Written by Alex Bledsoe
My Tufa novels, of which the upcoming Long Black Curl is the third, are all about music. They’re about other things, too, of course, but a central theme is how music touches people, affects them and brings them together. But I never expected that my novels would, in fact, bring me together with a tribe of musicians that could’ve stepped right out of those pages.
In 2013, I was a presenter at the Pagan Unity Festival (a.k.a. PUF) at a state park outside Nashville. Like many such festivals, there was a lot of music, including two appearances by a band I’d never heard of: Tuatha Dea.
I’ll admit to a bias here: some pagan-themed music strikes me as a bit overt, wearing its heart (and environmental concerns, and European folklore, and feminist agenda, and so forth) on its sleeve to its overall detriment. So I’d planned to skip the concert that first night and rest in my cabin.
Imagine my surprise when, from the pavilion down the hill, I heard a musical roar like nothing I expected. And I was even more surprised when I recognized the song as a snarling cover of the Cranberries’ “Zombie.”
That was my introduction to Tuatha Dea, a band that, as I said, sounded and looked as if they’d stepped right out of one of my Tufa novels. They’re an eight-piece ensemble that rotates on the instruments, with an emphasis on heavy drums. Their performance that night was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen Springsteen multiple times. They completely blew my idea of pagan music out of the water. I also was lucky enough to become friends with them, and to enthusiastically swap copies of my novels for their CDs.
Then came the biggest surprise: a call from band leader/songwriter Danny Mullikin, asking if he could write songs based on my Tufa novels.
I’m pretty sure my response boiled down to, “Yes, please.” Danny was kind enough to keep me updated on the process, sharing lyrics and early tracks with me, but I deliberately gave him no input; I wanted to be surprised like everyone else by the final product, which the band titled Tufa Tales: Appalachian Fae.
And I was. I mean, I knew the songs would be good, and that the band would perform them well. But the surprise was how thoroughly they captured the atmosphere I strove to create in my novels. Feel is always an intangible quality, almost impossible to really describe or copy, but they clearly got it.
They did three tracks titled after my first three novels, and so far have two videos, for the songs “Long Black Curl” and “Wisp of a Thing.” (If you look very closely in the “Wisp” video, you might spot this author for about one and a half seconds.) They also do a rocking version of the classic folk tune “The Five Nights’ Drunk,” which they call “Granny’s Bedtime Tonic.” And there’s a wonderful instrumental called “Dance of the Tufa.”
I’m proud to be associated with this band, and I’m incredibly flattered that they felt so connected to my work. Creating art is always fun, but inspiring it may be the biggest rush of all.
About Long Black Curl: Long Black Curl: a brand-new tale in Alex Bledsoe’s acclaimed urban fantasy series, where magic is hidden in plain sight and age-old rivalries simmer just beneath the surface
In all the time the Tufa have existed, only two have ever been exiled: Bo-Kate Wisby and her lover, Jefferson Powell. They were cast out, stripped of their ability to make music, and cursed to never be able to find their way back to Needsville. Their crime? A love that crossed the boundary of the two Tufa tribes, resulting in the death of several people.
Somehow, Bo-Kate has found her way back. She intends to take over both tribes, which means eliminating both Rockhouse Hicks and Mandalay Harris. Bo-Kate has a secret weapon: Byron Harley, a rockabilly singer known as the “Hillbilly Hercules” for his immense size and strength, and who has passed the last sixty years trapped in a bubble of faery time. He’s ready to take revenge on any Tufa he finds.
The only one who can stop Bo-Kate is Jefferson Powell. Released from the curse and summoned back to Cloud County, even he isn’t sure what will happen when they finally meet. Will he fall in love with her again? Will he join her in her quest to unite the Tufa under her rule? Or will he have to sacrifice himself to save the people who once banished him?
(Ends May 1)
Alex Bledsoe‘s Long Black Curl, the latest in the Tufa novels series, is due out on May 26. This month we are making it easy to get started with the series by releasing the first ebook, The Hum and the Shiver, for only $2.99.*
About The Hum and the Shiver: Named one of the Best Fiction Books of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe is an enchanting tale of music and magic older than the hills. . . .
No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Enigmatic and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be a mystery, there are hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.
Bronwyn Hyatt, a pure-blood Tufa, has always insisting on doing things her own way, regardless of the consequences. Even though Tufa rarely leave Cloud County, she enlisted in the Army to escape the pressures of Tufa life—her family, her obligations as a First Daughter, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But after barely surviving a devastating ambush that killed most of her fellow soldiers, Private Hyatt returns to Cloud County wounded in body and in spirit. But danger lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity.
Now Bronwyn finds the greatest battle to be right here at home, where her obligations struggle with her need for freedom, and if she makes the wrong choice, the consequences could be deadly for all the Tufa. . . .
*sale ends May 1
If you’ve been on social media at all lately, chances are you’ve seen the videos. Someone announces that they’ve accepted the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and promptly gets a bucket full of ice water dumped over their heads. The resulting expressions of surprise and frantic jumping around are great entertainment for those of us watching.
Three Tor authors have accepted the challenge, helping to promote awareness of ALS. We wanted to gather all three of those videos for you in one handy place, so you can enjoy watching Brandon Sanderson, Alex Bledsoe, and David Brin get a dousing!
First up, Brandon Sanderson, the author of Words of Radiance. After watching this, we’re not entirely certain Brandon’s actually human. But we love an author who can keep working, no matter what!
From Brandon’s blog:
Now, the point of this challenge is that you either donate $100 to the ALS Association, or you do the ice bucket thing and donate $10. As I did the ice bucket thing, we’re choosing to donate $10 to ALS, and instead give the $100 to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund in the name of Sir Terry Pratchett. I figured it would be worthwhile to spread the love from this charity drive around.
Click through to read the rest, including who Brandon nominated for the challenge!
Next up, we have Alex Bledsoe, the author of both the Eddie LaCrosse series, and the Tufa novels. For the ALS challenge, Alex got a little help from his boys—who don’t exactly have perfect aim. Close enough, though!
Our favorite part? “No, you didn’t miss!”
Our final video for this roundup features David Brin, the author of Existence. I have to say, I think the way David handles the challenge is almost…Shakespearean. And the replay at the end is great!
Edited to add:
And we have another Tor author taking up the challenge! Dan Wells, the author of the John Cleaver series, has a whole group of kids available to dump some very cold water on his head.
So: who’s going to take the challenge next? Have we missed any of our authors participating? And, finally, find out more about the challenge, ALS, and how to donate on the ALS Association website.
Back in June of 2009, the first book in author Alex Bledsoe’s Eddie LaCrosse series, The Sword-Edged Blonde, published. To celebrate the start of this fun and exciting series, Alex explained in the July Newsletter that his priorities, in writing a fantasy novel, are a little…flipped from most authors’. We hope you enjoy this blast from the past, and be sure to check back every other Thursday for more!
By Alex Bledsoe
A man walks into a bar.
If this happens in a science fiction or fantasy novel, the author has his job cut out for him. Not only does he have to describe the bar physically, but also its patrons. They might include aliens, ogres, trolls or elves, all of which can have any number of permutations. Then the drinks have to be laid out, and the money system enumerated. When all that’s done, the author might have enough imagination left to finally describe the man who walked in.
I’m unusual as a fantasy or science fiction reader, in that the details of made-up societies, worlds and cultures hold far less interest for me than the people (I include non-humans in that term) who inhabit them. I remember listening in wonder to another well-regarded fantasy author describe the elaborate monetary system he’d designed, and for which so far he’d had no use. It’s something I could never do.
When I wrote The Sword-Edged Blonde, I wanted to pare it down to the things I, as a reader, cared most about: namely, the people. Anything that distracted from them, and from the reader’s emotional commitment to them, I either left out or minimized. For example, many fantasy characters have names that, if not literally unpronounceable, at least challenge the tongue; I named my hero Eddie LaCrosse. Eddie’s office is, in fact, above a bar, one that is no different in feel and atmosphere from any you might walk into today. Eddie uses swords that, like modern guns, have make and model names, and the people speak in rhythms, patterns and tones that don’t try to sound “otherworldly.” There’s no time spent digressing into societal details that don’t apply to the immediate situation; this is not to belittle authors who do that sort of thing well, it’s just something I neither crave as a reader or excel at as a writer.
I did invent one term. Eddie is essentially a private investigator functioning in an Iron Age world. In our world, PI’s are known by various, vaguely derogatory terms: shamus, dick, peeper, etc. I decided that Eddie’s reality needed a similar term, and came up with “sword jockey.” To me it rings with the same thinly-veiled contempt as “gumshoe” or “snooper.”
The Sword-Edged Blonde (and its upcoming sequel, Burn Me Deadly) have been called high-fantasy stories written as if they were Forties pulp detective novels. That’s exactly my intent, but it’s not just an ironic stylistic choice; rather, it’s a sincere attempt to let readers connect with the characters by letting as few things as possible get in the way.
So the man (or woman) who walks into a bar in Eddie’s world could, hopefully, be you. And you’d be right at home there.
Swords Are My Business, a collection of four Eddie LaCrosse Novels, releases today!
About Swords Are My Business: In 2007, Alex Bledsoe introduced the world to Eddie LaCrosse, the hard-boiled but soft-hearted detective known as a “sword jockey” who, for twenty-five gold pieces a day, plus expenses, will take on any case short of murder for hire. Like Philip Marlowe in shining armor or Sam Spade with a sword, Eddie goes down his mean medieval streets trying to walk the straight and narrow in a crooked, twisting fantasy world.
Over the course of four novels, LaCrosse has encountered dragons, pirates, sea monsters, goddesses, ghosts, and magic, all the while keeping his cool and doing what’s right.
In this collection you’ll receive the complete text of the first four Eddie LaCrosse novels.
The Sword-Edged Blonde
When a childhood friend, now a king, asks Eddie’s help in clearing his queen of a murder charge, Eddie’s long-buried past refuses to stay hidden.
Burn Me Deadly
Someone will go to any lengths, including torture and murder, to locate the last remaining dragon eggs. But dragons aren’t real, are they?
A poisoned apple sets off political turmoil that threatens to destroy an entire Camelot-like kingdom, and take Eddie with it.
Wake of the Bloody Angel
Eddie searches for the vanished pirate Black Edward Tew and his legendary treasure, but even the help of a tough former pirate queen may not be enough to save him from what he finds.
Swords Are My Business also includes a sample of the fifth Eddie LaCrosse novel, He Drank, and Saw the Spider.