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.

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 …

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 ...

And the world moved on ... Los Nefilim

I don't have a lot of clear memories from my childhood, but there are a few, and some of my best memories are the days, especially the nights, that I would spend with my grandmother. My grandparents had a farmhouse that they heated with a wood stove even though the rest of the house was wired for electricity. I remember snuggling down under a mountain of quilts with my grandmother beside me, and she would answer my hundreds of questions, or just listen to me talk.

The cool thing about Grandma was that she answered me like I was an adult; I always knew she would give it to me straight. She never told me to be quiet, or to not be so bossy, or any of the other things adults said to me when I was a child.

On one of those many evenings that we shared, she and I were in bed at my parents' house. I remember being so happy, and on that particular evening, I felt exceptionally safe and secure. I told her I hoped nothing ever changed. To my surprise, she laughed and said that everything changes, nothing stays the same forever, and that I needed to learn to change with the world around me.

To her surprise, I burst into tears, because I wanted to be six years old forever, and I wanted my grandmother to live forever, and of course, I wanted to feel safe forever. The thought of the world changing terrified me. The concept seemed unstable. Why change? Why disrupt happiness?

What I didn't understand then was I wanted the feeling of safety to last forever, not for the world to stay the same. But I was six, and as a child, I thought like a child, and my grandmother, well, she was so much wiser than me.

Nothing stays the same. In spite of our desires to freeze-frame life, the world moves on. Attitudes change, perceptions change, people change, and unlike the six year old child that I was, I now embrace change, even when it frightens me.

As I grew up and began to read, I happened upon R.A. MacAvoy's brilliant Damiano series in A Trio for Lute. Damiano is a witch, who loves his little town and his life there. When an army marches on his city, he takes it upon himself to make a deal with Satan, because Damiano wants to preserve his hometown exactly the way it is. Satan argues against the deal at first, telling Damiano that if his town doesn't experience privation and war, the city will likewise become stagnant and die. The devil's argument is that adversity leads to growth, a polemic that Damiano ultimately rejects, persisting in his desire to save the town.

As a condition of his bargain, Damiano is forced to leave his hometown, never to return, and by leaving, by experiencing the very change and adversity that he doesn't want to visit on his town, Damiano grows wiser and more worldly. In regards to the town: Satan was right. The world moved on, but the town did not. Peel back the layers of those three novels, there are metaphors there, the kind that I love.

As I became older and discovered adversity and grew through my pain, I began to truly understand my grandmother's wisdom. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same forever. The world moves on.

Not wanting to be left behind in the changing world, I learned to travel through books. Likewise, I write about people and cultures so that I might research them and gain a better understanding of the world in which I live.

In the process of trying to comprehend this ever evolving world, I wrote a novel, it didn't sell, and at the time I was very frustrated by that particular turn of events, but now, in hindsight, I am glad. In spite of all my research and numerous attempts to avoid tropes about gay men, I accidentally wrote those very tropes into that story without realizing it. If I get a chance to re-do the novel, I will, and I will do it differently.

The world moved on, and I listened and I learned.

However, I was so pleased with the characters from that novel, I wanted to resurrect them in a different way. The loveliest thing about embracing change means we get second chances, or as Diago likes to say, "Our incarnations change us."

When you read Los Nefilim, you see those characters, Diago, Miquel, and Guillermo, in a new form.

It's no longer Guillermo's story--I don't think it ever was. Diago Alvarez is my protagonist, and Diago is gay, so is Miquel. With these stories, I wanted to reverse the negative stereotypes of gay men that I had read about or seen on film. For a long time, these perverse images were all that were available and colored people's perceptions: the gay man always on the prowl for sex, or the prancing effeminate male, or the man dying of AIDS. Each of these stereotypes indicated that living as a gay man had terrible consequences. The not-so-subliminal message is that to be true to one's sexuality risks unhappiness, ridicule, and death.

Yet I knew gay men who lived happy fulfilled lives with caring partners. When I write about Diago's and Miquel's relationship, I am showing you what I have seen in my friends. Two men who love one another and are trying to work through life's everyday difficulties while remaining true to themselves.

You know, just like any other couple.

Well. There are a few differences ...

Welcome to Los Nefilim where Diago's world is changing around him, and he is struggling to keep up. He isn't entirely comfortable with his sexuality, but he has something very important in his life: close friends who love and accept him for who he is, not who he sleeps with, and a loving understanding partner, who wants nothing more than to protect him. It is love and acceptance that sustains a person through even the most violent changes, and in these opening novellas, Diago experiences quite a few of those, but he keeps getting up, a little taller each time, because adversity gives him the impetus to grow emotionally.

Collected together for the first time, the three novellas—In Midnight’s SilenceWithout Light or Guide, and The Second Death—brings to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons. In 1931, Los Nefilim’s existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them … and a half-breed caught in-between.

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly-found son. As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago’s actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weighs most heavily on his soul.

You see, the world moved on, and I listened and I learned, and when the opportunity arose to make critical changes to the story, I grabbed the chance. These novellas were an absolute joy to write. I hope you enjoy them half as much as I loved working on them.

Whether everyone is ready for a protagonist like Diago or not is still up in the air, but let me tell you something, I have no regrets.

The world moves on, and I listen and I learn, and I hope I never stop.

Saludos,

T

Love is never dark, not when it is true ...

This is an excerpt from Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim Part 2 and is one of my favorite scenes. Diago is trying to explain his relationship with Miquel to his son Rafael. Diago has never worn his wedding band publicly because of his fear that others will discover that he and Miquel are homosexual--remember: the story takes place in Spain in 1931.

When Rafael notices Diago's ring and comments that it is exactly like the band Miquel wears, Diago stumbles to explain their relationship. He is sure the child won't understand, but children often have much clearer vision than adults and they are usually wiser than we think.

* * *

Diago said, “Miquel is like a partner. Someone I want to spend my life with.”

Rafael considered this explanation for a moment. “Then why don’t you wear your ring?”

“Because he thinks our love is dark,” Miquel said from the kitchen doorway. He spoke gently enough, but Diago detected the familiar bitterness edging into his words.

How many times had Miquel asked him not to hide the symbol of their love? You murder me, Diago. Every time you deny our love, you murder a piece of my heart.

Ashamed, Diago looked down at his ring. Miquel disappeared back into the kitchen. The sounds of plates rattling onto the table seemed to carry more force than usual.

I’ve upset him. Again.

“Love isn’t dark, Papa.” Rafael touched the wedding ring in Diago’s palm. “Love kills the dark. That’s what Mamá always said. Love drives the dark away.”

“I don’t believe love is dark.” Not anymore. Not after his years with Miquel. But still … “I’m afraid not everyone will understand.”

“They don’t understand because you don’t wear your ring. If you wore your ring, they would understand.”

Diago had no answer for that, and he now wondered if it was he who didn’t understand, and Rafael got it just fine. He simply sat there with his son next to him, gazing at the wedding band he wore beneath his shirt like it was a dirty secret. Yet Los Nefilim knew. They all knew. Some didn’t approve, but they didn’t dare say anything to Diago or Miquel’s face. What were they going to do? Kick him out? The thought of it was ludicrous. Once a Nefil swore allegiance, he never left the service of his king.

And how can I commit to Los Nefilim and not to the man who has stood by me all these years? The chain slithered between Diago’s fingers and fell to the floor.

* * *

You can read a new review of Without Light or Guide at Around the World in 80 Books.

Celebrating THE SECOND DEATH with a giveaway

Yesterday was release day for the final novella in this Los Nefilim cycle, The Second Death: Los Nefilim, Part 3, and I talked a little about the novella over at Supernatural Underground. The Los Nefilim series was also mentioned yesterday on the B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog: A New Golden Age of Short SF/F: How Genre’s Earliest Days Are Informing Its Future.

[EDITED TO ADD: The Amazon giveaway is over. All four of the prizes have been claimed! THANK YOU!]

If you haven't had a chance to read either of the first two novellas, I am hosting a giveaway on Amazon (U.S. only ... Amazon's rules, not mine). I'm giving away two copies each of In Midnight's Silence: Los Nefilim, Part 1 and Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim, Part 2.

All you have to do is click on the link below to be taken to the giveaway:

In Midnight's Silence: Los Nefilim, Part 1 -- Amazon Giveaway

Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim, Part 2 -- Amazon Giveaway

If you live outside the U.S., then I have FOUR remaining codes for Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim, Part 2 and FOUR codes for The Second Death: Los Nefilim, Part 3 (sorry, I don't have any codes left for In Midnight's Silence). I'm sure these codes work for Canada and the U.K., because I've had folks use them successfully. If you are in any other country, you are most welcome to enter the contest. Since you download the codes from the HarperCollins U.S. website, you should be able to use it.

[EDITED TO ADD: THIS GIVEAWAY IS LIVE UNTIL APRIL 1, 2016:]

I know! I know! Right now you are asking yourself: HOW DO I WIN ONE OF THESE MYSTERIOUS CODES?

Drop me a comment and tell me your favorite, urban fantasy, historical, or alternative history fantasy. I talked about a few of my favorites over at the Harper Voyager Impulse blog this week. Lots of other folks have chimed in with their favorites in the comments, so if you're looking for ideas, you might find some there.

IN YOUR COMMENT: Specify whether you want the code for Without Light or Guide: Los Nefilim, Part 2, OR The Second Death: Los Nefilim, Part 3, OR both.

That is all that you have to do!

I will choose the winners on Friday, April 1, 2016.