In 2018, I'm joining Pitch Wars as a mentor

Recently, a friend of mine told me about Pitch Wars--you could say he pitched the idea to me ...

*coughs*

Last one of those I promise.

Anyway, after looking over Michael's email, I realized this was a way for me to give back to the writing community that had so generously supported me over the last nine years. So I applied to be a 2018 Pitch Wars mentor for adult fiction.

Weirdly enough, they accepted me. That's about all I can say about being a mentor right now. There will soon be blog hops and scores of announcements, and I'll keep you in the loop as best I can.

 This is poe.

This is poe.

Meanwhile, watch the header on this page. I'll be posting important dates for those of you who would like to follow along.

You'll know it's a Pitch Wars post when you see the Pitch Wars mascot Poe.

A few links for you:

If you're new to Pitch Wars, here is a good starting place: New? Start here. You can also follow Pitch Wars on Twitter at @PitchWars. Check out the Twitter hashtags for #Pitchwars and #PWPoePrompts as well. 

Once the blog hop begins, you'll see the mentors' wish lists and we'll give you an idea of the genres and types of works different mentors want to see. You might find I'm not the right fit for you or your work. For that reason, I suggest you check out this post on the Pitch Wars website. Mentors are categorized under MG, YA, and New Adult and/or Adult, so you can have time to read their blogs and get to know them.

For those of you who are brand new to me and my blog: if you want to get a feel for my writing style, you can check out my free stories. Just scroll down to the bottom of the page and you'll find a Los Nefilim vignette, a piece of flash fiction "Comes the Night," and a short story "La Santisima."

That's about it for now. I'll have another post later this week to bring you up to speed on what's happening with Where Oblivion Lives and the next book in the series, Carved from Stone and Dream.

Watch for me ...

The Tale of Two Covers: Where Oblivion Lives

Where Oblivion Lives will be published February 2019, but you don't have to wait until then to add it to your Goodreads list. You may also pre-order at Amazon, B&N, and HarperCollins.


This is the tale of two covers: one that worked fine and one that blew my mind.

The first cover was nice. It was a man with a Peaky Blinders look and an air of confidence about him. Two angels faced one another behind his back. They were subtly shaded, one slightly darker than the other. The background was done in muted tones. Overall it was a very acceptable cover, but as my agent pointed out to me, the imagery didn't indicate anything specific about the story in a very dynamic way.

Usually authors don't have a lot of input on their cover art, but Harper Voyager is somewhat different in this respect. David [Pomerico] and I discussed the issues with the first comp, and he said they would come up with something different. 

Meanwhile, I was working feverishly through his editorial notes on Where Oblivion Lives. David told me to go darker with the story if I wanted to, and on that final rewrite, I did. It all started with a comment David placed in one scene, and his sentence made me realize that I had missed a major opportunity with the story.

[Note to reader: this is why experienced editors are so wonderful. They point you in the right direction without telling you how to drive.]

We like to think of our heroes as being infallible, especially the supernatural ones. In some fiction, they go to war and return without any discernible trauma, while other stories deal very realistically with their characters and PTSD. Both ways of tackling this problem are as unique as the authors writing them.

So what if, I wondered after reading David's notes, what if Diago suffered from PTSD? And what if someone used his refusal to deal with his trauma as a weapon against him? 

And while those thoughts aren't necessarily original, the way the whole concept played out in Los Nefilim's magic system, which relies on song and sound, came off splendidly.

So I expanded some scenes and strengthened others, adding roughly ten thousand words to the manuscript. I am exceptionally pleased with how the story finally emerged. I sent the manuscript back to David, and after I did, the good people at Harper Voyager came up with new cover art.

WhereOblivionLives_Revised.jpg

And I love it! It captures the surreal effect of Diago's nightmares, which are an on-going theme throughout the story. Here is the striking imagery that the first cover lacked, and it encompasses angels and broken nefilim and the dark sounds that follow them all.

Here is the blurb:

A lyrical historical fantasy adventure, set in 1932 Spain and Germany, that brings to life the world of the novellas collected in Los Nefilim: Spanish Nephilim battling daimons in a supernatural war to save humankind.

Born of daimon and angel, Diago Alvarez is a being unlike all others. The embodiment of dark and light, he has witnessed the good and the horror of this world and those beyond. In the supernatural war between angels and daimons that will determine humankind’s future, Diago has chosen Los Nefilim, the sons and daughters of angels who possess the power to harness music and light.

As the forces of evil gather, Diago must locate the Key, the special chord that will unite the nefilim’s voices, giving them the power to avert the coming civil war between the Republicans and Franco’s Nationalists. Finding the Key will save Spain from plunging into darkness.

And for Diago, it will resurrect the anguish caused by a tragedy he experienced in a past life.

But someone—or something—is determined to stop Diago in his quest and will use his history to destroy him and the nefilim. Hearing his stolen Stradivarius played through the night, Diago is tormented by nightmares about his past life. Each incarnation strengthens the ties shared by the nefilim, whether those bonds are of love or hate ... or even betrayal.

To retrieve the violin, Diago must journey into enemy territory ... and face an old nemesis and a fallen angel bent on revenge.

I'll be talking more about the novel as we get closer to our publication date, because I'm excited about this book and series. [I know, I know ... you can't tell, can you?]

For those of you who loved the novellas:

Miquel, Rafael, Guillermo, and Ysabel are all back, as well. We also get to meet Guillermo's brother Jordi and his lover Nico.

In related news, I'm hard at work on the next book in the series: Carved from Stone and Dream

I'm also lining up events for late 2018 and 2019. If you want to see where I'm going to be, you can check out my Events page at the website. It's not complete yet, so I'll be adding more as we get closer to 2019. I look forward to meeting some of you in real life.

Meanwhile, I hope you all have great summer.

Watch for me,

T

Where I have been and where I am going ...

I haven't been around for awhile, because things have been very busy on my end. I got my edits for Where Oblivion Lives and was hard at work on them all through the month of May and June. Thanks to David's [Pomerico] guidance, the novel is much, much stronger now. I finished the final tweaks this morning and sent them back to Harper Voyager.

I'm super excited about the book now.

Downtime fun stuff included seeing Coco [an absolute delight] and Thor: Ragnarok [I can't recall the last time I had that much fun with a movie].

I also took some time to tweak the website a bit. This is my version of coloring. I personally don't think it makes a hoot of difference to most folks, but I enjoy playing with colors and backgrounds and so ... ta-da!

I'm lining up dates and schedules for upcoming events. I'll be at World Fantasy Con in November. This will be my first World Fantasy Con, so I am greatly looking forward to it. For added fun, I'm taking the train to Baltimore--a first for me and something that I have longed to do.

In February 2019, I'm thrilled to be going to my first MystiCon. I've heard some wonderful things from my friends about the event.

I'm not currently scheduled to be on panels at either place, but we're a bit too far out for that right now. If anything changes, I'll post it here and on my events page.

Now I'm back to work on the next Los Nefilim book in the series. I'll pop back in with some Fieldnotes if I find something of interest while researching for the next book. I'll also swing by to discuss any movies or books of interest that I come across.

Otherwise, I'm going to be hard at work on the next book.

Summer on and stay cool!

A Quiet Place: a review from the deaf perspective

I loved this movie. I want to get that out of the way from the beginning. Yes, there were a few plot holes, but A Quiet Place was about the one thing I love: the characters. Rather than a shoot-em-up, run-around-and-get-slashed horror movie, John Krasinski gives us a very intense human drama. 

A_Quiet_Place_film_poster.png

The horror of A Quiet Place isn't the actual violence, but the constant threat of violence the family endures as they try to survive.

Each of the actors brought a superb level of talent to their roles. I loved Emily Blunt as the Evelyn Abbott. Her subtle facial expressions spoke volumes. Millicent Simmonds is a fine young actress, and I hope Hollywood finds many more roles for her. Likewise, Noah Jupe and Krasinski were excellent.

I was so caught up in the family's survival that the story's few plot holes didn't ruin my enjoyment of the film. Although to be honest, the rigged cochlear processor bothered me in that a cochlear processor doesn't emit sound the same way a hearing aid does. A hearing aid amplifies sound and can often give feedback. A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged portion of the ear to directly stimulate the auditory nerve. So these two things are not the same.

However, since it was a tricked-up processor in A Quiet Place, I was willing to suspend belief and shush my ridiculous mind every time it bleeped: BUT HEY, THAT'S NOT HOW HOW A PROCESSOR WORKS. Meanwhile another part of my brain was going: THAT IS THE COOLEST LOOKING PROCESSOR AND COIL AND THAT I'VE EVER SEEN AND I WANT ONE.

Frankly, I gushed about the movie all the way home.

What made me squeal: My daughter and both squealed out loud when the camera zoomed in on Regan's cochlear implant. Cyborgs save the world!

What jarred me: When the subtitles suddenly dropped off the screen during the few spoken parts.

That was the one big downer of the film for me. Fortunately, between my own cochlear implant and my ability to lipread*, I was able to put together the gist of the conversations. Someone who is born deaf might not be able to do the same thing, which brings me to my biggest issue with A Quiet Place: the scenes with ASL** are captioned for the hearing audience, but the spoken scenes were not captioned for the deaf audience.

Given all of the other stellar points of the movie, this seems like something to nitpick, but it's not. A few hearing people have pointed out that they found it jarring when the captions suddenly stopped. For those of us who rely on those captions to understand the dialogue, it was like someone suddenly shut off the sound.

Their lips moved but we couldn't understand what they were saying.

So let's use it as a teaching moment of what ableism looks like in practice. Given the efforts made to promote this movie based the family's use of ASL to communicate with one another and having Simmonds as the lead, I can only see the lack of captioning during the speaking parts as an oversight--one that detracted from the overall theater experience for me.

Under no circumstances do I want to disparage the sincere effort that was made to bring Simmonds into the project so as to make Regan's experience as authentic as possible. At the same time, I don't feel it's inappropriate to point out ways that the movie could have been better, and of course, more inclusive. The most obvious way is by captioning the entire movie.

I hope captioning movies is something future filmmakers will consider. Since box office numbers are so valuable, I just want to point out that I, and many other deaf people, would go to more movies if captioning was available for the entire film. Just pretend that deaf people speak a different language (we do) and then caption appropriately. Otherwise, we'll be waiting for the DVD, which will come with subtitles.

[Note: this is not the place to inform me about assistive devices theaters use to provide captioning. Not all theaters have them and according to many deaf people, the captioning boxes don't always work correctly. So no. I'll wait for the DVD.]

Meanwhile, A Quiet Place is, in many ways, as important to the horror genre as Get Out. Please go see the movie. Even knowing what I know now, I highly recommend A Quiet Place to everyone.

At the same time, please don't stop advocating for captioning on all movies as well. 

__________
*I am a late-deafened adult. I began to lose my hearing around age twelve and over time, I became completely deaf. Because no one in my family used ASL, I had to develop other coping mechanisms in order to communicate. I now have a cochlear implant in my right ear, which gives me around 62% speech discrimination. Without my processor, I have 0% speech discrimination and rely on lipreading. I am in the process of learning ASL.

**Some folks have noted that the shots made some of the ASL difficult to understand, too. However, these scenes were also fully captioned.

Whereupon our fearless author goes all Antiope on the erasure of mature women

Really I don't have time for this. I have a book to write, Travis has asked for a Rasputin story with Nefilim in it and I'm thrilled to oblige, because seriously, what historical fantasy author can resist writing Rasputin into a story? No one, because the bloody thing writes itself.

Yet this morning, as I'm browsing online, I find this tweet:

My synapses fired one profanity-laced thread, and then a second, less profanity-laced thread, and I still haven't come down from it all. 

Women in America are valued for our beauty, not our intellect. Once our beauty fades, we're likewise supposed to vanish from sight. If you want a good example of how older women are perceived, just check out almost any Disney movie. While some of the more modern ones show older women in more benign roles, most show older women are portrayed as jealous of younger women's youth (Snow White), or the evil manipulator of youthful ambition (The Little Mermaid). We're perceived as always seeking a way back to our younger days as if those days were so grand.

In reality, a lot of us are more like Antiope. We're comfortable in our own skin. We don't feel the need to paint our faces and dye our hair. Cultural assumptions, however, push us from sight. How many movies are about older women? How often do you see a female white-haired newscaster or senator? Men aplenty, but women? All dyed and coiffed and made up to look twenty years younger.

Magazine photos are the worst. Older women are so photo-shopped free of wrinkles, they look like they've been Botoxed to death. They're bloated caricatures of themselves, because God forbid a younger woman see a beautiful older woman.

The only mature women we are allowed to see are models, who "aged well," meaning their skin isn't wrinkled and they're highly photogenic. In the U.S., aging well is all about women and looks.

Yet we're here and we're all beautiful in our own way, and we're no longer shutting ourselves away. I'm proud of my silvering hair, and I've earned every wrinkle. My crepey skin shows you I have spent my days in the sun, enjoying life. The bags under my eyes tell you I still have cares and sleepless nights, but the experience of my years means I have found ways to cope.

I love being with older women for their knowledge and wisdom, but also because they are fit and strong in mind and body. When my confidence lags, they are there to tell me that I've survived and that I will survive again. They shore me up with their wisdom and their mettle.

Mary Beard, Judith Tarr, Vonda McIntyre, just to name three, are all older women who paved the way for women like you and me to enter our fields. We shouldn't shut them away or hide them from sight. We owe them our gratitude and to keep them in the light while also recognizing the younger talent coming into our respective fields. We can do both.

In fact, we must do both, because when you erase older women from your stories, your productions, your films, you're telling younger women they don't exist after age fifty, or they turn into wretched jealous creatures, who seek nothing but their lost youth. That is neither fair to them or to older women. We should be just as vocal when older women are airbrushed from a production as we are when a work is whitewashed, because I hate to be the one to break this to you; however, if you're very, very lucky, you may one day be old yourself.

/rant