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.”

Fieldnotes: pink lists and the pink triangle

A few short notes on why I chose to use male protagonists and antagonists in my Los Nefilim series, and maybe a few historical facts that not many people know. There are women in the novel, as well, and I adore writing them, because they’re all so vicious (Carme, Sofia, and the Corvo twins to name a few).

The thing is, though, the books originally started with Guillermo as the protagonist. As I became more involved with different people online, I realized that my novel with Guillermo, Diago, and Miquel followed every terrible trope out there. In my case, multiple rejections became a second chance.

I considered flipping the genders and making them all women. Then I spent some time studying the various time periods. As I did, I found that laws against homosexuality were generally written against men, going back to the Visigothic Code, which specifically addressed sodomy and no other form of same-sex love. The code itself states that anyone accused of sodomy “not only suffer emasculation, but also the penalty prescribed by ecclesiastical decree for such offences.” [1] Ecclesiastical decrees during the 13th century dictated the death penalty for sodomy. [2]

Women, on the other hand, were (and quite often still are) seen under the false assumptions that they are either: a) naturally affectionate or b) not in control of their own desires. There is the added perspective that, seen through the male gaze, f/f copulation can be arousing to males, and therefore less likely to be seen as a punishable offence.

Regardless of the reasoning, as time moved on, the persecution against gay men remained in place. It wasn’t until the early 20th century that both psychologists and physicians began to study sex and gender associations more openly. One of the most renowned was Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a German physician who founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, which pioneered “the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights.” [3]

Hirschfeld believed that "homosexuality was part of the plan of nature and creation" like other forms of love and affection. In 1919, he co-wrote and acted in the film Anders als die Andern ("Different From the Others"). Conrad Veidt, a prominent German actor who makes a cameo in Where Oblivion Lives, played one of the first homosexual characters ever written for cinema in this film. Because of this, he is Rudi Grier’s hero.

Hirschfeld, for his part, uses his role to play himself and makes an attempt to educate his audience. A portion of the film is devoted to Hirschfeld testifying in court that “the persecution of homosexuals belongs to the same sad chapter of history in which the persecutions of witches and heretics is inscribed."

Unfortunately, Hirschfeld became a Nazi target in the early 1930s. He escaped arrest only because he was on a book tour when the library at Hirschfeld's Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute of Sexology) was raided on 10 May 1933. The Nazis burned thousands of books.

In Spain, France, and Germany (where the majority of the Los Nefilim series takes place), police kept lists of known homosexuals. Pierre Seel, a young Frenchman, frequented Steinbach Square in Alsace, which was a place where men went to meet for sexual encounters. Unfortunately for him, he one day lost a treasured watch to a thief. He went to a police station to report the theft and found himself on the receiving end of a lecture from the detective. Seel didn’t know for certain, but based on later action by the Gestapo, he realized the detective must have placed his name on a list of known homosexuals. [4]

In Germany, these were known as "Pink Lists." When the Nazis seized power, they rounded up these men and told them to report to Gestapo headquarters. Seventeen year old Pierre Seel was likewise summoned by the Gestapo to be interred in a concentration camp.

After the murder of Ernst Röhm, the laws against homosexuality (women were still exempt) became stricter. The obsessively homophobic Heinrich Himmler had the Gestapo step up their raids. In 1937, he told SS leaders that “it was regrettable that gay men could not be killed, but at least they could be detained.” [5]

According to Richard Plant, in his book, The Pink Triangle, between the years 1933-1944 between 50,000 to 63,000 men, 4,000 of whom were juveniles, were convicted of homosexuality under Germany’s infamous Paragraph 175. [6] Forced to wear a pink triangle, these men were detained in the concentration camps and suffered harsh treatment from both the guards and the inmates.

While German law required consent for castration, several gay men were castrated against their will. In order to “cure” the men of their homosexuality, men wearing the pink triangle were forced into particularly hard labor. They were often isolated in separate barracks, where they were forced to sleep with the lights on and their hands above the blankets at all times.

At the end of World War II, gay men were prohibited from seeking reparations for their time in the concentration camps, because homosexuality was still against the law. The laws in most countries didn't change until the mid- to late-60s. Even then many men were too ashamed to come forward. Where the Nazis failed to kill them, society turned them into pariahs. Some, such as Pierre Seel, married and forced themselves into heterosexual marriages. (Seel's ended in divorce.)

In spite of numerous books and studies of the holocaust, I was able to find only three or four books devoted entirely to the men who wore the pink triangle (these are just the ones that I’ve read):

  • Herger, Heinz [trans. by David Fernbach]. The men with the pink triangle: the true, life-and-death story of homosexuals in the Nazi death camps. Los Angeles: Alyson Books, 1980.

  • Plant, Richard. The pink triangle: the Nazi war against homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt, 1988.

  • Seel, Pierre. I, Pierre Seel, deported homosexual. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

So what does all of this have to do with Los Nefilim?

Well, it all sort of goes back to my decision to do things differently with the original story. You see, Guillermo started as the protagonist for the Los Nefilim world, but the more I wrote, the more I realized this was Diago’s story. If I changed his gender, then I cheated him of his story, one that has been little more than a footnote in most history books.

Writing Los Nefilim from a woman's point of view would have drastically changed the characters' perception of the rapidly changing world. By keeping the male point of view in these books, I can balance Miquel’s hope for a more tolerant world with Diago’s pragmatism. Later, in Where Oblivion Lives, Diago's actions with a young German man take on more poignancy because both must remain hidden from the other for different reasons.

More than anything, I want to show you what Hirschfeld wanted to show his audience with Anders als die Andern ("Different From the Others"). That is why my cast is predominantly male.

If you're looking for kick-ass women, I can direct you to a ton of good books, but I'm keeping my boys, because they have a story to tell, too. It begins in 1931 in Barcelona, in a novella called In Midnight’s Silence …
__________
[1] FLAVIUS EGICA, KING. Book III, Title V, Section VI. Concerning Sodomy, and the Manner in which the Law should be Enforced.

[2] Michael Goodrich Ph.D. (1976) Sodomy in Medieval Secular Law, Journal of Homosexuality, 1:3, 295-302.

[3] Goltz, Dustin. "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Movements", In Lind, Amy; Brzuzy, Stephanie (eds.). Battleground: Women, Gender, and Sexuality: Volume 2. Greenwood Publishing Group: Westport, CT, 2008.

[4] Seel, Pierre. I, Pierre Seel, deported homosexual. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

[5] Wachsmann, Nikolaus. KL: a history of the Nazi concentration camps. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016.

[6] Plant also notes that six lesbians were arrested, which is considered a "bewildering statistic, since sex between women was not against the law."

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!

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“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.

I've got news: MystiCon, Greensboro Bound, and ConCarolinas

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Time got away from me during the final half of 2018. I had so many things happen—some were quite wonderful and others not so much. The upshot of it is that I simply didn’t have a lot of time to blog. The next Los Nefilim novel was due on February 8, 2019, and due to many circumstances beyond my control, I was woefully behind in writing it. Likewise, the deadlines for helping my Pitch Wars mentee, Elvin Bala, were also falling roughly into that time frame. Working with Elvin took no time at all … the novel, Carved from Stone and Dream, almost killed me.

Emerson inspecting early copies of where oblivion lives and she gives them black cat approval.

Emerson inspecting early copies of where oblivion lives and she gives them black cat approval.

So I essentially dropped everything that wasn’t novel or Pitch Wars related and disappeared to get ‘er done, and I did, we did, everything worked out, and I took this past weekend off and died ded and rested. Now I’m back to tell you about Where Oblivion Lives and gear up for promo and cons in 2019.

I spent a little time tweaking the webpage to make things easier to find. You can see a list of categories in the righthand sidebar.

I’m working on an interview for the Fantasy Hive and a couple of guest posts this week. In preparation for upcoming conventions, I’m devising panel topics to submit. Speaking of conventions, I’m also getting geared up to hit the con trail in 2019.

Cons and festivals

On February 22-24, I’ll be attending MystiCon in Roanoke, Virginia (you can find my full schedule here), and on April 5-7, I’ll be at RavenCon in Williamsburg, Virginia

May is going to be a busy month. I’m very excited that I will be attending Greensboro Bound (May 16-19), a local literary festival in Greensboro, North Carolina. Then I will be at ConCarolinas, which is hosting Deep South Con 57 (May 31-June 2) in Charlotte, North Carolina.

November 22-24 will find me back in sweet Charleston, South Carolina for AtomaCon. I lived in Charleston during the mid-to-late 1980s and haven’t visited the city in my years, so I’m greatly looking forward to heading south again.

So that’s it for now. There will be a lot more in the coming weeks.

Watch for me …

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.

Full Dark, No Stars Netflix's 1922: a review

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This is, quite unintentionally, turning into the Stephen King fan blog. What can I say? It's been a banner year for the release of several movies based on King's works, I'm learning to hear again, and so here we are.

While I enjoyed both It and The Dark Tower at the movies, 1922 came by way of a Netflix original. For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you'll know that Netflix originals have been kind of hit or miss for me until recently.

Needless to say, I held my breath when I saw they were taking the helm for one of my favorite King novellas, 1922. This is the kind of story that can easily be botched by overacting or a poorly paced film. Fortunately, Zak Hilditch delivers a pitch perfect film that is intense and the epitome of an excellently rendered horror tale.

Thomas Jane plays Wilfred James, a farmer hellbent on keeping his farmland intact, even if it means murdering his headstrong wife (Molly Parker as Arlette James), who wants to take her inheritance and live the city-life. What could have devolved into an angsty morality tale turns into a ghost-tale worthy of Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.

The film is true to the novella, and the acting simply makes the story sing. This should be on your must see list, regardless of the time of year.

A return to the blog

I don’t know about anyone else, but the very nature of social media is beginning to exhaust me. Some days I feel spread quite thin. I have a novel to write, and I’m thoroughly enjoying working with my Pitch Wars mentee, Elvin Bala. I also have all the tiny behind-the-scenes maneuvering that goes on prior to a publication, in addition to normal life events such as my day-job and family.

None of this is complaining, by the way. I love all these varied aspects of my life. However, I also know when stress is beginning to affect my body, and when I have to slow down, or at least unplug somewhat. Facebook has been the first to go. I haven’t disappeared entirely there, because I belong to some public groups that I enjoy, and a private group of extraordinary fellows of arcane society and another of Harper Voyager authors, both of which have saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

I’m still on Twitter, frankly because it’s easy to blurt short bursts than it is to sit down and compose a blog post. However, whenever I find myself doing a thread, I wonder why I didn’t take the time to blog. Social media demands you be there in the moment, and blogs are somewhat more static. My newsletter goes out much more randomly, but that’s because newsletters can seem kind of spammy, especially this time of year, so I tend to keep those for special announcements.

In the sidebar there is a link to get the blog posts via email, in case you want to sign up there.

I’ll run my blog posts through Twitter, Tumblr, and my author Facebook page. I’ll be around, but engagement on social media might be spotty for a bit. I hope you’ll understand.

Schedule for World Fantasy Convention 2018

I’m going to be at World Fantasy Con this coming weekend! This is my first World Fantasy Con, so I’m super excited to be attending. Thus far, it’s been a very positive experience and the programming committee has been very kind and bent over backwards to find a place for me.

I’m taking the train for the first time ever and if everything runs on time, I’ll be arriving at the hotel sometime between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. on Thursday. I will be tired and ravenous but don’t let that scare you. Actually, it should frighten you just a little; however, I usually settle down once I’ve made it to my room and have been fed and watered.

Depending on my energy level, I’m hoping to get signed in and hang out for a bit Thursday evening.

On Friday morning, I have a breakfast meeting with my agent. After that, I have nothing else planned, so I’ll be hanging out at the con and attending panels. Saturday morning is currently free, as well.

If I’m just hanging out in the lobby with some free time, I’ll shoot a quick tweet.

Saturday 4:00 p.m., I’ll be on the Monsters and the Monstrous panel along with Julie C. Day, Aliette de Bodard, Hannah Strom-Martin (M), and John Wiswell.

Description: Monsters have existed as long as humans have made myths. But what makes a monster truly horrifying? A look at the lines between myth, horror, privilege, class, gender, and more.

I do have a planned Saturday evening dinner, and then I will have to leave very early Sunday morning, so I can be back in North Carolina for my day job on Monday.

A few notes for folks who haven’t met me:

I’m deaf, but I have a cochlear implant in my right ear. This means that if you approach me from behind or from my left, I might not hear you speak. If you say something to me and I don’t acknowledge you, it’s okay to touch my shoulder or arm to get my attention.

When we do speak, it might take me a moment or two to fully understand you, especially if you’re soft-spoken or if you have an accent. This is because of the way I hear through the implant. It usually only takes me a few moments before my brain begins to connect the sound coming from your mouth as words and when it does, we should be able to communicate without a problem.

In large crowds with lots of ambient noise, I’ll resort to lip-reading to supplement the sound coming in through my processor. This means I may frown a lot while I’m listening to you. It doesn’t mean I disagree with you, it’s just my listening face, because concentration.

If you see me reach for a small remote, I’m adjusting my microphones to shut out background noise. This helps me focus on the person in front of me.

Some of you might know sign language. I don’t. I do occasionally find it helpful, but at other times, it can confuse me even more, because my brain is hearing you through the implant and I’m lip-reading, so the added stimulation of attempting to translate hand movements can cause me to short-circuit. Trust me when I say it’s me, not you.

I don’t expect anyone to remember all of this, and I’m fine with letting people know what’s going on over and over if necessary.

I’m looking forward to a great con and meeting a lot of my online friends in real life. Be safe in your travels and I hope to see you there.

Notes from THE LABYRINTH OF SPIRITS read-along, pt. 1

I’m reading the final book in Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s cycle of The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, The Labyrinth of the Spirits. I had wanted to leave notes on Goodreads, but the Goodreads comments section truncates my responses, so it’s kind of hard to do. I’ll carry on there and come here to elaborate when I can.

What I want to do is give my American readers some historical context, which might help people who are unfamiliar with the Spanish Civil War and its aftermath understand some of the story’s nuance.

page 23: The novel opens in March of 1938, when Barcelona was mercilessly bombed by the rebels and their allies (the Italians and the Germans). These were civilian targets, not military, and only stopped after international outcry. Hitler’s Condor Legion was heavily involved in the Spanish Civil War and the German air force perfected the blitzkrieg in Spain. They primarily targeted civilians.

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page 83: The character of Joaquin Maura seems to be something of a composite of many people who suffered during the Franco’s war of annihilation. Zafón doesn’t mention Maura’s specific crime, but it most likely consisted of supporting the Republican government, or even belonging to a union. When the Spanish Civil War ended, the Francoists used union or political lists to round up any Republicans, who might stand opposed to Franco and his rebels.

Writers, schoolteachers, and doctors were imprisoned solely based on their occupation. So when you see the word “criminal” in The Labyrinth of the Spirits, read it with tongue firmly in cheek.

Maura’s “crime” and subsequent imprisonment caused him to lose his family & his livelihood. His encounter with his adult daughter speaks to how many children were brainwashed into believing their fathers were criminals.

Maura resides in the Hotel Hispania with other "criminals,” awaiting death.

The fact that the novel’s protagonist, Alicia Gris (gris is gray in Spanish), resides in the Hotel Hispania is a clue to Alicia's political leanings. Her thoughts seem more in line with those of the defeated Republican government rather than those of her employer, a branch of Franco's secret police. Alicia is a hard bite of defiance in a world that hates women. God, I love her.

page 115: Alicia is paired with agent Vargas from a different unit. In their first scene together, Vargas asks Alicia if she can drive.

She replies: “I can barely open a bank account in this country without permission from a husband or father.”

Vargas says, “I see.”

“Allow me to doubt that.”

It's important to understand that one of the first things Franco's fascist regime did was severely curtail women's rights. Fascists have always feared powerful women. They still do.

page 126: Doña Mariana speaks of “national reconciliation,” which is a term meant to gloss over the memories of Franco's on-going brutalities. She becomes extremely miffed when Alicia challenges her on the subject.

Franco was big on “national reconciliation," which essentially amounted to “I won, so let's all get along,” or in 21st century jargon: “both sides.”

“National reconciliation” eventually became Spain's Amnesty Law, which was enacted in 1977, two years after Franco's death. The law freed political prisoners and allowed exiles to return to Spain, but it did nothing to prosecute Franco's regime for its human rights violations.

It was sort of Spain's way of saying BYGONES in the hopes that everyone would conveniently put the past behind them and move toward Spain's future. This is hard to do when you can’t turn soil in Spain without hitting mass graves full of Republicans shot by the fascists.

I’m on page 133. I’ll post again when I’ve collected a few more notes.