My Books

“I actually could not put the book down. It is well written and kept my interest. I want more from this author.”
Reader review of Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead on Amazon.com 
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Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Stamp of Approval?

In a generous gesture to honor a humble writer residing on its soil, Ireland’s national postal service, An Post, has released a new commemorative stamp in honor of Last of the Tuath Dé.

Okay, actually not. I only wish.

It’s just an interesting coincidence that, at the beginning of September, An Post issued stamps featuring the mythical namesake of one of my latest novel’s characters. As the official blurb explains, the stamp is “based on Balor, a legendary figure in the Formorian supernatural race in Irish mythology.” It continues:
    According to the Irish folklore tales, Balor caused great pain and anguish to the Tuatha Dé Dannan, the other supernatural race in Irish folklore.
   The legend centres on Balor having an eye that, when unleashed, could cause instant death or poisoning. Balor’s Poisoned Eye is the main focus of one stamp. The second stamp relates to the legend that claimed Balor had only to look on the landscape to cause damage, such as in the Poisoned Glen in County Donegal.
   In both cases, contemporary colours are used to create the impression of poison almost leaping off the stamp.
A domestic postage stamp depicts Balor’s Evil Eye, while an international one illustrates the Poisoned Glen. They are part of PostEurop’s collection of stamps across Europe celebrating this year’s theme of Stories & Myths. The collection includes a whole array of mythical and legendary figures from various European countries.

Other examples include Saint Hubertus from Belgium, the mermaid Melusina of Luxembourg, the Bogeyman of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Emperor Charlemagne of France and Switzerland’s William Tell. Who knew that post offices could be such a great source for potential character names for future fantasy novels?

To be clear, the authentic mythological Balor does not actually appear in Last of the Tuath Dé. That Balor is my own creation, inspired by the Irish myths. The narrative conceit is that the Tuath Dé and the Fomóire in my book were the true inspirations for the Irish stories—even though in the real world it’s the reverse that’s true.

Quite a coincidence that An Post would be highlighting Balor within just a couple of weeks after the release of Last of the Tuath Dé, eh? But wait, it gets better.

It so happens that Greece’s entry in the Stories & Myths stamp collection is none other than Orpheus. As my readers will well know, Orpheus is the Demon Hunter name—or as Hadrian the Necromant would dashingly put the term (see Chapter 12), nom de chasseur de démon—of none other than the title character of The Curse of Septimus Bridge. Sadly, the two Greek stamps depict Orpheus’s demise as he’s about to be ripped to shreds by the Thracian Maenads for having forsaken his former deity patron Dionysus in favor of the sun god Apollo. A further reminder, if any were needed, that it’s always a bad idea to tick off a Greek god.

That’s a fate even worse than being trapped for eternity in the Netherworld.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Who’s Who?

Madame Bovary, c’est moi.

That is what 19th-century French novelist Gustave Flaubert is reported to have replied when asked if the title character of his best known novel, Madame Bovary, was based on a real person. He himself was she, he said.

That seemed strange when I first heard it lo these many years ago in my student days. How could a 37-year-old bachelor writer, who was a frequent customer of prostitutes, base a young, sheltered, convent-educated female character obsessed with romantic novels on himself? Now, however, it makes perfect sense to me.

I once read or heard from a source that seemed authoritative that, when we dream, all the people in our dreams are versions of ourselves. We might think we dreamt about a friend or relative, but it was really us. I don’t know if that’s true, but it sounds like it might be. I suspect something similar goes on with creators of fiction. I find it plausible that the inner lives of every fictional character is essentially an extension of that of its creator.

These thoughts are prompted by my previous post in which I anticipated—and shot down—the question of whether the character Antonio, who features in Maximilian and Carlotta Are Dead and its two sequels, was based on my longtime Peruvian friend Mañuco. If I think about it for very long, the real basis for Antonio becomes obvious. Antonio, c’est moi. Or more appropriately, Antonio soy yo.

No, of course, I’m not—and never have been—an abandoned Mexican street kid living by my wits on the streets of Los Angeles. But look past that. Antonio is an avid reader of comic books. He loves movies and the Spanish language. If you read Chapter 10 of Max & Carly carefully, you’ll even find circumstantial evidence that he’s a fan of the 1960s gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. The case is open and shut.

A lot of readers, including those who personally know me well, have assumed that it is the narrator Dallas who is me, and to be sure I did make Dallas’s circumstances close to my own—even to the point of having him be born in the same month and year. That, however, was to make it easy for myself in terms of getting the history right and to minimize my own need for research. What can I say? I’m basically lazy. But why waste time denying whether or not I’m Dallas? I’ve already bought into the idea that all my characters are me.

If that’s true, this has interesting implications for a literary debate that raises its head from time to time. Is it some kind of inappropriate appropriation for a male writer to attempt conveying the female experience through a fictional character? For a white fiction writer to write at length about the African-American or Hispanic experience?

For that matter, what about a California-born, straight, Scandinavian-American, male writer attempting to portray in fiction a Japanese-Canadian bisexual woman who happens to be a Demon Hunter? Yes, I had to bring the conversation around to my latest book, Last of the Tuath Dé, lest anyone forget that it is still out there and available for purchase.

Basically, I feel about fiction-writing the way I feel about the acting profession. In principle, any artist should be able to portray any character in any medium. In practice, though, it doesn’t cost me or anyone else anything to try being sensitive to legitimate issues people may have when it comes their own experiences and to history. In the end, though, my philosophy in artistic matters is to err on the side of creative freedom.

If I have my own escape clause for slipping through the imagined tentacles of the so-called political-correctness police, it is that I am either writing fantasy or else focusing on what I know personally—and none of my characters are meant to emblematic or representative of an entire group of people. I’m just telling stories.

That is why I feel secure in proclaiming, Izanami et Sapphire, ils sont moi.