Dark Tower Jake drawings Stephen King

What is Stephen King’s “Dark Tower,” exactly?

Since the release of the trailer for the upcoming adaptation of Stephen King’s epic, The Dark Tower, the web had been buzzing with theories and speculation, as well as questions from those who’ve never read the books.

For example: is this story a western, or sc-fi? What’s so important about this “tower?” Why does the gunslinger need to reach it?

Well, as someone who has been passionate about this series since I first picked up the books as a teenager, I recently wrote a piece for Screen Rant that explains some of the Dark Tower basics.

I’ve provided a link below, but don’t stop there. With the movie coming out later this year, now is the perfect time to catch up, and read the books that inspired it!

 

NOTE: After putting this up, I just discovered that it’s my 200th post on this blog. Crazy!

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

Language, the Secrets of Communication, and All of Our Clay Tongues

Human language is the source of human consciousness, at least as far as we understand it. Things “exist” to us — whether those things are objects, theories, or abstract notions  — only so far as (1) our ability to perceive them, and (2) our ability to describe them with words. Which is silly, when we think about it, because words are, on a base level, nothing more than silly symbols and sounds made by the human mouth. Words are inherently meaningless, other than the meaning that we connect to these words — and that meaning is what makes them powerful. Words are a beautiful contradiction. This doesn’t mean that “truth” doesn’t exist, because it does, but it does mean that how we perceive truth is directly connected to whatever language we speak, as well as how our culture perceives the words within that language.

The word “horse” means nothing, other than being a mouthful of sounds, unless we decide that “horse” is a descriptor for the real life animal. How we think of a horse, then, is directly connected to the word we use. For example, in the English language, our amusing tendency to associate other objects with parts of the human body: e.g., the supposed “legs” of a chair, or the “heart” of an artichoke.

Language is the power that fuels the human species. It’s the source of how we think, why we think, and how we retain memories. But at the same time, for those who struggle with communication, language can become an unbreakable wall between them and the rest of society.

The limitations and surreal nature of human perception is something I like examining in my writing, as readers of Pale Highway will attest to.  I’ll be delving even deeper into this topic in my next novel (Novel #3), when it comes out. But when I approached this subject for the writing of my short little fantasy novelette, Clay Tongue, I specifically wanted to delve into language, communication, and the challenges faced by those who struggle with it.

Clay Tongue fantasy novelette Nicholas Conley

To do this, I tried to link two different struggles, that would seem quite different on the surface, but actually have a lot in common: the pain of an old man who develops aphasia after suffering from a stroke, and the shyness of a little girl who has trouble speaking up in front of people. Both of them know what they want to say, but both of them don’t know how to say it.

In Clay Tongue, these characters — young Katie Mirowitz and her grandfather — have a tight bond, and this shared communication difficulty is what brings them together.

When it comes to the grandfather, I was inspired by the same nursing home experience that fueled Pale Highway. As a caregiver in the dementia unit, I worked with many people who’d been afflicted with aphasia. Scientists, lawyers, artists, mechanics, pharmacy technicians — people who suddenly, without warning, had their ability to communicate robbed from them. It was heartbreaking to see, when someone so desperately knows what they want and their brain won’t let them say it in a way that others can understand.

Clay Tongue Nicholas Conley fantasy

As far as Katie’s shyness, well… that goes back to my own childhood, where I myself had a lot of painful social anxiety, and an immense difficulty with getting words across. Though socializing comes easily to me now, those early pains never quite fade from memory. The secret to comfortable social interaction isn’t something you can take a class for, or find tricks to get around; you just have to learn it the hard way. Though it becomes easier with age, that’s no comfort to a little kid who still hasn’t figured out how to respond to a seemingly simple question like “how are you?” without feeling treacherously embarrassed.

With Clay Tongue, I wanted to examine this aspect within both characters: to delve into the secrets of communication, to show their struggles. And then, at the same time, to show that even in strange and indescribable personal battles such as these ones, there is always hope.

Clay Tongue: A Novelette is available on Amazon.

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.

Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

 

Dark Tower Trailer is Here!

Afters years upon years of waiting, the first trailer for the upcoming cinematic adaptation of The Dark Tower is real, it’s breathing, and it’s live:

As readers know, the Dark Tower series was hugely influential on me — as a writer, a reader, and as a person — so this is easily my most anticipated movie of the year. It’s a hard one to get right, but so far, I’m impressed.

As the filmmakers have said, they are pulling from multiple books in the series for this first film, which I think makes sense; the original book, The Gunslinger, is fairly slow paced compared to the subsequent books, with much of it consisting of Roland and Jake following the Man in Black through the desert. It looks like this one uses the general plot structure of The Gunslinger, combines it with the house/portal from The Waste Lands, and then uses some of the New York elements of the last two books. Having everything somewhat different from the books actually works with this storyline, in a way it wouldn’t with other adaptations, since the notion of alternate realities, timelines, and dimensions is sewn right into the fabric of the Dark Tower mythos. As Jake famously said in the first novel, “there are other worlds than these.”

Either way, I definitely got chills hearing that last line. Idris Elba seems like an absolutely amazing Roland, with all of the gravitas that the character demands. Jake and the Man in Black look to perfectly capture the characters in the books. Can’t wait to see this in theaters.

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

Release Day – Clay Tongue: A Novelette

Language is the foundation that society is built on, and yet, out of all of our inventions, it’s also our greatest enigma. The combination of sounds and/or symbols that frame ideas, illustrate concepts, and bring people together has advanced human civilization more than anything else, without parallel. But for those who suffer from cognitive disorders, like aphasia — and those afflicted by shyness and social anxiety — language can also be the tallest wall separating them from others.

Language is the key to everything. Like any writer, my love of language frames all of my actions, goals, and ideas. But I also know the pains of language, both from my experiences working in a dementia unit with patients with cognitive disorders, as well as my early life experiences as a shy little kid who didn’t know how to express myself. This is what led me to write my short little novelette, Clay Tongue — the magical realism story that, as of today, is now out in the world, and ready for all of you to read.

I’m thrilled to share the news that Clay Tongue: A Novelette is now available both as an ebook and a paperback, just in time for the holidays!

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.

Katie Mirowitz is a small little girl with an even smaller little voice. She possesses a deep love for her grandfather, who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal language. When Katie uncovers a miraculous secret inside the pages of her grandfather’s old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

Get your copy here!

PEN America

I’m proud to announce that I’m now a member of PEN America, the East Coast United States chapter of PEN International. Founded in London in 1921, PEN is the world’s oldest human rights organization, and also the oldest international literary organization, with its membership comprised of novelists, journalists, poets, essayists, playwrights, and more. PEN International works to promote the important role that writers have in shaping society, by emphasizing mutual understanding between cultures, speaking out against tyranny, and bringing people together. The organization also coordinates the PEN Prison Writing Program, which provides inmates a much needed opportunity for self-expression through writing, as well as access to writing mentors, and an audience. PEN also fights for freedom of expression and freedom of the press across the world, sounding the bullhorn for writers who have been imprisoned or killed for their writing.

From their website:

 

pen

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

PEN America is the largest of more than 100 centers of PEN International. For more than 90 years, we have been working together with our colleagues in the international PEN community to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views, and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas, and literatures of others. In doing so, we are building on a tradition begun in the years following World War I and carried forward by thousands of American writers.

Needless to say, I’m both honored and excited to now be a member, and look forward to doing my part to further these important goals in whatever way I can. After all, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, is the cornerstone of free society.

 

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

Cover Reveal – Clay Tongue: A Novelette

There’s still a ways to go before Novel #3 is ready to show its face to the world. But in the meantime, I’ve managed to prepare a wintery gift to all you faithful readers, just in time for the holiday season: remember that upcoming novelette I mentioned some months back?

Well, it’s time to spill the beans. Clay Tongue: A Novelette will be coming your way on December 19th. That’s right, only a few weeks away!

Clay Tongue is a story about the nature of communication. It’s a tale about what it’s like to be a shy little kid in a big and not-so-shy world. It’s a narrative that examines the limits of human language, the deep connection between the very young and the very elderly, and how the magical realism of youth connects to the painful transition of growing older. Though Clay Tongue may be a story as small as its protagonist, it’s also a story I needed to tell, a journey I poured my heart into, and I’m proud of how it has turned out.

Without further ado, here is the reveal:

From the author of the award-winning Pale Highway and the radio play Something in the Nothing comes a short fantasy of love, shyness, and the secrets of human communication.
Katie  Mirowitz  is  a  small  little  girl  with an even smaller little voice.   She  possesses  a  deep love  for  her  grandfather,  who suffers from aphasia after a bad stroke cuts loose the part of his brain that processes verbal  language.  When  Katie uncovers a miraculous  secret  inside  the pages  of  her  grandfather’s  old journal, as well as an ancient key, she goes out into the woods in search of answers — hoping to uncover a mythical being that, if it exists, may just have the ability to grant wishes.

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Special Deal: Get Pale Highway Today for Only $.99 Cents!

From today through Saturday, Red Adept Publishing will be running a special deal on the e-book edition of Pale Highway, and it’s a good one. If you get in fast, you can pick up Pale Highway for as little as $.99 cents.

A killer deal, if I do say so — and as the coffee obsessive that I am, I can’t help but point out that $.99 cents is less than a cup of coffee.

So, if there was ever a time to feed your Kindle with Pale Highway, now is it. Pick it up on Amazon today, get a coffee to go with it, and then enter the Alzheimer’s-afflicted world of Gabriel Schist, Victor, Bright New Day, and all of those weird little talking slugs that everyone keeps mentioning.

Pale Highway - Nicholas Conley

Gabriel Schist is spending his remaining years at Bright New Day, a nursing home. He once won the Nobel Prize for inventing a vaccine for AIDS. But now, he has Alzheimer’s, and his mind is slowly slipping away.

When one of the residents comes down with a horrific virus, Gabriel realizes that he is the only one who can find a cure. Encouraged by Victor, an odd stranger, he convinces the administrator to allow him to study the virus. Soon, reality begins to shift, and Gabriel’s hallucinations interfere with his work.

As the death count mounts, Gabriel is in a race against the clock and his own mind. Can he find a cure before his brain deteriorates past the point of no return?