Award Consideration or Gently Begging

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It’s closing in on the end of the year which means that it’s award consideration time for the Science Fiction/Fantasy world. All the authors I know post up blog pieces as a gentle reminder to everyone what they wrote and what’s eligible for various awards. This could easily be taken as a kind of self aggrandizing, but it really isn’t. In fact, most of the writers I know need to be prodded to do this. In my experience, authors as a group, especially newer authors, tend to be less than cocky about their work. Anyone who knows me is aware I’m an exception, I know how purely awesome my work is. Yes, that was sarcasm. In truth, here’s my take on it. If you’re eligible, let the world know. You might not think your work is award worthy, but you’re not the one (or at least not the only one) who decides on awards. Maybe the world doesn’t agree with you and wants to give you an award.
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This year I published The Returned, which I sincerely believe is my best writing to date. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Do I think it’s a Nebula or Hugo worthy novel? No, but it’s not up to me. So if you are someone who nominates for the Nebula, the Hugo, or any other award, I humbly ask that you consider The Returned. Thank you.

My Love of Music

Do you want proof that God has a sense of humor?

I’m a writer, and nothing drives me battier than the sound of typing on a keyboard. I can handle it for a little while, but after five minutes or so, it’s like nails on a chalkboard. Oh, and when I’m not writing (day job), I do a lot of developing and programming. Yeah, the irony is palpable. This, combined with the fact I’m very visual in my writing—I “see” the stories like a movie playing in my head, and transcribe what I see—is why music is so important to me when I write. What’s a good movie without a killer soundtrack? It’s a bonus that it also drowns out the maddening sound of striking keys. Argh, even thinking about it puts my teeth on edge!

For every book I’ve written, I’ve made multiple playlists. They typically surround characters, or specific scenes. Sometimes, when I’m working on a particularly powerful scene, I’ll put a single song on a loop and listen to it continually till I’m done. Music is so important to me that all my characters have favorite musicians and songs. Listening to those artists fuels me emotionally and also helps me get into my characters’ heads. Edward is a Tom Waits fan, followed closely by Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen, and Dave Brubeck. For Caitlin it’s Gaelic Storm, The Elders, Sarah McLachlan, and The Cowboy Junkies. Brendan leans towards The Pogues, The Wolfe Tones, and, despite his anachronistic tendencies, Dropkick Murphy, Flogging Molly, and Flatfoot 56. Dante is more eclectic as a result of his age, and his tastes range from Vivaldi (he’s a sucker for a solid cello concerto) to Daft Punk and The Crystal Method.

Wraith was a bit more complicated. As I worked on The Forgotten, the music was more about the story. The songs were dark and brooding. “Ain’t no Grave,” by Johnny Cash saw quite a lot of play, and if you’ve read The Forgotten, you’ll understand why. It made sense I wasn’t focused on music for Wraith as a character. After all, she was a homeless kid struggling to keep sane from one day to the next. She didn’t have a lot of time to listen to music. That changed when I started writing Three Promises. Wraith came to life in a way I never imagined, or dared to hope. Her story opens in the aftermath of The Forgotten and I knew she’d be battling severe depression and trying to find a sense of purpose. As someone who has struggled with that since I was a teenager,  I knew personally how much music can help. I wanted Wraith to have the same experience, to find refuge, and possibly hope, in music. But what songs? What artists? When I found not just the artist, but the song, it was so perfect, that I knew I had to include some of the lyrics in the story itself. The song was “Wonder (Wonder Woman Song)” by The Doubleclicks.

I was introduced to The Doubleclicks through John Scalzi’s blog when he posted the video to “Nothing to Prove.” It’s perhaps their most famous song; an anthem for geek girls. The song is awesome, and the video is not just powerful, it’s empowering. Fans of Angela and Aubrey, the sisters who make up The Doubleclicks, know that most of their songs are all kinds of nerdy fun. They sing about cats, board games, dinosaurs, burritos, lasers… well, you get the idea. But some of their songs are more personal, and are deeply moving. Their song “Bad Memories” really resonated with me and their cover of “In the Middle” is amazing. I thought about using “Nothing to Prove” to give Wraith hope, but it just didn’t seem right for her. Then I heard “Wonder (Wonder Woman Song)” and I knew that was Wraith’s song. How does a song about a super-powered Amazon inspire a homeless girl fighting depression? You’ll have to read the story, and I suggest listening to the song as well. Not because you’ll need to know it, just because it’s an awesome song.

For The Returned, I wanted something that fit the broad mix of amazing music New Orleans—the setting for the book—had to offer. I chose songs you might hear street musicians playing on the corners of cities anywhere; songs filled with power and emotion. Wraith however is still a diehard Doubleclicks fan. So when a particularly important scene came up, I knew where to turn. This time it was the song “Godzilla.” The song is sad, but tinged with humor, and fit who Wraith was becoming perfectly. For both The Returned and Three Promises, The Doubleclicks were good enough to let me license the lyrics, and I was thrilled to be able to (legally) include them in the stories.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my love of music. Like any art form, it’s emotionally evocative. Most people know the shameless joy of singing to a favorite song at the top of their lungs while driving, not caring who sees you. We find solace and comfort in songs when we have a broken heart. We celebrate with music and dancing; though if you’re like me, it can only loosely be called dancing. We find comfort in our sad times with the perfect track. Songs mark the passing of the years like signposts. And sometimes, just sometimes, you hear a song and it reaches into your soul from the very first time you hear it. For me, those songs tend to be the bittersweet ones; sad, but filled with hope, and the promise of tomorrow, a new day where anything is possible. What can I say, I’m a romantic. The emotion, the magic, the power of music fuels me, both in my life and in my creative endeavors. Music, books, every kind of art, it all serves to connect us. When the artist creates, that creation is imbued with some of their soul, an emotional snapshot of them at that moment in time. The stories in my books are my snapshots and The Returned feels like my best work yet. I hope you read it, and that you enjoy it, maybe connect with it or the characters within. If you’d like, I’d be happy to suggest some music to set the mood before you start reading.

 

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My Favorite Bit – Techno Magic

I’m on Mary Robinette Kowal’s site today talking about my favorite bit of The Returned, namely blending technology and magic (computer hacking!). Check it out here, and also check out Mary’s site. She’s an amazing author (Hugo Winner!) and does fantastic work as an audio book narrator. You can read my spot here: My Favorite Bit

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Excerpt of The Returned

Are you one of those people who hasn’t picked up The Returned yet? Well, here is a little something to entice you. I’ve posted up the prologue (yes, it has one) and the first three chapters. You can find the link to them on the book’s page (the link above) or click on them each here. Happy reading, and because I know you’ll want to rush out and buy a copy to find out what happens next, here are the links.

Prologue Chapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3

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HarperCollinsAmazonBarnes & NobleGoogle PlayiTunesKobo

 

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Happy Book Birthday, The Returned!

The day has arrived! Commence the epic fanfare!BanjoSloth

As of today, the ebook for The Returned is now available wherever ebooks are sold. Sadly, if you’re a strictly paperback kind of person, you’ll have to wait until August 23rd. To you I say be patient, the book is worth it. If I do say so myself. This marks the fourth book in the American Faerie Tale series, and I believe is my best work to date. For those of you who might’ve seen it labeled as book #3, that’s because Three Promises is book 2.5, since it wasn’t quite a full novel length.

I’m still a little dumbfounded that this is my fourth book in less than two years. I’m very proud of this book, of course I wouldn’t have put it out there if I wasn’t. The characters really do feeling like they’re coming into their own, and I’m feeling more confident in my skills as a writer. Don’t get me wrong, it was a lot of hard work. There were some moments of panic when a potential issue was found by my editor, which were resolved, but this story seemed to write itself. This is the first book where Wraith spends significant amounts of time with Edward & Caitlin, and I think all three grow from it.

Now, just for the readers of this blog, here are some nifty tidbits you might find interesting:

  1. Once again, The Doubleclicks let me license some lyrics from one of their songs. That song actually had a significant impact on the scene it’s used in.
  2. The leader of the Legion of Solomon, One, got his name because of a winner from last year’s Worldbuilders charity auction.
  3. Nearly all of the characters in the book are named after people I know, including some other Harper authors.
  4. The title has multiple meanings: the returned-those coming to the morgue for the second time, Caitlin & Edward returning as main characters, Wraith’s returned memories (yep, she’s still remembering).

I hope you enjoy the book. I know I enjoyed writing it. Watch this space, and/or on Twitter as I’ve got guest pieces and interviews that’ll be popping up all over the internet. Additionally, to celebrate The Returned, and my two year anniversary as a writer, I’ll be giving away copies of The Stolen, The Forgotten, and Three Promises.

Now what are you waiting for? The book won’t read itself!
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