80th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War

Without realizing it, I took a big chance by placing the novellas that make up the Los Nefilim omnibus during the early days of the Second Spanish Republic. I assumed that most of my readers were passing familiar with that time period. I suppose there are days when ignorance is truly bliss.

Or maybe it's just karma that one unsteady beginning--a fledgling Republic finding its place in history after deposing its monarch--led me to my own shaky beginning. I had originally intended for the Los Nefilim series to take place during the Spanish Civil War, but the more I read about the conflict, the more I realized that I had to go backwards to the beginning of the Spanish Republic in order to understand the events preceding the actual war. It was sort of a reverse approach to research.

Due to the many different factions involved in the Spanish Civil War, I wanted to be clear about my characters' motivations, and the best way in which to do that was to comprehend what induced people to act. This research helped me to formulate some of my scenes in the novellas, especially those between Diago and Garcia in Without Light or Guide. Whereas Diago has socialist leanings (he doesn't deny Garcia's accusations), Garcia is strictly nationalistic in his loyalties. It's a pattern that plays out between them beautifully, and I probably wouldn't have conceived it without the research.

Like the civil war between the angels, the Spanish Civil War simply didn't happen. No war ever does.

With the Spanish Civil War, years of political strife led to a group of Spanish generals, under the leadership of General José Sanjurjo, to declare war by a prounciamiento (a declaration of opposition) against the democratically elected government of the Second Spanish Republic. On his way back to Spain from his exile in Portugal, Sanjurjo was killed in an airplane accident, and leadership of the coup and the Nationalists then shifted to General Francisco Franco Bahamonde, or as we know him: Franco. 

Prior to these events, different factions within the Second Republic were at one another's throats for years. Stochastic Terrorism is a phrase that has only recently come into play, although the philosophy behind Stochastic Terrorism has been around for a long time. Hitler used it with his Brownshirts, and Spanish politicians of the early twentieth century were also quite adept at inciting their followers through openly violent rhetoric in their speeches.

The upper-classes of Spain resented the workers' demands of fair pay and reasonable workdays. The people, on the other hand, had been long taken advantage of by the upper-classes. They sought better incomes and unions to represent their needs, and the politicians latched onto the national frustration, like leeches do. In order to solidify their backers, politicians promoted discord rather than harmony. They made promises they couldn't fulfill, which only increased everyone's disappointment with their respective situations. 

In order to deflect the public eye from their own shortcomings, the politicians managed to inflame people's passions to the point that churches were burned, and politicians and judges were shot in the streets.  The politicians eliminated their enemies through inflammatory rhetoric that begged for action while cushioning themselves from actual murder charges.

Because, gosh, who could have known someone would actually assassinate a person based on the rhetoric from a speech?

The entire period--from the beginning of the Spanish Republic until the war--was a jockeying for power by the old school politicians that believed in Church and king against the new democratic government, fighting for a government by and for the people. Caught in between these factions were the common folks like you and me, and those are the people I wanted to write about in Los Nefilim.

Oh, sure, there are angels and daimons and supernatural trysts. Still, I tried to interweave a few of the political viewpoints from the early Republic into Los Nefilim. I wanted to hook readers into the time period, because fiction can often serve as doorway into a deeper interest of history.

Anyway, 2016 is the 80th Anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, which began with a well-planned military uprising on July 17, 1936. Whether Los Nefilim piqued your interest in the Spanish Republic, or whether the anniversary moves you to open that door of curiosity, you may check out some of these titles to read more about the Spanish Civil War.

Beevor, Antony. The battle for Spain: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939. New York: Penguin Publishing Group, 2006.

Brenan, Gerald. The Spanish labyrinth: an account of the social and political background of the Spanish Civil War. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Buckley, Henry. The life and death of the Spanish Republic: a witness to the Spanish Civil War. London: I.B. Tauris & Company, Limited, 2014. 

Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015.

Preston, Paul. The Spanish Civil War: reaction, revolution, revenge. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.

Preston, Paul. The Spanish Holocaust: inquisition and extermination in twentieth-century Spain. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

Rhodes, Richard. Hell and good Company: the Spanish Civil War and the world it made. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015.

Yglesias, Jose. The Franco years: the untold human story of life under Spanish fascism. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1977.

Books, mirrors, and a slightly different angle

A while back, author T.O. Munro asked me if I'd be interested in doing an interview for Fantasy Faction. The questions were a lot more in-depth than the usual run-of-the-mill interviews that I've done in the past, so I had a lot of fun with this one. You can probably tell which question was my favorite, because I wrote a short blog post with my answer. That answer is where you will find out about books, mirrors, and angles.

In other news, Los Nefilim has picked up some nice reviews lately. Here a a few links:

There are many elements in these novellas (a storytelling form gaining quite a resurgence in this age of digital publishing) that have pleasing resonances. The setting itself gave off echoes of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s masterpiece, The Shadow of the Wind. The demonic creatures and haunting beauty felt like something out of a Guillermo del Toro film. More recently, I was also reminded of Aliette de Bodard’s wonderful House of Shattered Wings and Daniel Jose Older’s Half-Resurrection Blues and even the Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon comic Preacher. But, Frohock’s linked novellas are more than the sum of those influences and are a showcase for her unique voice. --SFFWorld
Los Nefilim is a slow and dark burn, and that slow but steady rise to intensity makes you want to know more and more about what’s going on.  There is a lot of darkness in this story,  but also some laugh out loud funny moments.  And when the reveals come, they are that much more satisfying. --Little Red Reviewer
The foundation of this powerful story is a poetic prose, dark and moody, yet infused with color and music as it embodies hope, love and loyalty. Yes, there is a lot of conflict in that last statement, as is appropriate in a story full of internal and external conflict. It’s the grounded, devoted love that keeps it all together. --Neth Space

Seeing a Song, or through the eyes of Los Nefilim

Michael McLendon graciously shared a video with me this morning:

Melissa McCracken is a young artist, and she uses her synesthesia to paint music. If you want to see the world through the eyes of Los Nefilim, I can think of no better example than this short video, where Melissa describes her synesthesia and how she incorporates music into color into art.

Seeing a Song: Painting What She Hears:

Machinations by Hayley Stone ...

Happy release day to my agency-mate Hayley Stone for her debut novel MACHINATIONS!

Perfect for fans of Robopocalypse, this action-packed science-fiction debut introduces a chilling future and an unforgettable heroine with a powerful role to play in the battle for humanity’s survival.

The machines have risen, but not out of malice. They were simply following a command: to stop the endless wars that have plagued the world throughout history. Their solution was perfectly logical. To end the fighting, they decided to end the human race.

A potent symbol of the resistance, Rhona Long has served on the front lines of the conflict since the first Machinations began—until she is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong. Now Rhona awakens to find herself transported to a new body, complete with her DNA, her personality, even her memories. She is a clone . . . of herself.

Trapped in the shadow of the life she once knew, the reincarnated Rhona must find her place among old friends and newfound enemies—and quickly. For the machines are inching closer to exterminating humans for good. And only Rhona, whoever she is now, can save them.

Available at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

And don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads!

Praise for Machinations:

"A tension-filled story of loss, loyalty, and forgiveness, with abundant Terminator-style shoot-em-up scenes and a snarky, kickass female warrior. I inhaled it!” – Jennifer Foehner Wells, bestselling author of Fluency

“This violent, bloody, romantic tale is full of awesome mechanical foes and authentic characters you love or hate, like real people . . . The nuances of the title promise more than meets the eye, and the prose delivers.” - Perihelion

“An SF techno-thriller with heart and soul.” – Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver

“Machinations is an action-packed SF thriller loaded with fantastic characters and gut-wrenching emotional twists. [. . .] The prose is stunning, the action is non-stop.” – Linnea Sinclair, RITA Award-winning author of Gabriel’s Ghost

“Machinations is a thrilling fusion of action and heartbreak, with quick pacing, rich characters, and a one-of-a-kind story. A great debut.” – G.T. Almasi, author of Blades of Winter

Hayley Stone has lived her entire life in sunny California, where the weather is usually perfect and nothing as exciting as a robot apocalypse ever happens. When not reading or writing, she freelances as a graphic designer, falls in love with videogame characters, and analyzes buildings for velociraptor entry points. She holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in German from California State University, Sacramento.

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Machinations is her debut novel from Hydra/Random House. Its sequel, Counterpart, releases October 11th, 2016.

Writing the dark sounds: cante jondo, duende ... and writing

If you look at my Twitter profile, and of course I know all of you have looked at my Twitter profile, you will see that I use the tagline: I write the dark sounds.

A lot of people interpret that to mean "horror," and when people think of "horror," they think of fiction that is about slashers and blood and zombies, and I know how we arrived here from there, but "the dark sounds" is not about horror.

I initially encountered the phrase while reading one of Federico Garcia Lorca's lectures on artistic expression, Theory and Play of the Duende. In the lecture, Lorca explains that duende is an Andalusian concept that encompasses the dark spirit that sometimes possesses an artist so that they perform with exceptional emotional depth.

Lorca calls the duende the spirit of the earth, but the duende is actually more about artistic passion. As Lorca explains it: technique will take a person far, but duende rises from the soul. Imagine someone with a voice both true and fine, who sings in perfect pitch, yet the performance falls flat. While another individual, whose voice might not be as perfect in tone, can deliver a rendition of the same song and moves an entire roomful of people to tears. In the first example the singer relies entirely on technique, yet delivers a piece without soul, while the latter blends technique with passion to give the audience a memorable show.

In his lecture, Lorca quotes Manuel Torre, a Romani flamenco singer of great renown, as having said: "You have a voice, you understand style, but you’ll never ever succeed because you have no duende." Torre's pronouncement is harsh, and not one with which I agree. People succeed all the time on technique alone. Meanwhile, another might possess duende, but their lack of proficiency will render their work too coarse to enjoy. Remember that Picasso understood form and technique long before he created his heartbreaking depiction of the events at Guernica.

However, an artist can also become a slave to form. That is why I cringe when I hear amateur writers admonishing others about "purple prose," "show don't tell," and "always open with action." These are all good rules to remember, but it's also important for artists to know when to step outside the lines and allow the dark sounds to shine in their prose.

The best principle is for the artist to partner the two: technique and duende. When this transpires, the beauty of form accompanies the artist's soul as they carry their audience along on the dark sounds.

These dark sounds that Lorca exalts are often found in flamenco, a dance form native to Andalusia, Spain. In flamenco, dance (technique) is partnered with duende (soul) to create passionate performances. And while most people hear the word "flamenco" and think only of dance, they forget that flamenco is also accompanied by song, which is known as cante jondo, or deep song.

The early American folk songs that birthed the blues are a close approximation to cante jondo. Both American folk and cante jondo contain themes of love, death, the common person, and the unfairness of life. These songs are delivered poetically and vocally with the power of the dark sounds, the duende. However, in spite of the darker themes, hope is entwined the verses. Sometimes that hope is so thin it is not spoken through the lyrics but is conveyed by the singer's voice, yet it is there.

So when I say I write the dark sounds, I'm not saying that I write horror, but instead that I am attempting to convey the dark sounds of life (and death) into stories. I write about love, death, and the unfairness of life--themes common to us all--but I also write about hope. Most often, I rely on technique, but sometimes, the duende seizes me and I am able to translate my passion into words, and those are the best times indeed.