Monday, February 1, 2010

A Book of Tongues Apologia

Due to space and time constraints, CZP Publications were unable to allow me to include my original Apologia at the back of A Book of Tongues. So I thought I'd start my pre-release series of related promotional materials there--by proving I did actually do some research, though not a lot, and explaining a little bit about my "process" (ha ha). Enjoy.

A BOOK OF TONGUES: Apologia, References, Etc.

I began writing A Book of Tongues with one very selfish idea in mind: To keep myself occupied and amused while looking after my son, then less than five years old and newly diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, in the wake of recently having lost my job. Though I’ve been a writer all my life, for the last twenty years my main focus had been short fiction with a side-order of reviews, articles and scripts; the very notion of being able to write a 100,000-word book by the end of the year seemed laughable—let alone end up with a narrative so large it spilled over into another 100,000-word book, slated for the year after that!

All of which means that from the start, the main audience I was thinking about was composed of me, myself and I. The epic romance of Reverend Rook and Chess Pargeter was an unabashedly fetishistic fantasia spun around things I enjoy, because I enjoy them: Blood, (gay) sex, magic. Bad people behaving badly. Ancient civilizations and not-so-dead mythologies. A vaguely steampunk-y alternate history setting whose twin visual precedents were far too many viewings of James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto. Yes, I did research here and there, but it wasn’t exactly deep—and the result, I’ll be the first to admit, is a lot like poetry reformatted on a ridiculously grand scale: Full of metaphor and analogy rampant (next time ‘round, I should probably invest in a search engine which automatically removes the word “like” from random sentences), a shadow-show of red-gold cut heavily with black, in which emotion and sensation very firmly rule over cold, hard fact.

At base, this book exists because I wanted to throw two equally screwed-up dudes together and see if they’d stick; all the girls are monsters (except when they’re also whores), all the boys are whores (except when they’re also monsters), there are pretty much no (really) good role-models of any sex, and I also moved the days of the Mayan and Aztec calendars around at will because I wanted to be able to have things happen on my terms, with cool-ass meta-commentary attached. For all of the above, shame on me: I may try to do better in future, though I know for a fact I will probably never live up to anyone’s expectations (particularly my own).

Still, I do hope you enjoyed at least part of what you found, gore, moral greyness and ass-fucking notwithstanding. If so, there’s more to come. If not, catch you on the flip-side.

For those who are interested, meanwhile, here’s an incomplete list of reference materials I stole from freely throughout: The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West from 1840-1900, by Candy Moulton (Writer's Digest Books, 1999); Handbook to Life in the Aztec World, by Manuel Aguilar-Moreno (Oxford University Press, 2006); The Lost History of Aztec and Maya, by Charles Phillips and Dr. David M. Jones (Select Editions, Anness Publishing, 2004); Children of the Night, by Tony Thorne (Indigo, Orion Books, 1999); The Barbary Coast, by Herbert Asbury (Basic Books, 2002); plus a whole host of various Google-searched Internet sources, including (King James edition), (yes, I know),,,,, and the Firefly cursing cheat-sheet page.

I was inspired by T.A. Pratt’s use of Aztec mythological tropes in Blood Engines, his first Marla Mason book, and Tess Gerritsen’s wonderfully graphic description of ritual sacrifice in her book The Surgeon. Not to mention Alexander Irvine, whose A Scattering of Jades set the pattern, and Kenneth Mark Hoover, whose Haxan stories do Weird West ten thousand times better than I ever will.

A massive retroactive thank-you also goes out to my tireless pre-Draft Zero readers: Sonya Taaffe, Francesca Forrest, and above all Valerie David, without whose aid and correction the character of Grandma would quickly have degenerated into Yoda gone Dine. I appreciate the time you all took, especially when life and issues interfered.

I’d like to thank my publishers and editors at ChiZine, Brett Savory and Sandra Kasturi, for enabling my lurid balderdash. Thanks also to all the friends who, over the years, continued to assure me I would eventually write novels: Michael Rowe, David Nickle, Sephera Giron, Mike Kelly, Marcy Italiano, Leah Bobet, Ian Rogers, Nancy Kilpatrick, Bob Knowlton, Peter Halasz, Monica S. Kuebler, Jason Taniguchi, Donald Simmons, Sarah Ennals, Andrew Specht and many, many others. If I’ve forgotten to mention your name, please take it as wrote.

Next time: Character generation, with photos of the original models. I'll try to get it up ASAP.

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