A Story is born at Bishop O'Connell's blog: A Quiet Pint

I don’t usually write too many guest posts nowadays, but Bishop is a very special person, who bends over backwards to help others. He kindly offered me a spot on his blog to kick off his new series, A Story is Born, and I couldn’t say no.

At Bishop’s blog, I tell you how my Los Nefilim series came about, and I also talk about how to deal with rejections, especially for those stories that are close to our hearts:

In the beginning …

King Solomon was dying. That was how the first incarnation of Los Nefilim began. It went something like this:

In the garden beyond my window, a night bird cried a sublime song while in the distance, a guard called the watch. Otherwise, the palace slept as I, Solomon, third King of all Israel, lay dying with only an angel at my side.

She was a small creature, this angel of mine who cradled my hand, her wings folded demurely at her back. When I was a young man, the tip of her head barely reached my collarbone. Now she towered over my deathbed. She seemed larger somehow; an illusion amplified by the darkness and my fear of the dark.

Except that book didn’t sell … [Read the rest at A Quiet Pint]

Belzebuth [movie review]

No dejes de razar — don’t stop praying

No dejes de razar — don’t stop praying

If you’re on Shudder, you might want to check out a couple of their newest offerings. I watched three over the weekend and I’m beginning this week’s movie reviews with my favorite of the three, Belzebuth.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a good exorcism flick—for obvious reasons—and Belzebuth hit all the sweet spots for me. It is a movie that could have easily descended into a gratuitous gore-fest. Instead, director Emilio Portes shows a restrained hand toward the violence to shift the focus to the actual story and the backstory of the characters, which is full of twists, some of which are surprising—not necessarily in the ohgod-wtf-did-i-just-see/jaw-dropping-scene-like-Hereditary (and those of you that saw the movie know what I’m talking about), but more in line with Cool!-That-was-neat-and-nicely-done!

And I’ll take nicely done any day of the week, because Portes took a tired trope and gave it the human aspect that is often forgotten in horror films. I’ve always argued that one of the aspects of writing that makes Stephen King’s books so enjoyable to people who don’t normally consume horror is the way in which he writes characters that are both relatable and sympathetic. Guillermo del Toro also knows how to draw the viewer into his stories through the characters. Both King and del Toro take the time to make the reader/viewer care so that when the bad things start to happen, we’re sucked into the story and rooting for the good guys.

Portes has achieved the same effect with Belzebuth, and he’s done it with an excellent cast that begins with Joaquín Cosío as officer Emmanuel Ritter (and for those of you that keep asking me what actor should play Los Nefilim’s Guillermo, I can tell you that I’ve finally found him). Cosío is perfect as the loving father turned ruthless investigator.

The story begins in Mexico but reaches across the border into America and Cosío reflects both worlds in his language and his knowledge of how the two cultures intersect … or don’t. When the paranormal forensics investigator, Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington), wants to know why the police never searched for missing children in a certain town, Ritter very matter-of-factly explains that it is a narco town and not even the police will go there.

As a secular protagonist sucked into a supernatural war, Cosío gives the viewer the perfect shift from disbelief into belief, and he morphs from the angelic protector into the tough cop and an antagonist with a magnificent performance. Ellington is often overshadowed by Cosío’s gravitas; although to be fair, Ellington’s character is in the role of the outsider looking in. José Sefami as Demetrio, on the other hand, is a veteran actor, and he is the perfect sidekick for Cosío’s Ritter. Unfortunately, Demetrio is usually fending off the brass for Ritter, so it’s not until Tobin Bell shows up as the rogue priest Vasilio Canetti that Cosío’s Ritter gets another actor who can play off Cosío’s strengths. The two compliment one another with excellent performances.

Portes helps all of this along with just the right camera angles and lighting to offset his actors and their performances. The script gives the audience slower moments that enable us to care about Ritter and his companions without wallowing in melodrama. I was invested the characters and definitely rooting for them.

There is violence. The opening scene in the nursery is made more horrific because you CAN’T see what’s happening. Portes delivers the horror through the screams and faces of those helpless to stop the carnage, yet he’s also careful and doesn’t drag out these scenes to the point of absurdity. If you want a good example of excellent pacing in a horror film, Belzebuth succeeds beautifully.

The review at Bloody Disgusting has a few mild spoilers, but Dax gives a good overview of the film’s strengths and weaknesses. I agree with everything but the rating.

Four skulls out of five. Highly recommended.

SALE: Where Oblivion Lives (ebook) on sale for $1.99

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If you’ve missed all the announcements everywhere else, here is a quick post and reminder that the first Los Nefilim novel (ebook), Where Oblivion Lives, is currently on sale for $1.99. If you’re looking to get into the series before Carved from Stone and Dream is published in February 2020, here is your chance to do it on the cheap!

For a limited time (August 30, 2019-October 1, 2019), Where Oblivion Lives (ebook) is on sale for $1.99 at all your favorite outlets: Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, HarperCollins, and Kobo.

I’d also like to take this chance to thank everyone for the overwhelming response to the newsletter request to share the word about the sale. You guys are simply tremendous!

If you missed the newsletter, I published this one publicly so you may read and share at will.

Please help me keep the momentum going throughout the month. If you happen to see me tweet or talk about the sale and you have a moment, I’d greatly appreciate any RTs or mentions.

Thank you all again!

If this series becomes a success, it’s because of you!

A few updates on the newsletter, cover art for Carved from Stone and Dream, and AtomaCon

I’ve been primarily posting on Twitter, but I know not everyone follows me there, so here are a few tidbits you might have missed:

The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog gave Carved from Stone and Dream a cover launch last week. See Second Verse: Revealing Carved from Stone and Dream for the new cover and a very brief excerpt from the upcoming novel’s prologue.

Pre-orders are love, so if you’re really looking forward to Carved from Stone and Dream, please consider pre-ordering the book from your favorite retailer. I usually send people to the HarperCollins website, because they have links to all the places, including IndieBound. Pre-orders help my publisher gauge interest in the novel, and those numbers also count toward my first week of sales so if you can, please pre-order.

Newsletter subscribers can look forward to a much longer excerpt from Carved from Stone and Dream that will feature everyone’s favorite long suffering spouse, Miquel. That nugget will be coming to your email boxes soon. If you haven’t already subscribed, go to my home page and subscribe by the end of this week so you can be in loop! If you’re worried about being inundated with weekly updates, never fear—you won’t be getting those from me. My newsletters are often related to news and events, and you can unsubscribe at any time, and my feelings won’t be hurt … okay, maybe a little, but that’s okay, I’ll get over it.

On November 22-24, I’ll be attending AtomaCon in Charleston, SC. The guest of honor this year is Myke Cole and the special author guest is Faith Hunter. It’ll be a great weekend, and I hope to see you if you’re down that way. AtomaCon will be my last con for 2019.

Book plates with some kick. I’m working with Jihane Mossalim to design original art for book plates that I can sign and send out to people outside the states. Newsletter subscribers will be the first to see these, so you know the drill … go ahead and subscribe if you haven’t already.

Signed copies of Where Oblivion Lives are at:

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Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC has ONE SIGNED COPY. If you go to their website and scroll down, you can find their email address—they do ship books.

Barnes and Nobel at the Friendly Center, 3102 Northline Avenue, Greensboro, NC 27408 — 336-854-4200 has TWO SIGNED COPIES. I couldn’t locate an email address for the B&N at Friendly, but their phone number is there if you want to see if they’ll ship a copy to you.

I redesigned the website a little bit in order to make things easier to find. I streamlined my sources so that if you want to see the sources and inspirations for the different Los Nefilim novels, you can check them out and know which books were used for each novel. The Los Nefilim series also has its own page now with links to each of the books and their pages. I’ll be including excerpts on the book pages as we get closer to the publication date of each novel, but as usual: newsletter subscribers will see the lengthier excerpts first.

Of course, while all this is going on, I’m working on the third Los Nefilim novel, A Song with Teeth, which is coming along very nicely, and working on promo materials for Carved from Stone and Dream’s upcoming 2020 release.

As always, watch for me …

Bucket List Movies: The Thirteenth Warrior, Das Boot, Taxi Driver, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Okay, because I know someone will ask: I’m not dying.

Even so, I do have a huge list of movies that I’ve always wanted to see but never have for one reason or another, and I figured why wait until I only had a limited amount of time to live before trying to cram them all in at once? So I’m starting now.

These will all be, for the most part, older movies and they’ll be splayed across wide genres, because I love a little bit of everything. I’ll give them to you with mini-reviews, and if it’s an older flick, I’ll let you know how well it holds up to a modern audience.

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The Thirteenth Warrior (based on the Michael Crichton novel Eaters of the Dead)—This is a movie that is definitely worth your time, primarily for the Vikings and Antonio Banderas. From a historical aspect, it has its ups and downs.

If you want to see every type of armor all mashed into one movie, this is your flick. Beowulf actually takes place in the 6th century, but in The Thirteenth Warrior, you’ve got a good sample of everything from 10th to 15th century armor. Also, there is no way that Antonio Banderas threw on that chain mail shirt while running, but I will forgive the error and suspend belief because it is Antonio Banderas, and if anyone could toss a chain mail shirt over his head in hurry, Antonio could do it. Don’t @ me.

However, if you shut off your history-brain, it’s still a good movie. In spite of all my ribbing, and the film’s really weak premise, the film works primarily due to a strong cast with a ton of chemistry. It’s a cool re-imagining of the Beowulf tale, and if the antagonists had been stronger, the plot might have rocked my world. As it was, The Thirteenth Warrior, was entertaining and well worth my time.

Recommended

Das Boot—With the new series coming to Hulu, I wanted to finally sit down and watch the movie from beginning to end. I made it through the first half. The acting was top-notch, but they were Nazis (although they tried to portray them as military men not necessarily married to the Nazi ideology, they were still fighting for Nazis in a Nazi war, so Nazis), and because of that, I wasn’t really on the characters’ side. None of them were either likable enough or interesting enough to engage me, and I didn’t care if they lived or died, which led me to lose interest in the overall plot, so I did not finish.

DNF/YMWV*

Taxi Driver—was exceptionally innovative when it premiered. De Niro gives a stellar performance and CYBILL SHEPHERD! Unfortunately, you can’t turn on the news today without seeing another Travis Bickle splayed across the screen, so I had to switch it off.

DNF/YMWV*

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Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton at their best and most sublime. If you’re into black comedy, this is your gig. The daughter of the university’s president, Martha, and her husband (the university’s history professor), George, invite a young couple to their house for a night of fun and games.

Only it’s mind games.

Everyone is hysterically drunk, secrets of ambition are revealed and while she has but a small role, Sandy Dennis was positively hysterical as Nick’s wife, Honey. Released in 1966, the film has held up exceptionally well, primarily due to Ernest Lehman’s faithful screen adaptation of Edward Albee’s play.

Highly recommended

___________
*DNF/YMMV — Did not finish/Your mileage may vary

A snippet from A SONG WITH TEETH

All I have for you this week is a snippet from my current work-in-progress, A Song with Teeth, the third Los Nefilim novel. This comes from the first page and may or may not make it through the final edit:

“I will tell you a story,” the Nazi murmurs in his captive’s ear. “About two brothers …”

He pauses and stares outside the window, seemingly lost in the thread of his thoughts. For several minutes, the only noise is the susurrations of snow, whispering across the glass.

From somewhere within the great house, a door is shut, rousing the Nazi from his dream. He shakes his head and smiles a terrible smile full of bitterness and teeth—such long teeth he has …

The captive shivers.

The Nazi’s lips widens and now he grins. “A story about two brothers under night and fog …”

CODENAME: NIGHTINGALE
30 December 1943
Mauthausen Concentration camp

Prologue

They call him the Nightingale. It is his codename and it follows him into the camps.

In the beginning days of the conflict, the Nightingale is a new member of Los Nefilim, not yet tested. His handler is known as the Violinist. They barely had time to know one another before the war came, but when it did, the Violinist gave the Nightingale the most precious of gifts: his trust.

The other members of Los Nefilim call the Violinist a fool for assigning his MACHIAVELLI line in Paris to the Nightingale, but the Violinist is an old nefil of rank—none dare do more than grumble. The Nightingale is entrusted with composing songs, the first notes designed to be the Morse code that will convey messages to the Resistance. As his music is played on German radios, the Nightingale slowly earns Los Nefilim’s respect.

When the MACHIAVELLI line is compromised by outside sources, the Violinist manages to send a message. It comes too late for the Nightingale to evade the Gestapo, but the Violinist’s instructions are clear: Hold out for forty-eight hours, then tell them what they want to know. If they take you to the camps, find the Spaniards. You are one of us. We will watch for you.

And that’s the work-in-progress. I have a lot more and this is heavily edited, but it gives you an idea of how the third book begins. All of this might stay, or it might change drastically in the final edits.

Hagazussa [movie reivew]

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One of Shudder’s newest entries, Hagazussa, is written and directed by Lukas Feigelfeld. The poster claims it is “A SPOOKY, SPELLBINDING AUDIOVISUAL SYMPHONY” and “MIND-BLOWINGLY CREEPY.” Reading those blurbs now, I realize that neither mention the story, which is probably apropos, because while the quotes aren’t lying to you, the movie is spooky and creepy, any evidence of a story is almost nonexistent.

You will find spoilers in this review, so if you’re one of those NEVER SHOW ME SPOILERS people, turn back now. That’s all the warning you’ll get, so off we go …

Set in the fifteenth century, the film focuses on a mother and daughter that live in a remote cabin outside of the village. In the opening sequence, Martha takes Albrun sledding, but she never moves close to the other mothers, and Albrun, for her part, reaches the top of the hill to find all the other children are gone. So the idea that even among others, they are alone is very nicely handled.

After a long spooky walk through the woods, they arrive home from the sledding trip. That same evening, three villagers turn up outside their cabin. The men are wearing animal heads for some bizarre reason that is never quite explained. They bang on the door and circle the cabin threateningly while accusing Martha of being a witch. Then they go away and that’s that. Seriously. They’re never seen or referenced again.

Shortly thereafter, Albrun’s mother suffers from a strange disease. The doctor and a nun come to the cabin, examine the mother, and then they leave the child, Albrun, to take care of her. It seemed … odd to me that they would leave such a small child with a desperately ill mother, but hey, maybe it’s a cultural thing, so I let it slide. Later, Albrun awakens to find her mother gone. She leaves the cabin and follows her mother’s trail to find Martha has died in a bog with snakes crawling over her body.

Then the film flashes forward fifteen years to Albrun living alone in the same cabin with her infant daughter. No explanation is given for the infant’s presence. We never see or hear about the child’s father, but Albrun is a good and patient mother, except for those times when she leaves the infant alone for hours and hours, because who does that?

Anyway, a village woman named Swinda seemingly befriends Albrun, only to betray her and facilitate her rape by another villager. Let me pause here to state that nothing in this film is graphic, nor does that hurt the movie. Aleksandra Cwen, as the adult Albrun, reflects the horror of the act with her expressions.

However, this is where Hagazussa seemed to lose me. Maybe it’s because I’m tired of seeing rape being used a character device to bring out the evil in a woman. In Hagazussa, the act is given double duty to show us first Swinda’s wickedness and then as the reason for Albrun’s decline into madness, or witchcraft, or something.

Needless to say, now that she’s been raped, all of Albrun’s evil inclinations are released. She takes her revenge, not with nefarious witchcraft, but by placing a dead rat in the village water supply, which, as it turns out, is actually more effective. When the villagers, including the wicked Swinda, die, Albrun wanders into the woods, eats a mushroom, and falls into madness, or witchcraft, or something, we’re never exactly sure.

And that fairly sums up Hagazussa in its entirety. Stunning cinematography of the Alps and its dense forests—lots and lots of haunted views of the Alps. Long, long atmospheric shots ... loooonng atmospheric shots of adult Albrun standing, sitting, walking, leaving her infant daughter alone in a crib for hours and hours and hours at a time (seriously, who does that?), Albrun having a sensual moment beside her goat (don't ask), Albrun going mad in the woods … you get the picture.

The imagery is meant to evoke Gothic dread, including a scene with a priest in the church’s ossuary, and while all of these moments perform a slow-burn of creepiness, the tension never quite results in any type of cathartic release for the viewer. Each scene seems meticulously designed to move toward that magical moment when all the pieces fall into place, but the puzzle remains broken right until the end.

It would have been great if all that atmosphere had added up to a plot of some substance. As it is, it's more of a character study (and I don't mind those), but Hazazussa went on far longer than it needed to and quite often felt like a series of haunting shorts without ever reaching any form of cohesion.

Rating: YMMV (i.e. give it a view, your mileage may vary)

Excerpt from Where Oblivion Lives ...

At his floor, Jordi stepped off the lift and went to his room, tossing his key to the desk before he closed the door. Placing the box beside the key, he opened Nico’s envelope first.

J,

The package arrived by courier, who said the contents were for your eyes only and quite urgent. I sent it via a trusted friend on their way to Valencia.

Yours,

N

Jordi doubted the “trusted friend” was on the way to Valencia. Nico was far too careful to give away a tactical position in a note.

Glaring at the package, Jordi removed his coat and loosened his collar. Nico’s apartment was known among many rogues as a contact point for Jordi, so it wouldn’t be unusual for him to receive mail for one of Jordi’s aliases.

But why that one? And why Sir George? Sitting at the desk, he turned the nondescript box over. No return address, but several postmarks stamped the package’s route to Avignon.

Sir George Abellio. The name resurrected a memory. Sir George. He was known as Sir George in his last incarnation, during the twelfth century.

Could this be from a nefil from that past life? Perhaps a rogue seeking to reconnect with Jordi? And if so, were they friend or foe?

Better safe than sorry. Jordi traced a sigil of protection over the box and hummed a chord. The red and gold vibrations of his aura charged the glyph. Only then did he feel safe to use the hotel’s letter opener to pry the wrapping free.

Behind the paper was a plain white jewelry box. Lifting the lid, he removed the wadding to find an identical pair of silver brooches wrapped in tissue paper. One was polished to a high shine while the other was black with tarnish.

Despite their conditions, they both depicted an intricately carved angel standing over a lyre. Unlike other angelic drawings from the period, this angel possessed three sets of wings and the feet of a raptor—an accurate depiction of a Messenger in his true form.

The angel on the brighter pin held gemstones set within the silver: jacinth in the right hand and an emerald in the left. The stones sparkled brightly beneath the room’s electric light.

The other brooch sustained damage deeper than tarnish. An indentation in the center made it appear as if someone had struck the brooch with a blunt object. Both the jacinth and the emerald were loose in their settings. Neither stone had clarity.

The banner over the angel’s head in both pieces bore the inscription: Amor vincit omnia.

Love conquers all.

“Love tokens,” Jordi murmured. He caught the scent of fire and metal from a blacksmith’s forge. A hammer struck the anvil with a measured rhythm, like the slow steady beats of a heart. The fires silhouetted a giant of a nefil. Jordi recalled those blunt hands and questioning whether the smith possessed the finesse to craft jewelry. Evidently he did.

Shifting through the tissue paper, he found a typewritten card at the bottom of the box. The note said: Wear your pin so that I will know you in this incarnation. We will judge the traitor in vehmgericht. Watch for me.

Jordi scowled at the word vehmgericht. The vehmgericht were the secret trials the nefilim once used in Germany to root out traitors to the angel-born. Mortals had eventually adopted the word and the custom during the Middle Ages to protect their feudal rights.

But in the beginning, vehmgericht belonged to us.

Jordi scanned the note again for any clues. The signature was nothing more than a hand-drawn symbol composed of a vertical line with two more lines branching upward to the right to make the rune Fehu.

“The letter F?” Why use such an archaic symbol in place of a signature?

Picking up the brooches, Jordi held them side by side. Whose name might begin with F? He kicked off his shoes and drew his feet onto the bed as he turned the pins first one way and then another. Nothing came to him.

“Christ burning in shit, but I hate riddles.”

The quickest way to discover the meaning behind the incarnation would be to read the stones. Unfortunately, the ability to divine the history of jewels was a daimonic skill, and Jordi didn’t trust the daimons in Barcelona. Any one of them would sell him out to Guillermo for a peseta if they saw something to gain from divulging the information.

Good thing he didn’t need them. An ingenious nefil always found other avenues to the same destination. Being more resourceful than most, Jordi had experimented with various substances until he found that opium quickly led him into lucid dreams.

Time to chase the dragon and see where he leads, Jordi thought as he opened his bag again. Beneath a false seam was a metal case next to a small tin of cocaine. Jordi removed both and placed the cocaine on his nightstand before taking the case to the desk.

He opened the lid and laid his equipment on the blotter: a stubby candle, a pin, some foil, and a paper straw. The foil and straw always left him feeling cheap and dirty, like a street addict chasing a high.

Exceptional times call for exceptional means. He selected a small brick of opium. Love tokens sent across distance and time qualified as extraordinary.

With practiced moves, he lit the candle, and then daubed a piece of opium about the size of a peanut from the brick with the pin. He transferred the opium onto the foil. Picking up the straw, he moved the foil over the flame. As the opium vaporized, the liquid oozed across the foil’s surface, writhing like a snake. White smoke rose into the air. Jordi followed the smoke with the straw, inhaling the drug deeply.

The sweet taste of opium filled his mouth. He repeated the procedure four more times before he blew out the candle. Knowing just when to stop is what separated him from the addicts.

He waved the foil gently and when it had cooled, he licked the last of the opium from the blackened surface. Once he had returned everything except the candle to the metal case, he adjusted the pillows and sat on the bed with his back against the headboard.

A feeling of peace and well-being suffused his body. As he moved the tarnished brooch to the nightstand, the jacinth fell free of its setting. Jordi caught the gemstone and placed it beside the brooch.

His memories lay behind the brighter pin. He was sure of it. Cradling the shining silver brooch in his palm, he shaped a glyph over the design and hummed a tune. The opium darkened the edges of his song, deepening the amber vibrations to brown.

Concentrating on the angel’s face, Jordi felt the room drift away. The angel’s smile. So serene, loving . . . loving . . . he was my adviser, my lover . . .

Jordi remembered his previous incarnation when he was known as George . . .

George and the angel burrow beneath the quilts and furs to escape the cold. Drowsy from their lovemaking, they are on the verge of sleep when the music finds them.

Light notes drawn from a stringed instrument with a bow travel over the night and through the shuttered window. A distant voice joins the instrument, a tenor singing in another language. It is the third night the enchanting musician has serenaded them from the town’s tavern.

“Arabic. He sings in Arabic,” whispers the angel. “Last night it was Italian. And his voice . . . I have never heard a nefil with such range. He is the one we need. Find him.”

“In the morning,” George murmurs. He has no desire to leave the bed to go wandering through a night made brittle with cold.

The angel, who calls himself Frauja, isn’t dissuaded. “Have I led you wrong yet?”

No. No, he hasn’t.

“You said you wanted the Key,” Frauja murmurs against George’s ear.

And he does want that song—needs that song—because now that he carries the Thrones’ blessing as king of the Inner Guard, he must shut his brother Guillaume into a prison realm, one where he can never again reincarnate in the mortal world. Then there will be no other nefil strong enough to challenge George’s rule.

“You know I want it.”

“Then I need his voice.” Frauja strokes George’s throat. “The whisper of his darkness to merge with your fire. No other nefil will do. Bring him to us.”

The request irks George. The initial arrangement between them required no other nefil, but George doesn’t argue.

If the Thrones discover he is hiding a fallen Messenger, he’ll be driven from his post as king and Guillaume will once more win sovereignty over the Inner Guard. George is playing a dangerous game and they both know it.

Secrets are like chains, George thinks as he slides out of bed and awakens his mortal manservant with a kick. “Find that musician and bring him to me. Take the guards with you. Don’t come back without him.”

The man stumbles from the room half awake. Another servant enters and adds wood to the fire. Candles are lit.

The covers of George’s bed lie flat. The angel is gone. No one sees him but George.

An hour passes before the manservant returns and leads an unfamiliar nefil into the room. At a gesture from George, the manservant backs into the corridor and shuts the door.

The stranger places his bag at his feet and cradles an instrument’s case in his arms. His clothing speaks of no country, of all countries: a surcoat of black with seams threaded in yellow covers a cote dyed a rich dark green. The loose pants, favored by the Hungarians, are tucked into his worn boots. Long black hair falls beneath a stylish chaperon popular with the Italian merchants, and it suits him well. His eyes are dark and green, surrounded by lashes so thick and black they resemble kohl in the chamber’s half-light.

George remains by the fire and glares at the flames. “Who is your liege?”

“I have none.” The stranger speaks the language with an accent that is impossible to place because, like his clothes, it belongs to no single country.

“You are a rogue?”

“That is your word, but yes.”

“What is your word?”

“I say I am free.” He meets George’s stare as an equal.

The impunity of the act angers George, but he doesn’t admonish the stranger. Until he is certain of the angel’s game, he will move in a judicious manner. “Play for me.” It is a command.

The stranger seems unperturbed. “Will we exchange songs?”

It is a reasonable request and a matter of professional etiquette that when one nefil plays for another, they exchange songs. In doing so, they are able to gauge the strength and color of one another’s souls.

George isn’t feeling reasonable. “Perhaps.”

The stranger seems to intuit George’s mood. His expression is serious as he retrieves a nearby stool. He brings it close to George’s chair and sits. From the wooden case, he removes a Byzantine lyra and its bow.

“What is your name?” George asks as the stranger adjusts the instrument’s pegs.

“Yago.”

“Where are you from?”

“Nowhere, everywhere.”

“Where did you begin?” George snaps the question like a lash.

“Córdoba.”

Balancing the lyra on his thigh, he draws the bow across the strings, testing the sound, and then he measures George with a critical eye. “Is there something in particular you would like to hear?”

“You choose.”

He chooses a love ballad and renders it with heartbreaking skill. His voice is as much an instrument as the lyra, and he progresses through chords no mortal and few nefilim will ever sing. When he finishes, the final clear notes of his tenor shades the air in viridian hues the same color as his eyes.

The angel appears behind Yago. “Don’t move,” he whispers.

Yago stiffens at Frauja’s sudden presence, but he doesn’t turn.

Reaching out to twine one slender finger in the black of Yago’s hair, Frauja pronounces, “He is the one.”

The angel’s touch is intimate, his smile more so. Worse still, he has revealed himself to Yago like he has to no other.

Jealousy grabs George’s heart with sharp nails and he winces, because . . .

. . . the brooch pricked his flesh, awakening him from the opium dream. Blinking in the predawn light, he looked down at his palm, where his blood smeared the angel’s lips.


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Frohock has intricately woven a unique reinterpretation of history. Eloquent prose accompanies a lyrical theme amid prewar tensions, enriching this imaginative historical fantasy. starred review, Publishers Weekly

…the kind of story that casts a spell on readers, immersing them in words as vivid and resonant as the music the nefilim imbue themselves with as they weave their magic. –B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Scuppernong Books | HarperCollins | IndieBound or add it to your Goodreads list
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Pitch Wars 2019 and why I'm sitting it out this year ...

I’m posting this because several people have been asking me about my participation in Pitch Wars 2019, and I want to be perfectly upfront about what’s going on with me. Before I say anything else, I want you all to know that being involved with the Pitch Wars community was one of the most positive things that happened to me in 2018. The mentors are some of the most caring and nicest people that I’ve had the pleasure to get to know in the writing community, and I was flat out lucky that Elvin Bala submitted his work to me.

However, 2018 came with several personal problems for me. I turned in Where Oblivion Lives in February, but all novels receive editorial feedback, so part of 2018 was also spent in refining Where Oblivion Lives before I was able to turn to the sequel, Carved from Stone and Dream. Over the summer, I suffered a meniscus tear in my right knee, which was painful and threw me out of work for several weeks. Once I had the surgery for the tear, my husband suffered hospitalization for a heart issue. Then we had two hurricanes, during which one of them gave us a nine day loss of power, immediately followed by the holidays.

Of course, while all of this was going on, I was also working with Elvin on his Pitch Wars submission. This wasn’t a bad thing, because Elvin did all the heavy lifting on his book. I spent no more time reading and commenting on his book than I would have for any other author. My biggest problem was that all of the Pitch War deadlines hit at the same approximate time as my deadline for Carved from Stone and Dream, the novel that I simply couldn’t get a handle on for the longest time.

Michael R. Fletcher probably read thirty incarnations of that book and gave me some great advice every time. I’m not sure if I would have made it as far as I did in December without his help. Unfortunately, by December I had about 30,000 words of what needed to be an 80,000 word novel. I wound up taking time off work and writing non-stop—twelve and fourteen hour days of doing nothing but pumping my way through that book, which was due to be turned in almost a week before Where Oblivion Lives released in February 2019.

Michael, Judith Tarr, and Beth Cato all graciously gave me blurbs. David and the team at Harper Voyager helped me any way they could—they got a box of ARCs for World Fantasy Con and I gave them all away. Another hundred copies were given away on Goodreads. The book received a starred review on Publishers Weekly on Christmas Eve, and while the people who have taken the time to read it have generally been very complimentary about the book, Where Oblivion Lives is way behind everything else, and I’m afraid it’s too late to play catch-up.

Of course, there is a certain freedom to all this. Carved from Stone and Dream veered wildly away from what I wanted, meaning another quiet horror novel focused on a different character. Rather than the gothic tone of Where Oblivion Lives, Carved from Stone and Dream turned into Miquel’s and Rafael’s story, and it has a distinct military fiction/war novel flavor that is roughly equivalent to Band of Brothers meets The Bunker, but instead of an army of guys riding to the rescue, it’s Ysabel and her friend Violeta. Rather than force the story, I rolled with it, and for better or for worse, it is what it is.

So, with all that said, since the adventures of Diago and Company might very well come to end with this last book (for we all live and die by our sales), I want to focus one hundred percent on promoting Carved from Stone and Dream and making A Song with Teeth the best novel that I can write. I want to do this for the people who have supported these characters and their stories and who have all been so gracious with their feedback.

And that means spending a large portion of my time in 2019 and 2020 on those two things. Once I’m done, I’ll consider reapplying to mentor Pitch Wars again. As I said in the beginning, it was an incredibly wonderful experience, and I love being able to give back to up-coming-writers.

Meanwhile, watch for me …