Category Archives: women and monsters

[Free Fiction] Hestia

Would you give up your throne to sit by the fire? Would you hold a baby over it? Would you empty the chamber pots of heaven when you hold rightful claim over the highest throne in the room, as the eldest child? There’s prideful power in that: in claiming to be too righteous to sit among kings.
Big city’s growing. Chomping up them small towns like hungry, hungry hippos. Used to be this was one small town. Now it’s three the way we’ve grown into our neighbors, entwining with them, and it isn’t hardly separated at all from Atlanta. City folks pushing out from the center like they’re crawling out of the ground below Five Points, pushing everything up, out, and away, and everyone in the city is rolling over like the little bear said, until the crowd of us presses into the ocean and then everyone is tumbling into boats, and the waves will catch us, then catch the mole men climbing up out of the ground, and everything spreads all over everywhere. The towers rising up and up and up and the city climbing up alongside like a forest canopy clambering after the most light.

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[Free Fiction] Circe

Circe told Odysseus he had to go to the gates of the Underworld, and beyond them, to consult with Tiresius’ shadow. Only then, could Odysseus return home to his wife and kingdom. She seduced Odysseus, and nearly claimed him forever. She turned his crew into pigs, too.
He wasn’t famous by the time he got to me. He was a washed up boozehound, fat and surrounded by an entourage of lazy enablers. He showed up at the first read-through looking like he had just rolled out of bed, and it was 2:00 in the afternoon, and we were supposed to start at 9:00 in the morning, and I knew it was going to be a long, difficult shooting, but I knew I could make magic out of this man.
I remember when I was just a girl, innocent to this world, and my father would take me to the movies. I saw these amazing things happening – like miracles – on screens larger than I could even imagine. I remember years spent in the elements, holding lighting and booms, watching great men crumble for the camera lens. The beautiful, plastic world was my home and my air and my bread. I took the director’s chair when no one thought I could do it, and I made magic. I’ve made so much magic. I was famous for it. I bought my own goddamned island in the Mediterranean Sea, and nobody helped me pay for it. When my friends came by we drank, and worked on experimental films. It was supposed to be my high art phase, after all that fucking money. It was supposed to storm the art houses of the world. And, it did. I won awards. My films were meaningful, beautiful, and more real than reality itself.
He came to me, on my island, with all his fat yes-men. 

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[free fiction] Helen of Troy

“What were all the world’s alarms
To mighty Paris when he found
Sleep upon a golden bed
That first dawn in Helen’s arms?”
– William Butler Yeats
 We fell into the sea.
Did they tell you that? No? Well, after the headlines wind down, people move on. So much time spent at war, we forgot how to live together, and we fell into the sea. When it comes right down to it, we forgot how to wake up next to each other, go to work, pay bills. So, we lost the house. We lost everything. We live underwater, now. This town’s so gone the only school in town that isn’t in debilitating debt is fish. We moved into this track house two blocks from the diner where I work. The place is infested with octopus, but there isn’t an exterminator in town. Even if there was, who could get rid of them?  Worse than spiders. Bigger. Hungrier. Smarter.
That’s our life, now. Has been this way for a while. It’s not so bad, underwater. I actually like it, a little. I work at a diner where we mostly serve oysters. He stays home and watches TV, and drinks. When I get back, he’s usually too drowned to do anything to me, even if he wanted to.

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[Free Fiction] Medea

“O hapless mother, surely thou hast a heart of stone or steel to slay the offspring of thy womb by such a murderous doom.” – Euripides, Medea
They say that when Theseus was a young child, his mother had told him that he would only know his father when he could lift the heaviest rock of the villa, and see what the boy’s mysterious father had hidden beneath the stone. They say, the boy, when he came of age, found a sword beneath the rock.
But there was no sword there. In fact, there was nothing there at all that was tangible.
Something far more dangerous was under that rock, and it had no form and no shape: a broken promise, honed to a hateful edge after so many years of aging, and carried in the palm like the tattoo of a knife.

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[Free Fiction] Iphigenia at Aulis

You know her story, don’t you? The great king Agamemnon offended Artemis, by murdering her sacred deer. He spoke arrogantly of this goddess.
 Later on, a prophet had to be called to the council of kings. No storms had come to wash the battleships to war. Zeus’ commanded siege of Troy depended upon the famous storms of Aulis that never seemed to come. The gods had to be consulted.
The blind prophet, Calcas, announced that the great king had to sacrifice his daughter. This was subsequently, immediately, done by that terrible tyrant.
But, there are as many versions of a myth as there are grandmothers in Greece.

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[Free Fiction] Arachne

Penelope wove her husband back to life in nineteen years. Arachne wove greater than this, until the gods in their jealousy left her with nothing but the application of her art.
If it bends, it can be woven. Hair braids, rivers braid, and fingers fold together in prayer. Cars crash into each other; the metals bend around the engines. With a strong enough machine, cars could be woven into each other – crumple zone to crumple zone, gas lines snaking like Hermes’ staff between two twisted engine blocks. I’m too disciplined to stop what I’m doing to doodle the weaving of cars on the naked particleboard walls of this café. In a few weeks, I don’t know if I will still have that discipline. I may lose my mind if I keep this up.
I sit in a corner of an abandoned café, and weave endlessly, endlessly, with all the threads and yarns and found things from the empty café. The weave of my own life bent me here. My back is hunched over. My fingers are long and nimble. I never abandon my weave

Of Note: The trade paperback edition of the collection is currently available. The eBook successfully funded the trade paperback.

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[Free Fiction] Eurydice

“What shall I do without Eurydice?
Where shall I go without my love?
Eurydice! Eurydice!
O heavens! Answer!”
– Orfeo ed Euridice, Glück
On the farthest shore of the stillest lake, the boatman was only a child. I thought he would be older – skeletal, perhaps -in some kind of robe. He was just a little boy in dirty, mismatched basketball shoes, and a worn-out soccer uniform. He was covered in jewelry. His fingers were coiled in rings that sparkled even in the muted moonlight of this place. His neck was covered in necklaces. His wrists and ankles were lined with bracelets. His face was hollowed out, like the kids I had seen with me in the cancer wards.
His paddle boat was not what I expected, either. It was a plastic two-seater. Both people had to pump their legs on bicycle pedals to drive the little boat forward.
Of course, paddle boats are always rentals.
-Hey there, lady. You going across?

[Read the rest? ]

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[Free Fiction] Tiresius

Everyone remembers how he was blind, but nobody remembers the why of it. He blinded himself, when he was made a woman for seven years by pitiless gods.

When he was young and he wasn’t yet a prophet, the gods turned Tiresius into a woman. She found, after being a man among men, that she could not live among her people as a woman. She learned the truth about the men and women of her time and place in a flash of violence: men were drunk and laughing together all the time; women endured. Tiresius could not walk the streets alone without the risk of rape. She could not stand in a doorway and say hello to the men that used to be her friends. They looked at her differently now. They had a smile that should not have been there. They had a lingering touch that promised of unwanted advances, and soon.

Want to read the rest? head over to to read the rest. Or, one could go to the nearest eBook retailer for a copy of the whole collection, now before it goes live.

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[Free Fiction] Siren

“Yet lost were I not won;
For beauty hath created been
T’ undo, or be undone.”

– from Ulysses and the Siren by Samuel Daniel

Don’t let that lying creep, my first manager that we fired, suggest it was him. Odysseus was my first.

My Odysseus walked up the beach with his friends and a surfboard under his arm, an olive-skinned man with hair curled and dark. Muscular, and famous, I knew him on sight. I was posing with a book I didn’t read for the camera men along the edge of the sand. I was alone, against the rules my parents had set for me. There I was. I believed I could sing, but it was a voice that came from deep inside of me, passed through microphones and soundboards and sound men. I had never heard my voice alone in an empty room. I never sang unless I had to, for joy. It was my job, and I was told to rest my voice outside the studio.

Read this one, for free, at or pick up the whole collection or go grab a copy of the PopFicReview where this particular story first appeared

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Invocation and Happenings

I have a moment lingering between drafts, and I’m about to push through to the end of what I hope should be the final on something. It’s something. Maybe it will be something good. It’s a boost to the body and mind to know that early reviews of WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS are turning up, and it looks to be a well-received book. I particularly want to point out the SFSignal article, because it is not everyday my work is described in the same breath as Ann McCaffery. I was sad to hear she had passed on. As a young reader, I became hooked on Lloyd Alexander novels in the third or fourth grade, tearing through them and re-reading them all, because my path in life was changed forever when I encountered “The First Two Lives of Lukas Kasha” in about the 3rd grade. After Lloyd Alexander, in junior high school and high school, I was swallowed up by the dragons of Pern and Ann McCaffery. Many of the sci-fi/fantasy fans around me were devouring Heinlein and Philip K. Dick, which is cool, I liked them, too. But, I didn’t like them as much as I did Ann McCaffery who seemed concerned less about dystopias as she was about people living their lives in impossible circumstances, colonizing worlds, and working together towards making humanity a better, grander, more beautiful species in conjunction with the forces of their worlds. I preferred Ann McCaffery. After I finished reading all I could find by Ann McCaffery, I moved on to Stephen King, and from there, I grew up beyond the need to obsess so much in just one imagination, when I could obsess about dozens of imaginations, all at once. I wish she was still around to know that, that she was a part of this career I seem to have, and an important part, and that her worked fundamentally mattered, because it inspired people.

Anyway, I’m procrastinating when I need to get back to work work work work work.

The Erudite Ogre writes about my work in the same breath as Ann McCaffery:

The more improbable this is, the more intensely we must imagine, the more creatively we must invoke, the more audaciously we must believe the lie. All fiction is a lie at the start, and what makes it true is what we can produce from it. This occurred to me while reading J. M. McDermott’s forthcoming book When We Were Executioners, with its fantastical secondary-world that is made alive by the finely-grained details and the palpably convincing characters. It is, on one level, a simple world, of kings and criminals, of sadness and malice. The worldbuilding is neither complex nor epic, and it is certainly not a place to which one might wish to escape. But the world comes viscerally alive in the reading, and its bleakness and desperation are strongly mirrored in the shabby edges and sticky innards of the world’s workings. Despite the darkness and desperation that suffuse the novel, it comes alive because what enters the reader’s mind are not baroque details of social structure or the coolness of a complex magic system, but people trying to survive, to do their duty, in the hustle and muck of everyday life.

Publisher’s Weekly Reviews WHEN WE WERE EXECUTIONERS:

The second Dogsland novel picks up where Never Knew Another left off, with a wolfskin-wearing priest and priestess of Erin reconstructing the last days of Jona, Lord Joni, a half-demon corporal of the King’s Men, from residual dreams that imbue his found skull. Hoping to track down and terminate two similarly demon-tainted Dogslanders of Jona’s acquaintance—Rachel Nolander, his lover, and Salvatore Fidelio, his detested enemy—the priestly pair follow Jona’s memories through adventures that include his clashes with drug smugglers and his assassination of suitors to the daughter of a powerful lord, whereby Jona hopes to manipulate the succession. McDermott make Jona a compelling antihero, by turns ruthless and compassionate. The author’s real achievement, though, is his vivid evocation of Dogsland, a quasi-medieval realm whose squalor, depravity, and brutality give credible context for the best and worst behaviors, as well as the novel’s subtly fantastic goings-on. Agent: Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (Feb.)

Now, in other news entirely, it is Monday, and another story from Women and Monsters is going live to the dedicated website: This one is about Cerynitis:

The 12 Labors of Hercules include numerous instances of impossible animals. For instance, the Cerynean Hind was sacred to Artemis, and could outrun arrows and the spring of traps. Hercules had to present it, still alive, to his taskmaster.

Animals like me do not speak, but if we could, we would tell you about my brother, the legendary boar and how he plagued the king of the mountains. My brother the boar ravaged ground, tearing up crops and eating it, and spears bounced from his back and men died at his tusks and walls tumbled before his fury. A man was sent after him in the skin of a lion. The two, brother and man, wrestled until winter came, and snow fell and all the mountains of the world were red with both of their blood and struggling.

To him, the man in the skin of a lion, he was in a battle with a terrible monster, determined to drag it back to a menagerie of wild beasts and mysterious things from the deep places of the world.

To read the rest of this story, head on over to the Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. and pick up a copy of the full collection for just 6.99!

Or, go to the website, and wait for every Monday, as the stories slowly seep out into the internet.

I am writing a book, at the moment, that could be described as steampunk, though I don’t feel the term has much meaning beyond mere art direction and costume design. But, there it is. And I am writing it. And I am going back to it, now. Be at peace, intertubes.

Oh, one more thing. INVOCATION is the name of a craft beer local to me, here in Decatur, GA, from WILD HEAVEN brewery. It is delicious, roasty
and toasty, Belgian-style ale and a perfect beverage for a dreary December evening. If you have a chance, check out their stuff. It’s very nice after a long day of pulling words out of my head.

Update to Add: Hey, THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS got it’s first review at!

I’m the type of reader who typically goes for the safe bet… ie top sellers printed by major publishing houses, with reems of reviews to peruse before making a purchase. As a reader of Athan’s blog however, I knew the guy had the know how to take on something like this and not disappoint.

Tales From The Fathomless Abyss does not disappoint.

This is a professional, polished collection of very original and very different short stories. I’ve read other fantasy and sci-fi short story collections, and TFTFA is every bit as good as any of them. There’s a very seasoned editor at the helm here, and it shows.

With any collection, there are bound to be some stories that one likes better than others. Of the six here, three I thought were quite good, and three were decent-but-not-great. The setting (the Fathomless Abyss) is interesting for various shorts, although I wonder how it’ll do in a full-length novel (there are several novels based on this setting on the way, so I hear). I guess time will tell.

Overall, 4 stars. It’s an entertaining read, and well worth the $5 it costs.

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