Snowed in and Snowed under

Snapshot_20140802_2by Chantal Boudreau

This year, the weather has brought me ample fodder for story concepts. Be it imagined scenarios of the aftermath of a bus crash during an April snowstorm or co-workers sharing ideas of snow monsters taking over the world when winter never goes away (not someone who writes stories herself,) the massive snowfalls we have endured here in late winter/early spring seemed to have inspired some unpleasant icy fantasies.

But that’s the thing about fiction – genre fiction in particular. The stories are found in the unusual, not in the norm. You’ll rarely see a “day in the life of…” kind of tale when exploring the speculative unless it’s presented in such a way to highlight the differences between our mundane existence and the strange alien planet, or the magical fantasy realm or the dystopian future society. Everyday life doesn’t tend to make for an exceptionally interesting story unless there is something exceptionally interesting about the protagonist(s)’s everyday life. Even in literary fiction, characters tend to have their eccentricities and are moving toward some point of self-discovery or self-destruction not just adhering to the status quo.

The entertainment value of a fictional story comes from events that wouldn’t typically happen. They might be used by the author for some sort of social commentary or moral point, something not likely to happen as the result of a protagonist sitting there twiddling his or her thumbs. Whether a character’s involvement is proactive or reactive, the story results from challenges, accidents, ambitions or extremes – something beyond the average.

I’ve been subject to the extraordinary for years, accused of being a weirdness magnet and of knowing everybody everywhere on more than one occasion (because I always seem to bump into acquaintances in the strangest of places.) I think that’s why, unlike some writers, I don’t cringe when people ask “where do your ideas come from?” I’ll gladly tell them. My life has always run so far outside of the norm, even when I’m trying to be just your average old boring accountant/mom, that I can’t escape new story ideas. I see them in my family, my friends, my co-workers, my environment, my goals, my fears and my trials and tribulations. Sometimes they even show up in the floors, doors or walls. With all this plot material building up in my head, if I didn’t write the occasional story, it might just explode.

So despite my unhappy mutterings about the record-breaking snowfall we’ve had this year, it’s really not all that bad. It’s just another one of those unusual experiences I can file away to break out when I need fictional inspiration – as the urge strikes me.

Something to keep me busy the next time I end up snowed in or snowed under.

Exploring Backstory

by Autumn M. Birt

There have been a few posts recently here on the Guild of Dreams discussing how an author can share backstory to a novel. Be in a prologue, weaving in the details, or an info dump (or not!), there are always important bits of a storyline that need to be shared to more the plot forward.

I think there is one more use for backstory that we haven’t covered: reader exploration.

I know when I’ve read a short story or novel that really hooked me, I’ve googled the author and book, spending time perusing what they write, hope to write, and any information about the world they’ve created. That is why an author spends all that time developing a website, for those readers who know that there is instant access to more online.

How this happened is backstory to my latest WIP!

There are famous authors doing this or fans are doing it for the author. Think about how much information is out there on the world of Harry Potter. Books mentioned as part of the curricula of Hogwarts are being written. That is filling in backstory!

With that in mind, though I never envision that level of devoted interest, I’ve begun spinning out some of the backstory to my current dystopian work-in-progress, Friends of my Enemy. You see, for dystopia, the backstory on why the world is in such a bad state is really important. But the problem with backstory is that prior events to the story have backstory. And that loop is where I found myself when I wrote Friends of my Enemy.

Rewrote, actually.

You see the two novels that make up the storyline are based on a novel I wrote (and never published) a few years back. I liked the idea, but it needed work. And it needed some explanation. So to really flesh out the world, I wrote short stories set before the novel begins. I ended up with eleven short stories and references to huge events that happened before the short stories. Hmmm…

Which left what to do with those events? Leave them as references as well, allowing the reader to fill in details? Write more short stories? I decided to blog them.

Some of my on-line backstory uses created news articles, which have been a lot of fun to make!

That the events happened is important to the story, but the details I’m putting into the blog posts are less so. Instead, it has become a fun way for me to share and flesh out the story line. If a reader wants more information, the as yet to be published novels will refer them to the blog and the book’s page with its timeline. Considering I’m writing about cataclysmic events taking place in our near future, I feel strange saying how much fun I’m having researching and writing about such things as the pandemic of 2039 and the drowning of Miami in 2042.

And as I move forward with a new epic fantasy trilogy, Games of Fire, I’m trying to keep an eye out for backstory that would make an interesting blog post. With fantasy, I’m much freer to discuss nuances of the world, such as why the cities of the archipelago have ancient warding stones on its borders, as well as to discuss murky history like the Forgotten Wars!

Blogging backstory has become a fun way for me to explore the world without having to worry about putting too much in the novels. I can world build, discuss nuances with readers, and explore a world I enjoy writing about. Who knows, it might lead to another story.

How do you as a reader feel about discovering more about a story through blog posts and online? If you are an author, do you blog about backstory?

Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy trilogy the Rise of the Fifth Order. She has also been blackmailed by its characters into writing a new epic fantasy series, Games of Fire, set in the same world while trying to chaperone characters from a dystopian novel who run around with swords and guns. No one is playing nicely with each other! Learn more about her and the world of her books, where her mind has permanently relocated, at AutumnWriting.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads (supposedly).

VAMPIRE DOWN is now available!

The wait is over!

VAMPIRE DOWN, the final volume of the BLOOD SKIES series, is now available!

And through July 4th, volumes 2-6 are all on sale for just $2.99 each on Amazon.com, so if you don’t own them already go get ‘em now!

Also be sure to check out the VAMPIRE DOWN Blog Tour (see schedule below)!

vampire_down_final_rgb

Who ever knew the end would come so soon?

In this final volume of the BLOOD SKIES series, Eric Cross and Danica Black find themselves facing impossible odds in the desolate ruins of the world they once knew.  Hunted by the mercenary forces of the newly formed East Claw Coalition and desperate to find the elusive White Mother, the two refugees will be pushed to the limits of their abilities and sanity as they struggle to survive.

Meanwhile, in the near future, the undead hunter called Reaver searches for the lost city of Bloodhollow, the place where humankind will make its final stand, while the undead of New Koth and the rebellious White Children make their push to end the reign of the Ebon Kingdoms once and for all.

As timelines collide and the spider weaves her web, the battle for the fate of the riven world will come to its violent conclusion in the depths of a forgotten city, where unlikely heroes will emerge and hidden evils shall finally be revealed…

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THE VAMPIRE DOWN BLOG TOUR

Vampire Downbanner2

Vampire Down Tour Schedule

 

June 25th – Kelly at Paperback Cowgirl Reviews – Review Blood Skies

June 26th – Jasmine at Book Groupies – Soundtrack, Spotlight, Dreamcast

June 27th – Meg at Heart on Fire – Guest Post

June 28th – Toni at My Book Addiction – Guest Post

June 29th – Megan at Megan’s Blog – Author Interview

June 30th – Danielle at Consuming Worlds – Character Guest Post

July 1st – Scott Moon at Scott Moon Writer Blog – Review Blood Skies

July 1st – Katheryn The Perks of Being a Book Nerd – Spotlight

July 2nd – Lou at Relaxed Reads – Review Crown of Ash

July 3rd – Stephanie at The Book Hipster – Author Interview

July 4th Michelle at In Libris Veritas – Top Ten

 ****

About the Author

Steven Montano was something terrifying in his previous life.  Now he’s an accountant, so not much has changed.

An avid hiker, reader, San Antonio Spurs fan, goofball husband and father of two, Steven writes novels (the seven volume Blood Skies series, the Skullborn Trilogy, something black…, and the upcoming thrillers Blood Angel Rising and Colder) and drinks a lot of wine when he isn’t busy pulling his hair out over payroll or trying to balance the company books.

Visit the author’s website.

 

Cover Reveal: VAMPIRE DOWN (Blood Skies, Book 7)

VAMPIRE DOWN

Blood Skies, Book 7

Coming June 27th!

vampire_down_final_rgb

Cover Art by Barry Currey

Who ever knew the end would come so soon?

In this final volume of the BLOOD SKIES series, Eric Cross and Danica Black find themselves facing impossible odds in the desolate ruins of the world they once knew. Hunted by the mercenary forces of the newly formed East Claw Coalition and desperate to find the elusive White Mother, the two refugees will be pushed to the limits of their abilities and sanity as they struggle to survive.

Meanwhile, in the near future, the undead hunter called Reaver searches for the lost city of Bloodhollow, the place where humankind will make its final stand, while the undead of New Koth and the rebellious White Children make their push to end the reign of the Ebon Kingdoms once and for all.

As timelines collide and the spider weaves her web, the battle for the fate of the riven world will come to its violent conclusion in the depths of a forgotten city, where unlikely heroes will emerge and hidden evils shall finally be revealed…

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Available Friday June 27th in Ebook and Print format.

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About the Author

Steven Montano was something terrifying in his previous life. Now he’s an accountant, so not much has changed.

An avid hiker, reader, San Antonio Spurs fan, goofball husband and father of two, Steven writes novels (the seven volume Blood Skies series, the Skullborn Trilogy, something black…, and the upcoming thrillers Blood Angel Rising and Colder) and drinks a lot of wine when he isn’t busy pulling his hair out over payroll or trying to balance the company books.

Visit the author’s website and check out the Vampire Down page on Goodreads!

Cover Reveal: CHAIN OF SHADOWS

Coming October 25th

chainofshadows_final

The barrier between worlds has been broken, and the invasion is about to begin.

Eric Cross, burdened by the loss of those who’ve died under his command, must lead his recently reunited mercenary team against the shadow wolf sorcerers known as the Maloj.  Bound to dire artifact blades and charged with protecting the Kindred, Cross seeks help from the enigmatic White Mother, leader of the Southern Claw.

But sinister forces bring his vessel down in a strange and distant land, and soon Cross and his allies are beset by undead armies vying for control of the deadly region called the Chain of Shadows.

Trapped in a desert waste where wielding magic is dangerous and nothing is as it seems, Cross’s team will pay the ultimate price in their battle to finally get home…

Return to the world After the Black in this pivotal 6th book of the BLOOD SKIES saga!

E-Book: $3.99

Print Edition: $11.99

Enter the Goodreads giveaway contest!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Chain of Shadows by Steven Montano

Chain of Shadows

by Steven Montano

Giveaway ends November 01, 2013.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Montano keeps writing novels in the hopes that one day he’ll wake up and actually feel like a real author. Maybe it’ll happen tomorrow.

Steven is the author of City of Scars, the Blood Skies novels (Blood Skies, Black Scars, Soulrazor, Crown of Ash, The Witch’s Eye and Chain of Shadows), Tales of a Blood Earth 1 and 2, and something black…. He’s currently hard at work on Blood Angel Rising, a horror novel; Vampire Down, the next installment of the Blood Skies series; and Path of Bones and The Black Tower, the sequels to City of Scars.

He lives in Washington State with his beautiful and intelligent wife, two beautiful and talented children, and a backyard badly in need of some love.

Visit Steven’s official website http://bloodskies.com/

Book Excerpt: CHAIN OF SHADOWS (Blood Skies, Book 6)

Book 6 of the Blood Skies saga is scheduled for release on October 25th.  No, there isn’t a cover yet, and I’m still scrambling like mad to get the final version edited, but never mind that: take a sneak peek at the opening of the novel, which picks up right where The Witch’s Eye left off!

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Darkness in the water, blood on the wind.  Roiling night smoke pours through the ravine, a cloud of ash and poison.  The air is cold with fear.    

His clothing is torn, his body riddled with cuts.  Everything is a blur of shifting silhouettes and bleeding shadows.  He falls to his knees in the mud.

There’s something wrong with him.  His limbs are heavy, weighted to the ground.  His motions are sluggish and dreamlike.  He seems to move as someone other than himself. 

He has become another.

The change ripples through his body and burns under the skin.  Images flash before him, storms of cinder and mountains with claws, gore in the sky and fields of bone.

He stumbles through soiled waters.  This isn’t who he is.  He’s been trapped somehow, sealed inside someone else’s flesh.  His form shifts and wavers as he walks.  He dissolves into mist, and his footsteps burn the ground.  His presence is uncertain.  He is in flux.

He tries to recall the moments leading to this one.  Nothing comes easy.  His mind floats in a haze of silver echoes and steel rain. 

The pools reflect a monstrous shadow.  He fears something is following him until he realizes he is the shadow, a vacillating hulk of black edges and mottled fur.

What am I?

He isn’t alone.  There are others, drifting shapes with vaguely lupine forms.  Slathering jaws and dripping teeth and eyes like cutting moons.  They bear smoking fangs and ebon talons, and their wolf hides are wet with meat juices.

He can’t see any of them clearly.  They’re only shadows, holes in the light, rips to some darker place. 

Something speaks to him, speaks through him, the voice of a vast and ancient presence.  It compels him.  Its language is some sanguine tongue, a dirty arcane dialect stinking of rot and burning metal.  It makes no sense to him, and yet he moves, carried by its commands.

He has no memory of anything before this.  He tries, but whatever else has happened is gone. 

His vision bleeds like chalk in the rain.  Hollow roars echo through the night.  Everything is distant and flat.

Clawed feet tear into the rock.  There’s nothing beneath it – it is an island of torn earth.  He senses the emptiness of the surrounding void.

His consciousness is a prisoner, trapped at a dizzying height.  He looks down and sees himself, a pinprick figure.  A bleeding man swathed in oily rags.

That’s who I once was, he thinks, and he longs to remember more, but the moment is ripped away.

He marches with the others.  Their presence blisters the air and boils the ground.  Nailed fingers scrape against stone.  He ascends to a watery light, where he hears howling and darkness. 

They don’t make it far when the hole is sealed.  He panics.  The voice hisses in anger.  His body shifts and fades.

Not yet, he realizes.  Whatever dread purpose drove him here will be forced to wait, but not for long.  For even though the gate has closed a part of him is still there, despoiling the landscape, a behemoth entity squeezed into a flesh shell. 

Soon.  He isn’t sure if the voice is his, or another’s.  Soon…  

spider

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Steven Montano is currently being tortured by masochistic demons armed with olive forks.  That’s what he gets for pissing off the wrong supernatural entities.  You can learn more about Steve’s writings and laughable existence at http://bloodskies.com/.

Life, the Universe and Everything

By the time this post goes up, it will be two days after my forty-second birthday. Forty-two…that’s supposed to be the answer to the “big question”, but somehow I doubt everything is going to fall into place, not after the off-kilter year I’ve been having, running the gamut from minor victories to tragic losses.

Another big question I’ve been facing is: “how long is your Fervor series going to run?” That runs into the whole notion that I had never intended Fervor to be anything other than one-off science fantasy dystopian novel in the beginning. I expanded it in response to readers and publisher’s requests – because no matter how much of a final ending there is to a story, unless all of the characters involved are dead and the planet blasted to smithereens (like the Arthur Dent incident…which wasn’t the end to the story their either because the characters were still alive) the story can keep going. A book doesn’t encompass everything that ever was or ever will be, so there is almost always room for sequels – or at least prequels, even if the characters were all dead and the planet destroyed in that case.

But there is a set story to the Fervor series, and I did leave plenty of loose ends in the first book that could use tidying. I also recognized that there was no way I could shore up those ends in just a second or even third book. First I had to find my refugees a place where they could stop running long enough to work at a solution. Now I’m having to give them three books to gather ammunition for the public battle versus the Scholars. And the last three books will involve the final clash and fallout. So I’ve settled on nine…a number I seem to favour in life much more than forty-two.

Compare that to my other series, Masters and Renegades, and you’ll find the two are altogether different – beyond world-setting and plotlines. M & R is not one continuous story like Fervor. It has recurring characters, a common world and magic systems, but aside from one two-part storyline, each book involves a separate event with a variety of characters. Unlike Fervor, nobody has ever asked me how long M& R will run because each book is a story unto itself. It has limitless potential, with eight books written, the third of which is soon to be published, and a ninth and tenth in planning.

So there you have it. The way through a series is not always a single continuous line. Rather, I have two completely different approaches to writing a series, both offering alternate ways of introducing new faces while exposing the nature of the world involved and how life functions there…

…Two different paths to life, the universe, and everything.

Book Release: The BLOOD SKIES OMNIBUS, Vol. 1

blood_skies_omnibus

Vampires.  Magic.  War.

Welcome to the world After the Black.

This collected edition includes the first three novels of the Blood Skies saga — BLOOD SKIES, BLACK SCARS and SOULRAZOR — plus the all-new short story CRUCIFIX POINT.

Completely re-edited and featuring exciting new cover art by Barry Currey, the BLOOD SKIES OMNIBUS is a must-have for any Dark Fantasy or Military Sci-Fi collection!

BLOOD SKIES

Southern Claw warlock Eric Cross is a member of Viper Squad, ordered to pursue the renegade witch called Red across a war-torn wasteland before she can betray vital secrets to the Ebon Cities.

BLACK SCARS

Cross and a band of unlikely allies find themselves on the trail of a recently released evil  as it stalks the land in search of its ancient enemy, leaving a trail of madness and destruction in its wake.

CRUCIFIX POINT

Sent to investigate a series of mysterious vanishings in the wastelands, Cross and his newly-formed mercenary team learn the true fate of those killed during the massacre at Crucifix Point.

SOULRAZOR

Cross and his team are tasked with halting enemy activity near the remote city-state of Fane, where vampire agents have teamed up with a former Revenger to locate a deadly weapon called Soulrazor.

Buy A Copy Now!

E-Book: $6.99

Print Edition: $24.99

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Print Edition

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Grab yourself a copy, spread the word, and thank you to everyone who’s helped to get this puppy out there!

About the Author

The secret is out — Steven Montano is a caffeine-powered robot masquerading as an Indie author.  Check out his various malfunctions at http://bloodskies.com/

Exclusive Sneak Peek at CRUCIFIX POINT

Check out this exclusive excerpt from Crucifix Point, a Blood Skies short story set in the time gap between Black Scars (Book 2) and Soulrazor (Book 3).  The full story will be available this summer in the Blood Skies Omnibus Vol 1.

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Shadows fell from the sky, drifts of ebon rain like ribbons of ashen night.  Even at that distance the smell of burning bones was strong, and Cross had to cover his mouth with one hand so he wouldn’t gag.  His spirit coiled around his body, agitated by the presence of tainted and foreign power.  Her touch sent chills down his spine.

I wish she’d just calm down.  I’m nervous enough without her freaking out like this.

The bitter wind sounded of hollow voices and distant wails, and the setting sun shone like tarnished gold.  Brackish marshlands and clusters of dead trees stretched north of where they’d landed, right at the edge of a small valley filled with corpses.

The bone-pale gorge was littered with bodies impaled on rows of sharp stakes.  A few of the cadavers were bundled together like sticks, cloth-wrapped and doused in some sort of sharp-smelling vehicular fuel, and the rows of corpse-addled spikes led down to a twisted edifice of black rock.  The valley sat beneath a mass of stationary black clouds, a silent storm like a spill of oil in the sky.

“That’s creepy,” Kendrick said.

“Keep your composure, lover,” Tayanna said.

“Can we hurry this up?” Black asked impatiently.

Cross and his team – Danica, Kane, Tayanna and Kendrick – crouched low near the valley ridge.  The icy cold cut like blades into their skin.  Each member of the team wore an identical suit of black leather armor specifically enchanted to grant some measure of resistance against the necrotic poisons infecting the area.

The howling wind sounded like a choir of lost souls.  Cross wiped snow dust from his eyes and opened his hand-held telescope to take a second look at the target area.

“Check on the masks,” Cross told Kane.  “Kendrick, keep your eyes open.  We’re not entirely sure what we’re up against here.”

I hate missions like this.  It would be nice to have a clue what we’re walking into.

Over the past few weeks people had gone missing from caravans leaving the city-state of Dusk.  At first everyone suspected Gorgoloth raiders from the Bone Hills, but scouts in the area reported no such activity west of Wolftown.  More people vanished, this time from Southern Claw recon missions out of Seraph, and then Gol started disappearing from their grim bastion of Meldoar.

No alarms had been raised until people started to uncover the mummified bodies.  The fact that they’d been wrapped was strange enough, but beneath the funerary shells were charred corpses covered with oozing blood runes.  Elias Pike, commander of the garrison at Thornn, hired Cross and his team to find out what was going on.

“The masks are fine,” Kane said.  “But your plan to just walk down there is just bat-shit crazy.”

“Is that your official assessment?” Danica asked.  “We’ll be fine.  We have to get close to figure out what’s going on.”

Kane didn’t like that answer.  “Can’t you just…you know…”

“Use our spirits to scout ahead?” she answered.  “No.  Whatever it is that’s generating that poison storm interferes with our spirit’s ability to reconnoiter.”

“Right,” Kendrick smiled.  “We’ll take your word on that.”

“Honey,” Tayanna said to the once-gladiator.  “Stuff it.”

Cross shook his head.  What a strange group they’d pulled together.  Ever since he, Black and Kane had decided to form the team they’d found that the hardest part was finding quality people to fill the roster, people they could rely on and trust but who also had reason to pursue a mercenary lifestyle rather than be a part of the military.

The first person they’d recruited, Frye, had left the army due to an injury, but in his time away from the service he’d rehabilitated himself and become quite a sniper.  Frye had proved to be a great asset to the team during their first few months of operation, but his luck ran out on a mission in Blackmarsh.

Sorry, man. 

Tayanna and Kendrick had come onboard shortly before Frye was killed.  Both were former members of the deadly monk-like order called the Raza, and the unlikely couple had actively pursued Cross when they’d heard about the team.  Danica had been dubious about the strange couple at first, but they quickly proved their worth.  Tayanna was a stick-thin woman with short red hair and a gaunt face, and her pale eyes glowed red when she channeled her spirit.  The dark-haired Kendrick was so scarred from the Vuul attack which had left him orphaned as a boy that he barely looked human anymore; like his lover he was pale and thin, but he had thickly knotted muscles and deep and penetrating green eyes.  Their reckless bravery and blade skills, coupled with Tayanna’s abilities as a Seer and healer, had served the team well, even if the two didn’t mix with Danica Black.  She still didn’t trust either of them.

But you don’t really trust me, either, I think.

Cross sensed her and Tayanna’s spirits, aggressive male presences that filled the air and made it burn.  His own spirit stayed close to his body, keeping her distance from the witch’s vitriolic phantoms, both of which constantly tensed and licked at one another like a pair of dangerous hounds.  It was sometimes difficult for Cross to keep his own spirit reigned in, but he had little choice.  She was nothing if not feisty.

Danica pulled her hair back.  She’d let it grow longer since they’d decided to form the team nearly a year ago, and Cross liked it.  He found himself staring at her more and more as of late.

Nothing good will come of that, he warned himself.  This group has enough problems without you complicating things.

“Are we ready or not?” Danica asked.

She readied her Winchester .44 short-barreled rifle.  Kane snickered, like he always did, but he knew better than to say anything – Danica had made clear she’d have no trouble introducing him to the business end of the rifle if he couldn’t keep his “Wild cowgirl” comments to himself.  Danica also had a pair of katars at her waist and a Smith and Wesson Model 38 on her belt, and her spirit spun around her body like a rabid cyclone.  Kane readied a Norinco Type 56 and adjusted the two short swords on his belt, while Cross checked his M4A1, the HK45 at his side and the Remington 870 strapped across his back.  Both Tayanna and Kendrick used MP5As, but neither really cared for them, as they preferred their vampire-crafted swords and chained knives, prizes they’d taken off some Ebon Cities scouts.

“We’re ready,” Cross said.

You’re ready,” Kane said.  “I need a minute to wet myself here.”

Kendrick laughed.

“All right,” Cross said.  “Ten meter spread.  Don’t touch anything.  We make our way down to that rock formation so we can figure out what the hell is going on.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Tayanna said.

“Like I said…batshit crazy,” Kane said.

“I’m going to shoot you,” Danica said to him.

“Ok, ok,” Cross said.  “Masks on.  Let’s go.”

****

Steven Montano is actually a coffee-powered zombie.  Who knew, right? Check out bloodskies.com to find out more.

The Blood Skies Playlist

I like to listen to music when I write.  It helps me block out the chaos of the world around me, helps me vanish into the magic of words, and brings me closer to worlds I’m creating from scratch.

I like to make playlists.  I make playlists for exercising, playlists for walking, playlists for writing.  I make playlists for my playlists.

I like to think I have fairly varied musical tastes.  While most of my listening focuses on dark alternative/gothic/industrial stuff, I do like pop, some metal, some rap, and even some country (though said songs are few and far between).  For the most part, however, I listen to what I think of as “Depression Alt-Electro Rock”.  (Yeah…we’ll go with that.)

This playlist is one of many I play when I write, and it changes fairly regularly.  These are songs that help me create a mood and flow with my writing, especially when I’m working on the “Blood Skies” novels.  In many cases these songs focus on particular characters or themes I find myself coming back to again and again.  (One could even call this the “Blood Skies Soundtrack”.)

1.   “Lost in the Echo”, by Linkin Park

Linkin Park’s songs are often filled with themes of loss and regret.  “Lost in the Echo” has a tone at once both dismal and sweeping, hopeful and filled with sorrow, with equal measures of anger and fear.  I love the dichotomy of the song, something I try to capture in the disparate world After the Black.

2.   Vow”, by Garbage

Danica Black is an important character in the Blood Skies novels, and the further along I get into the series the deeper I delve into her characters.  “Vow” is a terrific representation of her: aggressive, angry, yet undercut with a sense of vulnerability.

3.   Maison Du Tigre”, by Diorama

Mother nature lost her child

There’s no earth beneath my feet

All the times I’ve played it wild

Have left my story incomplete

Now I’m here to end the show

With no more promises to keep

No faith to be repaid and no

More miles to go before I sleep

Many of the characters in Blood Skies are, shall we say, socially stunted.  You would be too, if you grew up in this dismal place, faced with supernatural horrors on an almost daily basis.  Some characters are worse off than others, but everyone is damaged.  Perhaps the worst off is Ronan, raised from a young age to be an assassin, and who later struggles with what it means to be human.  In a lot of ways this song is about him.

4.   “Down”, by The Birthday Massacre

We all fall down

Into the fire

And my wishes have all come true

We all fall down

I don’t want it if I can’t be with you

I love good Gothic rock, and The Birthday Massacre makes great Gothic rock.  The tone and mood of the song all but embody Cole’s relationship with Danica.

5.   Shame”, by Stabbing Westward

I don’t know if I’m real without you

What is left of me without you?

I don’t know whats real without you

How can I exist without you?

Angsty dark rock just doesn’t get better than this.  Though you have to take the song a little out of context, “Shame” has always made me think of Eric’s frame of mind when he first lost his arcane spirit in Blood Skies.

6.   One”, by U2

Well it’s too late tonight

To drag the past out into the light

We’re one but we’re not the same

We get to carry each other, carry each other

This is one of my favorite bittersweet love songs.  The lyrics are tragic and poetically sad, and yet something about the song is uplifting, like hope waits somewhere at the end of the fog of lost love.  It’s a mood I try to capture in my writing – no matter how dismal the story or situations is, my characters believe there is hope, and that’s what they strive for.

7.   Going Under”, by Evanescence

Creepy, atmospheric, emotional, and loud.  This is pretty much the theme music for the series.  The fact that the video is scary as hell and features 30 Days of Night style vampires is just a bonus.

8.  “The Bitter End”, by Mesh

I love catchy club tunes, and something from Mesh is always on my playlist.  For some reason their songs always make me think of Kane, and it was useful for me to have them playing whenever I wrote chapters from his POV in Crown of Ash.

9.  “Mystified”, by De/Vision

Some are mystified, some are blinded by the light

I can’t sleep, you cannot wake up

Some step into daylight, some run away and hide

A heart that’s not alive can never die

Discordant, atmospheric, and strangely moving, this song resonated with me emotionally while I was writing The Witch’s Eye.  I feel like it really captures the melancholy yet hopeful tone of the novel.

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