Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ursula K. LeGuin's Call to Arms

Ursula K. LeGuin's acceptance speech at the 65th National Book Awards, November 19th 2014.

Her clarion call is a stirring one. The clampdown of fear and the degradation of art in American society go hand-in-hand with the decay of the society itself - they create each other, increasingly fearmongering reality feeding into art which in turn casts the 'real world' in its image ("We need artists who remember freedom," says LeGuin). Creating art is a materialist exercise insofar as physical processes are involved, but its essence is extradimensional; thus capitalism and the materialist episteme in which we live can do little to inform it beyond providing a raw substance from which to transmute. It's true that great art twists the horrors and calamities of 'reality' into beautiful forms. Horror is the fuel for the divine work, but art must be allowed to work with that fuel. If Political Correctness or Religious Mindedness or Marketing Concerns impede our ability to express truly, the resultant transmission will be tainted. It's the job of artists to plot the course of our mutation, to extend the lattice on which the vine of humanity will grow. Obsession (fearful, egoist, wealth) with the material present leaves the future unformed, concern with accessibility and profit over substance leaves our creations cold and half-animated. We do not write for the corporations, for those too weak or single-minded to embrace new visions, for tongue-clucking professors and academics, or for our mothers. We write for the future.

Thank you Ursula for accepting this award on behalf of all the writers of fantasy and science fiction. I trembled when you mentioned hope.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Writing for Fun and Vaguely Potential Profit: A Reminiscence

It's November here in the desert, which means (thankfully) mostly sunny skies and moderate temperatures during the daytime and cold, bitter nights (it's plummeted well blow thirty several times in the last week, mostly on account of ye olde polar vortex). There are short, blustery days ahead, and the ever deepening chill to anticipate...the desert is indeed quiet and Cleveland is definitely cold, but recent nighttime temps have shown little difference between Las Cruces and the sparkling gem of Ohio.

Not that I'm complaining, understand. Born and raised in northern Michigan, I'm on very personal terms with the concept of coldness. However, it is very interesting that I migrated south just prior to last year's hellacious winter (a psychic understanding, perhaps?). I'm overwhelmingly grateful to live in the desert, even more so following the petrifying images coming out of Buffalo. If it snows here it will be a light dusting, readily dispelled by midday; still, I worry about the cacti. Several years ago a heavy frost fell in and around Cruces, killing off a fair number of the native plantlife. Going for a walk in the desert today one is constantly straying across rotten cactus husks. I'm hoping the temps modulate upwards and spare me the horror of experiencing a plant apocalypse firsthand.

With the advancing of the Dark Time I've been allowing myself to experience and savor a personal transmutation, a dying and rebirth if you will. Primarily driven by the recent publication of The Mask of Tamrel and its sequel, In the House of Madame Heretia, I've suddenly found myself in a bold new world where the book I valiantly endeavored to write for eight years (and that mutated into two books along the way) is now wholly and completely done. Never again will I need to contemplate the fiddly details of Kelrob and Jacobson's meeting and mutual evaluation; never again will I need to lay awake nights wondering 'what will happen if I fail at this, if I die before it's complete, etc etc' downwards into black waters and strange self-loathing. Yes, I'm being quite direct here, I suppose; Harlan Ellison has a lot to do with it. His blatantly direct soul-scouring introductions to his books have led me to fall in love with him as readily as his fiction.

Tamrel floundered many times over the course of its creation. There were many influential factors in this, amongst them a failed decade-long relationship, the insistence of my college professors that genre was a debased and self-indulgent mode of writing, the crushing weight of a succession of soul-deadening jobs, frequent bouts with obsessive anxiety, a failure to find and connect with other writers working in similar veins, and (perhaps most importantly) frequent visitations by the cackling demons of doubt. Indeed, the book would have languished forever if I hadn't forcefully expelled many of the negative restrictive aspects of my life and changed paradigms.

The result of this was The Mask of Tamrel, a near-200,000 word novel that was re-forged into two novels. I drew on none of my pre-existing writings, taking the characters of Kelrob and Jacobson and launching them on a completely fresh and re-envisioned adventure that shared many elements with the efforts of old. The tumultuous nature of my daily life became encompassed in their trials and tribulations: fresh friendships and soul bondings, sudden enemies and relocation, travel and loss (I had a succession of four cats die over the writing of the book). Overall I immersed myself in dozens of new writers and musicians, plunging deep into the primality of art. Lovecraft in particular disassembled and reconfigured my DNA, tantalizing me with his frequent integration of occult knowledge and interdimensionality. Michael Moorcock has also had a strong influence; I've read 15 of his books in the last year, hope to improve that number in the coming. The concept of truly high fantasy, fantasy that breathes the heady perfume of Faery, fantasy that trips dimensions and transcends levels of consciousness, guiding one through twisting phantasmogoric alleyways to the very steps of Chapel Perilous...!

Now, at the end of 2014, I look back on a year of strenuous work. The books have been written, the characters crafted. Much of the more frustrating labor came in the form of learning how to promote myself, a process I still engage with daily. The market, after all, is only partly a science; there have been mass fluctuations in the ebook trade in the last year, and these fluctuations seem likely to continue. My only surefire approach is to continue writing diligently. I'm hoping to crank out two new books in 2015, the third book in The Magistricide and a standalone vampire novel that emerged from the shadows roughly a week ago and has been strenuously demanding my attention. I find myself fascinated by the darker aspects of fantasy, and hope to plumb ever-deeper into the strange and arcane in future releases.

So here I am, on a cold night, November 20th 2014. The New Year promises and threatens. I'm not really a nonfiction writer by nature, but I've decided to try and record my ongoing self-publishing odyssey on this site. So far survival seems to depend on dealing with clashing high-and-lows: the joy at seeing one's work in print, the ongoing quest to find a receptive audience. I've been working to wield the resultant energies creatively.

                                                          Peace, y'all!

Friday, November 7, 2014

In the House of Madame Heretia to be released November 11th! (Also free giveaway of The Mask of Tamrel tomorrow, Nov. 8th)

My gods. November. It creeps up on one, squeezing from the pores and orifices of the universe, the long lost month between October and December. The season is of particular note in the Chihuahuan Desert, as the nights are chill but the days still temperate; all the plantlife from the previous year (much of it having sprung up in the last two months) is browning, the small purple and golden flowers turning to dried paper and pulsating about in the wind. I had originally intended for the second book in the Magistricide, In the House of Madame Heretia, to be published in late September, but there was clearly more work to do. October brought further uncertainty, further revision, and it wasn't until the early morning of October 31st that the final adjustments, twists, adornments, profanities, inflammations, and sacred lights were added. The result is a book that I am proud to have written. In it, Kelrob, Jacobson and Nuir experience massive transformation, up to and including death; temptation is plumbed, betrayal explored, hallowed blasphemies summoned (though the relative success of these summonings remains up to the individual reader). Ultimately the tale of Tamrel is brought to close. No, I never intended to release In the House of Madame Heretia in November, but it is a November book, quite literally in setting, but also energetically, a 'lost time' that must be trekked to reach the deep cold of Yule and the New Year's blossoming regeneration. I hope you will all join me in making the voyage.

Ceremony thus expended with, it gives me incredibly vast amounts of pleasure to announce the official release of In the House of Madame Heretia: Vol II of The Magistricide on November 11th, 2014! You can head over to Amazon at the link below and preorder the kindle version for $4.99:

Preorder In the House of Madame Heretia, officially available November 11th!

The book will also be available in physical form on the 11th, for those who still prefer the scent and texture of paper (must admit I am one of these). Once again thank you all for your continued support, please read and review!

PS: Also, there's a giveaway tomorrow (November 8th) of The Mask of Tamrel. You can get the book by clicking on the link below the banner. Enjoy!