Sunday, January 15, 2012

Release day!

It's release day for The Wicked Instead! You can purchase it at the Hard Limits Store. It's also searchable on Amazon, but I try to encourage people to buy it from the publisher's website. It's easy to do and Amazon doesn't take a cut, which is always nice. If you sign up for the Hard Limits newsletter here, you'll also be entered to win awesome swag. The more subscribers they have, the more swag they'll give away, so sign up! You'll love what you can get.

It's hard to believe my novel has been released into the wild at last. It's a little terrifying (oh no, what did I forget to add/delete? what if people hate it?) but also a mix of relief and that weird pressure I put on myself. After all, now I have to write the sequel. For now, I'm allowing myself a little burst of success. I've been at this for a long time. I wrote my first "novel" when I was 12. I never really pushed for publication but I always had it in mind, knowing that I wanted to polish my skills first.

I knew when I started writing The Wicked Instead that this was THE novel that I was going to get published. I didn't exactly look at it and think "OH MY GOD THIS IS BRILLIANCE!" (though I was and am pretty proud of it overall). I determined that this was going to be a book that people wanted to read and engage in. The concept was good enough and marketable enough to capture people's attention, and then it was up to me to draw people in.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mythology nerdery

Something a little more academic for you. I don't remember exactly what made me want to write about Hungarian táltosk. I'd had it in my idea notebook (yes, I have one) for a while as a high concept, but I'm not that great at writing about high concepts. I had to wait for characters to form. As it turned out, those characters were the two unlikeliest táltosk ever, which just made the concept that much more interesting.

I won't get into the details of character and world creation in this post. Instead, I'll briefly discuss the aspects of Hungarian mythology I chose. There's really not a lot out there about this "old world" mythology and a lot of it is foggy. Which is great for me, because I got to take a lot of artistic license.

The táltos and World Tree myths are obviously the most important in this world. They're universal in a way, because almost every culture has shaman-like figures and many have some version of the World Tree. Hungarian mythology is rooted in old pagan beliefs which were then (like many pagan mythologies) transmuted into Christianized Hungary. The most important god, Isten, created the world with the help of Ordog. Isten became the Christian God and Ordog became (you guessed it) the devil. The main female figure became the Virgin Mary. The structure of the World Tree (Upper World, Middle World, Underworld) is about what you'd expect, with Isten at the top and Ordog at the bottom.

The táltosk were originally supposed to have missions from God, but when Hungary was Christianized by Stephen I, they were, to no one's surprised, considered evil and hunted down. Interestingly, folklore apparently maintains that Jesus was a táltos. Hungary seems like one of those places where Christianity and "old world" beliefs weave together in a unique way, and that's what I really wanted to capture. One of my favorite parts of the táltos myth and one of the things that made me want to write about it was the táltos horse. I've only ever found English references to it on Wikipedia, but come on. Magical horse. How could I not? I took the most artistic license with this aspect of the myth, but that's half the fun.

Two more important parts of Hungarian mythological history that I had to work in were the Turul bird and the stag. These are two more very archetypal symbols. The Turul is especially important to the Hungarians as a national symbol (it's still the emblem of the Hungarian Army). It sits on top of the World Tree. In yet another archetypal myth, the Turul impregnates a woman, immaculate conception style. The formative Arpad dynasty was descended from her son, Almos.

The other is the stag myth, which is archetypal and fascinatingly cross-cultural. This page demonstrates just how cross-cultural it is. Probably the coolest part about this myth and about Hungarian mythology in particular is the intersection between both of those things and Middle Eastern myths, particularly Persian Zoroanastrianism. If you know anything about ancient Middle Eastern history, you might recognize the name "Nimrod." Yeah, that one. He had two sons, Hunor and Magor, who chased this stag into the land that would eventually become Hungary.

As an amusing and awesome aside, when I met Tiger Gray, I was already deep into the first draft of The Wicked Instead. One of the important features of Tiger's novel world (which was created before we even met) is Zoroanastrian mythology. We didn't find out about the Magyar/Persian connection until much later. You can bet we're running with this in future projects.

As I mentioned, there's very little out there about old Hungarian mythology in English past the basic stuff. I've done some digging and here are a few pages for you mythology geeks:

Hungarian Mythology, by Fred Hamori
Of Hungarians' Old Religion in Brief, Avraham Sándor and Turgut Aslan
"The Way of the Táltos: A Critical Reassessment of a Religious-Magical Specialist," by Laszlo Kurti (academic article, yay!)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Locations from the novel

I'm a big fan of Google Maps street view/Google Earth to fact check myself or to visualize a scene. Because I'm quite familiar with the area I'm writing about, I often have particular locations in mind when writing. I used to have a folder full of photos of said locations, but when my old computer died in combat (it lost to a clumsy dog and a water glass), I lost the folder. So I created a Google map.

As much as I'd love to share every location (because you know I know exactly where everything is in the novel--I'm anal like that), I've narrowed it down to the more notable ones. Some locations are approximate, obviously.

Here is the map. If you're a local, I hope you get a kick out of it. If you're not, I hope it helps you visualize some of these locations.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Wicked Instead playlist

The Wicked Instead comes out in 12 days! As a somewhat self-indulgent celebration, I'm going to be posting some extras leading up to release day.

I'm one of those writers who uses character/story-based playlists as inspiration. Here's the playlist for The Wicked Instead. All song titles link to Spotify.

"Pet," A Perfect Circle [lyrics]
"Dust," Augustana [lyrics]
"Secure Yourself," The Indigo Girls [lyrics]
"Awake My Soul," Mumford and Sons [lyrics]
"Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise," The Avett Brothers [lyrics]
"Shake it Out," Florence + The Machine [lyrics]
"I'm an Animal," Neko Case [lyrics]
"R-Evolve," 30 Seconds to Mars [lyrics]
"Chocolate," Snow Patrol [lyrics]
"The Kill (Bury Me)," 30 Seconds to Mars [lyrics]
"Learning to Fly," Tom Petty [lyrics]

I think these songs in particular capture the theme of this novel, which is the characters slowly learning to stand on their own and direct the course of their own lives.

Stay tuned for more extras!