Yesterday I finished Orpheum. Part one was published previously and ends on a cliffhanger. Unfortunately, even though people like it, I’ve been getting some negative reviews about how frustrating it is to wait for more.
I worked on this book through the winter, and we spent another month in Bulgaria doing research and visiting some of the geographical and historical locations in the book. I continued working on the book in Edinburgh over New Year’s… and was stuck on the last chapter for two weeks as we moved to Taipei.
But finally, I got to THE END and it’s pretty great. The full book also ends on a pretty big cliffhanger. I may leave it as it is, or I may add in an epilogue for at least a partial sense of completion, since it will probably be awhile until there’s another book in this series (I think it’s good – but I also have better projects mapped out and I want to be working on my best ideas, not the ideas I started years ago).
The original cover looked like this:
If you haven’t read part one yet, you can get the first several chapters for free in my starter library.
I like to update covers when I significantly change a book, so I’ve been working on a new cover, which will look something like this:
In a day or two, I’ll have a limited number of ARC copies to give out, so make sure you’re on my email list if you want one (these advanced copies are for fans who don’t mind helping me spot the inevitable handful of typos, and who can also post a review of the finished book on Amazon – if you’d prefer waiting for a clean copy, the full thing will be on Amazon next week).
Here’s an excerpt:
The world was my weapon, and I felt more powerful than I ever had before. Blood dripped from my fingertips, as the recent scabs reopened against the sharp strings of my violin. My eyes blackened as music filled my body, a rushing song, the voice of a god pumping in my veins. I hear his voice and I am destruction.
Here are a couple videos I made about the book… the second one is on-location in Bulgaria.
GIVEAWAY FOR MUSIC LOVERS!
I’m also running a giveaway where you can WIN a paperback version of the full book, and one of these cool miniature violin pendants with a working case.
Europe was great, but we’ve just flown back to Taiwan for Chinese New Year and will be in Asia for the next several months. Here’s a picture of our street. I’m working on TASTE next and I can’t wait to share the full book!
I’m working on TASTE for the rest of this month – my vampire dystopia – you can still get the free sample on Amazon for a limited time here:
Hi everyone! This is a sample from my book Orpheum, which is based on the mythology surrounding Orpheus and the Maenads. It includes some unique insights about fauns and satyrs. My interpretation is mythology-inspired and supported by the available evidence, but not universally accepted.
I’m also giving away a copy of Orpheum, along with a copy of Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger and Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song (which also both feature violin players).
Music lovers giveaway
Professor Paleva made me practice until my fingers bled. I waited for her to notice slick red running down my violin strings, but she didn’t let up for another half hour. I pushed past the pain but I was having trouble hitting the right notes. Finally she sighed and nodded that we were done.
I took my hand off my instrument and stretched my fingers. She handed me a damp rag to wash them off.
I thought about what Denzi had done to my shoulder and wondered whether I could heal myself with music.
“I don’t suppose you can fix these?” I said, waving my red fingers in the air.
“Unfortunately, no,” she said. “Healing with music is… challenging. Even for me. And you need the right instrument.”
“Denzi showed me, with his flute.”
“So you know then. What he is?” she asked, pushing her glasses up higher on her nose.
“A satyr,” I nodded. “But I didn’t really understand the difference but them and fauns. Can you tell me more about the history?”
Professor Dobreva sighed and sat beside me.
“Fauns are nature deities. They play the syrinx – a wind instrument consisting of cane pipes of different lengths tied in a row or in a bundle held together by wax or cord, and generally closed at the bottom. Legend has it that the god Pan, the patron of shepherds, fell in love with the Nymph Syrinx, daughter of Ladon the river-god.”
“Fleeing his attentions, Syrinx pleaded with Zeus to save her and just when Pan captured her, Zeus turned the Nymph into reeds. Enraged, Pan smashed the reeds into pieces but on reflection he was struck with remorse and wept and kissed the broken reeds, all that remained of his beloved. As he kissed the reeds, he discovered that his breath could create sounds from them, and so he made the musical instrument that would carry the lost Nymph’s name.”
“The roman counterpart of Pan is “Faunus” – which became the name given to immortal followers of Pan. They believe in harmony and unity. They give up their personal selfish desires for a greater, universal purpose. They play music for the love, as a selfless gift to the world. They’re poets. You could say that Fauns are just the Roman translation of the Greek Satyrs, and they’re actually the same species, but there are other differences.”
“Satyrs follow Dionysus. They play the aulos, a double reeded instrument like a modern oboe. It’s long, phallic instrument that was used for martial music. The satyrs were Dionysus’s military brigade, using music as a weapon. They used music to subdue, to dominate, to conquer.”
“In myth, Marsyas the satyr was supposed to have invented the aulos, or else picked it up after Athena had thrown it away because it caused her cheeks to puff out and ruined her beauty. In any case, he challenged Apollo to a musical contest, where the winner would be able to “do whatever he wanted” to the loser—Marsyas’s expectation, typical of a satyr, was that this would be sexual in nature. But Apollo and his lyre beat Marsyas and his aulos. And since the pure lord of Delphi’s mind worked in different ways from Marsyas’s, he celebrated his victory by stringing his opponent up from a tree and flaying him alive.”
I shuddered at the image.
“I thought Apollo was the good guy?”
“It’s not that simple,” Paleva said. “Apollo represents rational thought and order, but without emotion he lacks sympathy and can be cold and brutal. Dionysus meanwhile is pure emotion, left unchecked it can also manifest as violence. The order of Orpheus was meant to keep the balance between them, unifying head and heart. Balancing the powers so that no one side can dominate the other.”
“And ultimately, both sides are weak without the other. Orpheus was at his most powerful after Eurydice died. Suffering, heartbreak. You must bleed into your strings, but not with your fingers, with your heart.”
“After what happened with Marsyas, Satyrs were the enemy of Apollo. When Denzi turned from Dionysus and became a follower of Apollo after Orpheus’ death, he turned his back on his own kind. They view him as a traitor.”
“You could say the difference between satyrs and fauns could is the difference in platonic and erotic love: one love prioritizes personal satisfaction over the beloved object. The other gives up selfish desire for the happiness of the other. You could also say that fauns are elevated satyrs, who have overcome their baser natures and learned wisdom and philosophy. They experience guilt and shame, regret and remorse. They prioritize the happiness of their beloved rather than simply the gratification of their own sexual desire. But you can also see fauns as simply childish innocents, and the satyrs are more adult, jaded and cynical.”
“So only fauns can heal, with their pipes? Because of the harmonious notes?” I asked, trying to understand.
“Not necessarily. Both use personal force and energy to create music from their wind instruments. Orpheus plays the lyre, a string instrument where music is made from vibration. It was so pure and beautiful, he was able to suspend the laws of physics and nature. It gave him total mastery of the universe. But it’s not really about the instrument. It’s about the player.”
I wondered then where Denzi’s abilities came from. Who had broken his heart?
We spent last month in Bulgaria. I spent most of that time working on book covers and getting organized – it seems like a long time ago but it was only last month I finally finished my PhD and we flew pretty much straight here.
Plovdiv is a charming, comfortable little town, then we spent a week exploring the mountains and history. My novel Orpheum is set in Bulgaria, so we wanted to see the ancient Thracian ruins, the Devil’s cave (where Orpheus is set to have gone into Hell to save his love), and some other sites where Orpheus and Dionysus were worshiped. Now we’re in Sofia, finishing up our trip.
At Perperikon, I learned a great story about the creation of amethyst (so I bought one):
The name Amethyst derives from the Greek word ametusthos, meaning “not intoxicated,” and comes from an ancient legend. The wine god Bacchus, angry over an insult and determined to avenge himself decreed the first person he should meet would be devoured by his tigers. The unfortunate mortal happened to be a beautiful maiden named Amethyst on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. As the ferocious beasts sprang, she sought the protection of the goddess and was saved by being turned into a clear, white crystal. Bacchus, regretting his cruelty, poured the juice of his grapes over the stone as an offering, giving the gem its lovely purple hue.
We also spent a week in this amazing writing retreat – an apartment we rented in the Southern Rhodope mountains. Not easy to get to, but worth it. I hope to finish part 2 of Orpheum this year!