The first sunset picture taken with the new camera. Not too bad.
Just so you all know, for much of May, Whatever will be new book intensive, i.e., there will be a lot of stuff about Fuzzy Nation going on here. The reasons for this are as follows (and fairly obvious):
1. Hey! I’ve got a new book coming out! And it’s my first full-length novel in three years, the last being Zoe’s Tale in 2008. So I’m excited about that.
2. Hey! I have to promote the new book! Which means talking about it a bunch, particularly during the month of its initial release, and particularly when I’m touring for the book.
3. As noted above, I’ll be touring for the book, which means I will be on the road for three weeks, from May 10 (when the book is released) through Memorial Day weekend. This means both I will likely not be updating as frequently as I generally do — because I’ll be busy traveling and doing appearances — and that I will be in a cognitive bubble that keeps me focused more on the book and less on everything else in the world. So when I do pop in, it’ll likely be to talk about the tour and other stuff about being on the road. This is not to say I won’t talk about other stuff at all; it is to say that based on experience I know on what I will be spending most of my brain cycles between now and the end of the month.
I’m not apologetic about this focus — selling books is how I make my living, you know, and I have no problem with that part of the deal. But I think it’s fine to give all y’all a head’s up about it. If the Whatever gets too promo-happy for you in May, come back in June.
That said, May should be fun around here. The last time I toured there was always something interesting to write about, and I suspect this time will be no different. And there will also be the usual schedule of Big Idea entries from other authors to keep you amused. It won’t be boring around here, is what I’m saying.
The release of Fuzzy Nation is now exactly one week away, and to get you excited about it — as if you were not excited enough already — Tor.com has chapters one and two available for your perusal, in which we meet Jack Holloway, the book’s protagonist, learn of his unusual way of setting off explosives, and get a sense of his people skills, such as they are. Enjoy. And if you like them, rumor has it that tomorrow, io9 will feature chapters three and four. It’s like a dream come true, it is!
Also, being that it is “run-up” week for the book, I will have all sorts of surprises coming up for you over the coming days. Oh, so many surprises. Well, mostly just excerpts and giveaways and stuff like that. Which I suppose really isn’t all that surprising, is it. Well, look surprised when it happens anyway, okay? Thank you.
Author Kevin Hearne had a novel way of getting to his novel Hounded – a way that involved equal parts of geekery, stubbornness and alcohol. Given who the constituency is here, I know I now have your attention. Or more accurately, Hearne has your attention, and I’ll give him the floor now to explain how each of those things found itself transmuted into the first book of a new urban fantasy series.
I confess that Hounded was spawned from an episode of Defiant Drunk Nerd Syndrome. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, I can explain briefly: When nerds get drunk with their nerd friends, they often suggest crazy hypotheticals and then try to defend them from the scornful derision of all the other nerds. Sometimes the shot-down nerd will remember the argument the next day, approach it soberly, and then deliver (defiantly) his proof that his drunken idea was, in fact, quite a good one. “So there!” may or may not be added to the end of the proof.
Here is the original drunken idea I offered to my nerd friends: “You know what would be badass? A Druid in the modern world! He could shapeshift an’ talk to animals an’, like, throw oil executives into their own spills, an’ the pelicans would be like, how does JUSTICE feel, son?”
The assault on this idea was swift and terrible.
Nerd 1: “The Druids are all dead, dumbass. Can’t happen.”
Nerd 2: “Yeah. The Romans and St. Patrick wiped them out.”
Me, Nerd 3: “Oh. But still.”
“But still” in nerdspeak signals a temporary concession, yet allows the nerd to rally at a later date with a spirited riposte.
My research began the next morning. I needed to figure out a way to plop a genuine olde-tyme Druid into the modern world. Doctor Who’s TARDIS seemed out of bounds. So did Doc Brown’s flux capacitor. What if one of the old Druids never died? I searched for Irish longevity myths, and it turned out that there were several ways a lad could have managed it, if we choose to read the old legends about the Tuatha Dé Danann as histories. The herblore of Airmid (she knew 365 herbs and what to do with them), the ales of Goibhniu (better than Guinness, I understand), or the hogs of Manannan Mac Lir (the Bacon of Youth!) each had the potential to provide a fellow with wrinkle-free skin.
That’s when I started thinking seriously about writing an urban fantasy novel. A truly ancient Druid walking among us, talking to his dog and shapeshifting like the old myths said they could? I couldn’t wait to write it! Atticus and Oberon were “born” right there.
Fine. I still had to figure out what happened to get Atticus out of Ireland, how he survived centuries of war and why he hasn’t saved all our forests. Further immersion in old Irish tales (and Irish ales) eventually suggested several possibilities. It would almost have to have been an Irish antagonist who drove him from the Emerald Isle—the Brits and the Vikings didn’t cause much trouble in Ireland until the Druids were all but dead. Fortunately, there were a few dastardly types among the Tuatha Dé Danann who could easily step into the role of villain. There were also tales of a magical sword named Fragarach that could cut through any armor. It was originally the sword of Manannan Mac Lir, god o’ the sea, but he gave it to another god, Lugh Lámhfhada, and Lugh gave it to the legendary first-century Irish king called Conn of the Hundred Battles. There is no record of Conn ever giving it back, nor of anyone using it after that time. Aha, I said to myself, now there’s a story waiting to be told.
If Atticus took that sword from Conn and the Tuatha Dé Danann wanted it back, that would explain why he had to flee Ireland and lie low. And when he finally gets tired of running and decides to make a stand—well, that’s going to be a fight worth watching.
The Consistency Gremlin spoke up at that point and said if I was going to treat Irish myths like history, then I’d have to do it for all myths. All pantheons would be alive, all gods equally valid, just as their worshippers imagined them. Whoa.
The story began to snowball: I didn’t just have an idea about a Druid and his dog anymore, I had an entire planet’s worth of myth and history to explore in a series. Once Atticus stops hiding, he and Oberon have to watch out for each other as not only the Irish, but the pantheons of the Norse, Chinese, Finns, Russians, Romans, and Native Americans seek to use him for their own ends.
I hope everyone enjoys the result of my Defiant Drunk Nerd Syndrome. To my nerd friends, I would like to add: So there!
Hey, folks: if you’re someone who spends time over at Reddit, we’re doing an “Ask Me Anything” bit over there — you ask anything, and I’ll be going through the questions and answering. You can ask about the upcoming book, the movie stuff, or, really, whatever you want. It’s why they call it “Ask Me Anything.” So go ahead and drop your questions there. Thanks!