Schoolyard brawl ... Los Nefilim Snippet

A lot of you—seriously, more of you than I ever expected—said you’d like to see slice of life vignettes with the Los Nefilim characters. Little stories along the lines of “A Rose, A Dragon” aren’t hard to write, and these little shorts also work as characters studies for me.

So I added a category for Los Nefilim Snippets in the sidebar. That way, if you miss one, you can find it easily.

The following snippet has floated in the back of my mind from time-to-time. The sequel to Where Oblivion Lives is called Carved from Stone and Dream, and it takes place several years after the events in Where Oblivion Lives. In Carved from Stone and Dream, Rafael is fourteen and he plays a much more prominent role in the story. As I wrote his character, I thought a lot about the difference between Diago’s and Miquel’s personalities and their parenting skills.

Miquel is angel-born and more likely to use martial means to solve his problems. Diago tends to fall back on diplomacy. In Carved from Stone and Dream, we see the end result of Diago’s and Miquel’s parenting. But before Rafael grew into an emotionally stable youth, he suffered his own growing pains.

Here, we see the diamond in the rough:

Santuari, Spain
March 12, 1933

The front door opened and then snicked shut quietly. In the kitchen, Diago glanced at his watch. Across the table from him, Miquel stubbed his cigarette in a tin ashtray. They exchanged a glance. It was too early for Rafael to be home, yet Diago recognized his son’s soft tread on the floor.

And he’s sneaking … which never indicated good news. Diago lowered his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. Please don’t let him be in trouble again …

Miquel leaned back in his chair, so he could see into the living the room. “Rafael? Why is school out?” A frown creased his husband’s mouth. “What happened to your face?”

“Nothing.”

Diago dropped his hand, alarm spreading through his chest. “What’s wrong with his face?” He rose and went to the kitchen door.

Rafael had already crossed the small living room and stood at the hallway’s entrance. At eight, he’d finally begun to acquire some height, though he was still small for his age. Dust coated the wild curls surrounding the lacerations on his face. His shirt was torn and his pants ripped.

He paused and smoothed first his hair and then his shirt with one hand. With the other, he twisted the strap holding his schoolbooks together. A large bruise blackened one eye and the side of his face.

Swallowing hard, he met Diago’s gaze. “It’s okay, Papá. Doña Juanita says it’s just a bruise and it’s already healing and it’s okay.”

Miquel joined Diago, standing just behind him. “Wow, that’s a shiner. What does the other guy look like?”

Diago nudged Miquel silent with his elbow. “Why were you fighting?”

“Georgio called me a monkey again.”

“And then you hit him?”

“No, I did what you said. I tried to be nice and I asked him to please stop calling me a monkey and then he started singing that I was a monkey from Morocco, and when I told him to shut up, he shoved me.”

Diago winced. “So why did you get sent home?”

Rafael glanced at Miquel. “Because this time I hit him back like Miquel told me to do, and it felt good, because I was really mad, so I hit him again. And then Emilia hit me to make me stop hitting Georgio, so Violeta hit Emilia, and then Ysa hit Georgio with a rock … at least, I think that’s what happened, because Ysa had her slingshot in her hand and Georgio was yelling and there was blood everywhere …”

Diago lifted his hand. “You may stop now.”

Rafael exhaled and looked down, feigning contriteness that wasn’t reflected in his eyes. “I’m really tired and my head hurts. May I go to my room?”

The play for sympathy fell flat with Diago. If Juanita had examined Rafael, then she gave him aspirin. If he thinks Miquel is going to smooth this over for him, then he has another thing coming. “Where was Father Bernardo during all this?”

Resigned to his interrogation, Rafael exhaled a long-suffering sigh. “Inside the church grading papers. He came out and broke up the fight when Georgio started screaming about murder; although I don’t think Ysa was trying to kill him.”

“She should have,” Miquel snapped.

Diago elbowed his husband again, more sharply this time.

“Ow!” Miquel put some distance between them. “What was that for? Georgio is twelve years old and in his second-born life. He is almost as big as I am. He has no business picking on Rafael.”

Knowing he had an ally in Miquel, Rafael nodded. “Father Bernardo broke up the fight. He pulled Georgio off me and I think that’s when my coat ripped, and oh”—he reached into his jacket and gave Diago a note—“Father Bernardo wants to talk to you and Miquel. I think you’re in trouble this time.”

“I’m not in trouble.” Diago took the note and shot his husband a poisoned glare.

Miquel stiffened. “What do you want? That Georgio beats him up everyday? Rafael needs to learn to fight back.”

Diago scanned the note. “You can explain that parental philosophy to Father Bernardo when we meet with him in an hour.”

Miquel shrugged. “You can handle it. I’m meeting with Guillermo.”

Diago gave the note to Miquel. “Not anymore. Guillermo is going to be there, too. See?” He snapped the paper with his fingers.

Anger flashed through Miquel’s dark eyes as he glanced at the page and then back to Diago. “Why are you looking at me like that? This isn’t my fault.”

“Who taught him to fight?”

“I taught him to stick up for himself.”

“Really? After you promised me—”

Rafael fidgeted. “Are you two going to fight now, because—?”

“We’re not fighting,” they said in unison.

The phone rang, jolting them all to silence. Miquel went to answer, jerking the handset from the cradle. “Miquel.” He closed his eyes as he listened. “Yes … yes … he’s fine … no, we were just talking about that … of course. I’ll see you in an hour.” Replacing the handset, he stood for a moment with his head bowed. “That was Guillermo. I’m going, too.”

Links and things ...

A special newsletter will be going out tomorrow with a giveaway for newsletter subscribers. It is the only worldwide contest that I will be running for the Los Nefilim omnibus. The prizes will be:

Third prize is a signed copy of Los Nefilim.

Second prize is a signed copy of Los Nefilim and a Los Nefilim button.

The GRAND PRIZE is signed copies of both Los Nefilim and Miserere, a Los Nefilim button, and a handmade card with a quote from Los Nefilim inside.

Sign up for the newsletter in the sidebar and don't forget to check your email for your confirmation email! That giveaway begins tomorrow.

If you don't want to take any chances, you can still pre-order. The print edition of Los Nefilim releases tomorrow. If you are in the U.S., the Goodreads giveaway for a signed, print edition ends June 14, so head over and enter!

Laura M. Hughes gave the omnibus a marvelous review on her blog if you're on the fence about reading it.

An exclusive excerpt of Los Nefilim is live at the Grimdark Magazine blog.

I joined a collective of authors at The Semiotic Standard to talk about Books We Did Not Finish

A [very fun] interview with one of the Evil is a Matter of Perspective authors, Marc Turner (you should read all of his author interviews) at his blog.

I'm also working on a short story for the Evil is a Matter of Perspective anthology. The Kickstarter for that anthology begins on June 15, and you'll be hearing more about it this week.

The measure of success; or, there is more to life than Amazon rankings

I suppose we all have different ways to measure our success as authors. Some gauge Amazon rankings or sales figures, others assess the number of fans or followers. Some might use awards as the yardstick for accomplishment while others look to the bestseller lists.

I measure mine by the fulfillment of my goals. With Los Nefilim, I wanted to have my writing accepted for publication because the story was well-written and entertaining. That happened with Los Nefilim--a fact that I marvel over each day, because it wouldn't have occurred quite the way it did if people weren't vocal about representation.

You see, when I first envisioned the character of Diago several years ago, he was a stereotypical gay man: a caricature, not a person. Fortunately, I was online and began to read discussions about representation on blogs and through Twitter chats. As I did, I realized that my initial depiction of Diago was not only wrong, but also harmful.

Unsure how to proceed, I asked Robert Dunbar for help, and he most graciously made a place for me to ask questions in his Goodreads group. Then he went one step further and asked some of his friends to help--members of the LGBT community, who answered my questions and overlooked any faux pas I might have made in the discussion. With patience and understanding, they guided me with their words, and here is what I learned:

When it came to representation in novels, gay men were often defined as being constantly on the hunt for sex. Or they were seen dying from suicide, or suffering from depression simply because they were gay. The not so subliminal message in these works is that one cannot be a gay man and be happy.

Yet neither of these portrayals were like the men I knew, who had healthy relationships with their partners and with the people around them. Likewise, my friends who were single were also emotionally centered and enjoyed their lifestyle. So I understood exactly what the people in Rob's forum were saying when they told me their biggest request was to see a gay man (or any member of the LGBT community) represented as a whole person, and not simply defined by one aspect of their character.

I spoke to other people, and they said they were tired of seeing gay men ridiculed in film and novels. Their issues with these portrayals wasn't because they didn't have a sense of humor. But when someone is seen as nothing but the joke of a story, then the joke becomes a myth of its own making and strips people of their humanity by lampooning them. Done long enough, the jokes become insidious and color our perceptions of others until we only see the satire, not the human being.

Recently, Laura M. Hughes reviewed Los Nefilim on her blog. Out of all of the kind things she said about the series, this was my favorite part:

... the heroes of Los Nefilim are deep, fully-rounded characters who are far too complex to be defined simply by which master they serve; or, for that matter, by their sexuality. Issues of gender are neither downplayed nor dwelt on, and the fact that Diago and Miquel are both men is but a natural part of the story.
(In fact, the author’s egalitarian approach to gender holds up a mirror to our own lives in the least patronising way possible. Simply put, Frohock shows us a society where men are just as vulnerable as women, and often suffer in silence because of unequal and arbitrary gender expectations. She shows us a society in which men are just as likely as women to experience rape, and verbal abuse, and sexual harassment – a fact we all need to recognise and empathise with.)
On the surface, Los Nefilim could also be regarded as a moral tale about overcoming intolerance: the Nephilim’s secret war does indeed serve as a clever analogy for how homosexuality was stifled beneath the stigma of a god-fearing society. But while this is without doubt a huge part of the story, in my opinion it’s actually far subtler than that. Great speechifiers and glorious martyrs our protagonists ain’t: they are heroes of necessity, not intent. And Frohock doesn’t idealise Diago and Miquel’s relationship so much as naturalise it. Their connection is shown through understated dialogue and non-verbal interactions, and by the gradual emergence of both men’s paternal instincts as they work hard to create a harmonious family unit for Diago’s son.
For me this was a huge relief. In the past I’ve pointed out more than a few female writers who draw on shallow stereotypes of sexual promiscuity and unequal partnerships in an attempt to portray same-sex male couples. Thankfully, Frohock avoids this entirely: she doesn’t ‘write gay characters’; she writes characters who happen to be gay. Contrary to stereotypical beliefs – and exactly like couples of any orientation – Miquel and Diago don’t hump like rabbits, nor are they joined at the hip. And their relationship might be the pivot on which the events of Los Nefilim turn . . . but no one can accuse the story of being ‘too romantic’.

Hughes' analysis of the series has been echoed by other reviewers. Hers simply went into more detail. 

And what I realized, as I read her review, was that while Los Nefilim might not be the most talked about series of the year, I had succeeded in doing what I set out to do. I wrote a good story, which is an entertaining read, and it sold on the strength of my writing. My gay characters weren't secondary: Diago is the protagonist, and his partner, Miquel, is featured heavily in each of the novellas.

Los Nefilim isn't the only novel out there with a gay protagonist, but Diago is mine, and I am incredibly proud of his story. Meanwhile, I feel like I've honored the good men that I know--the same men who still face prejudice and hate simply because of who they love--by writing a series that doesn't add to the list of stereotypical portrayals of gay men.

And that, my dear friends, is success.

Quick notes--where I've been and what I'm doing

ONE CORRECTION TO THE NEWSLETTER (for those of you that take both of newsletter and blog): I placed the wrong date for my class in the newsletter. The correct date and time is in the sidebar (June 9, 2016).

For those that don't subscribe to the newsletter, I will replicate the contents in this blog post to get the word out. After today, newsletters will be like a secret club.

The print edition of the Los Nefilim omnibus is coming on June 14, 2016! I'm not going to be shy: if you want more Los Nefilim stories, we've got to make serious sales during that first week, so if you are planning to pick up a copy, please consider pre-ordering.

You can get a copy at: AmazonBarnes and NobleHarperCollins, and don't forget to check out your local indie bookstore. If they don't have it, they might be able to order it for you. Find your local indie at Indiebound.

* * *
EVIL IS A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF ANTAGONISTS

I am involved with this super Kickstarter, which will begin on June 15, 2016 (gonna be a busy week, I can see that coming ...)

The last Los Nefilim story that I am contracted to write is for Evil is a Matter of Perspective: An Anthology of Antagonists.

This is the Kickstarter event for which I have made a RARE (and I do mean RARE) video of me talking about the anthology, reading from Without Light or Guide, while HOLDING DOWN AN ANGRY CAT!

Due to my hearing, I was terrified to make a video of me talking. However, somewhere around the fourth take, I started to have fun, and when I finally subdued the cat, I appear fairly normal.

[NOTE: I included a transcript with the video, so if you're deaf or hard of hearing, you can read the talk, and then just enjoy angry cat for the rest of the video.]

So watch for the Evil is a Matter of Perspective Kickstarter so you can see me! Reading! Out loud! Along with Macavity in all of his evil catness! Seriously. You cannot get entertainment like this on Netflix.

GIVEAWAYS

There will be a few. One is currently pending at Goodreads. If you are a U.S. resident, then put the print edition of Los Nefilim on your to-read list. That way you will be notified when the contest goes live in a few days. The Goodreads giveaway is for a signed, print edition of Los Nefilim.

In addition to the Goodreads giveaway, I will host another giveaway only for newsletter subscribers. This will be the only worldwide contest that I will run for Los Nefilim.

What's that? Not a newsletter subscriber? Look in the sidebar: beneath EVENTS, you'll see a field for your email address. Enter your address and click the big orange submit button. Don't forget to check your email and verify your email address. After that, you're in the club!

The prizes for the newsletter giveaway will be:

Third prize is a signed copy of Los Nefilim.

Second prize is a signed copy of Los Nefilim and a Los Nefilim button.

The GRAND PRIZE is signed copies of both Los Nefilim and Miserere, a Los Nefilim button, and a handmade card with a quote from Los Nefilim inside (pictures of the cards are coming).

EVENTS

I have two upcoming events, both local to my area:

June 9, 2016 [class begins at] 6:00 p.m. -- I will be teaching alongside Bram Stoker award winning author, Lisa W. Cantrell: Writing Fiction for Publication. The class will be held at Rockingham Community College. Click the link and go to page 14 for details.

June 18, 2016 at 1:00 p.m. -- A reading at Uprising Coffee and Books, 655 Washington St., Eden, NC. I will be talking about Los Nefilim and my inspiration for the series. I'll also read from In Midnight's Silence, and sign copies of Los Nefilim and Miserere, or just hang out and drink their awesome coffee and talk about books. I'm flexible like that! So come out if you can.

And that, my darklings, is all that I have for you right now. Sign up for that newsletter and keep your eyes peeled for that special giveaway ...

Folklore Thursday: The Coming of the Angels and the First War

From the writings of Guillermo Ramírez de Luna, first king of Los Nefilim:

In my first-born life, my name was Solomon, and I was the third king of all Israel. Of my father David’s many children, I was the only one born with the fire of the angels in my soul.

My father told me of the beginning days of the world, and now I leave my words for my daughter, who will one day rule Los Nefilim in my place.

During the first generations of the world, the daimons ruled the earth. They were the old gods, worshiped in the earth and water, and drew their sustenance from the mortals’ emotions--the stronger the emotion, the more powerful the daimon. The daimons often coupled with the mortals to create Nephilim, hybrid creatures neither truly spirit nor truly mortal. These Nephilim were the sorcerers, the prophets, the dreamers of the ancient times.

The angels came from sky; a different species made of fire and air. Their explorations of the numinous realms led them to the earthly realm, and once here, they fell in love with the mortals.

The daimons saw the angels as usurpers and refused to be subjugated. The most powerful daimons were those that fed on hate--Moloch and Ashmedai--and they led the others against the angels. The two groups warred and the skies shook with the thunder of their battles. They moved the continents and sank Atlantis beneath their fury. Both sides were equal in cunning and strength, so the conflict dragged on for years to become a stalemate between the powerful entities.

To break the impasse, the angels gambled that the daimons wouldn’t allow the mortals to be annihilated. They manipulated the realms and caused the deluge, and the rains submerged the earth. Millions of mortals perished.

When the daimons saw their sustenance dying, they capitulated to the angels’ demands and negotiated a treaty, but at no point during those mediations did the daimons mention their bastard children, the Nephilim. Unlike their parents, the daimon-born Nephilim weren’t restricted to the many covenants between the daimons and the angels. They set about the lands to provoke war and discontent in order to feed their parents’ insatiable appetite for blood.

When the angels discovered the daimons' children, they created a breeding plan of their own and set it into motion. Angels mated with mortals. Our race, the angel-born Nephilim, was produced to circumvent the threat of the daimon-born. With the Nephilim, the angels and the daimons could avoid another open conflict--their bastard children would decide future wars. Each side sought to breed the most powerful army.

Even today, the war goes on and the breeding programs continue ...