Monday, February 27, 2012

Mesopotamian Religion article from Ancient History Encyclopedia

The following is my article on Ancient Mesopotamian Religion on the Ancient History Encyclopedia site. Ancient History Encyclopedia was launched in 2009 by Jan van der Crabben, known for his work in game design but also, since, for his intense interest in, and commitment to, ancient history. His vision was to create a free-access, peer-reviewed site providing scholarly articles and definitions on ancient history and he has succeeded admirably. Jan van der Crabben is also an excellent editor with a keen eye for detail and narrative form and it has been an honor and a pleasure working with him the past three years. Anyone out there with an interest in this subject is invited to contribute or peer review articles and definitions on the site. Please have a look. Enjoy. It's a great journey whether you're writing or reading.

The link to the article is here:

The article begins:

In ancient Mesopotamia, the meaning of life was for one to live in concert with the gods. Humans were created as co-laborers with their gods to hold off the forces of chaos and to keep the community running smoothly. According to the Mesopotamian creation myth, the Enuma Elish, (meaning,'When on High') life began after an epic struggle between the elder gods and the younger. In the beginning there was only water swirling in chaos and undifferentiated between fresh and bitter. These waters separated into two distinct principles: the male principle, Apsu, which was fresh water and the female principle, Tiamat, salt water. From the union of these two principles all the other gods came into being.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Writes for All Magazine and `When There Were Trees'

Writes for All Magazine is, according their site, "an independent publishing company seeking fiction of the highest quality" and I was honored last week when they published my story, `When There Were Trees' (six sentences of which I posted last week). The greater honor, though, was working with the editor, Anthony Cruz, to shape and polish the story prior to publication. I had read other pieces in the magazine before I submitted and I felt that `Trees' stood a good chance of being accepted and, also, that it was in very good shape editorially. It is the strangest sort of phenomenon, however, that we can never really see our own work objectively. Mr. Cruz went through my story three times and, with each pass, the story became tighter and brighter. A sentence which I had thought worked fine I now saw was redundant and a passage which had seemed to deepen the story with detail, I realized, slowed the action.

We're all aware that it's best to have someone else look over our work before submitting it for publication and I certainly had done so with `Trees'. Sometimes, though, even colleagues or friends won't notice those small details which go to make a story really stand up and sing or those lapses which cause a story to sag and fall flat. Sometimes a piece just really needs an experienced, careful editor who will take the time to bring the best out in the story for a reader. Writes for All Magazine has just such an editor in Mr. Anthony Cruz and I wanted to thank him here.

Writes for All is a non-paying market but you will profit greatly from the experience you'll have working with them. Their website is here:

To read the current issue with the complete text of `When There Were Trees' go here:

There are two other excellent stories in the issue and plenty to enjoy. Hope you like it and all the best to you in the writing.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Six Sentences from `When There Were Trees' published in Writes for All Magazine Vol. 1, Issue 4

Back home, Jack lifted the pistol down from the top of the linen closet, got the clip from the lower drawer of his father's desk. He pushed the clip sharply up into the grip, heard the `click', then hurried down the hallway toward his room, palms sweating.
Shelly sat on the end of the bed, looking away from him, out the window. Jack walked up to her quickly, racked the weapon, and she turned. He brought the barrel of the pistol up and pressed it against her forehead saying, "And all I do is pull the trigger."
"Do it."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Green Ears and the Monster: How I Came to be a Writer

Photograph of Emily Mark taken by Betsy Mark, Edinburgh, Scotland, April 2011.

This piece was first published on B.R. Stateham's excellent blog. Stateham is a fine writer and I hope you'll take the time to visit his place here:

I've always written stories, ever since I could write, but I can remember exactly when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I was eight years old that summer at camp and this one morning at assembly the head counselor announced he wanted us to submit stories, photos, essays, or poems for a camp magazine. It would be published to look like Boy's Life and everyone could take it home as a souvenir.
At the time I had this dog, a brown and white Basset hound named Milkbone, and I was always writing little stories and poems about adventures we'd have roaming around in the woods behind my house. I missed the dog, being at camp, so I decided I'd write a Milkbone story for the magazine where I'd just place him in the camp setting and tell some story about a day with him as though he came to visit.
When I wrote the story, however, it turned into something completely different. It was a story about a community of Basset hounds who lived in a green valley which looked much like the camp. They were very happy except that, every now and then, this monster from a neighboring valley would show up and eat a bunch of them. There was this one puppy with long, green ears who everyone made fun of. His ears were too long, first of all, and then, of course, they were green. As he got a little older, Green Ears discovered he could hear sounds from far off and could hear the monster coming from miles away. When he told the older dogs about his abilities they laughed at him even more - until they got eaten by the monster one night. After that, the survivors listened to Green Ears and, when he heard the monster coming, they all dug a huge pit and hid. The monster fell into the pit and died. Green Ears was elected king.
The story was pretty much a rip-off of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I thought, but, when the magazine came out, everyone loved it. People I didn't even know came up to tell me how much they liked it. I couldn't understand the popularity. Everyone else had written about some event at camp that really happened or, at least, could have. I didn't even think my piece would be accepted because it had nothing to do with camp or even reality. It seems that was precisely why it was so popular - it took people away from what they already knew but was familiar enough for them to relate to. There were many campers who said the story reminded them of some time they'd told their parents one thing or another and were ignored but, later, turned out to be right.
I did not so much `select' to write in the genre of Paranormal YA as it selected me. I could not have known it when I wrote that story but, essentially, I've been writing that same story, in one form or another, ever since.
Most of my life I've spent in education as a Professor and so am constantly around younger people. I like dealing with younger characters in my stories because they are more open to experience and possibility than many older people are. The world is new to them and yet they often believe they have a fairly good handle on what's going on. I think that's all of us, however, no matter what our age. We always think we know more than we really do and make choices, sometimes very bad ones, based on this belief in our own rightness. Like the older Bassets in my long-ago story, we resist change and we declare `impossible' any new idea until we've no choice but to accept it. None of us, however, ever really know what's going on at any given moment. All we can do in life is the best we can do with the information we have. I think this fundamental aspect of the human condition is best reflected in younger characters who provide a reader with the opportunity to see, not only who they once were, but who they continue to be.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The first six sentences from my novel `The Girl from Yesterday'

All through the night my dreams fell in whispers, soft whispers, behind my eyes. I was with my mom in the silver Subaru wagon driving down from Maine in the darkness and the fog was thick and the trees ran toward us from the sides of the road. We were leaving something behind us. Long, slender, reeds of rain twisted down from the night sky into the headlights and vanished and I felt so sad at whatever it was we had lost and left back behind us at the old house on the familiar road. Inside the car, by the dim light of the dashboard, I looked over at mom and then the whole thing slowly dissolved, piece by piece, like watching a puzzle come apart, and I was below deck on a ship sitting up quickly in bed. There was water at my feet and I screamed and ran toward the door, yelling someone's name, someone who was behind me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review of Abby Luby's novel Nuclear Romance

This is a review of the excellent novel `Nuclear Romance' by Abby Luby. The review reads, in part, "Nuclear Romance begins with the death of a little girl while swimming in the Hudson River. The river that she's swimming in happens to be right by a nuclear power plant. Even though no reason can be given for her death, no one at first associates her death with the nuclear power plant. Due to budget cuts and a shorter staff, sports writer Lou Padera is assigned to cover the little girl’s death. The experience haunts him. In the meantime Lou gets a mysterious phone call stating that the power plant is the reason for the little girl’s death and the story suddenly becomes an obsession for Lou."

I read the novel last month and loved it. My own review is here:

It's a book worth reading. You will never think of a nuclear power plant in the same way again - I promise you. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Joshua J. Mark on K.A. Laity's blog

This is the writer K.A. Laity's blog where she was kind enough to interview me about my writing and my Paranormal YA novel `The Girl from Yesterday'. The novel is presently out at Kimberley Cameron & Associates literary agency and I'm hoping for the best. Enjoy the blog. It's very well put together, very pretty, and there's plenty to take in.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Trestle Press Should Not Be Trusted

On 16 December 2011 I signed with Trestle Press Publishing, a group I had every reason to believe was legitimate. Before I signed the contracts I searched everywhere I could to find out their track record, authors published, any bad `vibes' about the company. I found nothing which caused me the least concern. They were a new company, I discovered, not quite a year old, and they had a good number of authors already signed with them who had published multiple works.

Today, less than two months later, I have left Trestle Press - as have most of the other authors - due to a scandal involving art theft by the publisher for use in cover images. The editor-in-chief (who, I now realize, was the whole company, more or less) was telling authors that he was a graphic artist who designed his own book covers when, in reality, he was stealing images from other artists, tweaking them, and passing them off as his own work. In my own case, the night this editor sent me my cover art, I congratulated him on his work and told him how impressed I was. He accepted the compliment and, in further communications, lead me further to believe the art work was his own. Little did I know my book cover was a Google Image he had picked up and tweaked in, perhaps, ten seconds.

My fellow authors have experienced far worse than I in that their book covers were images stolen from more famous, and copyrighted, sources. These writers pulled their titles from Trestle Press when the scandal broke because they did not want to be associated with a publisher who lied, cheated, and stole from other artists. Incredibly, there are other so-called `writers' who did not leave, or left only when their own self-interest suddenly dawned upon them, who question this integrity simply because they were too chicken-shit afraid to do the right thing when the scandal broke and are now trying to justify their behavior by attacking those who left earlier. Every time they question the integrity of those who left Trestle Press they show themselves for who they truly are. An example of the `integrity' and maturity of Trestle Press may be seen in the following post from Deviant Art in which a writer suggests the press remove one of the book cover images and received a most `professional' response: BRB TAKING ADVICE LAWL by ~hellbunny on deviantART.

Please warn other writers not to deal with Trestle Press. This so-called `publisher' is nothing more than a crooked one-man band making noise for his own self-aggrandisement. I count myself fortunate that I escaped from this company with relatively few scars and I wish all the best to the others who did the same. Hemingway wrote, "Writing, at best, is a lonely life." Writers don't need anyone making the experience any more lonely and difficult and, further, when a publisher does so, we should stand together against that common enemy instead of condoning such a breach of trust simply because doing so is in our own best interest. `Integrity' is not defined as `doing what is best for me' but doing the right thing.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Dan Lawrence Magnificent Classical Guitar

This is the artist Dan Lawrence on classical guitar. It's a supreme joy to experience and I hope you give yourself some time out to enjoy it. Too often we forget to give ourselves the inspiration and the down time we need and deserve. Dan Lawrence's music affords us an opportunity to do just that. Enjoy.

For more of his music visit:

Shakespeare Was A Genre Writer by Joshua J. Mark

This piece was first published on Kevin Lynn Helmick's blog, The Write Room:

There is this wonderful passage in the Cornell Woolrich novel, I Married A Dead Man, which I believe refutes the bigoted `literary' claim that genre fiction is not truly `literature'. For those who don't know, Cornell Woolrich (who also wrote under the name William Irish) was a well-known and highly successful writer of `genre fiction', crime novels in the 1940's and beyond. His story, It Had To Be Murder, was the basis for the famous Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window and many of his stories, or plots derived from them, have served to provide writers with ideas from 1938 to the present. It would seem, then, that Woolrich should be regarded as a `writer' and not as a `genre writer' and, further, neither should `genre writing' be counted as less than `literature'. As a human who has spent much of his life in the academic world, I have heard from fellow professors, countless times, that there is a definite distinction between `literature' and `fiction' with particular disdain accorded to `genre fiction'. Yet, when pressed on the question of what makes one piece `fiction' and another piece `literature' I have never received a satisfactory answer from any of these professionals. Cornell Woolrich's work was, then, and is, today, considered `genre fiction' as it falls into the category of `noir crime fiction' but it is so much more than any label can hope to define. This is true of so much `crime fiction' or `YA fiction' or `horror fiction' that I think it's time we re-evaluated these tags we give to pieces of writing and try to approach them honestly and without labels. The whole of this Woolrich novel is brilliant but this one passage stopped me cold when I first read it and I had to stare into space for a while thinking on it in the exact same way I have done when reading Shakespeare or Plato or any of the other greats. It goes like this:

"What makes you stop, when you have stopped, just where you have stopped? What is it, what? Is it something, or is it nothing? Why not a yard short, why not a yard more? Why just there where you are, and nowhere else?
Some say: It's just blind chance, and if you hadn't stopped there, you would have stopped at the next place. Your story would have been different then. You weave your own story as you go along.
But others say: You could not have stopped any place else but this even if you had wanted to. It was decreed, it was ordered, you were meant to stop at this spot and no other. Your story is there waiting for you, it has been waiting for you there a hundred years, long before you were born, and you cannot change a comma of it. Everything you do, you have to do. You are the twig, and the water you float on swept you here. You are the leaf and the breeze you were borne on blew you here. This is your story, and you cannot escape it; you are only the player, not the stage manager. Or so some say."

Not only is the passage beautifully written, it asks a central truth about human existence: Do we have control over our choices or are those choices dictated for us by some higher power? Whether that `power' is Fate or God or simply the sum total of all of our other choices or our upbringing, are we really free, in any given moment, to choose to turn right instead of left? Did we actually choose to become who we are today or was that choice dictated long before this moment by some factor far removed from our own freewill?

In the novel I Married A Dead Man, just before Woolrich writes this passage, the scene is this: A young girl has been deserted by her lover in a strange city. She's pregnant, which is why he's left her, and all she has is something like seventeen cents in her pocket and the train ticket back to her home town he bought for her. She gets on the train, tired and depressed, hopeless because she's returning home in disgrace, and lugs her suitcase down the aisle of the car. Worn out, she finally just stops, puts down the suitcase, and sits on it directly across from a young couple. That moment, when she stops there, defines the rest of her life.

Isn't this true for all of us at one point or another? It's the simplest thing, or seemingly the simplest, which leads to the greatest and most important times of our lives and which, actually, can come to define us. Who is to say, then, that genre fiction is not `literature'? What is literature but the story of what it means to be a human being? However one chooses to tell that story, it is a story we all need to hear repeated from time to time. It lets us know that we're not alone. I don't believe there should be any such designations as `crime fiction' or `noir fiction' or `YA fiction' if, by so designating a piece of work, one may then smugly dismiss it as `not literature' and, therefore, not worth reading. The poets of today speak to us through the radio and off CDs in our stereos and, just because Springsteen or Gerard Way are not included in a college literature book, does not make the impact of their work any less. We should expand our understanding, and definition, of `literature' to include the totality of what goes to helping us all be more human and stop defining and trying to devalue those works which don't neatly fit the accepted understanding of what is `literary' work. Before he became `Shakespeare', Will was just a guy who wrote plays to entertain and, along the way, enlightened people to what it is to be a human being. So called `genre fiction' provides us with precisely the same experience.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Secrets That You Knew by Joshua J. Mark

This is my song `Secrets That You Knew' on Youtube. Written and performed by Joshua J. Mark. My daughter, Emily, did the video. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Musings of Katrina Parker Williams Blog featuring my stories among others

The writer Katrina Parker Williams was gracious enough to post two of my stories and my novel synopsis on her very sharp blog. I hope you enjoy. It's a great blog.