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

WOL_compressed.jpg

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!

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.


WhereOblivionLives.jpg

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
Audiobook, narrated by Vikas Adam, is available from Audible

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 …

A few random thoughts

Before I begin, I want to take a moment and thank everyone who has taken time from their busy schedules to either rate or review either Los Nefilim (the omnibus or the novellas) and Where Oblivion Lives. I know your lives are just as busy as mine, so please know that I appreciate your time! Knowing what you love, or hate, helps me steer the series in the right direction. I won’t sacrifice the story I want to tell, but if there is some small way I can make the series more enjoyable to its fans, I like to do that.

Which brings me to the Los Nefilim Snippets (see the sidebar). I haven’t been around much, but it’s mainly because I’ve got several things going on this year. I’m promoting one book, editing a second, and writing a third. It all tends to take up a bit of time. I wrote the first post in what I hope becomes a series for the fans of quiet moments in the novels: Los Nefilim Snippets. There are only two right now, but I’ll probably add one a week or every two weeks as time allows. They’re fun for me to write—more fun than coming up with blog post topics.

Violin.jpg

Author’s copies finally arrived for Where Oblivion Lives! That means I can now come up with some ideas for a contest to give away a few copies. So watch the blog, my newsletter, and my Twitter and Facebook feeds for those.

I also discovered that I can leave annotations with Goodreads through my Kindle Notes and Highlights. There were about eight things I wish I’d had space to note within the text, so I compromised and waited for publication. You can go to Goodreads and read the annotations. The last two are spoilers and concern Rudi. I’d suggest you finish the book before reading those. I used spoiler tags so they’d be hidden and no one would accidentally stumble on them.

The next book in the Los Nefilim world is called Carved from Stone and Dream. I’ve been busy locating photos that evoke the essence of that novel’s story for the cover art, as well as coming up with cover copy (blurbs, etc.) for it.

If you want a hint (and a teeny excerpt) about Carved from Stone and Dream, the key refrain will be: “Don’t blink:”

Miquel stared back, projecting a calm he didn’t feel. This was another interrogation trick: mention a loved one and watch the source carefully for a twitch, or a tear, or a blink. Anything to indicate the jab hit a nerve. Miquel knew that if he showed the slightest interest in Diago’s welfare, Benito would use Miquel’s fear as a cudgel. Don’t blink.

I’m also getting a great deal of glee every time someone signs off one of my social media accounts or a review with “Watch for me.” You guys are made of awesome.

I’ll be around.

Watch for me.

Hey, hey, it's release day for Where Oblivion Lives!

It’s finally release day for Where Oblivion Lives, and the book kicks off with an awesome review at RockStarLit Book Asylum!

WhereOblivionLives.jpg

“I would have given this book six stars if GoodReads would have let me. Well worth checking out and quite easy to jump in at this point. But, I can guarantee if you’re like me, you’ll want to go back and catch this series from the start.” —Jennifer (BunnyReads)

I’ve got an interview coming up on Thursday at the Fantasy Hive, where I’ll be talking about the novel, and I’ll be at MystiCon this weekend for a ton of excellent panels. You can find all my comings and goings at my Events page.

If you didn’t pre0rder, you can still get a copy at:

Scuppernong Books HarperCollins | IndieBound

The talented Vikas Adam narrates the audiobook, which is available from Audible.

A reminder: Goodreads giveaway for advance copies of WHERE OBLIVION LIVES

Just a reminder, in case you missed the first blitz of tweets, my publisher is hosting a Goodreads giveaway from December 3, 2018 - January 1, 2019 for copies of Where Oblivion Lives. This giveaway is U.S. only.

For those of you who don’t know: I’m very excited about this novel. It’s a mixture of all the things I love: a 1930s noir vibe, a Gothic haunted house, and historical fantasy all swirled together.

WhereOblivionLives.jpg

I also love writing about Diago and Miquel, because they have something I crave in my fiction: an emotionally healthy relationship. All people are broken to some extent. It’s how we prop one another up during those bad times that makes us healthy. And I wanted to write something that I’ve seen other authors do successfully: that couples can be tender and loving with one another without robbing the story of tension.

If you want to read about some of the historical background for Where Oblivion Lives, you can check out the Fieldnotes category in the sidebar. I’ve written several articles about the historical settings in Where Oblivion Lives and will be adding to that category periodically as I move through the next two books.

I’ve been working on the blog and fixing a lot of the categories so that things will be easier to find. I’m also hard at work on the next novel in the Los Nefilim series, Carved from Stone and Dream.

I’ll be around.

Watch for me …

a poem, a title, and how all this works in publishing

A very quick note on book titles. When I pitched the Los Nefilim series, I wrote a proposal that consisted of the first ten thousand words of the first book, a three-page synopsis (roughly … okay, three and a quarter, so what?), and two very brief proposals, meaning a paragraph each, for the how I envisioned the next two books in the series to play out.

As part of the proposal, I gave titles to all three books. That is because this is usually how proposals are submitted, although I’m sure some authors list Book #2 and Book #3, as well, who knows? I’m just speaking from my own experience.

Ask any author, and they will most often tell you that they hate coming up with a title for their books. It’s serious torture. We’re trying to think of something unique enough to stand out while remaining brief enough for readers to remember. It’s a lot like writing poetry, except you only get to write one line and it can’t be too many words, because it has to fit on the cover of a book, and it also has to essentially capture the essence of your story and SURE THAT’S EASY! NOT!

In my case, the original titles that I proposed for the Los Nefilim novels were: Where Oblivion Dwells; Carved from Stone and Dream; and A Song with Teeth. These are the titles that wound up in the contract, for yea, this is how contracts are written—with titles, because publishers and agents and writers and editors and lawyers love details, because legal and binding and all that.

Of the three titles, I’m only going to talk about the first book for the purposes of this post. I got the title from a poem by Luis Cernuda entitled: “Donde Habite el Olvido.” I’ve seen the title translated to both “Where Oblivion Dwells” and “Where Oblivion Lives,” depending on the translator.

For those who are unfamiliar with Cernuda’s work, the poem is:

I

Forbidden Pleasures: Luis Cernuda New Selected Poems [1924-1949] , translated by Stephen Kessler. Boston: Black Widow Press, 2015.

Forbidden Pleasures: Luis Cernuda New Selected Poems [1924-1949], translated by Stephen Kessler. Boston: Black Widow Press, 2015.

Where oblivion lives,
In the vast gardens of darkness;
Where I will be no more
Than the memory of a stone lost in spiky weeds
Where the wind goes to escape its insomnia.

Where my name leaves
Its body destined for the arms of the centuries,
Where desire has ceased to exist.

In that great realm where I love, terrible angel,
Doesn’t slip its wing
Into my chest like a knifeblade,
Smiling airily as my torment grows.

Out there where this passion demands a master in its own image,
Submitting its life to another life,
With no more horizon than a face with other eyes.

Where sorrows and joys are nothing more than names,
Native land and sky around a memory;
Where at last I’ll be free without even knowing it,
Mist in the fog, an absence,
A light absence like a child’s flesh.

Out there, far away,
Where oblivion lives.

The imagery and themes Cernuda expressed in this poem simply ignited my imagination and heavily influenced some of the ideas in my novel. Which made this a rare time when choosing a title wasn’t difficult at all.

When I first read the poem, translated by a different individual, it was entitled “Where Oblivion Dwells.” I loved the sound of “dwells” and decided to go with that as my initial title: Where Oblivion Dwells. I did all the due diligence of running the title through Google, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble and I couldn’t find another similarly title novel in their databases. This proposal was submitted to and purchased by Harper Voyager in April of 2017.

MEANWHILE, ELSEWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE, COMPLETELY UNBEKNOWNST TO ME, SOMETHING COMPLETELY SIMILAR WAS GOING ON:

So one fine day, I was busy checking my links and did a quick name search in Google to make sure a certain link was appearing correctly, when low and behold but what did my wondering eyes see: they’d listed me as the co-author of a completely different novel entitled Where Oblivion Dwells by Lorena Franco.

Of course, I’m all: wut?

It seems that Ms. Franco’s novel was originally published in Spanish and it was entitled … wait for it … Donde Habite el Olvido. The novel had recently been translated into English in May 2017 and given the title: Where Oblivion Dwells, about a month after I’d done all of my searches for books with that title.

Google’s algorithms apparently decided that since two women had written a book with and identical title, we must therefore be co-authors, because algorithms without human intervention are notoriously stupid. Out of curiosity, I looked at Franco's book, which is also Gothic and has supernatural elements. That put us in similar categories. However, other than the titles, our themes and stories are very distinct.

This next part of this saga is very important, because at the point I discovered this SNAFU of minor proportions—which was some time in the late summer of 2017, I think—we had put zero work into the cover art for my novel. Timelines in publishing can be tight, and you don’t want to make a title change that is going to affect the work of the cover artist, who has spent effort in coming up with the right design. Not to mention the fact that the title was already beginning to show up in online searches through Amazon, etc. and is probably what caused the initial algorithm co-author issues in Google books. Someone would have to go back and make any changes to those databases.

If we had gone even a month more into the process for my book, we couldn't have done what we did. As it was, we were drawing a tight line and creating more work for people, who are, like everyone else, maxed out to the max in their jobs, too.

Knowing this, I emailed my editor and agent and outlined my thoughts. I wanted to see if was too late to change the title to eliminate confusion. Fortunately, David was fine with it. We decided to go with Where Oblivion LIVES, as this would cause the least disruption to the title change, and which spellcheck sometimes calls Where Oblivion LIES just for shits and giggles, I guess—I don’t know; I’ve just learned to roll with these things.

So the thing with titles and the sheer number of books being published means there will be some, nay, maybe a lot of crossover in book titles. No matter how diligently you search for your novel’s title or series, someone else may be rolling in with the exact same title within days, months, or years of one another.

And it’s okay. The people who are going to buy Franco’s novel, are going to buy her books. Likewise, the people who are looking for Los Nefilim stories know where to find me. Neither of us are taking anything from the other.

As a matter of fact, if someone buys Franco’s novel, thinking that it’s mine, they might find themselves turned on to a new author they otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. I think that’s a win a for all of us.

Fieldnotes: the Great War in Where Oblivion Lives

It's been a while since I've given you some Fieldnotes, so I thought I'd show you a quick one. Some of the most dramatic moments in Where Oblivion Lives come from Diago's flashbacks to battles of the Great War, which was how World War I was known during the 1930s.

During my early research, I came across the following account by Private Wilf Wallworth from the South Lancashire Regiment:

There was a little tramway up the back of the bank leading up to the Bluff trenches. You couldn't be seen by the Germans there, but they had it taped. For a while it was my job to take up ammunition, water, supplies, food and that, to a place just behind the trenches where it would be unloaded. This was at night of course.

For the return trip they put bodies on the trolley -- men who had gone west that day I suppose. I hated the homeward journey. I don't know why because I must have seen thousands of dead men, dead horses, mules, by then, and I was properly hardened to it. But pushing the tram back . . . well, I wasn't comfortable.

You had shells and mortars and starshells going off regular, and in the flashes, especially the starshells which burned for a bit, I couldn't stop myself looking at my load. I didn't want to, but I was drawn to it. The track was uneven and wobbly, and it looked like they were moving, coming back to life. It made my skin creep, but I just couldn't keep my eyes off them when the lights went up.

Everything in that war was down to luck. Although Minnies landed pretty close a few times -- a hell of a crash, they made -- and shook us about a bit, they never got me, and I never had anyone [a body] tumble off; I think I would have left him there for someone else if I did. I had been told of other blokes and their load just disappearing; just a smoking hole there in the morning.

Funny what your mind does. If I hadn't been alone it wouldn't have been so bad, I suppose. It probably sounds ridiculous [to you], but my obsession with looking at those lads -- who couldn't do me no harm, could they -- took away the fear of the shelling.

--The Battlefields of the First World War by Peter Barton

That image--of a soldier wheeling bodies away from the battlefield--remained with me as I worked on the early drafts of Where Oblivion Lives. The scenes took several forms until the final draft, where it's been trimmed and polished to be seen in Diago's first nightmare scene.

In this excerpt, Guillermo's wife, Juanita, who is an angel and Los Nefilim's doctor, has persuaded Diago to let her hypnotize him. They dream his dream together:

“This is similar to hypnosis,” Juanita murmured. “I will take you down into sleep by adjusting my voice until I find the vibrations that best affect your brainwaves.” Her timbre changed as she elucidated through one set of vocalizations and then another. Diago could tell by the subtle variations that she utilized all three sets of her vocal cords. “When I find the correct pitch, you will begin to dream, and then I will follow you into your subconscious. Now close your eyes.”

It wasn’t hard to obey her.

“Think about the music you hear when you sleep. Try and conjure the song.”

Engulfed by darkness, he listened. Silence met him, as deep and impregnable as the void. Then, from faraway, he caught the first isolated notes of the violin. It was his Stradivarius.

Louder now, as if sensing his presence, the music drew near. The bow attacked the strings (Diago recalled making those quick jabs: strike, strike, strike, followed by a smooth pull) before slurring the chords into decay. The intro descended into pallid notes, gray and soft like fog (no, the smell of cordite is strong in the air . . . it is not fog but smoke) drifting over the muddy ground.

The dream solidified, taking him deeper into his subconscious. The faint outline of a château appeared behind broken (burned) trees, shrouded in fog . . .

“Smoke,” Juanita whispered.

Smoke.

The song’s tempo slowed to become a dirge. Diago walked the scorched field. Lumps of clay (bodies) littered the ground. In the distance came the steady percussion of drums (bombs), shaking the earth with furious thunder.

Squinting through the smoke, he perceived a shadowy figure pushing a tram filled with corpses. The arms and legs trembled as the wheels jittered along on the hastily laid tracks of war. One hand opened to release a silver disc that sank into the mud.

Then the bow resumed its attack and punch against the strings (quick jabs: strike, strike, strike) and the night came down and the world went black and silence descended quick and hard, like the stillness that follows the falling of a bomb.

Diago opened his eyes. His heart pounded and for one wild moment, he thought of Guillermo’s Creed Model 7, churning out messages in staccato beats. He became aware of Juanita’s strong hands, pinning his shoulders to the cushions.

This is the first foray into what Juanita refers to as Diago's "prolonged battle stress," because during the 1930s it wasn't called PTSD, but rather battle fatigue or shell-shock. In the original draft, Diago never spoke of his experiences in the trenches, and probably wouldn't have, but my editor placed a sentence in Diago's mouth that ignited my imagination.

In that first draft, Diago didn't have the second flashback. Juanita asked him if anything else noteworthy happened, and Diago blew off her question. Then my editor had Diago answer her by inserting a single sentence into Diago's mouth: "You mean other than all the killing?"

And I realized I'd missed a huge opportunity with both the scene and the novel. So I went a little deeper into my character's psyche and the result was a much stronger scene that set the stage for everything that follows:

Juanita touched his shoulder. “It’s not unusual to be tormented by past engagements. Nefilim suffer from prolonged battle stress just as mortals do. Did anything noteworthy happen during that fight?”

“Noteworthy,” he repeated dully while rubbing his forehead. He found it hard to keep venom from seeping into his words as he answered her question. “Aside from the sheer magnitude of the death toll?” A sudden image flashed through his mind: huddling in a trench as shells exploded around them. Cold and wet and eaten alive by lice, he’d shut his eyes against the mud falling like rain and when he opened them again, someone’s scalp landed at his feet . . .

“Diago?”

He jerked himself free of the memory, uncomfortably aware of his clammy palms. “I don’t know what you want from me, Juanita. After so many days of battle, they all seemed the same.” A never-ending misery.

And that, my friends, is the story of how a tram full of corpses and Diago's PTSD became a huge part of Where Oblivion Lives.

(Obligatory book plug: you can preorder it here: Amazon | B&N | Books-A-Million | HarperCollins | IndieBound or add it to your Goodreads list)

The Tale of Two Covers: Where Oblivion Lives

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WhereOblivionLives_Revised.jpg

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

Here is the blurb:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For those of you who loved the novellas:

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

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

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

Meanwhile, I hope you all have great summer.

Watch for me,

T

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

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

I'm super excited about the book now.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer on and stay cool!