Hello, reader friends and friendly readers.
Our Lady of the Various Sorrows: Book Two in the Voices of the Dead series will be released on November 16, 2017. You can preorder now on Amazon Kindle and paperback, Google Play, and iBooks. It will be available on Barnes & Noble on November 16 and through Kobo, as well. And you can order a signed advanced reader copy from the store after November 16th. It won’t be an advanced reader copy so much at that point, but it will be a special edition as we only printed 20 copies.
Holed up in a farmhouse in the Slovenian Alps, Jo Wiley is hiding from the personal demons and the dead who haunt her in Ljubljana. When she meets a secretive ghost from the area’s war-torn past, being alone becomes much less interesting. Before she can uncover her dead friend’s identity and agenda, her son’s father visits her in the mountains with his own dark secrets, and a cryptic warning.
Forced from seclusion, Jo returns to the city to find things are even more chaotic than when she left. Vandals have attacked her teahouse and she and her chosen family are on the battle lines between ancient deities with human faces and humans who want the power of the gods.
As more secrets are revealed, Jo struggles with how these new pieces fit together and where her place is in a world where her fate is more determined than she ever believed. As she gets closer to understanding the truth about her ex and her own past, it’s clear she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice to save those she loves most.
But what if her sacrifice isn’t enough? And if it is, what are the consequences of thwarting fate?
Our Lady of the Various Sorrows is off being edited. I got the digital proof for the ARCs today. I thought it would maybe feel old hat the second time. Nope. I still got chills seeing the wrap version of the ARC cover. It’s real, an artifact, proof that I have finished something. Twice.
The book is set in the depths of winter, in that time when it feels like spring can never come. It’s fitting for Jo’s state of mind as she sorts out the aftermath of having her life turned upside down and shaken. Plus, it was great to work on a book with cold and snow in the merciless depths of a Southern summer.
I’ll post links to the pre-orders for Our Lady of the Various Sorrows, as soon as they are available. You can definitely pick up book two without having read the first one, but I’m going to go ahead and say I think you’ll enjoy it more if you’ve already read Who by Water. The second book contains answers to lingering questions and puzzle pieces to collect as the series unwinds.
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Thank you all again for your support, good wishes, and reviews. I have always written, because it’s necessary for my sanity, but it’s a completely different experience to have that work out in the world to share.
Where Leonard Cohen was my muse for Who by Water, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds have been my deep well for Our Lady of the Various Sorrows. Each of them have been nearly lifelong companions to the point I can’t remember what song I heard first or when exactly. Both write lyrics that stay with me for days, in a good way, not like an incessant earworm.
The playlist also contains a hint for the title of book three. I’m itching to get started but I’ve found I have to finish one story completely before it gets its hooks out of me and I can move onto the next thing.
Advance reader copies of Our Lady of the Various Sorrows will be available at the Southern Festival of Books. The final release date will most likely be in November.
As before, availability of tracks on various platforms altered the lists a bit. The White Stripes cover of “Jolene” isn’t available on Spotify so I threw in a little Cake. It isn’t the Dolly Parton-penned song, but it’s fitting in its own way.
Soundtrack for Our Lady of the Various Sorrows
I’ve been busy with the day job and with finishing the initial draft of the second book in the Voices of the Dead series. If you’d like to find out what the title of the next book will be and receive a teaser snippet from book two, please scroll on down to the bottom of the page and sign up for the newsletter.
Between driving all over Tennessee to visit farmers’ markets (day job) and tapping away at my laptop keyboard, I’ve been able to schedule some events for the summer and fall. I’ll be signing books at most of these and book swag will be available including the Renegade Tea stickers.
McKay Books – Chattanooga | 7734 Lee Highway
Sales and signing, Saturday, August 19th, 12 noon – 4 p.m.
Killer Nashville | Franklin, TN
Panelist, August 24-27th (times TBA)
McKay Books – Knoxville | 230 Papermill Place Way
Sales and signing, Saturday, September 9th, 12 noon – 3 p.m.
Mystery Writers Event @ White Pine Books | 1703 Main St. White Pine, TN
Speaking and signing, October 7th (time TBA)
Southern Festival of Books | War Memorial Auditorium & Plaza, Nashville, TN
Griffyn Ink table on the plaza, October 13-15th
Knoxville Writers’ Guild Fundraiser @ Barnes & Noble | Knoxville, TN
Reading and signing, Saturday, November 18th, 2 p.m.
Guild members will be reading and signing books all day and Barnes & Noble is offering a percentage of all store sales with the event coupon.
I’ve talked about the surreal aspect of being published after aspiring to it for so long. And I’ve talked about the sometimes crippling effects of imposter syndrome. Brilliant people I never would have imagined struggle with the same feelings. Thanks go to Nikki Moore for the Neil Gaiman story link. If Neil Armstrong and Neil Gaiman have to wonder how they got there, then of course I can question how I managed to scramble up to this waaay less exalted perch. I can’t say I envy narcissists but I do fantasize about having a shred of that unshakable self confidence.
While I’m waiting for my cloak of invincibility to descend upon me (haha) and dog paddling in my version of self-doubt chowder, I’m wending my way through the end of Book Two. This is where I have, in the past, questioned both my sanity and my ability to do the thing. This time is different for two big reasons: 1) I have proof I can indeed finish a book and, 2) I have a small cheering section pushing me on (y’all know who you are).
The ending has given me lots of avenues (and some rabbit holes) to run down. There’s been lots of research and double-checking where things are on maps to refresh my memory and, oh my god, does all of that make me miss Ljubljana so much.
I have friends who are traveling and posting beautiful pictures. The Slovenia and Ljubljana accounts I follow on social media are splashing out during the height of the tourist season with their own gorgeous photos. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in Ljubljana in the summer and there are so many things which only exist in the bright flash of the warm months. I’m checking in with Slovenian friends to say hi and pick their brains for tidbits I can’t find on the internet. I miss them, as much as, if not more than, the place.
No place is without flaws, whether they be political, social, environmental, or related to infrastructure. I know it’s a bad idea to idolize a real place to the point of glossing over those things. Doing so does a disservice to the people who actually live there. Having said all that, it’s not about escape to a fairytale, though given the news and the state of politics here it could easily be; it’s more about feeling homesick for a place that was so very briefly home.
Slovenia, and Ljubljana especially, have changed a great deal since the early 1990s when I was at university and walked and biked my way around town. Every time I go back, I find out about ten new things I want to do on my next trip. I guess because I don’t live there now, everything can feel new and exciting and not like the swirling hurricane of change it can sometimes feel like if you live in it or through it.
I can sit here and intellectualize this all day but I’ll still feel the same way. I’ll still be wildly in love.
If you’ve read the book, I hope you’ve fallen a little bit in love with Slovenia, too. I won’t be jealous.
After I signed my contract with Griffyn Ink, Eli Jackson, indie publisher badass, sent me an envelope with two really nice pens. The enclosed note said they were for signing copies when my book came out. I put them in my desk box, the closest thing I have to a drawer because I work at an old IKEA sofa table with the legs cut down. That I would be signing books seemed like an impossibly far off and surreal thing.
I’ve signed a few now. The first one went to my sister, who has always encouraged me, in life and in writing. A stack went off to Slovenia and a few to heart-friends who have supported me along the way. I’ve also signed a few to readers who bought my book at the first few pre-release events on the mini-tour. Those pens are really nice and the readers were even nicer. It still boggles my mind that someone picked up my book, read the back, and purchased it. That happened. I got to watch it happen.
A book with my name on the spine on my shelf, and now a few others’ shelves as well, is an undeniable fact and yet…
I’m incredulous I finished writing and editing a manuscript, someone wanted to publish it, and it’s a thing out in the world. Surely not me. I kept telling myself if one person who’s never met me and doesn’t know anything about me said something nice about the book, then it would be real. It happened and I still didn’t believe it.
The crushing insecurity of the creative mind is a real thing. Self-doubt or imposter syndrome or whatever name you want to give it, is a giant hurdle for a lot of people. There is fantastic work missing from library shelves and gallery walls and concert halls because it is so easy to talk ourselves out onto the I’m-not-good-enough ledge. Trust me there’s a lot of room out here on this jut of land; I’ve built a house on it and farm turnips.
On this journey from idea to dead-tree book in my hand, I’ve learned a few things. Having the idea is a good thing. Putting my butt in the seat to write was an act of will. Finishing it might have been an act of divinity. I did those three things. Of course there were hours and days of “who could possibly want to read this”? Those still happen; I know it’s not literature for the ages. There was the crushing reality of a typo on the opening page (fixed after I ordered my copies for the mini-tour).
Nothing is for everyone. And everything will have at least one devoted fan (I’m totally cool with the fact that it could be my sister). Someone is going to write a review somewhere savaging my book. It is guaranteed to happen and I might print it out and frame it. Someone might also write a review because they laughed out loud (in a good way) at a scene. Someone might cry when a character dies. I hope I hear about it, but I might not get to.
I fully believe when you put anything you create out into the world – a book, a film, a painting, even your kid – you have no control over how anyone else sees your work. That’s a scary prospect but it’s ultimately the thing that makes it real for me. I told a story I wanted to tell. It made me happy to write it. I hope you enjoy reading it. I’m writing the next book in the series.
Step. Step. Step. Back from the yawning canyon of self-doubt. Don’t look down.
I listen to music when I write. It helps set my mood and puts me in the place I need to be with the characters. Who by Water was influenced by a copious amount of Leonard Cohen, both back catalogue and his last release You Want It Darker. At some point, I imagined myself mailing a copy of the book off to him, but, of course, that won’t happen now.
Most of the first book was written and edited in 2016, better known as The Year of the Suck. For me the albums of 2016 that sum up the year best are the previously mentioned Cohen release, David Bowie’s Black Star, Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade. I think there are traces of them all in the work. Whether it’s overt or not is another story.
I’ve put together a couple playlists for Who by Water. I don’t know that I necessarily recommend you listen while you read. Each song takes me back to a place in the book and in the lives of the characters and maybe these will work that way for you, too. Let me know.
They are a little different based on what was available on the platform and just to mix it up a bit.
“Bring It On” – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
“Rebel Girl” – Bikini Kill
“Wanderlust King” – Gogol Bordello
On iTunes: Who by Water soundtrack
On YouTube: Who by Water soundtrack
Sunday I’ll be hurtling over the Atlantic on a return visit to Slovenia with my son in tow. I’ve got more research to do, an article on Slovenian microbreweries to write, and a need to show Julian the Alps he’s named for.
The thought of being there again still gives me this nervous, excited flutter in my belly.
I was a naif dreamer when I packed a backpack and took off to spend a year studying the language in 1992. The country of Slovenia had just had a war and was barely a year old. I was younger than Julian is now. (That thought is sobering.) Around the same time, someone said to me, not as a compliment, that I was the kind of person who would see a “road out ahead” sign and keep driving, sure in the knowledge someone would come to my rescue. I took it hard because I was still in a place where I believed other people’s pronouncements about who I was were truths carved in stone.
I do tend to take leaps of faith, though I’m not quite as brave as I used to be. It makes me a little wistful, because some of those swan dives into the unknown produced the best parts of my life. I never purposely jump into alligator-infested waters though I do occasionally land there anyway. I don’t depend on others rescuing me, but I trust I am not alone in the world and that some risks are necessary and worthwhile. Maybe that made me seem recklessness. Being certain there is always somewhere to go if the bottom falls out is an enormous privilege. I can attest to the fact that I didn’t get that until I got older.
I am no longer as naive as I was at 19 and I might not trust as easily that all will be well in the end. But I am still a dreamer. I fall in love hard. With people, with places. With ideas. Slovenia and I have had a torrid, on again-off again affair for more than half my life. Introducing Keifel to my great love was a bit like bringing your new boyfriend home to meet the parents. Taking Julian there feels much more complex.
The last two trips birthed Who by Water. I tried to write a nonfiction piece about my formative year spent studying in Ljubljana. It was clunky and awkward and made me feel like I was doing the place I loved and my time there a disservice. Roman Ljubljana, Emona, gifted me a vivid character and a precipitating event. A new story spun out from there.
I have been walking around with a completely stunned expression on my face for at least two days. The book is real. It’s for sale.
My. Book. Is. For. Sale.
Well, it’s available for pre-order.
I’ve never really understood that word. Is pre-order really a thing? I mean aren’t we all just ordering things for a later delivery? Whether it’s a legit word or not, it’s happening.
In addition to the pre-order excitement, there are author events where I will be standing in front of people reading from the book or talking about the book or answering questions or possibly just staring in disbelief that anyone showed up to a book event.
But seriously, thank you all. I would have never found myself in this state of disbelief were it not for a laundry list of people who believed I could do this, even when I didn’t. Especially when I didn’t.
Mini Book Tour Dates
Karen’s Book Barn Authors’ Fair, LaGrange, KY, April 29, Book Fair 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Panel sessions Friday evening, April 28)
Collierville Public Library, Collierville, TN, May 1, 4 – 6 p.m.
Online Book Release Party May 4, 1-5 p.m. (links soon)
Parnassus Books, Nashville, TN, May 6, 2 p.m.
Maynardville Public Library, Maynardville, TN, May 11, 3-6 p.m.
Southland Books, Maryville, TN, May 13, 1-3 p.m.
Union Avenue Books, Knoxville, TN, May 13, 4-6 p.m.