Monday, April 30, 2018

Fire and Terrible Beauty - Trembler Weather Pt.1

We don't have weather where I live. The southern California desert where I make my home and write my books has two modes. Hot and much hotter. That's it. I tell you this to explain my fascination with weather and natural phenomenon that is unusual. I try to incorporate the things of this world that I find strange and lovely in my writing.

When I was creating my Gothic mysteries, I used the soggy, gray weather of Noble Island to create isolation, even danger. The storms became antagonists unto themselves and it was great fun.

Now for my new steampunk series, the Blackburn Chronicles, I was able to truly play with all that mother nature had to offer. First with the calamitous quakes that fractured an entire nation to the terrible beauty of ignited gas seams that burn in brilliant colors. They light up the night and sand skimming craft use them to navigate the dark wasteland much like sailors avoided shores with the real thing.

Mount Chimaera, located in Olympos National Park in Turkey, is a flame that has burned for almost 2,000 years. Methane seeps through the vents in the rocks. It is quite stunning and a popular attraction. There are actually quite a few natural  'eternal flames' around the world. Here is a list of just a few of them.

I based the constantly burning seams of the Tremblers wasteland on these eternal fires. Beautiful, unpredictable, and deadly these flames from the center of a fractured world evokes a sense of ominous fascination for me. It was the perfect backdrop for an epic race against time and overwhelming forces.

To find out more about The Tremblers and Charlotte's battle to survive this chaotic world, check out my author page.

Next up...Blackened Skies and Ash

Monday, April 23, 2018

Paradise Girl

Today is a guest post by Phil Featherstone to celebrate the release of his novel.

Readers often ask me where I got the idea for my novel Paradise Girl. The answer is, it came from a bug. Or, to be more precise, a virus.

Nobody knows how many viruses exist, but scientists agree that they outnumber all other living things put together (actually there’s some debate about whether viruses can actually be considered alive, but for now we’ll assume they can). Only a tiny number of them affect humans, and most of those that do are easily dealt with by the body’s immune system. However, there are a few that the immune system can’t cope with, and these can cause serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. An example is ebola, which is spread through the transfer of body fluids. It’s also transmitted by fruit bats, which can carry the virus without being affected by it.

A few years ago a volcano in Iceland erupted, throwing smoke and ash several kilometres into the sky. A result of this was the grounding of commercial aircraft for several days. I live in a remote farmhouse high on the Pennine hills in the north of England. Usually the only signs of human life outside my home are the vapour trails of planes as they approach or depart from Manchester, or travers the country to and from other places. At the time of the Icelandic eruption, they stopped. The skies were empty, a beautiful, clear blue. For that short time I could have been the only person alive. This started me thinking: suppose that really was the case, where might everyone else have gone? What might have happened to them? Destroyed by radiation? Abducted by aliens? Wiped out by a plague? Ebola was in the news at the time, and so the latter seemed the most likely.

I began to work on the idea. Somebody in such a situation would be subject to unbearable pressures. They would be desperately lonely and terribly afraid, alternating between relief at surviving and the daunting prospect of a future without hope. It would add poignancy if the central character was young, maybe still in their teens with their life before them. Think about an almost endless series of days stretching ahead, with nothing to relieve them or distinguish between them. What dark places might a mind go when faced with that? What terrible dreams might occur?

They would try to cope by writing a diary, which would describe what they saw, heard and thought, and through which they could reflect on their predicament. It seemed to me that this would work best if such a character was female. Kerryl Shaw introduced herself, and I began to write her story. You can read it in Paradise Girl.

Find the Paradise Girl here:

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Hidden Kingdoms

I love fantasy. I write it. When I was young and sad or scared, I would slip into one of my "Book Lives" as I would call them. I would find strength as a warrior princess or an intrepid explorer. I could quiet my fears as I floated amongst cold and serene stars. I laughed with fellow knights and sang the histories of noble ancient peoples. I found acceptance and  love in so many wonderful worlds.
As an author, I love that I get to do that for myself...and hopefully for those who need it. So, be it a welcome respite after a trying day at work or the distraction a worried mind needs in a sterile lobby somewhere, the stories I write are of the same magic that rescued a troubled teen like me. They are tales knitted with strands of hope.

But there are so many stories that I never knew about growing up. And I was a kid who LIVED in the library.  They are the ancient lore of my own people. The ferocious and fascinating history of the Maya.

As I explore this rich, but so far largely hidden culture, I find myself riveted by the complexity of a society I am just discovering. The Maya nation was embroiled in political intrigue, ruthless invasion, and delicate diplomacy across a civilization that, according to newly unearthed findings, was almost ten million strong which spanned multiple continents.

The Maya explored of the meaning of existence and time, the intricacies of nature, and the wonder of the stars. They created one of the most complex languages that rivaled that of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China. As I read their tales of war and the fight for power, I see Caesars and Hannibals and Rameses. Men of great vision who wielded charisma and intelligence to seize the reigns of one of the most richly vibrant peoples I have ever seen.

And so, as an author, how can I not celebrate this breathtaking world, in all of its contradictions? The more I learn, the more it is evident to me the stories of these kings and queens deserve to be told. Their kingdoms and discoveries shaped the world and so the world should know of them. Where there are Camelots and Mordors...let there also be Xibalba.