Once again, a huge thank you to everyone who helped in whatever way with the launch of The Dreaming Land I, which was my most successful promo and launch ever! An especially big thanks to those who have provided reviews, and of course reviews can be posted on Amazon at any time 🙂
I’ll be gearing up soon for the launch of The Dreaming Land II, which, if the cliffhanger at the end of Book I left you hanging (thanks, Tolkien, for that inspiration 🙂 ), will be coming very soon! In fact, the current plan is to hold the official launch starting November 3, which I think is the date of the Battle of the Bywater, for those who are following along with my Lord of the Rings-linked launch schedule. That will be a busy time, since it follows hard on the heels of the release of The Magical Book of Wands, a fantasy anthology which includes my story “The Dragonbone Wand,” the prelude to a new, dragon-based, series I am currently developing. And I will probably be teaming up with the dark epic fantasy writer Satis, who is also releasing the last book in his series that same week. So lots of great fantasy to enjoy!
But in the meantime, I thought I’d provide us all with a fun musical interlude by sharing some of the songs that inspired my various books, or were worked into them in some way. Links to fun and fabulous music are below.
Like many, many, many people in some way connected to the Soviet/post-Soviet world, I am a big fan of the 1980s Leningrad band Kino. I listened to them obsessively while writing The Midnight Land, and alluded to the song “Legend” in the closing sentences of the TMLII. You can watch a video made of clips of live performances by Kino and their legendary frontman Viktor Tsoi here:
If you’re curious, here are the lyrics in Russian and English translation:
Среди связок в горле комом теснится крик,
Но настала пора, и тут уж кричи – не кричи.
Лишь потом кто-то долго не сможет забыть,
Как, шатаясь, бойцы об траву вытирали мечи,
И как хлопало крыльями чёрное племя ворон,
Как смеялось небо, а потом прикусило язык.
И дрожала рука у того, кто остался жив,
И внезапно в вечность вдруг превратился миг.
И горел погребальным костром закат,
И волками смотрели звёзды из облаков,
Как, раскинув руки, лежали ушедшие в ночь
И как спали вповалку живые, не видя снов.
А жизнь – только слово. Есть лишь любовь и есть смерть.
Эй, а кто будет петь, если все будут спать?
Смерть стоит того, чтобы жить,
А любовь – стоит того, чтобы ждать…
A scream contracts into a lump in the sinews of your throat,
But the time has come, and it doesn’t matter how much you scream.
Only later will someone long be unable to forget
How, staggering, the warriors wiped their swords off on the grass,
And how a black tribe of ravens flapped their wings,
How the sun laughed, and then bit its tongue.
And the hands of those who had remained alive shook,
And suddenly a moment transformed into eternity.
And the sunset burned like a funeral pyre.
And the stars looked down from the clouds like wolves
At how those who had gone into the night lay with their arms outstretched
And at how the living slept side by side without dreaming.
But life is just a word. There is only love, and there is death.
Hey–who’s going to sing if everyone is going to sleep?
Death is worth living for,
And love is worth waiting for…
For The Breathing Sea, I wanted a very feminine vibe to the whole thing, so along with using as my epigraph a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, I thought of “Wonder” by Natalie Merchant, which is one of the few songs I know of by a female artist that unapologetically celebrates women, as I was writing it:
I particularly liked the idea of a female wonder-child who is wondrous for herself and not as the bearer of future sons.
And of course, another key singer for The Breathing Sea and for me as a person would be Tori Amos. Here she is performing “Winter”:
But with The Dreaming Land, I was going for a much more masculine vibe, albeit one that I was going to apply to my female main character. I spent a while agonizing over the epigraph, until one day, as I was driving down I-40 (this was back in those days when I knew something was wrong but could still do things like drive down I-40) through Tennessee, I heard Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark”:
I immediately knew that that was the story I wanted to tell about Valya and the other characters: picking yourself up after a broken heart. Plus, I thought of Valya as having a touch of The Boss’s swagger. But did I really want to use a Western pop song as my epigraph? And what about getting permission?
I wrestled with the problem for a while, and then moved on to another Western pop song as my potential epigraph; namely, “NYC” by Snow Patrol:
That was even closer to what I was trying to say, particularly the line “If our hearts are never broken / Then there’s no joy in the mending / There’s so much this hurt could teach us both.” So I went with that as my epigraph for a while, before running aground on the same problems as before: I’d have to go through the process and expense of getting permission, plus it was a little too cross-referential or breaking the fourth wall or whatever you want to call it to mix contemporary rock/pop into my medieval fantasy. So I used an excerpt from Pushkin’s “On the Hills of Georgia” as my epigraph instead.
Hope you enjoyed this little musical selection! For our final piece, just for fun, and because I think she’s not nearly famous enough, here is a live performance of “The Leading Bird” by Czech singer/songwriter Marketa Irglova (in English). Lyrics are below:
Clouds descend on grass grown wild,
Tall and grand, lush in hand.
They bend in air as man in prayer.
I’m weaving through, trying to get to you.
I’m running past birds of dawn,
They sing like heaven, they’re leading on.
Yet I don’t see slow motioned wings,
Like gold in sun, how it could be won.
White as snow silk-feathered doves.
Eternal glow, they easily know.
That life is grand in all its shapes,
Whether it gives, whether it takes.
That I am you, you are me, and
Loving grace can set us free,
From sprinting far, above, beyond,
Being our own strong magic wand.