Clay Tongue is up for an award! Also: Intraterrestrial release date confirmed!

So, I have a couple of cool updates to share. First up, Clay Tongue: A Novelette is up for an award!

Clay Tongue fantasy novelette Nicholas Conley

This past weekend, I received notice from Rosie Amber of Rosie’s Book Review Team that her reviewers had nominated Clay Tongue as a finalist for the #RBRT 2016 Sci-Fi/Fantasy Award.  First of all, if any of those reviewers are reading this, I want to offer a huge thank you, and say that I’m honored to receive the nomination; though Clay Tongue is one of my smaller pieces, it’s also a highly personal one that I worked on for years, so it’s touching to know that people connected with Clay Tongue on such a deep level.

Secondly, for those of you who have read Clay Tongue, and who may happen to believe that this little book deserves the award—well, voting is open to the public!  You can place your vote for Clay Tongue at the following link:

The #RBRT Awards: Vote Here!

In the meantime, for those of you who haven’t yet read Clay Tongue: A Novelette, there’s no better time than now, while the holidays are in full swing. Check it out here, on Amazon!

Finally, for those of you who’ve been keeping tabs on Intraterrestrial, my big upcoming novel about aliens, traumatic brain injuries, and the perils of growing up, I’ve got some great news to share: we have a release date! The ebook version of Intraterrestrial will be arriving early next year, on January 16th, 2018. Consider it a New Year’s gift.  Note, the paperback release may have a slightly different release date, so stay tuned. Anyway, that means the new book is about a month away, so buckle your seat belts, and watch this space for lots of teasers, story details, and alien/UFO chitchat over the coming weeks!

alien sky weird ufo nicholas conley intraterrestrial

The ebook version of Intraterrestrial, by Nicholas Conley, will arrive on Earth on January 16, 2018.

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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.

 

Clay Tongue Reviews

Happy New Year! Hope you all had an amazing switchover from 2016 to 2017. To ring in the New Year on this end, I’d like to get started by showing my excitement at some of the reviews for my new release, Clay Tongue: A Novelette. Getting the opportunity to read a review of one’s work is truly one of the most thrilling parts of being a writer, and here’s a bit of what Clay Tongue‘s reviewers have to say so far.

Clay Tongue Nicholas Conley fantasy

First off, we have Steve Johnson of Book to the Future:

“The feeling of childish and adult fears mixed together in a child’s mind is a very delicate theme to navigate, as well as ideas of existence, the cost of it and of how we value life.  It is a powerful cross-section of themes, a mix which is always done well by Conley.”

Over on Goodreads, C. S. Wilde had this to say:

“This story is as gentle as a snowflake and yet, so very powerful. Nicholas Conley has the ability to touch even the darkest hearts with his stories.”

Clay Tongue fantasy novelette Nicholas Conley

Marian Thorpe took the time to add her thoughts:

“A lovely story of hope and the power of love and belief in what is right, rather than easy. It would be a good story to read out loud to the assembled family over the holiday season.

Then we have J.L. Gribble:

The gorgeous cover to this novelette is a perfect match for the beautiful language and sweet story contained within. This short tale is well worth checking out for a quick escape.

And finally, we have Misti Pyles of My Trending Stories, who says:

“Clay Tongue isn’t very long, but has plenty of room to draw the reader into Katie’s tale. Katie’s just a kid, but her view of the world is bigger—and far more clear—than the adults in her life. Her love for her grandfather is fierce, as is his for her. There is magic in the pages of this story; magic both large and small, as well as love, hope, and vision.”

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy

Off to a great start, I’d say! Clay Tongue is available on Amazon, as both a paperback and an ebook. Hope you all continue having a terrific New Year.

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!

Clay Tongue: A Novelette

Clay Tongue novelette Nicholas Conley fantasy golem

Get it on Amazon

“A lovely story of hope and the power of love and belief in what is right, rather than easy. It would be a good story to read out loud to the assembled family over the holiday season.”

– Marian Thorpe

“A truly moving work of fiction.”

– Daccari Buchelli

“The gorgeous cover to this novelette is a perfect match for the beautiful language and sweet story contained within. This short tale is well worth checking out for a quick escape.”

– J. L. Gribble

Clay Tongue 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.

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.

claytonguenov.png

The “Alien” in Genre Fiction

As a writer, I tend to think that my fiction doesn’t quite fit neatly into any specific genre —  but my work is definitely “genre” fiction, because otherworldly elements play a huge part in my storylines. Now, as a reader, this is also the case with many of my favorite novels. I’m a big fan of books that straddle the line between genres, dancing back and forth between literary fiction and genre fiction.

But what is genre fiction, exactly?

Leopard Printed Slug Pale Highway Nicholas Conley

Generally, I think that the genre element of the tag “genre fiction” is referring to a distinct kind of “alien” presence existing in the narrative, this “alien” being something abnormal, something unusual, something outside of normal life.

Using genre fiction as the umbrella, we can then fit horror, science fiction, slipstream, fantasy, bizarro fiction, and so on all into the same grouping. While these genres are all very distinct from one another, they all have that “alien” factor in common, which literary fiction does not. Whether it is bloodthirsty monsters (horror), cyborgs (sci-fi) or a wardrobe that leads to a magical alternate dimension (fantasy), all of these fantastical things are simply well dressed narrative devices, doorways which allow the author to take the protagonists outside of their usual lives.

ufo

The only difference between literary fiction and genre fiction is the existence of the “alien” as a narrative device. The alien is the tool that the genre author uses, not for the sake of itself, but rather because the use of the alien can bring greater illumination to real life fears, woes, and insecurities.

There’s a strange sort of idea out there that genre fiction is somehow inherently lesser than literary fiction, which is rather foolhardy.  Any story can be great, no matter what genre it springs from: it just has to mean something.