Thursday, 14 September 2017

Chocolate - Gift of the Gods

Are you a chocaholic?  I sure am!  And I love it that chocolate was considered a gift of the gods in ancient Aztec and Mayan times!  (who says anything has changed?!)



But seriously, back in the day when the Aztec believed that cocoa beans were a gift from God, chocolate was A LOT different!  See this statue below?  He's holding a cocoa pod.  I had no idea that they were that big!



Here's what the pods look still on the tree: 


.

And this is what the cocoa beans look like when you cut open that pod:


Yuck!  Hard to believe that this can end up as delicious, decadent chocolate, isn't it!

Well, here's what happens to these pulpy beige-coloured seeds inside the pods:  First, they are taken out of the pods and allowed to ferment for several days, and then dried for another week or two.  By the end of this stage, the beans have turned dark brown.



This is how you get cocoa beans if you're going to make your own chocolate from scratch, but the Aztecs and Mayans prepared their chocolate in a very different way.  They made a drink out of the cocoa beans, added lots of chilli and some corn flour to make it frothy  - which resulted in a very spicy and bitter stimulant.  Basically, it was like a drug - perhaps like strong coffee in our day which gets your heart racing and adrenaline pulsing!

And it was bitter because no sugar was added, and if you've ever had a block of 80% or more cocoa dark chocolate, you might be able to imagine that part of it.  Adding chilli to chocolate isn't as far out as it sounds because they actually go together quite well.  Not sure about the frothy corn flour though!




This is a Mayan cup that was used to drink the cocoa.  Chocolate is now known to be a cardiovascular stimulant, and it has other good properties, too (as long as not too much fat and sugar are added, that is!)  So no wonder the Ancients thought it was a gift from the gods!

My Urban Fantasy series is set in the ancient world, and in the first book, Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom, cocoa is mentioned many times in the section where Rhuna learns about the Atlan civilization (based on Atlantis)


Here's a short excerpt:


“Look here,” said Mala Mahuni, taking off the lid of one of the large urn-shaped vessels. “Rice!  And over here is a special treat:  cocoa!  Excellent!  It’s one of the great Atlan delicacies, and do you know what I’ve done?” he asked with a mischievous grin.  “I’ve cooked the rice in sheep and goat’s milk, added honey, spices and some cocoa!”


Rhuna looked at him blankly.
“Sit and let us enjoy!” he said as he ladled the sticky creamy-brown food into large bowls.
They sat down on comfortable cushions and Rhuna picked up a mouthful with her thumb and two fingers.  Once on her tongue, the food exploded into wonderful taste sensations she had never experienced before, then slowly melted and left a sweet, yet slightly bitter residue. 
“Oh!” she said after the first mouthful, and Mala Mahuni looked expectantly at her.
“You should say ‘mmm!’” he said.
“Mmm!” said Rhuna.
“Mmm!”
Mmm!”  They began to laugh.
“Is it good?” asked Mala Mahuni after his second quick mouthful.
“It’s excellent!” said Rhuna, still in a laughing mood, and they both laughed some more as they ate.  Rhuna thought that it felt like they were doing something a little mischievous, and wondered what Tozar would say about it.



Find out more at this website
http://www.rhunafantasybooks.com

Stick around because the next blog article will be how to make your own chocolate from the dried cocoa beans!

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Beautiful Beads: in Ancient Times and in my novel!


Beads have been around as long as civilization, but I bet most of us never gave that a second thought!  I only started thinking about it when I was writing the fourth book in my Paranormal Fiction/Urban Fantasy series, RHUNA.

You see, I've based RHUNA on ancient history, combining facts and theories with legends and myths such as Atlantis and advanced technology in ancient times.  The fourth book, Rhuna: New Horizons, is set in Ancient India - the Indus Valley to be precise, and in doing some general background research, I learned that the people of that ancient civilization were big on beads.



http://www.ancientbead.com/Etched_beads.html

Don't they look fantastic (for several thousand years old) ?!  The Indus Valley people put a lot of time and effort into creating top quality beads which were not only used for jewellery but also for currency, like money.

The brownish ones are carnelian beads, which other ancient peoples also used, but in Ancient India, they found a way to add designs to them which look like being etched, but was actually done with a bit of chemistry know-how using soda.  Furthermore, it looks like the markings on these beads represented things and conveyed information - not just decoration!

The other type of beads popular in Ancient India were glass beads (like marbles) and this is what I used in my book.





Aren't they exquisite?!  


In Rhuna: New Horizons, Rhuna visits a shop full of all kinds of marbles, and the owner is called "The Marble Master".  He's a pudgy guy with big glasses who makes "Identifiers" which everyone in that city has to wear.  This bit I made up, but the idea of conveying information with beads really was used in ancient times.

The "Identifiers" in RHUNA are sort of like bead jewellery for the hand/wrist with colour codes to identify the wearer's residence, family group and occupation.  It would look something like this:




These days, beads are as popular as ever; from cheap plastic ones to fancy and expensive ones, in all kinds of colours, sizes and arrangements.  They can be strung up to make a necklace, or used in embroidery for just about everything.  It's a great hobby for many people, and others make and sell lovely items with them. 

If you're getting interested in beads, why not look at my Pinterest board called "Beadwork Bonanza".  I'm adding new pictures to it every day.

https://au.pinterest.com/KeeperWisdom/beadwork-bonanza/

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

UFOs and Flying Machines in the Ancient World


UFOs and Flying Machines in the Ancient World


When I first came across this subject many years ago, I promptly dismissed it as historically and scientifically impossible.  After all, we only began to master flight just over a century ago, right? But as I became more curious and interested in ancient history, I began to realize that scientists, historians, archaeologists and other experts didn’t have the answer to the many questions I began to have.     
Next thing I knew, I was reading about ancient flying machines called vimanas and hidden, suppressed technology, and although many of these books were written by laymen without impressive titles or credentials, they actually made more sense to me than the history books we are taught at school and in universities!  
One of the most compelling arguments for flight in ancient times, in my opinion, are the Nazca lines in Peru.  Not only are most of the diagrams and pictograms on the flat desert plains meant to be seen from high above, but a hilltop had been flattened to look exactly like a modern-day runway.



Then there are artifacts that look like model planes, found both in Ancient Egypt and the ancient Americas.  Granted, some of them could be representations of birds or even a fish, but then there’s also an ancient written text describing flying machines called vimanas.  That’s right:  the Vedic texts of Ancient India mentions them several times.
http://www.theancientaliens.com/technology--quimbaya-airplanes
Erich von Däniken, who wrote Chariots of the Gods and similar books about what is now referred to as “the Ancient Alien”  theory, has found countless pictures, statues and artifacts which resemble flying craft, astronauts and other highly advanced technology.   Can we really dismiss it all as misinterpretation of historic records? 
Other people, some with impressive credentials in science and physics, believe that Tesla had developed a completely different "science" which included anti-gravitational electromagnetic energy.   One plausible theory is that this technology, which became hidden or suppressed and was only known to a select few, is being used to make modern-day flying craft in the shape of saucers.  Could these be the UFOs people keep seeing in our skies?


Whatever the truth may be, I have used this idea in Rhuna: New Horizons, which is set in Ancient India, and where the 'vimanas' are propelled by electromagnetic anti-gravitational forces.
https://www.amazon.com/Rhuna-Horizons-Urban-Fantasy-Book-ebook/dp/B0714JJV82


Here are some more references:
https://www.amazon.com/Anti-Gravity-Unified-Science-Adventures-Unlimited/dp/0932813100





Saturday, 14 May 2016

Dystopia vs. Utopia

Wow, I just had a look at Sci-Fi and Fantasy sub-categories of ebooks on amazon.com, and guess which ones are by far the biggest, with over 13,000 titles?  Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic!  Not that I'm surprised, mind you, with all the TV shows and movies with those themes, not to mention even the daily news in the real world!  But it made me stop and think about how I've been describing my book to people.

You see, my Rhuna series is set in mystical Atlantis, which was said to be a Utopian society, the definition of Utopia being "a community or society possessing highly desirable or near-perfect qualities."  That's the setting I've used, but of course, writing about a perfect world would just be boring, so I add characters who go against those idyllic rules and lifestyles to create conflict.

The idea is to show that there is no such thing as a perfect society, even if it appears to be so on most levels.  There will always be some people and some issues that don't fit, and that's where rebellion starts. 

But Rhuna is still living in an overall peaceful, idyllic world, thanks to the rulers of Atlantis.
 


There is no "Utopia" category at amazon.com, and doing a search for "utopia" gets you all kinds of things, but try "Dystopian",  and there are thousands and thousands of books, images and other things.  Why does Dystopia have so much more appeal than Utopia?  Because, I mean, you'd think it would be the other way around, wouldn't you?  Don't people prefer pictures of paradise instead of a post-apocalyptic ruin of a city? 

There are probably many reasons and topics you could philosophize over (and please do share any thoughts you may have in the comments below!) but my main concern now is whether a utopian theme in books would fare well in such an environment as we have right now?

Is Dystopia only popular now because some books, movies and TV shows were hits, and that started a fad?  Are people reading Dystopia because there's no real alternative (except for my books, perhaps?!) 


I read somewhere that readers think a utopian setting is political propaganda of some sort, which might be the case if the book is not Fantasy or Sci-Fi, and so far, no reader or reviewer has had anything negative to say about the utopian setting of my books. 

Far from being political or propaganda, however, I do admit to making social commentary in my books, merely by bringing up age-old issues that still have relevance today, or that the reader can relate to, even though two books are set in Ancient Egypt, for example.  (see Rhuna: Crossroads and Rhuna, The Star Child)

My hope is that readers will find some thoughts about human society and ways of governing as described in Rhuna refreshing, stimulating and worthy of deeper consideration.  So, tell me what you think!

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Inspiration for Fantasy novels?!

Believe it or not, reading about the statues on Easter Island in Thor Heyerdahl's 1950s book, "Aku-Aku" was the beginning of a journey that ended in the writing of my first Fantasy Novel, "Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom."

And here's the man to whom I dedicated that first book:


Thor Heyerdahl, the Norwegian Anthropologist and Adventurer/Explorer knew he was onto something big and special when he discovered megalithic stone statues hidden in the tropical jungles of remote Pacific Islands when he was there to study biology.  He changed subjects and began studying anthropology, travelling the world in search of more mysterious stone statues.

The most famous ones are on Easter Island, of course.  All 887 of them.  That's right:  almost 900 of them, all the same, and all with tall bodies buried more than halfway in the ground.  They would have been a terrifying and awe-inspiring sight in ancient times (and still a bit creepy now that some have been fully restored!)

Reading about the mysteries and unanswered questions around these statues, as well as their similarity to many other big stone statues around the world (especially South America) really got the wheels in my head spinning, and before I knew it, I was also hooked on this mystery.

Not only did I end up reading all of Heyerdahl's books, but I even went to Tonga to see some of those megaliths myself.  Here:



While searching for answers to these mysteries, I read many New Age books as well, and one day I realized I had all the ideas and material for a solid novel in the Fantasy genre.  Fantasy only in the sense that some of the things my characters do to create those megalithic structures is not based on scientific fact, but the rest of the story is about real people and real places.

Even though I can't travel and explore like I used to, I am still venturing far afield in my mind as I write more books in the series, and the more I delve into all these ancient mysteries, the more material I find to use in my books!  (Check them all out! Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom - Kindle is FREE! Rhuna: Crossroads and Rhuna, The Star Child.)


Monday, 25 April 2016

Advanced Technology of Ancient Civilizations

I know, I know...you keep hearing about Ancient Aliens or Ancient Astronauts that came and built the pyramids in Egypt and all that...well, I'm not talking about that at all here - just the facts!  Well, at least to begin with.

So first of all, have a good look at these pictures:


See how exact the stones in this ancient Inca wall in Peru are placed together?  They say that you can't even put a sharp razor blade between them!  And that's without mortar or anything to bond them together!  Imagine how difficult it would be to get a hard block of stone that even, level and smooth, let alone the right angle to fit perfectly alongside another block!

And what about this:



They could also do perfectly smooth curves!  Not just in corners of rooms, but when sculpting those giant stone statues!

Some modern-day engineers have had a closer look at the remarkable workmanship of Ancient Egypt and other impressive ancient ruins, and have concluded that getting the curves, angles and symmetry so exactly right is almost impossible, even with today's technology and know-how!

One of the books detailing these things is Lost Technologies of Ancient Egypt: Advanced Engineering in the Temples of the Pharaohs by Christopher Dunn.  Reading it will convince you that Ancient Egyptians had knowledge and skills above and beyond ours today!

When I discovered these fascinating things, I knew I had to incorporate it into my writing - and in fact, this advanced technology of the ancient world is a fundamental theme of my Rhuna Fantasy book series, and since it's Fantasy, I'm allowed to theorize all I want as to how, why, who and where (but it's not aliens!).





Sunday, 17 April 2016

Amazing Reed Boats of the Ancients




This is a reed boat.  You may or may not have seen pictures of them, because even though they have been around for thousands of years, they aren't exactly common knowledge. 


The reed boats I'm talking about are the ones made from the reeds growing along the shores of Lake Titicaca on the border of Bolivia and Peru in South America.   Apparently, they are so super-buoyant, strong and stable, that people in that area have been making them the same way for literally thousands of years!  That's pretty amazing in itself, I think.

But there's more...

Quite a lot of historians and anthropologists have reason to believe that ancient civilizations built larger versions of this kayak-type reed boat to cross vast oceans, not just Lake Titicaca.  They were built with cabins on top, long rudders and oar-like poles to navigate, and probably also with sails, so it's quite feasible that they could have crossed a sea or even ocean.

If you've been around for a while, you've probably heard of Thor Heyerdahl and his famous expeditions to prove that people in ancient times really could have crossed oceans with such reed boats.  For The Tigris Expedition, he built a reed boat in the style of these ancient ones to cross an ocean, but the book about his first and most famous expedition, called Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific in a Raft  is still a #1 best seller!

Reading it some 20 years ago started a long process that resulted in my first book, "Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom", using many ideas from Thor Heyerdahl's books and related subjects. 

Heyerdahl believed that many people on Pacific islands had Caucasian ancestors because records show fair-skinned, red-haired people living on some of those islands, such as Easter Island, when Europeans and other explorers like Captain Cook first arrived there. 

And since fair-skinned and red-haired mummies have been found in Peru, Heyerdahl wanted to prove that an advanced civilization from South America could have crossed the Pacific Ocean to settle the Pacific islands.  Those white-skinned races then mixed with the Malayans who came from Asia, and their descendants are today's Polynesians.


Rhuna, the heroine of my series, is Polynesian.  Her father is a fair-skinned, blue-eyed man from South America, and her mother a brown-skinned native living on Easter Island.  She leaves her isolated island home on a reed boat, and eventually ends up in South America.

So, do you think combining history, or at least theories about mankind's past, with fiction and fantasy is a good idea?!