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Alex Bledsoe

Fiction and Excerpts [10]
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Fiction and Excerpts [10]

Finding the Perfect Monster for Your Fantasy Novel

I wanted the fifth Tufa novel, Gather Her Round, to be a monster story.

Writing a series is a balancing act between giving your readers what they want, and giving them something new. We’ve all read those series that have gone on too long, and we can tell the authors are just going through the motions. I try very hard not to do that.

With every book in the series, I try to introduce a new broad concept that I haven’t used before. It can be as simple as changing the point of view, as in Chapel of Ease, which was written in first person. It can be as complicated as deciding to spend the first two-thirds of the story following the antagonist around instead of the hero, as in Long Black Curl. So for Gather Her Round, after writing about human monsters, I wanted to have a real monster. But it had to be the right one.

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Fairies in the Real World: Five Books About the Other Crowd

Lots of novels, including my Tufa series, deal with fairies. The first stories we hear are usually fairy tales of some sort, whether involving actual fairies or merely set in a world where they’re possible. But fairies aren’t just relegated to fiction; in many places their reality is accepted just like guitars and the internet. These aren’t small chaste creatures flitting between flowers, either: true fairies are often large, warlike, and terrifying. And even when they are small, it’s best to treat them as if they could still kick your ass, which is why they get referred to by euphemisms such as the Good People or (my favorite) the Other Crowd.

As a writer who enjoys diving down research rabbit holes, I’ve read many books about real fairies. Here are five of my favorites.

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Series: Five Books About…

Gather Her Round

Love and tragedy are not strange bedfellows among the Tufa. Young Kera Rogers disappears while hiking in the woods by Needsville. When her half-eaten remains are discovered, the blame falls upon a herd of wild hogs, a serious threat in this rural community. In response, the county’s best trackers, including game warden Jack Cates and ex-military Tufa Bronwyn Chess are assembled to hunt them down.

Kara’s boyfriend Duncan Gowen mourns her death, until he finds evidence she cheated on him with his best friend, Adam Procure. Seeking revenge, Duncan entices Adam to participate in their own boar hunt. Later, Bronwyn and Jack stumble across a devastated Duncan, who claims a giant boar impaled Adam and dragged him off. As this second death rocks the town, people begin to wonder who is really responsible.

Determined hunters pursue the ravenous horde through the Appalachians as other Tufa seek their own answers. Between literal beasts in the woods and figurative wolves in sheep’s clothing, what truths will arise come spring?

The fifth book in Alex Bledsoe’s critically-acclaimed Tufa series, Gather Her Round is available March 7th from Tor Books.

[Read an Excerpt]

Grow up to Dream Again: Reading Every Heart a Doorway as a Parent

In Seanan McGuire’s brilliant (and now award-winning) short novel Every Heart a Doorway, teens who’d once escaped reality to various fairytale realms find themselves back in our world, attending a special boarding school to help them re-acclimate to “reality.” They’re all desperate to return to those places where they felt accepted for who and what they were, and one of them wants this badly enough to kill.

In structure the story is a murder mystery, but in intent it’s about the way many of us simply don’t feel like we belong in this world. We wish for a doorway, or a portal, or a wardrobe, to take us to another place, where all the things that make us different are normal. McGuire, who can pretty much write anything she puts her cursor to, does a great job conveying the kids’ pain, which of course speaks to the inner teen in all of us. No teenager feels like they belong, and most feel like freaks of some kind. It’s the same universal truth that gives Harry Potter and the X-Men their dramatic power.

[But I experienced an interesting dichotomy while reading it…]

The Exorcist III: Legion—William Peter Blatty’s Long-Awaited Director’s Cut

Home video has brought about some great restorations of horror films previously available only in incomplete or mangled forms: the uncut version of The Wicker Man; the director’s cut of Guillermo del Toro’s first American film, Mimic; and even 1931’s Frankenstein, which had a supposedly blasphemous line of dialogue restored. But the one on my cinematic bucket list has always been William Peter Blatty’s original version of The Exorcist III.

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Three Perfect Moments in Star Trek III

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, as an odd-numbered franchise entry, is often cited as proof of the “even=good, odd=bad” pattern. Certainly it’s the first film in the series made primarily for a specific marketing reason (“We have to get Nimoy back! It doesn’t matter if Spock’s dead!”). It’s a movie that has neither a real beginning or ending. But, given those caveats, I maintain that the film is still a surprising and powerful experience.

There will be spoilers.

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Reframing Fantasy Tropes: The Startling Originality of Last Song Before Night

An interesting perk of being published is that you get requests to do blurbs for upcoming books. The catch is, you’re usually asked because the new book in some way resembles what you’ve written. The two dangers of this are (a) this book is so much worse than mine, I’ll lose all credibility if I say something good, or (b) this is so good I may never write again.

When I was asked to blurb Ilana Myer’s Last Song Before Night, it was clear why: it’s a fantasy that revolves around music, just as my Tufa novels do. It’s been done before (most influentially in Emma Bulls War for the Oaks, which invented urban fantasy), but it’s still a fairly unexploited subgenre compared to, say, dragons or vampires.

When I started reading Last Song, though, I quickly grasped that this was actually nothing like my work. It’s a piece of startlingly original literature, heartfelt and courageous.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

The Key to the Coward’s Spell

Nursing an injured arm while on the job searching for a missing kid is bad enough for sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. But when he discovers a smuggling ring rumored to be protected by powerful magic, he seeks out old friends and new to lend a hand. A tale set in Alex Bledsoe’s popular medieval noir world.

Please be warned that this story deals with difficult content and themes involving children.

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Chapel of Ease

When Matt Johanssen, a young New York actor, auditions for “Chapel of Ease,” an off-Broadway musical, he is instantly charmed by Ray Parrish, the show’s writer and composer. They soon become friends; Matt learns that Ray’s people call themselves the Tufa and that the musical is based on the history of his isolated home town. But there is one question in the show’s script that Ray refuses to answer: what is buried in the ruins of the chapel of ease?

As opening night approaches, strange things begin to happen. A dreadlocked girl follows Ray and spies on him. At the press preview, a strange Tufa woman warns him to stop the show. Then, as the rave reviews arrive, Ray dies in his sleep. Matt and the cast are distraught, but there’s no question of shutting down: the run quickly sells out. They postpone opening night for a week and Matt volunteers to take Ray’s ashes back to Needsville. He also hopes, while he’s there, to find out more of the real story behind the play and discover the secret that Ray took to his grave.

Matt’s journey into the haunting Appalachian mountains of Cloud County sets him on a dangerous path, where some secrets deserve to stay buried…

Chapel of Ease, the fourth novel in Alex Bledsoe’s Tufa series, is available September 6th from Tor Books!

[Read an Excerpt]

Midsummer’s Music and Magic

“We danced all night to a soul fairy band.”

—Bruce Springsteen, “Spirit in the Night”

When Shakespeare wrote about fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he didn’t just imagine a lone sprite wreaking havoc, or a handful of meddlesome goblins. He created a whole fae society, with a king and queen, politics, and an ongoing disagreement between the rulers. Their interaction with humanity was a combination of enchantments, mistakes, and frantic attempts to put things right.

He also indirectly gave them music.

[Playing on pipes of corn…]

Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com

The Magic (or Not) of The Winter’s Tale

There’s a lot of magic in Shakespeare: ghosts in Julius Caesar and Hamlet, witches in Macbeth, elemental spirits and wizards in The Tempest, and fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, just to name some obvious ones. But the magic of The Winter’s Tale—if it even is magic—is of a whole different variety.

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Series: Shakespeare on Tor.com

In Praise of Twin Peaks‘ Sheriff Harry Truman

With the news that Twin Peaks is returning after twenty-five years, I’ve been thinking about what, to me, made the show so great. It wasn’t the mysteries: like so many shows based around secrets, once they were revealed, they were kind of anticlimactic. But the characters embroiled in them never grow trite or dull, even after a quarter century.

FBI Agent Dale Cooper is our point man in Twin Peaks, the outsider through whose eyes we learn about this strange little town. He’s also his own kind of crazy, so it’s as much fun to watch them meet him as it is vice-versa. But he’s only half the story, and half the leading men. The other is Sheriff Harry S. Truman, played by Michael Ontkean.

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A Love Letter to Carl Kolchak: The Night Stalker

Carl Kolchak: Anybody important here today?
Receptionist: No, just a bunch of reporters.

—from “The Energy Eater” episode of Kolchak: The Night Stalker

A lot of things contributed to me ultimately being a writer, but one of the most crucial was a guy in a bad suit and straw hat, with a camera and tape recorder slung over his shoulder. Yep, I mean the night stalker himself, Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin.

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Why I Love 2010 More Than 2001

Everyone agrees that Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic. But I’m here to praise the underrated, even abused sequel, Peter Hyams’ 2010.

There are similarities, of course, as you’d expect from an original and its sequel. The special effects in both films are spectacular, and fairly well grounded in the science of the time. The relevant designs of 2001 are accurately replicated in 2010, so that if you watch them back to back, the continuity is pretty seamless. Both begin in the past, and end with moments of transcendence.

But the tonal difference is total.

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