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Alex Bledsoe

Fiction and Excerpts [7]
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Fiction and Excerpts [7]

He Drank and Saw the Spider (Excerpt)

, || After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life. Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can't resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant. He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help.

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.

[Read more]

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.

[Read More]

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.

[Read More]

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.

[Read More]

On Sources of Inspiration

Anyone who’s read a novel series knows that one of the pitfalls is repetition. After doing five, ten, even thirty books about a particular character or in a specific setting, it can be difficult to avoid repeating things. When I began the Eddie LaCrosse series, I wanted to avoid that particular pitfall.

I decided that each book would be based around a central concept or conceit that would (hopefully) give each novel a unique atmosphere and keep the series lively. The inspiration for the first novel, The Sword-Edged Blonde, was the song, “Rhiannon.” Burn Me Deadly encompassed everything I thought was cool about dragons. Dark Jenny adapted the Arthurian mythology to Eddie’s world. And Wake of the Bloody Angel…well, its inspiration can be described in one glorious word: pirates!

Which brings me to the latest in the series, He Drank, and Saw the Spider. This one can also be summed up in one two-syllable word, but it’s one of the biggest words in literature.

[Shakespeare.]

He Drank and Saw the Spider (Excerpt)

Check out the newest installment in Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, He Drank and Saw the Spider, available January 14, 2014 from Tor Books!

After he fails to save a stranger from being mauled to death by a bear, a young mercenary is saddled with the baby girl the man died to protect. He leaves her with a kindly shepherd family and goes on with his violent life.

Now, sixteen years later, that young mercenary has grown up to become cynical sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse. When his vacation travels bring him back to that same part of the world, he can’t resist trying to discover what has become of the mysterious infant.

He finds that the child, now a lovely young teenager named Isadora, is at the center of complicated web of intrigue involving two feuding kings, a smitten prince, a powerful sorceress, an inhuman monster, and long-buried secrets too shocking to imagine. And once again she needs his help.

[Read an Excerpt]

Andrew Vachss and Blue Belle: The Great Opening Line

My own writing comes out of two distinctly different literary traditions: fantasy and noir. Of the latter, I claim red-headed-stepchild kinship with both the classic (Chandler and Hammett) and the modern (Robert B. Parker) in my Eddie LaCrosse novels. 

But a deeper influence, and one of my favorite living authors, Andrew Vachss, caught me with a single sentence, the first line of his third novel, 1988’s Blue Belle:

“Spring comes hard down here.”

[Read More]

Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Cultural Strip Mining vs Good Manners

Recently I attended my first neoPagan gathering in over a decade; while there, I picked up Staubs and Ditchwater by H. Byron Ballard (Silver Rings Press, 2012), a book on Appalachian folk magic. As I read, I ran across a statement that brought up an important issue: cultural appropriation, or as Ballard puts it, cultural strip-mining.

Ballard writes, “We tribeless white people learn dances and songs from other cultures that seem deeply spiritual to us, though we don’t know their context or deeper meanings, we just like the way they look or sound or make us feel. We think they’re cool.” (p. 12)

[Read more]

Wisp of a Thing (Excerpt)

Take a look at the sequel to Alex Bledsoe’s The Hum and the ShiverWisp of a Thing, out on June 18:

Touched by a very public tragedy, musician Rob Quillen comes to Cloud County, Tennessee, in search of a song that might ease his aching heart. All he knows of the mysterious and reclusive Tufa is what he has read on the  they are an enigmatic clan of swarthy, black-haired mountain people whose historical roots are lost in myth and controversy. Some people say that when the first white settlers came to the Appalachians centuries ago, they found the Tufa already there. Others hint that Tufa blood brings special gifts.

Rob finds both music and mystery in the mountains. Close-lipped locals guard their secrets, even as Rob gets caught up in a subtle power struggle he can’t begin to comprehend. A vacationing wife goes missing, raising suspicions of foul play, and a strange feral girl runs wild in the woods, howling in the night like a lost spirit.

Change is coming to Cloud County, and only the night wind knows what part Rob will play when the last leaf falls from the Widow’s Tree…and a timeless curse must be broken at last.

[Read more]

Music and magic: Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks

Whenever I describe my Tufa novels, The Hum and the Shiver and the upcoming Wisp of a Thing, to potential readers, they immediately mention two literary antecedents. One is the Silver John stories and novels by Manly Wade Wellman, which I discussed here. The other is Emma Bull’s 1987 novel War for the Oaks.

Kelly McCullough, author of the WebMage and Fallen Blade series, says, “my first (and forever trunked) novel is pretty much a mashup of Anne Rice and Emma Bull. Interview with the Oaks, or something like it.” Seanan McGuire calls it the first urban fantasy, and it’s easy to see the birth of many tropes now associated with that genre. Eddi McCandry, a young woman struggling to make it as a musician in Minneapolis, is chosen by the denizens of Faerie to help the Seelie Court in its battle against its nemesis, the Unseelies. Once she is initiated into Faerie, she finds that her music now bears a magic that can cause tangible results. She is also romantically torn between two male denizens of Faerie, bad boy Willy Silver and the shapeshifter known only as “phouka.” But Eddi also finds that she has the power to end the war, if her music is good enough.

[Read more]

Unchancy Flowers: How I Discovered Silver John

When Tor released my first Tufa novel, The Hum and the Shiver, back in 2011, many people asked me if I’d been inspired by Manly Wade Wellman’s tales of Silver John. Although I knew of them by reputation, I’d never actually read them until last year, when Planet Stories published Who Fears the Devil? The Complete Tales of Silver John.

The resemblance, as is so often the case in comparisons like this, strikes me as mostly cosmetic. Yes, Wellman’s stories are set in a vague Appalachia, and yes, they involve magic and inhuman creatures. But they’re far more Lovecraftian than Tufan, with their invocation of things from other realities bleeding into ours and poking out around the fringes to snag the unwary. And John, who never gets a last name, is an enigmatic protagonist with a murky, nonspecific history. His magic is prosaic: the silver of his guitar strings is antithetical to evil because it’s silver, not because it carries any power he’s put into it or acquired, and most often the songs he plays are traditional hymns or folk tunes that function as spells.

[Read more]

“Come Sail Away”…With Me?

I’ve written two books about music that has magical elements (The Hum and the Shiver and the forthcoming Wisp of a Thing), as well as featured music in my two Memphis Vampires novels. You could say that my last Eddie LaCrosse book, Wake of the Bloody Angel, starts where a famous song from the Seventies ends. But my love affair with genre music started a long time ago: I was once enamored with Styx’s “Come Sail Away,” for the simple reason that it mentioned starships.

[Read more]

This Year’s Halloween Discovery: Grave of the Vampire

One problem with being a middle-aged genre fan is that, when it comes to movies, you’ve probably caught up with all the classics. Sure, there are always new films to check out, but vintage stuff? It gets harder and harder to find something you haven’t already seen. Still, every year for Halloween, I try to seek out something from the past that I’ve never seen.

This year it was 1972’s Grave of the Vampire.

I’d read a description of this movie somewhere years ago, and it stuck in my head because the central plot twist was far ahead of its time, and the hero was played by William Smith. I finally found it on a DVD of five public-domain vampire films for $1.99; the print looks like it was a 16mm copy, probably once used by a TV station, with faded colors and lots of jarring spots where frames are missing. But none of that hides its originality.

[Read more]

Wake of the Bloody Angel (Excerpt)

Check out this excerpt from the latest Eddie LaCrosse novel, Wake of the Bloody Angel, out on July 3:

Twenty years ago, a barmaid in a harbor town fell for a young sailor who turned pirate to make his fortune. But what truly became of Black Edward Tew remains a mystery—one that has just fallen into the lap of freelance sword jockey Eddie LaCrosse.

For years, Eddie has kept his office above Angelina’s tavern, so when Angelina herself asks him to find out what happened to the dashing pirate who stole her heart, he can hardly say no—even though the trail is two decades old. Some say Black Edward and his ship, The Bloody Angel, went to bottom of the sea, taking with it a king’s fortune in treasure. Others say he rules a wealthy, secret pirate kingdom. And a few believe he still sails under a ghostly flag with a crew of the damned.

To find the truth, and earn his twenty-five gold pieces a day, Eddie must take to sea in the company of a former pirate queen in search of the infamous Black Edward Tew…and his even more legendary treasure.

[Read more]

Gnomes, Boxing Gloves, and Stuffed Tights: The Humor of David Bowie

For an isolated Southern kid growing up in the Seventies, David Bowie was terrifying.

My first memory of him is seeing the fold-out cover for Diamond Dogs that belonged to a friend’s older brother. Although we didn’t have the term back then, it was a total WTF moment. My universe did not include half man/half dogs who wore eye liner and displayed their genitalia, and I simply had no context for it.*

*Oddly enough, it turns out that original genital-displaying album cover was actually rather rare at the time. I wonder now how it ended up in my friend’s brother’s possession.

[Read more]

Series: Bowie Week

The Elementary Life of a Sidekick

Sherlock Holmes initially meant Basil Rathbone to me, and that’s not a bad thing. I saw the movies on TV long before I read the stories, and when I finally did read them, Rathbone fit the role perfectly. Plus, he was a good enough actor to play the part well, and he did it so many times that he’s still the template in the public consciousness.

But the flip side to Rathbone as Holmes is Nigel Bruce as Watson, and there the whole thing falls apart. Because, thanks to this actor and the conception behind his performance, both Holmes and Watson were seriously diminished until very, very recently.

[Read more]

Series: Holmes for the Holidays

The Heart of “Eyes to See” by Joseph Nassise

The detective novel is a very malleable form, capable of co-existing with most other genres. That’s because the detective figure, whether called by that name or not, is someone we enjoy spending time with. He does what we wish we could do: poke into holes, look behind curtains, tear off the mask to reveal that the monster was really just mean old Mr. Crump from down the road.

“Detective” is a job description, though. It’s like “bus driver” or “zumba instructor.” What draws us in is not the job, but the man who embodies it. That’s where Joe Nasisse’s novel Eyes to See really excels, because Jeremiah Hunt is a man with both a job and a mission.

[Read more]

Series: Barnes & Noble Bookseller’s Picks