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In Memoriam: Leonard Cohen

Yesterday I wrote the final scene of Sixty-Six Seconds, my contribution to next year's Urban Enemies anthology. It's a story about Fontaine, the demonic bounty hunter from the Harmony Black series, carrying out an impossible assignment: capturing four fugitive souls, the last members of the Redemption Choir, over the course of a single cold and rainy night in Detroit. Well, that's the plot. What it's about is a doomed and bitter romance, and a man divided between cynicism and love, making bad choices because it's all he knows how to do.

I listened to a lot of Leonard Cohen, writing this story. Music is a big part of my process; I use it for brainstorming, for outlining, for getting the feelings I'm trying to evoke into my head so I can attempt the alchemy of conveying it on paper. And this particular story was very So Long Marianne. A little Everybody Knows.

 I was listening to Cohen when I was told that he died.

That makes two of my musical heroes whom this year has taken. And that word, again and again. Taken, taken, taken. 2016 is a hungry monster and it feels like nothing will ever be right again. Some of our greatest voices and imaginations silenced, while the venal and small are rewarded.

But enough about that. I don't think Cohen would have wanted that kind of grief. He knew he was on his way out; he said as much, blunt as ever, in an interview after the release of his final album, You Want It Darker. Much like Bowie's Blackstar, it was an album composed and performed by a man who knew he was dying. His last words, his closing bow.

Cohen was a radical, a visionary who explored style and transformed himself (also like Bowie) again and again over the course of his fifty-year career. The beats changed but his talent for wordplay, his ability to weave words into evocative imagery, his emotional strength, never did. He had a skill for finding raw nerves. He sang of loss and of rage, of cynicism and hope, in a way few others could hope to match. He was a master of the business of breaking hearts.

And he reminded us of the beauty of broken things. Because, as he sang in Anthem, There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

Thank you, Mr. Cohen, for the music. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for your legacy; you are gone but the songs remain, and always will. And goodnight.

Now the crickets are singing, the vesper bells ringing
The cat's curled asleep in his chair
I'll go down to Bill's bar, I can make it that far
And I'll see if my friends are still there
Yes and here's to the few, who forgive what you do
And the fewer who don't even care
And the night comes on
It's very calm
I want to cross over, I want to go home
But she says, go back, go back to the world

-- "Night Comes On," Leonard Cohen

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A Small Request

Hey, all. Well, we made it to election day, and I've got a small request for my US readers. No, not "go vote." I mean, yes, I want you to go and vote but let's get real: nobody in this planet is gonna say, "Well, I was planning on staying home today, but now that some random fantasy writer asked me to, I'm off to the polls!". If you wouldn't do it for Nathan Fillion, you wouldn't do it for me.

(You should totally do it for Nathan Fillion, though. Castle was an awesome show. Go vote.)

No, I just wanted to say -- be careful? Look, there's been a lot of scary talk the past couple of months. People ranting about "second amendment solutions" and doing crazy stuff if their candidate doesn't win, and people with the media's ear stoking the fires of resentment. I'm not worried about some kind of mass uprising, that's just not gonna happen. But depending on how this election goes, there's a very good chance that tomorrow morning there's gonna be a few lone nuts out there, feeling angry and robbed and looking for somebody to take it out on.

I'm not telling you to lock yourself inside the hidden chamber you use for dark and otherworldly rituals (we all have one of those, right? That's a normal thing that normal people have), just be careful, keep your head on a swivel, and if a situation feels weird or dangerous, leave. Trust your intuition. It can save your life. I don't want to see any of you get hurt because you ended up at the wrong place and the wrong time with some whackjob who only knows how to express himself with violence. Stay smart, stay safe, and I'll see you on the other side of this mess.

Oh, and for my readers outside the US...sorry? I mean, really, I don't even know what to tell ya. Things have been a little weird here. We're working it out.

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Glass Predator is up for Pre-Order!

Well, gosh! The cover isn't even done yet, and we're still five months from launch, but Glass Predator (Harmony Black book three) is already up for pre-order at Amazon. And now I can share the official synopsis from my publisher:

"For Harmony Black, practicing witch and government agent, defeating criminal masterminds and eliminating supernatural threats are all in a day’s work. She’s ready to fight, as long as she can count on her partner, Jessie Temple; her team at off-the-books special FBI unit Vigilant Lock; and her magic. But her latest case threatens it all.

"A high-profile bank robbery reveals thieves with the same unnatural strength and turquoise eyes as Jessie, who was touched by the King of Wolves. Jessie becomes unstable, struggling with her inner Beast, and Harmony’s magic is threatened by unexpected interference. Even worse, the women uncover a secret their own handler may kill to protect, forcing Vigilant Lock to go off the grid.

"From the smoky back rooms of Washington, DC, inhabited by the crooked elite, to the astonishing high-rises of corrupt upper-crust Manhattan, Harmony and Jessie fight to uncover and halt a mass conspiracy threatening US soil in a race against time—and hell."

...yeah, we're gonna have some fun next year. And that's just the START of 2017.

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Happy Halloween, Friends!

Halloween is special.

It's always been my favorite day of the year. A day when the machinery of the universe breaks down, just a little bit, and there's strangeness to be found in odd nooks and crannies. A day when old rules bend and break. I'm not sure who originally said it, but I love the description of Halloween as the one day when you can be exactly who you want to be -- or you can be who you really are. Mask, or unmask: the choice is yours.

In a year fraught with loss and grief, the beloved dead aren't quite so far from us today. In a year of turbulence and anger, today brings a different flavor of chaos. Darkness that can be your companion, if you'll walk with it. Today is a day of facing fears and realizing...well, maybe there really wasn't that much to be afraid of, after all.

I always get a lot of writing done on Halloween. And even I, workaholic that I am, will be shutting the computer off at sunset to go and celebrate. Whether you're taking the kids trick-or-treating, heading out to a costume party, chilling at home with some horror movies, howling barbarous names of invocation over an ancient stone, or leaving offerings at a three-way crossroads, I hope you have a day filled with wonder, delight and illumination. Happy Halloween!

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New Anthology with a New Faust Short

So, this might be of interest. Full Metal Magic is a new short-story anthology featuring tales of urban fantasy from a number of authors, myself included, and it's out today. My contribution is called A Drive in the Country, and it's a glance back at an event from Daniel Faust's past. You know that one heist? The heist, the one that went tragically wrong, and drove a rift between Daniel and Nicky Agnelli? That's what it's all about -- that, and the consequences which have been waiting in the wings ever since.

Oh, best part? The anthology's only ninety-nine cents, having been envisioned as an urban fantasy sampler of sorts. Lots of good stuff in here, and new authors you just might like.

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A Harmonious Release Date

Harmony Black book three has an official release date! Looks like we're on target for a March 28th launch. Pre-orders should go up much sooner than that, once we're done with final copy-edits and the cover design, and I'll let you know when that goes live.

Incidentally, there's been a title change, as sometimes happens in publishing. For various behind-the-scenes reasons (nothing juicy, just marketing/series branding stuff), the book (which was originally going to be called House of Wolves) is now titled Glass Predator. (Book four, which I'm working on as we speak, is still tentatively titled Cold Spectrum -- I'll have more news on that in early 2017.)

Meanwhile, I'll be spending much of the coming winter focused on the first book of the new secret spin-off trilogy, which I'll be able to break my silence on very soon. Right now, suffice to say it's the biggest (in length and scope) story I've ever attempted, and the biggest challenge I've ever taken on as a writer. If I do this right -- if -- it'll be nightmarish and fairy-tale-esque and beautiful and terrible. If. I fear failure, but I'm more afraid of not trying.

Getting ready for a short trip to New York next week for some field research. Also, got an anonymous tip via email about some odd viral graffiti I should check out. I'm sure it'll be totally safe...

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A Word of Gratitude

Thanks to the magic of Facebook (specifically that random "hey, you posted this eight years ago, want to repost it for no particular reason?" feature), I've been reminded of an anniversary I would have otherwise missed entirely. One year ago, I put in my notice at my day job, resolving to take a chance and become a full-time writer.

It was the scariest thing I've ever done, hands down: the idea of leaving a steady, good-paying income to become a creative professional, living or dying on the strength of my writing career (literally), was nerve-wracking. Thankfully, a good friend helped push me over the cliff. And I leaped. And so far, I have not fallen.

It's not a cushy life. I traded eight-hour days behind a keyboard for twelve-hour days behind a keyboard, and weekends are generally not a thing for me. That said, I wouldn't trade it for the world. This is the dream I've had since I was a child, and I'm living it. And you are the reason why.

A writer is nothing without readers. You can create the most heartbreaking work of genius that the world has ever seen, and if nobody reads it, you might as well have locked it in a trunk. In the immortal words of Ice-T, "Guess who controls your destiny? Fans." Fans buy in and keep you afloat. They get the word out, and help other readers find you. A little positive word of mouth can be more powerful than a dozen advertisements.

I've been in this game for three hundred and sixty-five days, and that's three hundred and sixty-five ways I want to thank you. Because I am where I am, and going where I'm going, solely and one-hundred-percent because of your support. Thank you.

Now I've gotta buckle down and gear up for 2017. Lots of stories yet to be told, and the fun's just getting started.

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I Have to Say This

I have been told to keep my mouth shut about politics, by people who are arguably smarter than me. That there is no possible upside, that the only thing I can possibly accomplish is lose readers and hurt my career. And I have been sitting here for hours, agonizing over this post. I'm not a famous writer. I don't have an unassailable career, I can be hurt by backlash. Hurt enough to ruin me.

And yet.

And yet today the cavalcade of Donald Trump's offenses against honor, against wisdom, against basic decency ramped up yet another notch, with a tape wherein he clearly discusses what is, let's call a spade a spade, sexual assault.

"I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything."

"Whatever you want."

"Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

I could stand silent while he offered up nonsensical, counter-productive policy promises. Wiser economists than I have done a better job of tearing Trump apart than I ever could. I could stand silent while he made an utter boor of himself. Wiser pundits than I have done a better job of highlighting his inane anti-intellectualism, his sheer and staggering lack of third-grade civics knowledge, his financial incompetency when his only credential is "good at business," than I ever could.

But I can't, tonight. I fucking can't. Because I have the temerity to call myself a feminist, and if I didn't say something, I'd be nothing but a coward.

I won't tell you to vote for Hillary. Lots of my readers don't like her. That's fine. Hey, Gary Johnson is both a reasonable candidate and, insofar as I can tell from his interviews, a pretty solid human being. I'd love to meet the guy. Or Jill Stein, there's a viable option.

But don't vote for Trump.

Don't vote for a man who treats over half the human race like garbage. Don't vote for an entitled little rich boy who was born on third base and STILL managed to fail again, and again, and again, and yet thinks you should vote for him because he's...well...rich. 

This isn't a slam on my conservative readers, because Trump is not a conservative. There is nothing conservative about praising Vladimir Putin. There is nothing conservative about wanting to censor the Internet, or rewrite libel laws to do an end-run around the first amendment and make it easier to punish people who dare to say mean things about him. That's not conservative. That's not Republican. That's fascism.

Let me lay my creds on the table: I'm a moderate with liberal leanings. My best friends include libertarians, lifelong Republicans, and Christian conservatives. I don't believe people have to agree on politics to be friends, and I've had some of the best and most ferocious arguments with people I love. People I'd do anything for, and them for me. We don't have to agree, in order to love. We don't have to agree, to recognize that we're all human beings, and riding this same crazy planet together. And we all want what's best for all of us, we just disagree on how to make that happen.

It's all about love.

But not for Trump. No, for him...it's all about him.

We have a chance, this November, to stand up to a bully. We have a chance to say, no, this shit is not okay. That we won't reward a man who treats women like trash, who slurs minorities, who preens around like a peacock despite being a woeful failure at everything he's done in his entire life, with the highest office in the land.

Hey, fun fact? There's a decent chance I'd personally prosper under a Trump presidency. His tax plan is a total giveaway to the rich, and while I'm not rich per se, I'm doing okay as a small business owner (never had to declare bankruptcy unlike, well, you know). I'd make some money. But this isn't about me.

I'm pulling the lever against Trump for every woman in my life. I'm pulling the lever for every GLBT person in my life. I'm pulling the lever for every person I cherish and love, and for every person Trump stands to callously hurt.

Fuck that guy.

Just fuck that guy.

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