by Don Templeton
Welcome to Step Two in the Blue Falcon Press plot planning process.
What I’m about to reveal here is something professional screenwriter’s already know backwards and forwards. This diagram was originally brought to the world by the late, great Syd Field. Now here is something novelists need to internalize: this schematic works Jim Dandy as a template for your novel as well as a screenplay. I’ve written EVERY novel of mine using the Paradigm above to map out the major movements and turning points in my plots. EVERY. ONE. This diagram keeps you on target, keeps you focused, and keeps you from writing crap that has no business being in your story.
The first thing to do in figuring out your paradigm is write a sentence which describes how the story is going to END. Then do the same thing for the BEGINNING. In my novels, the beginning is always the INCITING INCIDENT. It is the event that starts all the other story dominoes falling. In Pretty Hate Machine, this is the Sadie Hawkins attack on her school. Next, decide what PP1, PP2, and MP are. Let me explain what a Plot Point is. A plot point is defined as any incident, episode or event that “hooks” into the action and spins it around into another direction. (from Syd Field’s SCREENWRITER’S WORKBOOK) Now notice where your plot points fall: at the end of Act One and at the end of Act Two.
The Mid Point is some kind of incident, episode, or event that occurs in the middle of ACT 2 and breaks ACT 2 into two halves of dramatic action. Act 2 becomes two halves joined together by the Mid-Point. The first half of Act Two now has a target you know – the Mid-Point.. The second half of Act 2 has another target to write towards, everything that happens after the Mid-Point and concludes with Plot Point 2.
Let’s illustrate how this works by examining the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong. I’m not using Pretty Hate Machine to illustrate this because it will ruin the wonderful surprise for readers of the book. I’m not going to spoil that surprise for you. In King Kong, Act 1 ends with Plot Point 1 which in this case is when the expedition reaches Skull Island. The Mid-Point of the story is when King Kong shows up for the first time, taking the girl into the jungle with him. So, the first half of Act 2 shows all the incidents that take place exploring the Island. The second half of Act 2 details the girl’s relationship with Kong and her shipmates attempts to find her and rescue her. Plot Point 2 is when Kong is captured and the ship leaves for New York. See how that works? It makes Act 2 absolutely manageable now. No reason to fear Act 2 anymore.
Let’s discuss briefly the purpose each act serves. Act 1 is known as the Set-Up. It shows your character’s in their normal world before the real meat of the tale kicks in. Plot Point 1 is really where the steam of the story picks up and spins us into The Confrontation which occupies the entire length of Act 2. Act 2 is where you put your heroes in a tree and throw rocks at them. Act 2 ends with Plot Point 2 which spins the story around into another direction, which is the straight down nose dive into the Resolution or Act 3. This is where your heroes regain the initiative and turn the tables on the opposition, smacking them down smartly. Or if you’re into tragedies and such, this is where the heroes are defeated by the opposition. I don’t like those kind of endings so I don’t use them. I believe the good guys will always best the bad guys. That’s how I roll.
Next, impose the length restrictions of the screenplay on your novel. In a screenplay, Act 1 is one-forth the length of your script. For a 90 minute show, that’s roughly 22 and a half pages. Act 2 is half the length of the script or 45 pages. Act 3 is the same length as Act 1. In a novel, you do this by dividing your word count by 4. GREEN MAJIK novels are 100,000 words in length. So Act 1 and 3 are roughly 25,000 words in length; Act 2 is 50,000 words, which is divided into two chunks of 25K by the Mid-Point. Simple Simon.
Here’s your homework assignment. 1st, get Syd Field’s book The Screenwriter’s Workbook. It’ll be the best $16 you’ll ever spend. Next, read Pretty Hate Machine and tell me what Plot Point 1 and 2 are and what the Mid-Point is. Email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you know what you are looking at, these events are easy to spot.
Next, we will talk about planning the most important part of your novel: your characters. See you there.
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Uncle Stubby Gets Married takes the idea of simple squirrels and marriage and melds them together into a fantastic story of kindness and cheer. What was the inspiration that made you want to write a kids book about this subject?
First – wild squirrels. We have them in our backyard and the neighbors do as well. They are truly wild but they also come up to eat nuts and seeds my husband puts out for them, as well as the water. We watch their funny antics and many have names such Stubby due to his short tail, Sparkles because she is a juvie squirrel with a radiant white tummy, Foxy – well she is a mama squirrel and has had litters in two years. Cutter has a tear in his ear, Nibbler has a small tear and a hole in his ear, and so on. Shadow is our daughter’s small dog and one day we thought the squirrels and Shadow would make for a good children’s book. Shadow and the squirrels had just spent Christmas in New York City and Central Park when the idea of Uncle Stubby Gets Married hit us. We love to teach kindness with all the animals in our books, and to have them be friends no matter what the animals were like in the real world. We also figured it was high time Uncle Stubby got married.
What were some themes that you felt were important to highlight in this story?
Friendship and kindness are very important and those elements are always added in our children’s book. We teach safety and learning about animals in our books, and we like to have everything colorful and eye catching. Having the animals work together in the wedding illustrates how children can work together in the real world, also.
I felt that the art in the book was well conceived. How did you decide on which images and themes to use?
Theme wise we knew if the wedding was held in a magical fairy forest, that no animal could even remotely get hurt, or preyed upon by hawks and other predators. In keeping with a magical theme it was only proper to use magical animal characters and a magical forest as the setting.
Uncle Stubby Gets Married is book 5 in the Shadow and Friends Series. What is the next book in the series and when will it be available?
Book 6 is a work in progress, and the title is Shadow and Friends Circus Adventures. Not only will the squirrels, Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, be a part of the circus; plans include many different animals and the the acts will also be done in a magical theme. We are planning on releasing in early May, 2017. We also have book 7 as a work in progress and Shadow and her friends will help the town of Ellsworth, Kansas, celebrate it’s 150th birthday August 2017. This will be a fun book, too, with all the old west built in, and it should be available early to mid July, 2017.
“In this children’s picture book, and sixth book in our ‘Shadow and Friends Series’, Uncle Stubby Gets Married, a fox squirrel named Uncle Stubby has fallen in love with a girl squirrel named Sparkles. Squirrel family and friends, including a small dog named Shadow, and her boyfriend, Max, are invited to attend the wedding in a special Valentine Fairy Forest. Uncle Stubby thinks Sparkles is the most beautiful girl squirrel in the land. Uncle Stubby’s twin, Shorty, flies in from New York City with his family, and Shorty is best man for his brother. Foxy is matron of honor for Sparkles. The Valentine Fairy Forest is truly a magical land, the illustrations show how this dream forest looks, and all the animals are safe in this forest both day and night. Along the way, we meet mouse fairies, and Minister Mouse conducts the wedding. Sparkles’ wears a crown, and Uncle Stubby is dressed in a cummerbund. Various other animals are present, including one unicorn, and the bride and groom spend their wedding night in Walnut Forest, a special part of the Valentine Fairy Forest. Children will love seeing how magical the forest is, with abundant sparkles thrown in for good measure. This delightful and funny book for children, targeted at ages 4-11, is easy to read and perfect for home or classroom. This story illustrates how beautiful the Valentine Fairy Forest looks, produces pure imagination in children, and the illustrations will fascinate children and adults.”
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The Status Update follows Christine, a grieving mother, as she is presented with the opportunity to travel back and make different decisions that could save lives. What was the inspiration for the heartfelt setup to this emotional novel?
I wanted to write a character dealing with hopelessness and heading down a path of destruction, but who transforms. To reap the benefits of the gift, she has to trust in faith and magic, and she becomes hopeful.
The Status Update is a genre-crossing novel combining elements of science fiction and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
I was pleasantly surprised by readers who found The Status Update suspenseful. I was going for thought-provoking and hoping the twist on the time travel genre would keep readers engaged.
I felt that Christine was an intriguing character. What were the driving ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
I wanted to illustrate inner conflict and struggle. To highlight the tension between the two Christines, I use both third person and first person to tell her story. This “mirror” account was also designed to provide that sense of deja vu often invoked in time travel stories.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
The Status Update is my first piece of fiction. A lawyer by day, I typically write about law. I am incorporating law into my next fiction book, but with a supernatural twist. The heroin is a criminal defense lawyer who works with her dead ex-husband (a police officer) to bring about justice.
“Still grieving decade old losses and feeling the weight of new losses, Christine felt like everything was slipping away from her – her home, her physical health, her family. Upon a freak Facebook encounter with her younger self, she’s presented with a second chance. Has Christine finally lost her mind? Or has she been gifted with a rare opportunity to change the course of her life? And if this gift is real, can Christine convince her younger self to believe her and to heed her warnings?
What about the butterfly effect? Will Christine’s modifications result in some universal impact? Should she try to stop tragedy for all involved or should she be more careful, and instead just focus on protecting her family?
A new twist on the time travel genre, The Status Update is the movie Frequency meets the movie The Lake House meets the digital age.
The setting is Lewiston-Auburn, Maine and the time period switches between 2015 and 2025.”
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In The Bug Boys Alex and Ian accidentally ingest tiny nanobots created by an alien race called the Secti. This lets them transform their bodies into human-insect hybrids with superpowers. This seems to be my exact dream as a kid. How did this idea come to you and develop into a novel?
I originally thought I’d go the ‘exposure to radiation’ route to superpowers. It was going to be a radioactive peanut butter sandwich, and only one hero. But, as I started organising the novel, I hated that I wasn’t pushing for something more interesting, so I decided to switch from nuclear to coal, and from radiation to atom sized robots! This opened up new opportunities and ultimately enabled me to create something fresh and new.
I felt that the characters were intriguing and well developed. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight the character’s development?
I think it’s important to let characters grow in a story. Alex and Ian learn not to judge a book by its cover, and that having superpowers isn’t all comic book heroics and fame.
I thought the alien Secti race was well crafted. What themes did you want to incorporate into this race?
I asked myself. What if insects were left alone to evolve on a planet of their own? The result was the Secti. A perfect society, and perfectly boring! So they tweak their social order to shake things up a bit, and employ special Secti called Instigation Officers to travel the planet and cause trouble.
Please tell me that you’re writing a second book?
Book 2 is nearly done! Title: The Bug Boys vs Professor Blake Blackhart
This will probably be available sometime August, 2017. The story catches up with The Bug Boys one month after the events in the first book. In the sequel, they have to tackle an evil professor and his cyborg kitten called, Willoughby!
“Who would have thought that eating a peanut butter sandwich and an apple would change your life? Let alone get you mixed up with an old alien research project, and transform you into the superheroes your village never needed.
For two young South Yorkshire lads, Alex Adams and Ian Harris, it was a geeky comic book dream come true, but it wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be in the real world. They discover there are many layers between good and evil, and with great power, comes an embarrassing amount of gas!”
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Reverence follows the stories of humanoid super soldiers Will and Luis as they work under their fearless leader and follow his orders to demolish a budding resistance that threatens their utopian world. What was your inspiration for the setup of the story and how did that help you create the ending?
The inspiration came mainly from some of my favorite science fiction films, namely Children of Men, V for Vendetta, Dark City, and Blade Runner. What I wanted to instill most was that Reverence wasn’t purely a dystopian world because some of the people are indeed very happy with what their country had become. The setup of the story for me was establishing the fact that the plot would be driven by conflicting viewpoints, not by purely good vs. evil. The most vital point of the novel was the need for people to question their surroundings, which is a double-edged sword for the main character, Will Marconi. The ending chapters were some of the hardest to write because I wanted to really sell the tragedy of what these people had been reduced to: both sides resorting to violence and lies to accomplish their goals. There is also a tragedy to Will finally removing his blinders about the reality of his environment, but there is a bit of hope, too. That final chapter represents the need to look forward, but not without forgetting the past.
There is a lot of great twists and mystery in the novel. When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?
Oh boy, well I should start by saying that Reverence has a convoluted history. Strangely enough, I had the twists in mind as far back as the outline phase. I initially published it back in March of 2016. I noticed something felt off, but I couldn’t figure it out for a bit. Then one day it hit me after watching Anthropoid, a fairly unknown film from 2016 that I hope achieves cult status. The twists and overall story needed more emotion, not to mention it needed more editing overall. So I went back with a professional editor and added more detail at certain points in the story and refined it to a level I was quite happy with. It was re-released in December and I’m glad readers have enjoyed it.
Joseph Halsey is my favorite character because of his moral transformation and strong beliefs. What were the morals you were trying to capture while creating your characters?
The characters all represent different morals, good and bad. With Halsey I wanted to explore a man who, unlike almost every other character in the story, does not take the lives of others for granted. His beliefs stem from that and while the other rebels try to live up to that, they’ve lost their way. The antithesis of that ideal is incarnate in characters like Chancellor Venloran, Luis, and even Robert Neeson. These characters believe progress is worth any cost, even if it means sacrificing lives and sometimes the truth. With Will I wanted one thing to be certain: devotion to ideals is dangerous.
What is the next story that you’re writing and when will it be published?
My God, a whole lot! I’ve already written a sequel to Reverence which I am very proud of. A preview of it was provided in both print and Kindle editions of my first book and it greatly expands on the world. Readers can expect it to be released April of this year. I’m also in the works of writing a prequel to the Reverence saga. I can’t say much, but what I can say is that you can expect it to be released this year as well. The prequel will focus on familiar characters like Robert Neeson, Captain Halsey, and Chancellor Venloran, but the main focus is on Will’s wife and daughter, Julissa and Zaneta. The story will explore the early stages of the UNR-rebel conflict. It’s going to be a great read and aiming for its release to be this summer, maybe around July.
“William Marconi is the face of anguish and righteousness. By his blood stained hands, he inspires the people with both fear and awe. But he is not alone. He is one of the 144, 000 and together they are the guardians of a new order. By their gun and their sword, they have upheld justice. When the peace they have maintained comes under fire from a new threat, William quickly realizes this war could possibly cause the collapse of all he holds dear. As the world is dragged down to hell, this knight must ask himself just how much it will take to accomplish the mission, which could be his last.”
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The Leader of Lors is a genre-crossing novel with elements of fantasy, romance, and suspense as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
It carries on in the same vein as The Heart of Hannen as an erotic fantasy romance. Other elements – horror, suspense, adventure and mystery – just fell into place as the story progressed.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write for?
I would have to say Eubreena. She’s fiercely protective of Christine, mainly because she feels responsible for maiming and nearly killing her, unwitting though it may have been. Her heart is kind and her friendship true.
What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The Atriian Trilogy actually began as a horror short-story called Thing in the Pond. It was originally about an earthquake that opens up an underwater cavern in the family pond, releasing a monster from another dimension. Instead of this creature wreaking havoc on Earth, I decided to let Christine follow it back through the caverns. And thus the Atriian Trilogy was born.
How do you feel you’ve developed as a writer between The Heart of Hannen and this book?
I believe my growth as a writer between the first and second book of this series was quite remarkable. For the first book, time restrictions only allotted an hour here and there for writing, a method not very conducive to good storytelling. By the time I sat down and got my head into the story and wrote a few sentences, it was time to call it a night. I was able to dedicate more time to the second novel, between five and six hours a day. Needless to say, the writing began to come much more easily, seeming to flow naturally, and the results were amazing. For the third book, I doubled down, writing between eight and ten hours a day, and did it ever pay off. By the end, I merely had to place my fingers on the keyboard and the story practically wrote itself.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
My next project will be an erotic paranormal romance based on another short-story from my horror collection Thing Bailiwick. A bodark is a creature of Russian lore, a man capable of shifting into a wolf. Though they are not bound to the cycles of the moon. They can transform at will, and whilst in wolf form they not only possess the enhanced senses and abilities of the wolf, they are able to maintain human awareness and intelligence. Except for when the time comes to mate, an event which occurs but once in their lifetime. Then all must beware the bodark, lest his senses become overpowered by the feral instincts of the beast lurking within.
Projected release date – Jan 2019.
“How far will a mother go to protect her child?
Christine will go to beyond the ends of the Earth,
back to the brutal world of Atriia,
back to the man who will possess
her at any cost.
He is Lor Zeria,
the very Leader of Lors,
revered and respected by all,
yet feared by Christine as no other.
This is a tale of fantasy and bravery,
of adventure and horror,
of passion and obsession,
of survival and betrayal.
And for Christine Clavin . . .
it is her own harrowing tale
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In Paracelsus we see the horrors of an ongoing war of subterfuge and nuclear weapons as it spans nearly fifty-years and encompasses the world. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
The idea came to mind when I read about Alexander Lebed, (who placed third in the 1996 Russian election and was also chairman of the National Security Council. Lebed led negotiations with the Chechen President, Aslan Maskadov, and signed agreements in the town of Khasavyurt in Dagestan which ended the first Chechen war.) He claimed that Russia had produced and lost track of suitcase sizes nuclear weapons whose primary purpose was sabotage. The Russian Federation rejected Lebed’s claims and stated that such weapons had never existed. Within six years he was dead, killed in a helicopter crash on April 28, 2002, after it collided with electric lines during foggy weather in the Sayan mountains.
Subsequently a GRU defector, Stanislav Lunev, confirmed that such nuclear devices existed and speculated that they had been deployed. He then worked as a GRU intelligence officer in Singapore in 1978, in China from 1980, and in the United States from 1988. He defected to U.S. authorities in 1992. Since then he has worked as a consultant to the FBI and the CIA. As of 2000, he remained in the FBI’s Witness protection programme. Lunev asserted that portable tactical nuclear weapons known as RA-115 “Suitcase bombs” had been prepared to assassinate US leaders in the event of war. Russian authorities denied the existence of such weapons and then announced that all Atomic demolition munitions “ADMs “were in the process of being unilaterally destroyed? This raised my interest somewhat.
It was then that Red Mercury started to appear in articles across all media types. It was widely dismissed by authorities as a hoax designed to snare would be terrorists who wished to purchase it for nefarious purposes. Nevertheless Samuel T Cohen, an American physicist who worked on building the atomic bomb who was also described as “The father of the neutron bomb “, claimed for some time that red mercury is a powerful explosive-like chemical known as a Ballotechnic. The energy released during its reaction is allegedly enough to directly compress the fissionable material in a thermonuclear weapon. He claimed that he learned that the Soviet scientists perfected the use of red mercury and used it to produce a number of softball -sized pure fission bombs weighing as little as 10 lb (4.5 kg), which he claimed were made in large numbers. Again the contradiction intrigued me and I set about pitching a nightmare scenario where one weapon is employed against the other.
As I have been employed in the refuelling of nuclear reactors for the last thirty two years the probability of further development in nuclear weapon systems over the last seventy years seemed inevitable to me. Neutron bombs are now feasible therefore other advancements in this very secretive field of science have no doubt developed unilaterally.
I felt that the characters were intriguing and well developed. What were the ideals that drove the characters development throughout the story?
The characters are all based upon real characters and as you surmised each event was based on an actual event right down to the munitions, ships and operations that they were actively engaged in at that particular point of time in the story. Paracelsus has in my opinion six protagonists and whichever the reader chooses to affiliate with depends upon their social, political or religious persuasions. (One person’s terrorist is another’s hero.) I tried to balance this between each and remain unbiased, expressing an understanding of each characters motive through some backgrounding of their earlier lives.
In Paracelsus corrupt businesses blur the line between government and industry while ideological extremism spreads. What the inspiration for these turn of events in your novel?
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of the oligarch including the clandestine energy deals brokered between Russia and its neighbouring states also included the circumventing of agreed sanction limits on the sale of Russian commodities to both known terrorist organisations and rouge states. This was occurring whilst Muslim extremism began to rise across much of the globe primarily in countries liberated from dictators by western forces. It occurred to me that these adversaries could be brought together and ultimately contest each other on many levels, allowing me the freedom to expand the narrative across almost fifty years and four continents.
What is the next book that you’re working on and when will it be available?
I hope to conclude the battle between Nasser and Colonel Ryan in the next book STRONTIA and stretch the story into true science fiction whilst utilising real scientific advancements – including Nano technology and the recent CRISPR 9 biological advancements to set the stage for the rise of a completely new anti-hero. I am not sure when STRONTIA will be available as Paracelsus took me years to research and write.
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The Husband Who Refused to Die follows Carrie as she deals with the loss of her husband and his decision to be cryogenically frozen. The novel is a thoughtful review of grief, love and family. What was the inspiration for this story?
The idea came to me after reading an article in a women’s magazine a few years ago about a young couple, in their 20s, who’d both signed up to have their bodies frozen when they die.
They’d paid a large sum of money to be cryonically preserved, in the hope they can be revived and come back to life at a later date – when science has moved on.
I was intrigued by their story and the motivations and implications of such a radical – and unusual – choice. I’d been searching for an original premise for my debut novel, and I knew this was it.
I’m often drawn to stories in which the extraordinary happens in ordinary lives, and relished the prospect of learning about something outside my own – and most other people’s – experience, yet, at the same time, exploring grief, an emotion that we all face at some point.
I discovered that several hundred people are signed up to be preserved after death and was very excited to learn that, although cryonics has been given the sci-fi treatment in books and films, it’s never been the hook in realistic, contemporary women’s fiction. Dare I say it’s a first?!
My head was spinning with ‘what ifs’ when it came to contemplating cryonics: What if someone I loved passed away and wanted to be frozen? What if there was no funeral? What if I felt I couldn’t grieve in the normal way? What if I thought it was creepy and confusing? What if I couldn’t find closure?
It’s these questions that led me to create Carrie and Dan’s story.
On top of her current troubles, Carrie must also try to deal with her ornery teenager. I felt that their relationship had depth that is rarely seen in novels. How did you approach writing about their relationship and what did you want to accomplish with it?
I have a son who was a similar age to Carrie’s daughter, Eleanor, at the time I was writing the first draft, as well as many friends with teenage children. So my starting point was my own experience and observations of life with a young person going through this turbulent time. I then tried to imagine the extra strain and pressure the mum and daughter relationship would be put under when faced with the difficult and distressing situation Carrie and Eleanor find themselves in.
What kind of research did you do on cryonics for this novel and do you see it as a viable option today for people?
After some initial research on the internet and in the media, I interviewed several people who have signed up to be cryonically preserved to gain a deeper understanding and some first-hand insights.
I was particularly fascinated to hear about how others had responded to their decisions: family, friends, strangers, and the media. It’s an emotive topic and some have endured a lot of negativity.
I also attended a weekend training course with Cryonics UK, a group of volunteers who carry out emergency procedures to prepare bodies for preservation in the UK before they are shipped out to one of the storage facilities in American or Russia.
There’s a lot of controversy surrounding cryonics, particularly here in the UK following the recent heartbreaking case of the terminally ill teenager who had to fight in the High Court for her wish to be frozen after death to be granted.
Many experts believe there’s little or no chance of bringing a frozen corpse back to life, now or in the foreseeable future, but cryonicists would argue that things declared scientifically impossible a few decades ago, like IVF and organ transplants, are now possible, so it’s worth a punt. Either way, I believe that it’s a personal choice.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I’m working on another contemporary women’s fiction novel, which I hope will be published next year.
“Carrie’s no ordinary widow. Husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.
Two years on and Carrie, mum to increasingly truculent teenage daughter Eleanor, tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems, not least her interfering sister-in-law Sunny, a reflexologist with a soft voice, loud clothes and a bag full of natural remedies. Sunny’s intent on keeping her brother’s memory alive and ensuring Carrie honours his request.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.
But are the secrets true? Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Told with warmth and wit, The Husband Who Refused to Die is a pacy novel with an original premise that casts an unusual light on a story about love, loss, family and friendship.”
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The Wanderer’s Last Journey opens to Orfeo being kidnapped by mysterious strangers and heroes from all over the Aegean join forces in the quest to find the lost prince. What excited you the most to write this 4th book in the Orfeo saga?
This book was the one that involved a trip to the New World. There have been many theories about Mediterranean contact with the New world, and I knew that in some ways the plot would be “far out.” Interestingly, there have been traces of cocaine found in ancient Egyptian mummies, so I had a plausible reason for travel. I did not want to fall into the well worn idea that any contact with the New World would be from a more advanced “European” culture. I think I portrayed the contact as one involving matched but very different cultures. In fact, Orfeo was taken in order to be a symbol that could be manipulated by extremely savvy leaders.
The Wanderer’s Last Journey has all the makings of a classic fantasy epic, as the rich and evocative world is as intriguing as it is intricate. Did you set out to create such a detailed world or did it happen organically?
I would like to say that I planned it all. In reality the Orfeo Saga happened book by book for the first few, and then I had an idea of a wider sweep later on. This novel marks the beginning of a larger plan. At the end of the day it is all about writing about interesting periods in history. What could be more interesting than a very early journey to the New World? What if that culture could be just as treacherous and manipulative as any in the Mediterranean? Of course I had fun with this part of the book. The second part of the book, dealing with Sparta, also has a bit of humor. However, I explored how dangerous a defeated people can be. Sparta will of course emerge during the Classical period as a very serious threat to Athens. More to the point Sparta will also emerge as a threat in my (fictional) Bronze Age Orfeo Saga. I have many more books planned.
The Iliad seems to be a source of inspiration for this book and your love of this period clearly shows. What is it about Greek/Roman mythology that you find interesting?
I read a huge amount of Greek and Roman mythology when I was younger. I had to take Latin in school and I always found myself wanting to read at a much higher level than my Latin ability would allow. I finally decided on a career in psychiatry. At the time Greek and Roman myths were mined for their insights into human nature. They express rather unvarnished characters (good and bad, sometimes in the same character). I was really interested in motivations, and of course the biggest motivation of all. There is phrase “collective unconscious” that coneys something like “cultural memory.” I am not sure that anything like that exists as an entity, but as a concept there is something to that. People collectively wanted to move their culture and civilization on to other things. I am not so silly as to think that everything in society just keeps on getting better, but there is something in that argument!
Where does the story go in book 5 of the Orfeo saga?
There is unfinished business in Babylon. Zinaida has been put on the throne in Orfeo 2, and now she feels like she should exert the power of Babylon to conquer her neighbors. Orfeo 2 dealt with Babylon using military force. This novel introduces a new character called Cyrus. He is extremely resourceful and takes up the identity of a merchant. He is a character that I will use in some future novels. I like the fact that he is not just simply a warrior or even a Wanderer. He becomes something entirely different.
“A Powerless Prisoner: A Captive God
No one is sure when the New World deity Quetzalcoatl was first worshipped. The god-man can be portrayed as a feathered serpent – and also associated with a bright green bird of the same name – but he was worshipped in a variety of ways by various cultures. Some versions of the myth state that he was a man with light hair, beard, blue eyes, and light skin. After helping humankind, he was said to have returned to his home, promising to return. It is not surprising that he has been identified as a Viking by some historians (and as an extraterrestrial by more adventuresome scholars). The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II is reputed to have initially believed that when Hernán Cortés appeared in 1519 Quetzalcoatl had returned.
Here Orfeo has been kidnapped by a New World tribe. They plan keep him as a prisoner while presenting him to a subjugated populace as a god. He has no desire to live his life in a gilded cage. His wife, Clarice, his aging mentor, Zurga, and the jack of all trades, Daryush, must cross the ocean to save their friend. They soon find they are involved in a civil war between the Nastases and Ixtlans. It will take all their cunning to rescue Orfeo and get back alive. Back at home a war is brewing between Sparta and Pylos. This time Zurga is not there to keep the peace.”
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The Lifeblood of Ill-Fated Women revolves around the story of two Valkyries, sisters Astrid and Yrsa, in a world still ruled by Nordic Gods. What was the inspiration for this novel and the Norse mythology used throughout?
Spoiler alert in that question. Lol.
My inspiration was two fold.
One, I really had not read or seen much about Valkyries in years. They are very interesting mythological beings, but not really focused on in movies, cartoons, or TV. Seems like a wasted opportunity, so I took it. I wanted to write a story about a woman who was questioning her reality on several levels. Is she alive, is she dead, was she adducted by aliens, is she in hell? etc.
Two, I felt like Norse mythology is something people, readers, movie-goers, are willing to openly accept easier than some other myths or cultural beliefs. Maybe because of it being so fantastical. Sometimes we believe the things that are harder to believe and accept quicker than those things more based in reality.
For example…. So many people watch and follow ghost shows and believe all that we are shown, but then laugh at the hunters chasing Big Foot in the forest. Paranormal vs. A living being (although myth). Seems like it would be easier to believe in a missing link than spirits from another realm right? Well, maybe that’s just me.
Note: I believe in both actually. 🙂 And aliens.
Regardless, Norse myth is fabulous. And there are a few good fiction books you can find and read. I read one prior to writing this book. Good reference material to pick over. That and my old original Deities and Demigods D&D book. 🙂
What kind of research did you have to do to make sure you got the mythology correct?
As stated about, I bought and read one book. Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs by Lindow. I also used my old hardbound Deities and Demigods D&D book for inspiration.
I spent a LOT OF TIME online researching what “curse words” and foul language would have been used in the Viking Age. I could not deal with or accept the use of modern four letter words being said by my characters. I really lost sleep over it. I finally found some replacement words that were close to the time period or language. Not perfect, but I felt like the reader would understand what I was going for.
I never like watching movies set in ancient times with characters spewing modern day bad words….unless we are talking about STARZ’s SPARTACUS. That was awesome, and with all the over the top blood and guts it was fine. 🙂
As a writer who researches, I like to find the facts and then decide how best to use or alter them to fit into my works of fiction.
When Astrid falls in battle and wakes up with no memory the reader is brought into Astrid’s mind to be witness to her paranoia, fear, confusion and inner struggles. What were the obstacles you felt were important to highlight to connect readers with Astrid and develop her as a character?
Everyone struggles with these things on some level.
Astrid is a big, strong, proud Viking warrior. Who can relate to that? BUT they can relate to all her inner struggles. Who hasn’t questioned their reality? Who wasn’t felt afraid of something one moment, then loved it the next. Think of skydivers. Fear and then joy in a matter of seconds.
Astrid was originally designed as a near cave woman. She grunted and groaned. Took what she wanted. Feared nothing. But an early draft was read by my editor and she pointed it right out. Astrid was unrelateable. I did not want that.
My plan was to write a fantasy-horror story with a character who just cannot figure out if she is alive or dead. Her beliefs would pull her thoughts into both directions; a tug-of-war. While she struggled, the story played out. Things would be happening all around her and she would have to decided what to do, regardless of her inner struggles. That’s life. We all are faced with that.
I was really sick with the flu or something the other week. Two days of being the sickest I had been in 20 years. And guess what, I needed to go get my new drivers license photo. Time had ran out. I was faced with an obstacle on top of another obstacle. Life gets complicated.
In some books or movies, it seems like the hero only has one major concern. That’s unrealistic to me. Yeah, go save your kidnapped daughter Liam Neeson, don’t worry about needing to buy more ammo, or the authorities, or laws, or weather, or your own wounds, or….
This is a well written novel that leaves open the possibility for other stories to follow. Do you have another story in the works?
Book two is currently being written. It takes place several months after book one. I envision this series as 3-5 books long.
“Astrid the White isn’t an average princess. She has always stayed by the side of her father, King Kol, and learned warfare and weaponry from the best Vikings in the land. When she awakens in the city of Birka and hears the sounds of war, she rushes proudly into the fray. She is more than capable of taking down any enemy wishing to disturb the peace.
This enemy, however, isn’t what she expected. Before Astrid even gets outside the walls, a golden light knocks her out.
She comes to in the snow, in full battle armor. Astrid first suspects that this is a challenge from her father–or even the gods themselves. By acting correctly, she can gain the favor of Odin, the Allfather.
Astrid wants to complete the test, but it becomes more and more difficult as she explores this new part of the world and encounters both monsters and monstrous men. As creatures from the darkest legends reveal themselves, Astrid will discover that her journey isn’t about acting correctly or passing Odin’s test. It’s about pure survival. Before she can even think about finding Birka, she will have to defend herself against the demons of this new world.”
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