Guest Blog about setting and RAGNAROK AND ROLL by Keith R.A. DeCandido

Posted: August 20, 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’m so pleased to present a guest blog by Keith R.A. DeCandido, whose brand new story collection RAGNAROK AND ROLL has just been released by Plus One Press.  Here he talks about the setting and how inspirational it can be.

ragnarok and roll  The first time I went to Key West, I was overcome by the magic.

I’m not the biggest fan of Florida, but I’ve always made an exception for Key West. The laid-back attitude, the excellent food, the friendly people, the live music, the history, the folklore, the nightly celebration of sunset—there’s a lot to love.

I took several trips there throughout the 1990s, and just absolutely fell for the place. Besides the fact that it’s beautiful—especially at sunset, which they really do celebrate every single night—there’s so much history and storytelling on the island. It started out as a burial ground for the Calusa tribe—its original name was Cayo Hueso, Spanish for “Bone Key,” anglicized to “Key West” after Spain ceded Florida to the U.S. in 1819. It’s been home to wrecker captains, to rogues and misfits, to treasure hunters and transients, to Naval bases and tons of bars. And it’s got more ghost stories than anyplace this side of New Orleans.

So many colorful characters have called Key West home: author Ernest Hemingway, President Harry S Truman, treasure hunter Mel Fisher, musicians Jimmy Buffett and Michael McCloud, and tons more.

Naturally, it’s the perfect place to set urban fantasy stories. I already had a character in mind, a San Diego-based scuba diver named Cassie Zukav whom I’d used in a story back in 1997. Transplanting her to Key West was no problem—the island is full of people who came to visit and never left, and it was easy enough to have Cassie do that.

Cassie was conceived as a weirdness magnet: crazy-ass stuff happens to her all the time. My plan was to use that as a vehicle for telling stories about the magic that can happen on the island: ghosts, mythical sea creatures, immortal rock-and-rollers, even Norse gods. Plus the Key West standbys of scuba diving and hanging out in your favorite bar and hearing the house band rock it.

To my surprise, the Norse gods kinda took over a bit. Well, okay, it wasn’t that much of a surprise, I guess—the Aesir can be insidious, and if you don’t believe me, just ask Tom Hiddleston. Better still, ask Tom Hiddleston’s fans…

Anyhow, I hit on the notion of Cassie being one of the Dísir, the fate gods of the Norse pantheon, and it all came together. Cassie-as-Dís became the fulcrum of the stories—and it also meant that Loki and Sigyn and Odin would all become recurring characters in Cassie’s life in Key West, along with 1812, the house band at Mayor Fred’s Saloon on Greene Street, whom Cassie never misses if she can.

The result of all this is Ragnarok and Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet. It has eight stories, some reprints, some new—plus digging up that old 1997 story that introduced her. In the title story, Cassie finds out that she’s a Dís just in time to stop Loki from bringing about Ragnarok. And then it gets really weird as she encounters a water elemental who wants to kill one of the regulars at Mayor Fred’s (and doom one of 1812 as well), the truth behind one of the great blues legends of the 20th century, the hyper-charging of the ghosts on the island coinciding with visits from Cassie’s twin brother Paul and their parents (who really did name their twin children “Castor” and “Pollux”), plus the tumultuous relationship between Loki and Sigyn and a surprise appearance by Thor the Thunderer.

Be assured that this is only the beginning. Throughout Ragnarok and Roll you’ll see references to other adventures Cassie has had, and I do plan to tell those (particularly the one about FBI Special Agent Rance Demitrijian—who is not Cassie’s boyfriend, really!—being naked on the boardwalk after being ravaged by a nixie), plus there’s lots more stuff that can still happen on Key West.

If you want to sample one of Cassie’s stories, check out the first part of the three-part “Cayo Hueso” arc—”A Farewell to Cats” is available for Kindle or Nook for only $.99. The second part, “The Buck Stops Here” will be available this week (also for $.99), with Part 3, “Twisting Fate,” coming next week (guess the price—oh, c’mon, guess!). Or you can just go ahead and order the full collection of Ragnarok and Roll with all nine stories from the fine folks at Plus One Press in either trade paperback or eBook form from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

And hey, if you’re in the New York City area, there are two launch parties for the collection this week: Tuesday the 20th at the SoHo Gallery for Digital Art at 138 Sullivan Street in the SoHo section of Manhattan at 7pm, and Friday the 23rd at Singularity & Co. at 18 Bridge Street in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, also at 7pm. All are welcome!

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