Saturday, May 9, 2020

'Automata' Book Blurb and Other Things

Locked and loaded, as they say. Automata has been submitted to Draft2Digital for an October 1 release. It clocks in at around 62,500 words (shocked me, too), and I'm pretty happy with the way the book turned out. Because it won't be out for a few more months, there's more time for me to make last-minute corrections here and there, but it'll be available from the usual online stores.

There will be a print book since it's a new release, and that'll be out at the same time as the e-book. In the meantime, here's the blurb:
A disastrous incident at a ball in St. Jude threatens to undo Alexej Sauveterre, and his protective adoptive family whisk him off to San Marco, a mythical and romantic city in the water. Born sickly, young Alexej has grown up resigned to the fact that only his family’s immense wealth makes him barely palatable to other gentlemen seeking partners.

The family’s sojourn in San Marco at first promises a much-needed distraction to Alexej when his older brother introduces him to an aristocratic inventor of automata as well as an old school friend who now tours the European continent as a classical pianist. Baseless hope and heartbreak, however, seem to follow Alexej everywhere.

Alexej’s fascination for automata and his hopeless infatuation with Briant Cousineau draw the attention of an entity from the otherworld, one that’s been wandering the globe for unwary souls to claim through cursed wishes. San Marco’s winged lion summons the city’s supernatural guardians in answer, and in the midst of glittering balls, magical clockwork puppets, and lonely dreams, a terrifying fight for Alexej’s soul darkens the streets of a fading city.
With the lockdown still in place - at least in the San Francisco Bay Area, the county health officials set up very strict (possibly the strictest in the state) guidelines regarding the gradual re-opening of all six counties. At the moment I'm still on hold, so I'll try to distract myself by forging ahead with the next set of books: Agnes of Haywood Hall and Eidolon. I at first planned to wait till June to get started on Agnes, but it looks like I might as well take advantage of all this extra time while I can.

After this weekend, I'll at least start doing preliminary work on Agnes, and if my energy and attention span hold, some preliminary work on Eidolon as well.

I also recently - and finally - read Shirley Jackson's Haunting of Hill House, and I'm afraid I didn't care for it as much as I'd expected. Given all the praise and all the academic dissection made on the book, I had high hopes for it, but I think it's Jackson's writing style that kept me from, to be honest, sympathizing with (let alone caring for) Eleanor or even getting a strong sense of how the other characters worked.

I love "The Lottery". And a short story, I think, seems to be the best vehicle for Jackson's terse writing style. In a novel, I just find myself falling away from the material, especially since the characters' motivations and outward behavior don't gel since everything they say or do feels almost half-formed. I know the book's part haunted house fiction and part psychological exploration of a woman's mental downward spiral. Either aspect, though, failed to take hold when I read it, and I even ended up skipping over scenes because I just couldn't get into any of them.

I mean - if a character's imagination or mental instability is behind that character's experiences with the occult, I think Henry James's Turn of the Screw does a better job teasing us with the possibility by blurring the lines. So I guess I should say that ghost stories that lean more on the perception of a haunting versus the reality of a haunting isn't my cup of tea (unless it's Henry James's novella).

I'll limit myself to actual ghosts in my reading. The Woman in Black is an excellent one, but Victorian ghost fiction is definitely the way to go for me, though I'll still keep an eye out for modern writers who publish haunted house fiction.

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