage magic requires hours of practice where you get it wrong.
Sacrificial magic requires blood on the altar.
In both cases, the magic — be it trick or spell — is hard as hell.
As it should be. As it must be.”
I love writing, and if it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be fun OR worth it.
Okay, bitching over. I’m off to be a vengeful God. xo
I grew up in a Christian home, where a photo of Jesus hung on my bedroom wall. I still have it. It is schmaltzy and rather tacky in that 1970s kind of way, but as a little girl I loved it. In this picture, Jesus looks kind and gentle, he gazes down at me lovingly. He is also light-haired, blue-eyed, and very white.
The problem is, Jesus was not white. You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise if you’ve ever entered a Western church or visited an art gallery. But while there is no physical description of him in the Bible, there is also no doubt that the historical Jesus, the man who was executed by the Roman State in the first century CE, was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew.
This is not controversial from a scholarly point of view, but somehow it is a forgotten detail for many of the millions of Christians who will gather to celebrate Easter this week.
On Good Friday, Christians attend churches to worship Jesus and, in particular, remember his death on a cross. In most of these churches, Jesus will be depicted as a white man, a guy that looks like Anglo-Australians, a guy easy for other Anglo-Australians to identify with.
Think for a moment of the rather dashing Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ. He is an Irish-American actor. Or call to mind some of the most famous artworks of Jesus’ crucifixion – Ruben, Grunewald, Giotto – and again we see the European bias in depicting a white-skinned Jesus.
Does any of this matter? Yes, it really does. As a society, we are well aware of the power of representation and the importance of diverse role models.
After winning the 2013 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in 12 Years a Slave, Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o shot to fame. In interviews since then, Nyong’o has repeatedly articulated her feelings of inferiority as a young woman because all the images of beauty she saw around her were of lighter-skinned women. It was only when she saw the fashion world embracing Sudanese model Alek Wek that she realised black could be beautiful too.
If we can recognise the importance of ethnically and physically diverse role models in our media, why can’t we do the same for faith? Why do we continue to allow images of a whitened Jesus to dominate?
Many churches and cultures do depict Jesus as a brown or black man. Orthodox Christians usually have a very different iconography to that of European art – if you enter a church in Africa, you’ll likely see an African Jesus on display.
But these are rarely the images we see in Australian Protestant and Catholic churches, and it is our loss. It allows the mainstream Christian community to separate their devotion to Jesus from compassionate regard for those who look different.
I would even go so far as to say it creates a cognitive disconnect, where one can feel deep affection for Jesus but little empathy for a Middle Eastern person. It likewise has implications for the theological claim that humans are made in God’s image. If God is always imaged as white, then the default human becomes white and such thinking undergirds racism.
Historically, the whitewashing of Jesus contributed to Christians being some of the worst perpetrators of anti-Semitism and it continues to manifest in the “othering” of non-Anglo Saxon Australians.
This Easter, I can’t help but wonder, what would our church and society look like if we just remembered that Jesus was brown? If we were confronted with the reality that the body hung on the cross was a brown body: one broken, tortured, and publicly executed by an oppressive regime.
How might it change our attitudes if we could see that the unjust imprisonment, abuse, and execution of the historical Jesus has more in common with the experience of Indigenous Australians or asylum seekers than it does with those who hold power in the church and usually represent Christ?
Perhaps most radical of all, I can’t help but wonder what might change if we were more mindful that the person Christians celebrate as God in the flesh and saviour of the entire world was not a white man, but a Middle Eastern Jew.
Where did January go??? Got a not so crazy feeling that this year is going to be full on!
Things are going down in the weird writing world of Amy. So far this year I have:
*Completed another re-write of Jael/Mychal book. I have a draft that I’ve proof read and while it still needs more work I feel like its FINALLY heading in the right direction. Exorcists are bitches to write. It’s really one of the stories I’ve had serious doubts over but it has refused to let me go and that is generally a sign I should keep working on it. Once I finish the next round of changes it will go to the wise beta readers for plot/sensitivity/wtfAmy comments. I have a pretty exciting ending that leaves it way open for more stories.
*I’ve submitted a final assignment for uni which means that I’m now on a break for a whole semester (at least) and can have some breathing room to get more writing done.
*Today I’ve cracked out 1500 new words of Chapter Seven of KINGDOM, Book Three of the Blood Lake Chronicles. If you follow my social media you would have seen me lamenting yesterday about how my characters have already messed my structure up. This is pretty typical of this group to be honest. They like to surprise me and make work around them. In saying that its been FUN so far. It always takes me the first 20k words of a book to really find my groove but it is coming together. Hopefully I will get it finished during my uni break time. That’s the plan anyway. There is lots of magic and ravens and wolves and cities inside trees and magical swords…all the good stuff.
*I have a New Release Mailing List! Hurray! Draft2Digital has been amazing so far and they also have a nifty feature of creating a sign up list for readers. If you want an email notification of when I release a new book please sign up here. At the most I release two books a year, so don’t worry, you aren’t going to spammed.
I’ve recently become obsessed with ( and HIGHLY recommend) the following:
*Ancient Magus Bride – This anime has knocked my socks off. Celtic myth, cool mages, DRAGONS, NORDIC MAGIC…I am so in love. Its like a Studio Ghibli created a whole series. Funimation has the English dub, Crunchyroll has subtitles so pick your poison and give it a shot.
*Uprooted – Naomi Novik. I know I’m the last person reading this. Its been on my TBR since it was released but I finally got a hold of the Audible version in January. It was on a Friday. Saturday I bought the book. Sunday I finished it. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Russian Fairytale vibe, beautiful perfect story. If you havent read it, give it a shot. It came along right when my creative well was bone dry and filled me up with magic and wonder and Dragons and forest magic.
That’s pretty much all from me. A reminder that WYLT is Free for Valentines Day so if you want a bit of hot gothic fae romance in your life pick yourself up a copy here.
It’s been a while guys…I know. I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it so long between drinks but when you’re working, doing uni, writing books and publishing, shit is bound to get a bit hectic.
Right. I’ve been underground finishing off a great Ancient History unit on the Later Roman Empire, getting inspired and fuelled for a future book I’m researching, and trying to keep my head above water. If you follow my social media you’ll know Cry of the Firebird was a no 1 best seller in September in the Amazon store – holy shit guys what a moment. Which brings me to my next topic.
In September, the reason why I managed to sell as many books as I did was my exclusivity period with Amazon finished and I launched Cry of the Firebird across all e-book platforms. I’ve been getting messages from a whole swathe new readers about the other books and I can safely say, at the beginning of December Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will be universally released. At the moment they are still under exclusivity so sorry, we have to wait. I’m not sure if I am going to do a pre-order for them as there is some behind the scenes tweaking that needs to be sorted before that can happen. Also, I have just (literally in the last 30 minutes) finished sexy second editions of all of the Firebirds and damn, that’s a shit tonne of words to edit and format. I’m waiting on proofs of the new paperbacks to arrive but the digitals are up and looking gorgeous. I wanted to do second editions for a whole bunch of reasons. Mainly, because no matter how many editors you use, and eyes go over your work to check and re-check, pesky mistakes still seem to get through. Also, I am an Aussie and I wanted US spelling and Grammar editions as most of my readers are currently in the US. It was a huge undertaking (I’m so dead all I want is vodka and Lord of the Rings movies) but I am really happy with the results and I hope you are too. I’m super blessed as an indie publisher that I can make these changes and be so much happier with the end product.
In Blood Lake Chroniclesnews, WYLT has also been released universally and I’ve had HEAPS of messages about WHERE THE FUCK IS BLAISE. I can tell you finally that it’s currently with my kick-ass cover designer, Fiona, who is making something truly fucking amazing. This series, this character, is super important to me so I want the cover and story right. It’s a tricky time of year for freelance editors and designers which is why I haven’t announced a pre-order for it. As soon as I have all the pieces in my hot hands you guys will be the first to know. I am aiming for mid-December but I won’t make promises without all those pieces. It is coming soon. Writing on book three, KINGDOM, has started slowly due to the mad fucking rush to get second editions of the Firebird Fairytales completed but it HAS started and damn is it gonna be a ride. Now that most of my publisher’s workload is sorted I can put my Writer Hat back on and get stuck into it. It’s a lot more Celtic Myth and I’m loving how the beginning is shaping up.
I have been reading some holy shit amazing books lately. I won’t leave reviews for them because there isn’t enough time but the ones that have really blown my shit out of the water (and made me get FULL Imposter Syndrome) are as follows:
All SoulsTrilogy by Deborah Harkness. Vampires, Witches, Daemons, Alchemy, Oxford…This series hit EVERYONE of my weaknesses and damn, like if you need your faith restored in incredible vampire books, seriously look no further. It’s not a snack though, these books are MEALS. The writing is rich and incredible and you can tell Harkness seriously knows her shit. They are currently making the TV series with a whole cast of power house actors (Matthew Goode holy shit!) and I seriously can’t wait.
The Sarah Weston Novels by Magnus Flyte.Prague, Beethoven, Alchemy, Prodigies and Princes. After suffering from a massive book hangover from the All Souls Trilogy, this duology City of Dark Magic and City of Lost Dreams, was the perfect soloution. It’s still keeping with alchemy and magic themes but tying in history and music aswell. It’s not as heavy as the Harkness books but they were still a great series. The magic in it is awesome.
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Mysticism, Art, lost loves, reincarnations, historical romance, medieval scriptoriums… this book has it all. You know how you have those books that you think ‘that looks great I really want to read that’ but it takes you forever to get to them? This was such a book. It’s been on my radar for years but like most books that fall into this category, it found me when I needed it most. I was suffering from a massive creative burn out and it was EXACTLY what I needed. It is an incredible book that ripped my heart clean out while re-building it at the same time. It’s structured like a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, that I am ridiculously obsessed with, and it just…no words. Still. It’s a hard one to explain but worth the time.
Okay so that’s all from me, for now. I will keep everyone posted on the BLAISE front and make lots of noise when all of the Firebirds are available universally. If you are doing NaNoWriMo, you are my hero and keep your chin up.
Pretty much sums up how I feel about my current WIP…
“Love Is Hell
I love to write. A lot of you love to write, I bet. But, as with any love, there are days you hate it. Some days, writing feels like endless toil. There are days when writing acts distant for no apparent reason, because writing can be a passive-aggressive jerk. Writing is the sort of lover who breaks up with you, then slinks in naked while you’re taking a shower, like nothing happened. You’ll stay up all night with writing and regret it when you have to go to work in the morning. There’ll even be times when you’re trying to focus on something else, but writing won’t stop talking to you no matter how politely you ask.
Simply put, writing is an asshole. Writing steals your money and spends it on stupid things, like another gimmicky book on how to write better, and then it acts like it bought that book for both of you. Writing will take you to heaven and back all day long, but the next morning it’ll be gone without even leaving a note.
“Forget death and seek life!” With these encouraging words, Gilgamesh, the star of the eponymous 4000-year-old epic poem, coins the world’s first heroic catchphrase.
At the same time, the young king encapsulates the considerations of mortality and humanity that lie at the heart of the world’s most ancient epic. While much has changed since, the epic’s themes are still remarkably relevant to modern readers.
Depending upon your point of view, Gilgamesh may be considered a myth-making biography of a legendary king, a love story, a comedy, a tragedy, a cracking adventure, or perhaps an anthology of origin stories.
All these elements are present in the narrative, and the diversity of the text is only matched by its literary sophistication. Perhaps surprisingly, given the extreme antiquity of the material, the epic is a masterful blending of complex existential queries, rich imagery and dynamic characters.
The narrative begins with Gilgamesh ruling over the city of Uruk as a tyrant. To keep him occupied, the Mesopotamian deities create a companion for him, the hairy wild man Enkidu.
Gilgamesh sets about civilising Enkidu, a feat achieved through the novel means of a week of sex with the wise priestess, Shamhat (whose very name in Akkadian suggests both beauty and voluptuousness).
Gilgamesh and Enkidu become inseparable, and embark on a quest for lasting fame and glory. The heroes’ actions upset the gods, leading to Enkidu’s early death.
The death of Enkidu is a pivotal point in the narrative. The love between Gilgamesh and Enkidu transforms the royal protagonist, and Enkidu’s death leaves Gilgamesh bereft and terrified of his own mortality.
The hero dresses himself in the skin of a lion, and travels to find a long-lived great flood survivor, Utanapishtim (often compared with the biblical Noah). After a perilous journey over the waters of death, Gilgamesh finally meets Utanapishtim and asks for the secret to immortality.
In one of the earliest literary anti-climaxes, Utanapishtim tells him that he doesn’t have it. The story ends with Gilgamesh returning home to the city of Uruk.
Gilgamesh and his adventures can only be described in superlative terms: during his legendary journeys, the hero battles deities and monsters, finds (and loses) the secret to eternal youth, travels to the very edge of the world — and beyond.
Despite the fantastical elements of the narrative and its protagonist, Gilgamesh remains a very human character, one who experiences the same heartbreaks, limitations and simple pleasures that shape the universal quality of the human condition.
Gilgamesh explores the nature and meaning of being human, and asks the questions that continue to be debated in the modern day: what is the meaning of life and love? What is life really — and am I doing it right? How do we cope with life’s brevity and uncertainty, and how do we deal with loss?
The text provides multiple answers, allowing the reader to wrestle with these ideas alongside the hero. Some of the clearest advice is provided by the beer deity, Siduri (yes, a goddess of beer), who suggests Gilgamesh set his mind less resolvedly on extending his life.
Instead, she urges him to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, such as the company of loved ones, good food and clean clothes — perhaps giving an example of a kind of Mesopotamian mindfulness.
The epic also provides the reader with a useful case study in what not to do if one is in the exceptional circumstance of reigning over the ancient city of Uruk. In ancient Mesopotamia, the correct behaviour of the king was necessary for maintaining earthly and heavenly order.
Despite the gravity of this royal duty, Gilgamesh seems to do everything wrong. He kills the divinely-protected environmental guardian, Humbaba, and ransacks his precious Cedar Forest. He insults the beauteous goddess of love, Ishtar, and slays the mighty Bull of Heaven.
He finds the key to eternal youth, but then loses it just as quickly to a passing snake (in the process explaining the snake’s “renewal” after shedding its skin). Through these misadventures, Gilgamesh strives for fame and immortality, but instead finds love with his companion, Enkidu, and a deeper understanding of the limits of humanity and the importance of community.
Reception and recovery
The Epic of Gilgamesh was wildly famous in antiquity, with its impact traceable to the later literary worlds of the Homeric epics and the Hebrew Bible. Yet, in the modern day, even the most erudite readers of ancient literature might struggle to outline its plot, or name its protagonists.
To what might we owe this modern-day cultural amnesia surrounding one of the world’s greatest works of ancient literature?
The answer lies in the history of the narrative’s reception. While many of the great literary works of ancient Greece and Rome were studied continuously throughout the development of Western culture, the Epic of Gilgamesh comes from a forgotten age.
The story originates in Mesopotamia, an area of the Ancient Near East thought to roughly correspond with modern-day Iraq, Kuwait and parts of Syria, Iran and Turkey, and frequently noted as “the cradle of civilisation” for its early agriculture and cities.
Gilgamesh was written in cuneiform script, the world’s oldest known form of writing. The earliest strands of Gilgamesh’s narrative can be found in five Sumerian poems, and other versions include those written in Elamite, Hittite and Hurrian. The best-known version is the Standard Babylonian Version, written in Akkadian (a language written in cuneiform that functioned as the language of diplomacy in the second millennium BCE).
The disappearance of the cuneiform writing system around the time of the 1st century CE accelerated Gilgamesh’s sharp slide into anonymity.
For almost two millennia, clay tablets containing stories of Gilgamesh and his companions lay lost and buried, alongside many tens of thousands of other cuneiform texts, beneath the remnants of the great Library of Ashurbanipal.
The modern rediscovery of the epic was a watershed moment in the understanding of the Ancient Near East. The eleventh tablet of the Epic was first translated by self-taught cuneiform scholar George Smith of the British Museum in 1872. Smith discovered the presence of an ancient Babylonian flood narrative in the text with striking parallels to the biblical flood story of the Book of Genesis.
The story is often repeated (although it may be apocryphal) that when Smith began to decipher the tablet, he became so excited that he began to remove all his clothing. From these beginnings in the mid-19th century, the process of recovering the cuneiform literary catalogue continues today.
The new section of Tablet V contains ecological aspects that resonate with modern day concerns over environmental destruction. Of course, there are potential anachronisms in projecting environmental concerns on an ancient text composed thousands of years prior to the industrial revolution.
Yet, the undeniable sensitivity in the epic’s presentation of the wilderness is illuminating, considering the long history of humanity’s interaction with our environment and its animal inhabitants.
In Gilgamesh, the wilderness is a place of beauty and purity, as well as home to a wild abundance. The splendour and grandeur of the Cedar Forest is described poetically in Tablet V:
They (Gilgamesh and Enkidu) stood marvelling at the forest,
Observing the height of the cedars …
They were gazing at the Cedar Mountain, the dwelling of the gods, the throne-dais of the goddesses …
Sweet was its shade, full of delight.
While the heroes pause to admire the forest’s beauty, their interest is not purely aesthetic. Gilgamesh and Enkidu are aware of the economic value of the cedars, and the text provides a clear picture of competing commercial and ecological interests.
Where to read Gilgamesh
Since Gilgamesh’s reappearance into popular awareness in the last hundred years, the Standard Babylonian Version of the epic has become accessible in numerous translations. This version was originally compiled by the priest, scribe and exorcist, Sin-leqi-uninni, around 1100 BCE.
The scholarly standard among modern translations is Andrew George’s The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts (2003).
Despite its all-around excellence, the two-volume work is decidedly unwieldly, and the less muscle-bound reader would be well directed to The Epic of Gilgamesh: A New Translation (1999), by the same author. Most readable among modern treatments is David Ferry’s Gilgamesh: A New Rendering in English Verse (1992), which gives a potent, poetic interpretation of the material.
Like the snake that steals Gilgamesh’s rejuvenation plant, the Epic of Gilgamesh has aged well. Its themes – exploring the tension between the natural and civilised worlds, the potency of true love, and the question of what makes a good life – are as relevant today as they were 4,000 years ago.
Note: Translations are sourced from Andrew R. George 2003. The Babylonian Gilgamesh Epic: Introduction, Critical Edition and Cuneiform Texts, Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Apologies from being away from the blog for so many weeks. My life has been super crazy wrapping up projects and job hunting BUT exciting news!
Eastern Gods, book one of new YA Fantasy series Western Wars, is up on a Kindle Scout campaign for your view and vote! I’m crazy excited about this one. It would be really good for fans who enjoyed Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series or MTV’s Shannara Chronicles.
This series is the first lot of books I wrote as a teenager. I finished the whopping, originally titled, Eastern Gods and Western Wars when I was about nineteen. It landed at 180k words. I believed in the story, I wanted it out there, and so it has been through a massive reworking and editing for the passed year. Its now split into two books, Eastern Gods and The Golden Queen and I can’t wait for you to read them.
I love this series. It helped me survive a really dark period in my life and taught me so much about storytelling, craft and helped create a safe place in my mind where I could hang out. I was reading a lot of fantasy as a teen; loads of Lord of the Rings, Stephen Lawhead and Ian Irvine’s View from the Mirror Quartet (please check it out – its so freaking great) and it is these writers and stories that shaped my passion for writing epic fantasy.
This series is a big one, twisted up with family, war, love, faith and magic. It’s a hero quest and a coming of age and the secrets that you discover about your family as you grow older. It’s about sacrifice and blood and forgiveness at it’s most brutal.
Enter a world of forgotten magic, kings, gods and the woman who will dare to defy them.
Prince Haldirian’s safe world is shattered when he captures a spy from the silent and forgotten Eastlands. There is only one scholar of the East who could stop the fear of war spreading, Aláenor of Silandáe.
The first female heir in history, highly intelligent and carrying a warrior swagger Aláenor isn’t what Haldirian has learned to expect from royal princesses.
The eastern spy Hilkiah reveals that he was sent by Mordecai, Emperor of the East and powerful dark magician residing in the city of Rotech. The West has turned their back on magic for centuries and fearing that war is imminent, a spying party is sent back to the East to discover the truth.
Mordecai is burning for payback on the western king who destroyed his life. He needs Aláenor to fulfill his revenge, and he will have her…even if he has to kill the man she loves and destroy her soul to do it.