South for the Winter

I met you when you were a tree. I built my nest high up in your branches.

It started out simple: I’d been flying for hours, and I landed to take a rest. Way at the top, beneath a pillow of leaves, where I’d be hidden from larger birds.

The view was extraordinary. A field to the south, open for miles. To the west rolling hills, lined with houses.

There was a house near you. That worried me. Still, that field would have bugs, and worms when it rained. And every house still had trees in its yard, so I didn’t think you were going anywhere anytime soon.

“What a lovely home,” I thought. And that was that. You were my home.

I spent the summer up there. The field had plenty of food, and your leaves were thick, with tiny branches sprouting off of every larger one. I could spend a lifetime there and not be seen.

But I would be heard. I’d be heard for miles. You were so tall! I could sing my songs, and now and then another bird was loud enough to sing back, but they were always softer, no, always lower.

Winter came on fast and cold. It does that now; all of my senses are off. Maybe the seasons are off. But the air was cold, your leaves were disappearing, and it was time for me to go. I said goodbye and I went south. I hoped I’d find another tree like you there, but I knew I wouldn’t. I found shelter, but not a home. And I was so afraid you wouldn’t be there when I came back. But you were.

One summer I sang my song, and another voice came back, still lower, but stronger than the others. I sang out, and it came back again, playful, this time closer. I sang softer. The voice came back just below me.

Back and forth we sang, until the ladybird tweeted right below me, then right beside me, and back and forth we fluttered and sang so low no one else could hear us. It was like I led her up there, but it was more like you did.

I remember when our eggs hatched. Three littlebirds, squawking and screeching, hungry. We raised them, the ladybird and I and you, our nest and our shelter and our home.

I watched as they learned to fly. I watched them catch their own food. And I watched as, one by one, weeks apart, they would fly away and never return. My heart sang its sorrow song, but I hoped they found a tree half as good as you.

I remember the cat that chased me once, and how it couldn’t make it to even your lowest branches. I remember the young boy who tried to climb you, and I watched him grow alongside my own littlebirds, and his own ladybird he would sit beside, right in your shade, singing their own songs.

And I remember the night it stormed. Thunder crashed, and my heart beat faster, but I nestled closer to my ladybird and tried to sleep it away.

Then lightning struck, and we were falling. I tried to fly, but I didn’t know which way was up. Everything was just black, and wet, and cold, and the last thing I remember is my ladybird taking off into the night, moonlight fighting through the clouds and glinting off of her wings, beautiful.

When you die, part of you stays here, just for a little while, while your soul is fighting its way out of an egg. I stayed right here, where you used to be.

The storm lifted, like all storms do. My heart cried out a song I didn’t know it could, seeing you lying on the ground, your branches broken, your leaves scattered, part of your trunk still standing, jagged and aimed at the sky, a brutal memorial of what used to be.

I watched the humans come, and I knew I was seeing you for the last time. They would sweep it all away, cut down and dig up whatever was left, and you’d be gone like you never existed.

They did sweep you away, and cut down what was left, but they left your roots and stump. And that boy I watched grow beneath you, nearly a man now, placed a bird bath where you used to be, a new memorial, a tribute to what you were, and a promise that you could still be. And I watched my ladybird play in that fountain, I watched the other birds whose songs I’d always heard join together, and my heart sang.

Because you’re still here, in a way. And even as my spirit starts to spread its wings, I know what we shared was here, even though we’re not. And nothing can ever take that away from us.

I sang you one last song, and then my spirit flew south for the winter.

Never to Have Loved at All

It feels like rain. All the time. Not the good kind that lulls you to sleep, drowns out the city and all its noise so you can get some rest; the kind that ruins parades, sends kids inside, the kind you try to read to, but the thunder scares you and you lose your place. The kind that overflows your gutters, leaves puddles in your path and a cascade right outside your door, so you can run to your car but you’ll still get soaked to the bone. The kind that isn’t warm, it’s cold. The kind that keeps you up all night, quoting Tennyson and thinking about the different kinds of rain.

In the Year of Our Death and Zombiemandias – Available Now

In the Year of Our Death, the sequel to After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands is now available in print and eBook formats at various retailers, and should go live at several more over the next few hours.

In the Year of Our Death

It’s been two years since the zombies first appeared and changed the world forever. Keely and her friends escaped the hell of Seattle and settled down near an abandoned radio station. Bailey finds herself caught up with a ravenous group of survivors. Georgie has set up a courier system to move mail across the remains of America. Will and his friends—all of them orphans now—are out of water and have to leave their quiet suburb for the first time in their lives. Nelson, the engineer charged with running Hoover Dam and powering the American Southwest, breaks his glasses and must wander the wasteland nearly blind looking for a replacement.

Adam, however, knows the truth about the zombies: They aren’t monsters, they’re angels, sent by God to cleanse the world of the survivors, and Adam and his Church of Lesser Humans were put here to help them do it. Armed only with faith, a bus, and the steadfast rule to never allow harm to come to the zombies, Adam knows Judgment Day is coming, and will stop at nothing to herald its arrival.

You can read a sample chapter here as well as download samples from the retailer of your choice.

Store Links (more will be added as they become available):

Amazon • Google Play • iTunes • Barnes & Noble • SmashwordsKobo • Paperback (CreateSpace store) • Hardcover

The paperback edition should be available through Amazon’s website and Barnes & Noble’s website soon.

Also available is the collected edition, Zombiemandias: In the Zombie Apocalypse Collection, an eBook that includes After the Bite, In the Lone and Level Sands, and In the Year of Our Death.

Zombiemandias: In the Zombie Apocalypse Collection

Amazon • Google Play • iTunes • Barnes & Noble • SmashwordsKobo

Thanks to everyone who makes what I do possible. This includes you, the reader, without whom I’m just sitting here shouting random nonsense into a void. Thank you.

What’s in a Name?

Big changes incoming!

Perhaps you’ve noticed this very site (as well as Twitter) list me as “David J. Lovato” while the name on all my covers and storefronts simply reads “David Lovato”. That’s going to change.

Big changes this far along can get messy, and I spent the better part of two days updating all of my book covers and websites to add one little “J”, but the end result will be worth it. Why the change? Well, “davidlovato” wasn’t available for use as a WordPress site, so I added the J way back when, and it’s always good to keep things streamlined. Another reason is that I’m not the only David Lovato in town, and I think it’s best to keep any potential confusion to a minimum. So, starting in the coming weeks, you should see “David J. Lovato” on all of my books and store fronts. Also, it turns out I really like the way it looks. It’s like a little hook cementing my name in place. At the risk of sounding full of myself, I think I’ve realized you can tell a great font by its J.

Anyway, It’s a lengthy process to change all of my links and descriptions and profiles, but I’m almost done, and hopefully I did it without breaking anything too badly.

So, while I’m busy writing a post about my writing, I guess I should give a general update.

I’m way behind on Camp NaNoWriMo, thanks in part to burnout and in part to a household emergency. I may or may not get caught up, but I do plan to finish this project someday, and hopefully not too far away.

I have another project, a big one, that I’m hoping to release by Halloween. More details on that when it’s a little more ready for the spotlight.

I’m kicking around ideas for another poetry book. Possibly two of them. I enjoyed writing and publishing Permanent Ink on Temporary Pages, but for these two, I’m thinking bigger. Maybe louder.

I’m sitting on some novellas! One is finished and polished and I’m working to get it published traditionally. Another one is finished but not edited, and the last is unfinished, but I hope to put the final touches on those two this summer. Not sure whether I’ll self-publish or try the traditional route with them; that will depend on how I feel about the finished products. I also have an almost-finished short story collection that will most likely be self-published; the stories are all set in the same world and follow a specific theme.

And, as always, I have plenty of projects always moving, some slower than others, but they’ll be revealed when the time is right.

In short, I promise I’m working on things, and I’m pretty sure at least one of them will see a release this year.

Speaking of Halloween (I know that was a few paragraphs ago but it’s my blog and I’ll do what I want), last year I started a second RPG Maker project in the spirit of Halloween. With any luck I’ll finish it and release it before Halloween this year. It’s just a short little adventure where I challenged myself to see how odd I could make things go in that game engine, but I don’t see the harm in getting it out there, supposing I finish it. My main project is still Let the Moonlight Give You Wings, but that one is a lot larger and less predictable, so I can’t give an ETA on it. If I do pick up my Halloween-ish game again, expect to see some previews around these parts.

That about does it as far as talking about what I’m working on. One last thing though:

My favorite band is back! I can hardly express how excited I am to see Brand New recording and putting out new material. My history with this band is a long one. I’ll probably write a whole post on it pretty soon. But for now let’s just say they have a new song called “Mene” and you should buy it because it’s awesome.

And that’s it for now. Until next time!

These Shoes

These Shoes

See these shoes?

When I got these shoes, I had just graduated high school. I was starting to hang out with some new friends, I was going to college, I was working my first real job.

I was wearing these shoes when I had my first panic attack. I wore them through countless others. I walked to and from school and work and the bus stop in these shoes. I sat through my classes and worked through my shifts and rode the bus along the highway.

When I missed the bus, I walked that highway. I walked the streets of several cities, I walked the woods with my friends. Up and down steps formed by roots in mud, sitting on gigantic stones amid maple trees in a woods surrounded on all sides by a city that, to us, in that circle, might as well have not been there.

I wore these shoes when I lost old friends. I wore them when I made new ones. I wore them when I graduated college, got a different job, worked through that one and realized writing was my job all along.

These shoes accompanied me through millions of words, through the moments that inspired them, the people that became characters, the characters I wished were real people.

Shoes in a Car

These shoes have walked the earth of several states. They’ve been on camping trips, to concerts, in parks and on gravel roads, touched the pedals of several cars, carried me over broken glass and cracked cement. They’ve walked the neighborhood beside a dog once so small I had to carry her the rest of the way home. The laces have been frayed by kittens playing with them, and those kittens are as big as lions, now.

I wore these shoes that year I lost forty pounds. Along the treadmill, trying to stay in shape, just trying to sort out plot lines or real life problems in my head. They’ve seen rainstorms, tornadoes, car wrecks, changes. Slides, park swings, that merry-go-round that made us sick, the track around that park where some people we barely knew abandoned us, that thunderstorm outside the house where they abandoned us again. They were here when I published my first book, they were here when I published my latest. And they were here when I wrote them both.

All the movie theaters, the stores, the midnight releases, the parties, the quiet nights on the back porch swing; I wore them when I helped my best friend move into his first place. Up and down three flights of stairs, carrying furniture, wearing these shoes. Around town in the snow that time the gate fell over and the dogs got out, looking for them everywhere, wearing these shoes. Rushing pets to the vet, and later burying them, wearing these shoes. Planting flowers in these shoes, re-arranging my room just to feel something new, decorating for birthday parties or cleaning the house for Thanksgiving.

When I got these shoes, I couldn’t imagine the feeling of finishing a novel. I couldn’t imagine the feeling of arm pain so bad I thought I’d never finish another. Didn’t think I’d shuffle favorite bands so many times; back then I had never even heard of La Dispute. Thought my furniture would always stay the same, thought I’d always walk around the woods with the same people, I wasn’t aware how fragile everything around me was. You never see the cracks, only the broken glass you can’t help stepping on later. And after the collapse, you can’t see yourself fitting the pieces back together. And usually you don’t. But sometimes you do, and sometimes I did, in these shoes.

Shoes Camping

Sure, they were a little worn, but that didn’t matter. I thought I’d be wearing them when I did my first book signing, when I released that game I’ve been making, when I moved into a new place of my own. I thought I’d be wearing them when I move out in a year, when I renew my license in a month, when I start my next novel in a few weeks, when I switch cable companies in a couple days, when I go downstairs to make coffee in a minute.

But the seam tore on my way up the steps. Just like that, they’re done in.

What do I do with these shoes that have seen so much, been so many places, defined vague concepts like “here” and “there” and somewhere and anywhere, those critical moments I needed them to get me nowhere, those panicked flights I had to move without them, the people that came and went and the things I wrote and the people who read them; the rubber and cloth and laces, and even the scuffs and the holes and the frays.

I should just throw them away. What matters isn’t the shoes you wear, but the steps you take. And those will be with me no matter what, and I can’t even imagine the miles I have left, the places my next pair will get me.

But I think I’ll put them on a shelf somewhere, beside those things I look at from time to time to remind myself where I’ve been, and where I can go.

Besides, you never know when you’ll need an emergency pair of shoes.

Shoes in the Sun

Hardcovers!

I recently received my proof copies of the hardcover editions of After the Bite and In the Lone and Level Sands. I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out, and now I’m making them available to purchase through Lulu.

I wish I could make these available elsewhere, but I can’t justify the cost to do so. For now, Lulu is the only place to get hardcovers of these books. Paperbacks and ebooks will remain available everywhere they currently are.

You can find After the Bite here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-lovato-and-seth-thomas/after-the-bite/hardcover/product-21636543.html

And In the Lone and Level Sands here: http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-lovato-and-seth-thomas/in-the-lone-and-level-sands/hardcover/product-21636523.html

After the Bite comes in black satin with gold spine text, while In the Lone and Level Sands comes in tan satin with black spine text. Both books feature glossy dust jackets and black-and-white interiors.

“Hole” Update

My first venture into self-publishing was through a free short story called “Hole“. For a long time the story appeared almost exactly as I’d written it. Sure, I’d edited it after first writing it, but beyond that, I didn’t do much to it.

I happened to catch a glimpse of the story recently, and realized that was something that needed to change. So, over the last few days, I prepared a new cover image for it (thanks in part to the contributors at Pixabay) and set to work editing the text itself. I’m a lot happier with the newer versions of both.

Cover by David Lovato

As I mention in the story’s new afterword, I’m considering making a side-by-side comparison of the 2010 version of the story and the 2014 version of it, to show a little bit of my editing process, and the thoughts that go into each change. Maybe it’ll help someone out there with their own editing. This probably won’t come until later; I’m pretty busy working on new, never-before-seen projects.

“Hole” is available for free from just about every ebook retailer, except for Amazon. (They tend to not allow permanently free ebooks.) You’ll find links to “Hole” at various ebook retailers here: https://davidjlovato.wordpress.com/works-2/#hole

In the Lone and Level Sands Trailer (And Other Things)

In the Lone and Level Sands comes out Tuesday, November 26th.

You can pre-order the ebook through Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

The ebook will also be available through Amazon, Kobo, and Sony eBooks. A print edition will also be available soon.

Purchasing a new print edition through Amazon will allow you to download the Kindle eBook free of charge.

Just a reminder, you can read the first 19 chapters of the book under the “Samples” section of this blog. You can read a longer sample at the book’s Smashwords page.

Another reminder, the ebook edition of After the Bite is free for the month of November.

I’m very excited to release this novel next week. In the meantime, my NaNoWriMo progress has slowed considerably. I reached a point where it felt like forcing the story out would ruin it, so I’m more or less checking out of NaNoWriMo. I wrote a good 20,000 words and I absolutely plan to finish this novel, just not by the end of November.

I’ve also come up with a new title for one of the books I’m querying agents for. I’m not sure whether I want to change it yet, but I’m thinking I’ll do a blog post about titles pretty soon, as I have a few things to say on the subject.

Zombie Extravaganza

The tentative release date for my co-authored zombie apocalypse novel In the Lone and Level Sands is November 26th, 2013.

Leading up to its release, I’ve been posting a lot of fun zombie-related stuff on the book’s Facebook page. This blog post is meant to recap a lot of that. If you like zombie fiction, I hope you’ll check these out.

Free Norman Peters! – A blog maintained by one of the minor characters in In the Lone and Level Sands.

After the Bite – A collection of short stories and poems set during the same zombie apocalypse. Published in 2012, the e-book is free for the month of November if you download it through Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes Books, or Sony.

Update: Amazon now also allows you to download the eBook free of charge.

This book is also enrolled in the Kindle Matchbook program, meaning if you buy a new copy of the paperback edition through Amazon, you can download the Kindle version free of charge.

In the Lone and Level Sands preview – The first two parts (about 16%) of In the Lone and Level Sands uploaded as a .doc to Google Docs for easy reading. This includes the first 19 chapters of the upcoming book, in their entirety.

I’ve been a huge fan of zombies for a long time, and In the Lone and Level Sands is the zombie epic I always wanted to write. I’m happy to finally be releasing my contribution to the zombie genre, and I hope you’ll stick around when it arrives later this month. I also hope you enjoy the rest of this stuff in the meantime. Have fun!

Review: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters by Ursula K. Le Guin

In April I finished the first draft of my latest manuscript, and almost immediately after, a friend asked me to look over one he had recently finished, which I was happy to do, as I like to put some time between drafts of my work. After finishing his and starting on mine, I started to feel like reading something else. I don’t tend to read a lot while revising my own work, but I had spent too long away from the pile of books beside my bed. It was around that time I decided to pick up The Wind’s Twelve Quarters, thinking a short story collection might make for easier reading while I worked on my own writing. This proved to be a miscalculation, as I had trouble putting the book down.

Mentioning Le Guin’s work will most often draw to mind her fantasy, namely the Earthsea Cycle, which would pave the road for the likes of Neil Gaiman, Hayao Miyazaki, and J.K. Rowling. Perhaps less famous (but equally as influential, not to mention good) is her science fiction work, most of which falls under the Hainish Cycle. What most people won’t think of, however, is horror, which is a pity because she is perhaps the best writer at it. I’ve read books and found them disturbing, perhaps creepy, but never have I seen them as more than words on a page, which are not inherently horrific. Some of the stories in this book changed that for me. I would be hard-pressed to argue that the point of any story on the book is to be a work of horror, but there’s no doubt that Le Guin has managed to capture fear. I’m not talking about the gruesome and grisly, or the idea of some grotesque creature coming to “get” you, but the real horrors: Madness, isolation. The realization that you are not alone in a dark room, the comprehension of that which renders us infinitesimal.

“Semley’s Necklace” opens the collection. A short story on its own, it also happens to be the first chapter of Le Guin’s first novel, Rocannon’s World. Reading that novel was probably my first experience with the horror Le Guin is capable of writing: At first a mild science fiction work, it slowly works its way toward a terrifying realization. It was the perfect way to open both books.

“April in Paris” offers an immediate change of tone, being a more light-hearted fantasy work. “The Masters” presents the idea of persecution of the scientific, a theme that will recur in many of the author’s works, and contains one of my favorite passages in the book. “Darkness Box” is another fantasy piece, and one I enjoyed. Only a few pages long, it presents a world more rich than ones I’ve visited for entire novels.

“The Word of Unbinding” and “The Rule of Names” are both part of the Earthsea Cycle. The latter has elements of dark comedy, and in the last sentence returns the horror theme present throughout the collection. “Winter’s King” takes us back to the Hainish Cycle, and while a strong story, I thought it might have been better if it were extended into a full novel. Entire revolutions are passed over in a paragraph, which I assume is because they are perhaps not directly related to the central character’s internal story, but seeing years go by in a sentence was inescapably jarring.

“The Good Trip” provided a nice change of pace, being a short speculative work between two larger science fiction pieces. Following this is “Nine Lives”, one of my favorite stories in the collection. After this is “Things”, another short but very rich piece, and another favorite of mine. “A Trip to the Head” is a much less “conventional” story, being speculative through and through, and I appreciated the story it had to tell and the way it was told.

“Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” marks the point at which I couldn’t stay away from the book for more than a few hours. Another science fiction piece and part of the Hainish Cycle, this one stands perfectly well on its own. In this story were passages that gave me chills; perhaps for the first time, reading a book terrified me. Yet the story is not gloomy; it is beautiful even at its darkest, perhaps when it is darkest. This is not only my favorite in this collection, but easily one of my favorite short stories.

“The Stars Below” runs parallel to “The Masters” but is perhaps more enjoyable. “The Field of Vision” is one of the most terrifying stories I’ve ever read, and one of the most interesting. “Direction of the Road” offers a change of pace, another dark comedy and one of the most imaginative things I’ve read.

“The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” was the first of Le Guin’s works I read. After a few years, it holds all the power it did when I first read it, and I was glad to re-visit it. I could write at great length about this story, but for now I’ll just say that I hold this one close to my heart.

“The Day Before the Revolution” solidly closes the collection. It might make more sense to me once I read The Dispossessed, but I did enjoy the story.

Nearly every story left me wanting to start the same story again, so this is a collection I look forward to coming back to time and again. It only grows more relevant with time, and I hope to read it over every few years, noticing things I hadn’t before, taking away lessons that passed me by the previous time. I can tell already that it has a lot to teach.

For more book reviews, be sure to check out my Goodreads page.