I keep thinking fall has finally come, only to be surprised by another couple of warm, sunny days. Not that I dislike warm sunny days, mind you. But I love the brisk chill of fall best.
But it's not really the weather I want to tell you about. No, I want to tell you the title for the third Empire of Storms book:
Blood and Tempest
Now, the observant among you will not doubt notice that "Tempest" has seven letters, but in the last newsletter I told you that neither word could be longer than six letters because of space constraints in the design. I have no idea why it's now okay to have a seven letter word. Maybe because the letters in this particular word are thinner? Perhaps the cover designer has learned to bend space and time? Or maybe they're tweaking the design slightly to accommodate? I've been told who will be featured on the third cover and I can see how that person might make for a bit more room, but beyond that I don't know any more than you. What I do know is that everyone agrees, after a lot of discussion among many people, that these two words are the best possible words for the title of this book. I will do my best to tell you why without spoiling Bane and Shadow.
First, let me back up a bit and say that it necessarily had to break the convention established by Hope and Red and Bane and Shadow, which was to use the names of the two protagonists. Of course, none of them are "real" names. The names "Hope" and "Red" are given to them when they are "adopted" and set on the path that ultimately leads to their meeting. Red is always a little embarrassed by his given name, Rixidenteron, and we never learn Hope's given name. I considered revealing her original name at some point, but decided against it. Some things that are lost can never be regained.
"Bane" and "Shadow" are names that they take on as well. Hope takes hers willingly, in an attempt to redefine herself and her goals, and Red's name is forced on him, but in both cases, their relationship to that name changes as the book progresses.
In the third book, there are no new names. These two people know who they are now, even if they aren't sure yet where that will lead them. So since I couldn't draw from cool names for the title of this third book, I had to think bigger.
"Blood" works on several levels. First, the idea of sacrifice that it invokes is prevalent throughout the larger story. Also, if you've read Hope and Red, you know there is a lot of blood spilled in their world. But (and this is really hard to talk about without spoiling the end of Bane and Shadow) for this third book, it is also about pushing back against all the bloodshed that has come before. Also, "Blood" just sounds cool in a title. It's sort of evergreen that way.
Now, "Tempest"--that seven letter rule breaker--is a perfect word for this book. Many of you know that I'm a huge Shakespeare nerd, so you won't be surprised that I take a lot of my meaning from his play of the same name. That is, the idea of the storm as a metaphor for transformation. And just as it does in The Tempest, things have to get messy in The Empire of Storms before they can truly change. I'm not going to lie. Bane and Shadow ends on kind of a dark note. There is tremendous loss, and one of the protagonists is left on the brink of despair. So "Tempest" is my promise to readers that things will not only turn out ok, but that they will be better. That this broken empire the reader entered at the beginning of Hope and Red will be improved by the struggles and sacrifices that Hope, Red, and all their friends make. That ultimately, these things are worth it. At least in the world I have made.
And I hope in our own world as well. At the risk of getting political for a moment, I think we'll be either reassured or horror-stricken on that count next week...
Oh, I should probably mention that I've also added the Bane and Shadow page to jonskovron.com and it has links to all the various ways you can preorder the book. I don't often get pushy about this sort of thing, but about once per book I like to remind folks that preorders are hugely impactful, not just in actual sales, but also in terms of how much marketing will put into a particular book, and therefore how much buzz it will generate, bringing with it even more sales, etc, etc. So, if you've already read Hope and Red, and you enjoyed it, please consider preordering Bane and Shadow.
I just checked Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Currently, the preorder price for the Bane and Shadow paperback is under $9. And if you haven't read Hope and Red yet, it's currently just under $8. So like, that's pretty cheap, right? Also? This is totally how I feed my children now.
So anyway, that was a lot of talk about titles and themes and please buy my books. Lest you begin to think I am a SERIOUS PERSON, I want to mention that I just finished the new issue of Tank Girl, and it's amazing.
Tank Girl is a long-running Australian punk rock comic book that also spawned a movie starring Lorie Petty and Ice-T (which I think is way better than most people give it credit for, but I could be biased). Naturally, when I was an alt/punk teen, I was an avid reader of the comic and fan of the movie. But in recent years (decades??), I felt the comic was struggling to remain fresh and relevant. Like many an aging punk rocker, it was trying too hard, and it was a little embarrassing.
But then I'd heard that the most recent story arc, Two Girls, One Tank had somehow not only revived the original spirit of the books, but made it feel relevant for today's world. I haven't read that arc yet, but I picked up the first issue of the follow-up story arc, Tank Girl Gold, and wow, it feels like I just reconnected with an old friend who has been doing some really cool things since the last time we hung out. The only real question now is whether I can wait for the collected volume of Two Girls, One Tank when it comes out in December, or just buy the single issues now.
Real quick: If you like some no-nonsense southern gothic blues, check out Adia Victoria. Here's her video of "Dead Eyes" and her Tiny Desk Concert on NPR. I've been grooving on her album Beyond the Bloodhounds for a couple months now. Every single song on there is gritty and satisfying.
And that's it for this week. Now it's time for me to knuckle down and finish Blood and Tempest. I'm nearly in the home stretch, which is both thrilling and terrifying. If you're in the States, please remember to vote next week, and not to interfere with the voting of others.