dianne salerni author
dianne salerni author

MorrigansCurse_REV coverI had a lot of fun researching this book. A LOT of fun. And since I wrote the first draft all the way back in 2014, I’ve been sitting on all this cool stuff for a long time. With the book finally releasing next week, I’d like to talk about the myths and legends that produced some of the characters – and magical objects – in The Morrigan’s Curse.

As with the first two books, I drew on Arthurian legends for my Transitioner characters. In The Morrigan’s Curse you’ll meet Transitioner lords Calvin Bedivere and Ash Pellinore. The Sir Bedivere of legend had only one hand, so I assigned my Bedivere “the hand of power” as his family talent. Sir Pellinore was known best for his pursuit of a great Beast. Therefore, I gave Ash Pellinore … no, wait. I’m going to keep that one a secret. It’s worth it. You’ll see.

Because some of the major characters in Morrigan are Kin – loosely based on the Tuatha de Danann  – I also had the opportunity to delve into Celtic mythology. Each Kin character is linked to some god or goddess out of Celtic lore: Corra is an oracle, Aeron is the god of war and strife, Ratis is the god of boundaries and fortification.

The MorriganLloyd Alexander drew on this same mythology in his Prydain Chronicles, and I found myself needing to use some of the same names: Llyr, Mathonwy, Arawn. I did my best to make my characters as different as possible from his, even using the alternate spelling of Arawen so as not to draw a parallel with Alexander’s Death-Lord, Arawn.

One of the best and most fun people to write about was the titular character, The Morrigan – a three-in-one deity who embodies chaos and destruction. She appears as either an old crone, a middle-aged woman, or a young girl (named by me as Girl of Crows). When I first stumbled across the Morrigan in my preliminary research, I knew at once that she needed a place in my third book. And when I was hit by THE IDEA, THE DELICIOUSLY SHOCKING IDEA about how to use the Morrigan, I had to go back into the second book, The Inquisitor’s Mark, and revise major sections to set up for her arrival.

Celtic swordsFinally, what’s a fantasy story without a few magic items? Especially ones that might be trickier than they first appear! Here I called upon the Treasures of the Tuatha de Danaan: The Cauldron of Dagda, The Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Nuadu, and the Stone of Fal. In the legends, each one had a very specific magical use, but when I stumbled upon a website describing the symbolic purpose of each item … well, then I had the backbone of this story.

I hope that readers will enjoy how I put this all together! One of the best compliments I received from my editor was, “I kept having to Google the names in your manuscript because I couldn’t tell what you were getting from legend and what you were making up!”

Isn’t that what we aspire to?

***

Mrs Kremer recommendation

Yes, it’s time for another scatter-brained post because I couldn’t pull together a single topic.

  • I think Netflix should count as a business expense. I know many people would consider binge-watching TV while your open manuscript and a blinking cursor sit ignored on a side table counter-productive. But I recently spent four days revising a single chapter of THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE and when I finally licked it, I couldn’t face the next chapter. Yes, I had a deadline, and yes, as a full time writer I need to work at writing. Instead I watched five episodes of The Fall in a row and felt guilty about it. The next day, however, I jumped back into the manuscript and revised not just the following chapter, but three more. So, from now on, when I feel the call to binge-watch (or binge-read) instead of writing, I’m not going to fight it or feel guilty. If my tank of creativity is empty, I need to fill it back up.

 

  • I got an early peek at the cover design for THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE last week, and I am floored! I can’t share it yet, but the artwork really inspired me. You can expect the same eye-popping title and Jax running, of course. But this cover is different from the others. You’re going to love it.

 

  • The Eighth Day has started appearing at Scholastic Book Fairs across the country. I’ve been thrilled to receive messages and photos from people who were excited to see it, including my sister and my niece who spotted it at their school in Shawnee, Kansas. (My sister is a teacher there; my niece is a fifth grade student.)

 

  • I’ve got a gold ribbon on Amazon for The Inquisitor’s Mark. Which is awesome, at least while it lasts.

TIM No 1 Release in Arthurian

  • I’ve been buried in revisions since Christmas. First, THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE. Then I addressed agent and beta-reader notes on BRANEWORLD. Currently, I’m revising a YA historical paranormal, also based on my agent’s notes. By the time I’ve finished that, I expect THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE will be back for another round. I know I’ve always said how much I love revisions and hate first drafts … but part of me is hankering to work on something new.

 

  • Apropos of the point above, my plan – if I can clear my desktop of other projects by then – is to take a blogging hiatus in April and attempt my own NaNoWriMo. How much can I get written in one month? I am notoriously slow at first drafts, so this will be a real challenge for me.

What’s up with you these days?

InquisitorsMark_revised_finalI’m currently charging through revisions on my WIP — on page 120 out of 236 Tuesday night —  so slightly over halfway there! At this rate, I’ll have a draft ready for beta readers in about a week. It feels really good after struggling with the first draft for so long. Yay!

Rather than lose the momentum by trying to write an intelligent blog post, is it okay if I indulge in a bit of squeeing over my upcoming January release?  It’s either that or more cute cat and dog pictures …

The Inquisitor’s Mark has received several good reviews so far, but my favorite one is from Kirkus:

As a Transitioner, 13-year-old Jax Aubrey is one of an elite group of people who enjoy an eighth day of the week. While some Transitioners use the eighth day as a playground, others, such as Jax and his friends, understand the gravity of their responsibility. Transitioners must maintain the Eighth-Day Spell, which protects the world from the dangerous Kin. Jax, as the only vassal of the Emrys family, understands this charge more than most. When one of the most deadly Transitioner families claims that he is part of their clan, Jax is torn between his loyalty to friends and ties to family. Combining both modern intrigue and ancient magic, this second volume in what continues to be an inspired series does not disappoint. Salerni expertly handles the charge of expanding the Eighth Day universe as well as deepening her characters. Jax is an endearing mix of heroic and awkward as he struggles with his new identity. Supporting characters offer comic relief, romantic angst and delusions of grandeur. Readers will want to read this series in order, as the summary of the first installment is sparse and confusing. An exciting blend of Arthurian legend and organized crime. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Awesome, huh? I’m wondering if that’s the first time “Arthurian legend” and “organized crime” have been used together in the same sentence.

And because I love you all, here are the dog and cat pictures anyway.

luna sorcia tail 1

Got your tail!

 

luna sorcia tail 2

No, really. Got your tail. Chewing on it, in fact.

 

 

luna sorcia tail 3

Huh? Is something going on back there?

HBT14 - banner

 

Welcome! You are following the Cemetery Path, and if you’ve never visited me before, feel free to look around. I’m the author of two YA historical novels, We Hear the Dead and The Caged Graves, and a MG fantasy series about a boy who discovers a secret day of the week hidden between Wednesday and Thursday.

HBT14-The-CemeteryIf you’re one of my regular blog visitors wondering what the heck the Cemetery Path is, you can check out the Halloween Book Trail (and its multiple paths) HERE.

And now, for the Cemetery Path questions:

1. If your MC went trick or treating, what would they dress up as and why?

The main characters of We Hear the Dead (Maggie) and The Caged Graves (Verity) lived in the mid-1800’s, before the era of trick-or-treating. So, I’ll pick Jax, the main character of The Eighth Day.

Jax has recently discovered that his ability to experience the secret day of the week comes from his lineage. He’s a descendant of one of the Knights of the Round Table. Clearly, Jax would dress up as a knight for Halloween! Jax might even choose King Arthur himself – which would annoy Jax’s 18-year-old guardian, Riley Pendare. (A plus for Jax! Annoying Riley is one of his favorite things to do.)

2. What is the most haunted place you’ve ever been to?

I don’t know if it’s haunted or not, but the creepiest place I’ve ever been is the abandoned cemetery in Catawissa, Pennsylvania where the caged graves of Sarah Ann Boone and Asenath Thomas are located. I’ll let the photographs speak for themselves.

 Asenath Thomas grave

 Sarah Ann medium size

I knew as soon as I set foot in this cemetery that I would write a novel about these graves. You can find more pictures of these graves on my Pinterest Board.

3. Please share a photo of your favorite Halloween costume you’ve worn.

This is my husband and I dressed in steampunk attire, at Dorian’s Parlor in Philadelphia, a semi-regular steampunk ball held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Center City.

 ready for Dorians

4. If the zombie apocalypse happened (and it will), what would be your weapon of choice?

A long distance weapon, please – to keep them as far away from me as possible! Daryl Dixon’s crossbow is pretty cool, but probably too heavy for me to lift. So I would like a high-powered rifle that fires lots and lots of rounds!

5. What is your favorite sentence/paragraph from your novel?

I’m going to choose the passage from The Eighth Day where Jax discovers the secret day for the first time. He’s riding his bike through a deserted town, wondering what happened to all the people …

He thought about zombies.

He thought about alien abduction.

He thought about Spongebob Squarepants and the episode where everybody took a bus out of town to get away from Spongebob for a day.

He thought about the old movie where Will Smith and his dog were the last creatures left on earth.

“Oh, crap!” Jax yelled, braking.

Will Smith and his dog had not been alone in that movie. There’d been other creatures that lurked in dark places and came out at night to kill …

***

I hope you enjoyed this stop on the Cemetery Path of the Halloween Book Trail. Please continue your journey at the blog site of Sarvenaz Tash, author of The Mapmaker and the Ghost, by clicking HERE.

Geoffrey of Monmouth
Last week, I shared my explorations in Wales, where I visited sites linked by folklore with King Arthur. I also read a book that took each piece of “historical” proof for Arthur’s existence and subjected it to the standards of a court of law, asking: Is the witness (or writer) reliable? Is the witness refuted or discredited by other witnesses? And never mind King Arthur, can the existence of the witness be proved?
Geoffrey of Monmouth, a 12th century cleric, wrote about Arthur in his histories of Britain. His stories include a lot of magical episodes that are obviously fantasy, but could Arthur still be a historical figure? Geoffrey claimed he’d been given a nameless, lost book that chronicled the stories of Arthur, King of the Britons, but the existence of such a book cannot be proved.
Prior to Geoffrey, there are very few written records about Arthur. Two historians, Gildas and Bede, living in the 6th and 7thcenturies respectively, make no mention of Arthur at all. They do mention other kings and warlords who defended Briton against the Anglo-Saxons, including Aurelius Ambrosius, Riothamus, Tewdric, and Vortigern. The existence of these men is (mostly) proven. I say mostly because some historians believe that Riothamus was not a man, but a title given to Aurelius Ambrosius. Parts of these four men’s lives resemble some parts of Arthur’s life. Could Arthur be based on one of them – or all of them? This cannot be proven, and furthermore, if Arthur is based on one of these men, then there was no Arthur.
Rutger Hauer playing Vortigern in the 1998
mini-series, Merlin
There is a backwards reference to Arthur in Y Gododdin, a medieval Welsh poem: “ … although he was no Arthur.” Unfortunately, the dating of the poem is disputed. It might be from the 6th century, which would make it the earliest mention of Arthur, but it might be from the 9thcentury, or even as late as the 12th.  Without a provable publication date, it makes poor evidence for the existence of a 5th/6th century Arthur.
A history written by the Welsh monk Nennius mentions Arthur and lists 12 battles he fought in. However, the names of the battles cannot be matched with any real geographic locations. Nennius is believed to have lived in the 9th or 10th century, but no historian agrees on when or even where he lived. If he can’t be pinpointed in place and time, his account is suspect. To further muddy the waters, some experts believe Nennius’s work was altered in the 12th century.
There are a few other works that briefly mention Arthur, all written in the 10th century or later, each one carefully examined in Wake’s book. One of the recurring problems in these references is that the place names of Arthur’s deeds cannot be matched with real locations and most of the battles cannot be verified to have happened, let alone pinpointed geographically.
King Arthur was clearly a British hero to the 12thcentury Normans who read Geoffrey’s work. Other writers picked up this fascinating character and embellished his legend, adding the Sword in the Stone, the Holy Grail, Lancelot and Guinevere, and more. However, anything written in the 12th century or later appears to be based on Geoffrey’s account, and in all the earlier references, the date, the author, or the authenticity is disputed. As a rather pointy nail in the coffin, two notable historians writing in the period contemporary with or closely following Arthur never mentioned him at all.
As for physical evidence, there is none. A so-called “Arthur Stone” discovered at Tintagel in 1998 is actually inscribed with the name “Artognou” A connection with Arthur cannot be proved based on the three beginning letters in the name, and besides, many scholars claim the stone is a hoax.
As John F. Wake writes in The Camelot Inquisition: “The feeling of wanting to prove the existence of Arthur is a strong one. Many authors believe in an Arthur. Many millions of people want to believe in an Arthur… [It] seems that from one vague mention [which] can be challenged on numerous points, we have a story that grows with every century that passes. From the moment Geoffrey took on Arthur’s story, he became a cult hero.”
It made me sad to conclude that Arthur was probably fictional. However, it also gives me the freedom to use the legend however I like in my books, without fear of contradicting history.

Hey, I can be as creative as Geoffrey of Monmouth, if I wish.

Roman Amphitheater at Caerleon
My upcoming book, THE EIGHTH DAY, has a tie to Arthurian legends – with, I hope, a unique spin on them – so I wanted to do research for the series while I was in Wales. During my visit, I found out that South Wales may truly be the origin of King Arthur, although not in the way I expected.
King Arthur would have lived in either the late 5th or early 6th centuries, if he was a real person. He was called “King of the Britons” – which meant he was ruler of an area that combined today’s Wales and England after the Romans left and during the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasion. In spite of fierce resistance, the Anglo-Saxons eventually overran the Britons. The land they conquered became known as England, and they called the original inhabitants “Welsh,” meaning foreigner. (Figures!) Some of the Britons fled and settled in a place that came to be known as Brittany (now part of France). Their descendants returned to England centuries later as part of the Norman invasion in 1066.

Our Welsh tour guide, Paul, took us first to Caerleon, the site of a Roman legionary fortress. This was one of the northernmost outposts of the Roman Empire, one made more palatable to the occupants by the building of an opulent Bath and an Amphitheater on the premises. The connection with Arthur stems from legends that he built Camelot near the ruins of this Roman fortress, or that he used some of the abandoned structures, including the amphitheater, for his own purposes. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the most prominent chronicler of Arthurian legend, specifically mentions “The City of Legions” in connection with Arthur. It’s also been suggested that the “Round Table” was no table at all, but actually this Roman amphitheater.

Ogmore Castle
Of course, there is no proof of this.
Paul also took us to the ruins of Ogmore Castle. This was a Norman fortress and well beyond Arthur’s time. However, some historians believe that Arthur’s final battle – the one in which he was mortally wounded by Mordred – took place on the plain near Ogmore. The wounded Arthur was then transported by boat on Ogmore River toward the sea, where either he died and was buried in a cave or was placed under a sleep spell to wait until his country needs him again.
Of course, there is no proof of any of this, either.
Ogmore River and adjacent plain
We also visited Cardiff Castle. During the 12thcentury, this castle was home to Robert of Gloucester, illegitimate son of King Henry I. A frequent visitor to this castle was Geoffrey of Monmouth, the cleric who wrote several histories of Britain. Robert was one of Geoffrey’s sponsors and helped him rise to great heights in the church. Geoffrey, meanwhile, wrote histories that pleased Robert … including tales of King Arthur which glorified the Britons who defended the land 500 years earlier (and were coincidentally ancestors of the Normans). Geoffrey’s book catapulted King Arthur, King of the Britons, to world-wide fame. Writers contemporary with Geoffrey and those who came after used his book as the historical reference for their own, while Geoffrey claimed that his own historical reference came from a mysterious, nameless, lost book that was given to him but has never been seen since.
The Keep, a fortress inside the fortress walls of Cardiff Castle
Sadly, there seems to be plenty proof of that part!
Our tour guide, Paul, recommended I read The Camelot Inquisition by John F. Wake. I promptly purchased it on Kindle and read it during my stay in Wales. Wake is a retired police officer who researched the historical existence of Arthur using the standard of a policeman gathering evidence to present before a court. It was very interesting reading, especially while I was visiting some of the sites mentioned.

Next week, I’ll share the details of what I learned, especially what, if any, reliable historical references can be found to Arthur prior to Geoffrey of Monmouth.