Chemistry is All Papery and Bound

Hurrah! Chemistry is finally out in paperback. I hope it’s worth the wait. You can find it right now at Createspace, and it should be up at other vendors soon. I’ll keep updating its page as I learn more.

To celebrate, there’s going to be a Goodreads Giveaway and possibly more. So don’t be too much of a stranger.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Chemistry by Jodi Lamm
Giveaway ends July 31, 2015.

Enter to Win

Chemistry Is Free at Amazon Today and Tomorrow

I just found out Doctor Who is back on the air! That’s how out of touch I’ve been. I missed it, and I’m probably going to miss some more because THINGS ARE HAPPENING. My life could change dramatically very soon in so many different ways, and it all comes down to just a few factors. For this reason, I’ve been in high-anxiety mode. When I’m not running around trying to figure things out and get things done, I’m busy fighting insomnia. So I haven’t been blogging, I haven’t been tweeting, I haven’t been very active on Goodreads or DeviantArt, and I’m sorry.

Chemistry CoverOne thing I have been doing is working to get my books to a wider audience. You may have noticed Chemistry, my contemporary YA retelling of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, has been having a bit of a coming-out party in the form of a free e-book event. It was nurtured and sheltered by Amazon for its first several months in the world, and now it’s time for the little book to grow up and meet new vendors like Kobo and Barns & Noble. Maybe even iBooks, if iBooks is sweet.

If you missed the first few days of Chemistry‘s event, don’t fret. You can still grab the book for free at Amazon all day today and tomorrow. Please do, in fact! Compared to Titan Magic, Chemistry has been kind of an odd duck—a socially awkward, shy little book. It needs to get out there and dance with new readers.

And I need to get my life in order so I can sit down and have a very serious Doctor Who marathon night.

Chemistry: Free E-Book and an Excerpt

Chemistry CoverChemistry is a retelling of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, set in a modern high school and told from the perspective of Claude Frollo, the story’s antagonist.

For the next few hours only you can download the entire e-book for free from Amazon. Grab it while you can!

EXCERPT:

The drumbeat of Phoebus’ party still throbs in my ears as though I never left. It’s so loud I can’t hear anything else. The light from that full moon still glows through my eyelids, red like slow-burning coals. I can’t shut it out. So it doesn’t surprise me at all when I catch the sound of Peter’s voice and realize he’s been talking to me all this time, though I haven’t heard or even seen him. It’s all a jumble, whatever he’s saying, but I catch the word Esmeralda and I’m snapped out of my hellish daze.

I lift my head and blink. “What?”

“Claude, are you okay?”

I’ve been wallowing on the floor, so of course he would ask. “Just had a weird stomach cramp,” I say. “It’s better now. What were you saying?”

Peter shakes his head. He doesn’t believe me, but whatever he’s about to say takes precedence, so he gives me the benefit of the doubt. “Esmeralda is missing.”

Those three words are a flood; they wash me away. I never saw them coming, and I don’t know how to deal with them now that they’re here. “Don’t joke around, Peter.”

“I’m not joking. She and Djali have been gone three nights in a row.”

“Is that unusual?”

“Yes!” He’s overwrought. “She always comes home by midnight every night. I live with her, so I know. She wouldn’t just stay away like this. Djali needs routine or she starts to shed.”

I have no idea how to respond to this. In the first place, I’m horrified that Esmeralda is missing. In the second, I’m beginning to suspect Peter’s primary concern is for the goat. “Have you reported her missing?” I say.

“How can I?” He throws up his hands, dramatic as always. “Who am I to her?”

“Well, who’s taking care of her? Why haven’t they reported it?”

“I don’t think anyone takes care of her. She’s always been by herself. The truth is I kind of suspect she’s in the country illegally, but I don’t know. It’s never been a problem until now. Damn that Phoebus. I swear this is all his fault.”

I cock my head. “Phoebus?”

He leans in. “You know he was stabbed at that party.”

“Was he?” I hope my feigned ignorance is convincing.

“Jesus, Claude, where have you been?” Peter reaches down and helps me to my feet. “Everyone’s talking about it. He was stabbed in the back with Esmeralda’s knife. The whole school thinks she did it, and the fact that no one has seen her since only confirms their suspicions. But I’m telling you it wasn’t her. She’s not like that. She just isn’t. Someone’s done something to her, Claude. I heard some of the guys on the soccer team swearing revenge. They say Phoebus is paralyzed for life; he got hit in the spinal cord, and he’ll never play again. They say she’s not going to get away with it. I think they took her, but I have no idea what to do. I mean I haven’t got any evidence, have I?”

I can’t breathe any more. You know how in really campy films, one of the characters will realize he’s destroyed something precious, fall to his knees, and scream, “What have I done?” while pounding a fist into the ground? Yeah, I always laugh at that scene, too. But just now, I think I could do with a good, long, what-have-I-done moment. It would be far better than what I’m really feeling. It’s like my heart has stopped and every limb has fallen asleep. I’m afraid if I try to take a step, I might fall down. If I try to speak, I might scream. And if I blink, the tears gathering in the corners of my eyes will fall. Once the dam breaks…

“We have to do something.” I flinch when my voice cracks.

“I know,” Peter says. “But what? We don’t even know where they’ve taken her.”

Why I Retold The Hunchback of Notre-Dame

People often ask me why I write what I write. Usually, the question is followed by a suggestion that I write something different: mystery-suspense, short stories, picture books. The truth is I tend to write what I crave to read but haven’t been able to find.

notre-dame de parisI fell in love with Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (or The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) many years ago. A good friend loaned me the book, assuring me I would adore it, and he was right. The story was this perfect mixture of tragedy, comedy, and romance, with just a touch of satire and social commentary. Every character was one I could both love and hate. They all made horrible mistakes even though I was practically screaming at them not to. But that’s the nature of tragedy.

I realized I had seen several film versions of the story, but none of them had won my heart the way the novel did. I think that’s because they were so simplified. The villains were villainous, and the good guys were so very good. And Claude… Oh, Claude Frollo was the most changed of all. In Hugo’s novel he is a good man—a fantastic man even—who looks after his fellow orphans like a father and does his best to be both wise and virtuous. But his standards for himself and others are untouchable. When he can’t live up to his own idea of goodness, he believes himself to be a monster and ends in fulfilling his own prophecy. And when the girl he loves turns out not to be the angel he took her for… Well, way too many people pay the price for that.

Claude Frollo Adopts QuasimodoTo me, the original novel is not one story, but many, all tangled together in an inescapable mess. I have always wanted to see it retold in a way that didn’t try to dichotomize good and evil, and since I haven’t been able to find a version that did this, I tried to make my own. I chose to tell just one of the stories—that of Claude Frollo, the one I felt received the most radical changes in other retellings—and I chose to tell it in first person. It wasn’t fun being in his head. Claude is a person who wants to be good, but who has unexamined very-bad-ideas, unhealthy obsessions, and unrealistic expectations. But that’s also what makes him so human.

The idea to set the story in a modern high school came from reading Claude’s first confession of love. It was so desperate, so frantic and clumsy, it reminded me of how it felt to be in love at that age. But setting it in a modern high school also had its challenges. Obviously, I was playing by a very different set of rules. But I hope I managed to retell this story by staying as true to the original as was possible in a modern high school. That was my goal all along.

So I hope you enjoy my new book, Chemistry, which is available now at Amazon. It will be free on October 30 and 31. The warning Claude gives you in the book description is a real one. This isn’t a pretty story; it’s a tragedy. But if you think you might like to get a modern taste of Claude’s untidied tale—complete with cobwebs, dust, and mildew—please feel free to give my little experiment a look.

And lastly, if you want an excellent soundtrack for reading either Chemistry or Notre-Dame de Paris, I recommend VAST’s self-titled album. I listened to it accidentally the first time I read Notre-Dame de Paris, and I listened to it again while writing Chemistry, just to relive the experience of discovering Hugo’s story for the first time. It’s perfect music for this tragedy. It’s brutal, passionate, primal in a way. I swear some of it came right out of Claude Frollo’s head. I’ve embedded a taste of the album below, probably my favorite song. If you like it, I’d wager you’ll like the rest of the album, too.