Monday, 9 April 2018

What inspired me to write the RHUNA series

You might be surprised to learn that I was only 10 years old when the first foundations were laid for my RHUNA series.   It was a distinct turning point in my life, and I remember it very vividly, even now.  No, nothing strange or other-worldly happened.  It was just a normal day, and my father took me to the movies, just like normal.  Only the movie we saw that day was Chariots of the Gods – an early docu movie based on Erich von Däniken’s book by the same title.   It was the first theory about “Ancient Astronauts” ever put out there back in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t the idea that our technology came from aliens that grabbed me.  It was simply seeing ancient wonders like the pyramids in Egypt, strange statues on Easter Island, and many other mysterious megalithic structures that we today can’t truly explain or understand.  

 
 When we left the movies that day, I asked my father all about them, and was simply gobsmacked that they were “mysteries” – and above all, why hadn’t I heard about all this before?! (in all my 10 long years of life!?)   Needless to say, I dragged my father to go see it again…and again.  And as life went on, I was always drawn to subjects like Ancient Egypt, Stonehenge, and ancient mysteries of all kinds, picking up books about them along the way.
Then, nearly 20 years after first seeing Chariots of the Gods, and a few years after my father had passed away, I was going through my father’s old books and came across Thor Heyerdahl’s Aku-Aku: The Mystery of Easter Island.  Perfect!  But I knew it was there because my father had told me several times over the years that I should read it, yet I was never in the right frame of mind before.  This time I was, and it was a revelation like Chariots of the Gods all over again, only ten times more poignant.  I knew there and then that I had to read, not just every book by Heyerdahl, but any other book that was remotely similar.

And so I devoured all these books about ancient mysteries all over the world – and they truly are all over the world.  Thanks to Heyerdahl, I learned that there are even pyramid ruins on Tonga – a small South Pacific island group many people have never even heard of.  I went there on my next vacation to see them for myself, and continued to develop a ‘theory’ about it all as I went.  By this time, my choice of books on the subject had veered into the New Age/Esoteric area, which thrilled me even more because I was reading about Atlantis and how legends tell of its advanced technology spreading across the globe, leaving mysterious megalithic structures everywhere. 

At this point in my life, I came to a junction of sorts because my writing had become more than a hobby, and I had begun to consider writing a novel of some sort.  But about what?  The answer was obvious:  the subject that had fascinated me the most since I was 10 years old.   It was meant to be!  There was no turning back or looking aside after that.  From then on, it was a simple matter of creating characters in the world I had already mapped in my head from reading all those New Age-Esoteric-Ancient Mysteries books.  Four books and several short stories on, I’m nowhere near running out of material for RHUNA, so expect to be seeing more of her around in coming years!

Monday, 26 March 2018

Good vs Bad - Too One-dimensional?

Most of us know that every good story must have an outstanding villain or two – how else can the characters be challenged and drawn out accomplish, overcome and attain happiness for the readers?   And if not a person, then certain circumstances act as the obstacle, problem and challenge for characters to overcome, otherwise there would be no story to tell.  But I believe readers have moved on from the fairy-tale basics of plain good versus plain old evil, and villains (or problematic circumstances) can no longer be one-dimensional to satisfy today’s readers.

This is good, because real life is anything but one-dimensional, and people are hardly ever completely good or totally evil, so unless you want to escape into a fairy-tale world for a while, characters and/or circumstances should also have various layers and dimensions.  The classic definitions of protagonist vs antagonist have become blurred, but rather than confuse readers by undermining what is “good” and what is “bad”, a good story nowadays leads the reader to come to his or her own conclusions, and this is a much more rewarding and satisfying result.


I’ve been reminded of these points again just recently after watching a couple of my favourite TV series again, namely Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Haven.   In Buffy, for example, the traditionally evil vampire called Spike goes through many ordeals and transitions until he comes out as the hero and saviour of the world in the final episode.   Haven has the winning formula of three characters which each brings something different into the mix according to their own perspective.  One of them is Duke, a petty criminal but actually not such a bad guy when you get to know him better.   Like Spike, he, too, sacrifices his life to save everyone else in the second-last episode of the show.

Without directly thinking about such shows or books with similar storylines, I found myself also creating a “bad guy” who ends up saving all the “good guys”.   His name is Goram, and he first appears as Beacon of the Night, his formal Atlan name, in the first book, Rhuna, Keeper of Wisdom.  He’s already showing signs of rebelling against the Atlan way of life by trying to grope and seduce Rhuna, but some 20 years later she meets him again in Ancient Egypt where he has switched sides completely and is the leader of the Black Magic followers of the Dark Master.  But by the end of book 3, Rhuna, The Star Child, however, Goram has actually saved the Atlan people who had to flee Egypt, and at the end of book 4, Rhuna: new Horizons, he does something even more extraordinary to rid the ancient world of the Dark Master’s influence.  Needless to say, just like Spike in Buffy and Duke in Haven, their actions didn’t come about on the spur of the moment, but rather developed subtly over time with a series of challenging events. 

So, we are seeing deeper dimensions and layers of the antagonist who, in many cases, turns out to do a particularly good or heroic deed.   Maybe it’s much more rewarding to see the ‘bad guy’ do good in the end out of love or some other deeper motivations, than seeing the good guy do the predictable heroic stuff!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Names for Characters - Why so important?

What’s in a name?  A common question with answers that run surprisingly deep.  Names are like brands or images, and a name that’s easy to remember, stands out or has a nice ring to it immediately have a positive effect on those who hear or read the name.  Why else do many celebrities (and authors!) change their names if their real ones are hard to pronounce, sound strange or even funny? 

My own experience with a different surname really drove this point home to me quite dramatically, and here's the story:  I grew up with a Russian-sounding surname which no one could pronounce, so I spent the first 25 years of my life spelling it over and over and over again.  But then, when I was married to my first husband whose surname was Taylor - hey, presto!  I was suddenly very popular and well-liked, and even received compliments such as "nice name!" from a complete stranger when I introduced myself on the phone while at work! 




Nowadays, I'm happy with my second husband and his name, Underwood, which I gladly use because it's much easier to spell and pronounce than my maiden name!

With this in mind, I always consider the names of my characters very carefully, and it was an extra challenge because the setting is fantasy – or alternate history at best, so a common name like Bob or Jane just wouldn’t do.  We all have a mental image of what a Bob or Jane would look like, just as we connect an image to most other words and names.  A name determines our identity, so it's a big deal to create a character and a name to make a whole new identity with whom the reader can identify.



Although there are some great websites that generate character names of all sorts, I found that they didn’t help me at all, and so I come up with my character’s names the old-fashioned way:  just thinking, jotting them down and tossing them around in my head.  Sometimes I change a letter or two to see if the name sounds better, and then just thought about the “feel” of the name – what kind of personality the sound of the name conjures up in the mind.    When I feel reasonably happy with a new name, I google it to make sure it isn’t already “taken” by some other author or film-maker, and if it’s reasonably uncommon or even has no google search results, I’ll take it!

This is the approach I used for ‘personal’ names like Rhuna.  But in world of the Atlan Empire (Atlantean Empire) people had a more complicated formal name by which they were known (I made that bit up – but how knows what it was really like in Atlantis?!) such as Keeper of Wisdom.  This idea just came to me one day when I was thinking of how to make Atlan names stand apart from every other name, and it seemed to fit perfectly.  Atlans are given a formal name or title when they have shown a certain trait or quality.  Hence names like Guardian of Harmony, Resolver of Disputes and Wanderer of Plains.  But some names are less precise such as Softness of the Clouds, Peace of the Valley and Melody of the Dawn.

Once the characters are created and named, they have a tendency to take over their own destiny as the story is written.  This is because the characters are given certain basic traits (which often match their names) and as events unfold, I have to consider how each character would react to this event depending on their personality.  I think it’s important to keep the characters true to themselves and let them grow and change as the story unfolds, just as it would be for real-life people who are constantly growing and changing as they go through life.


Sometimes, certain characters have actually determined the outcome of a sub-plot due to their own individual view of a matter, and many times, when I’ve had to consider the next steps in a story and how each character would be affected, would they feel and react, I’ve been shown several alternate paths the story could take.   So I really must give some of the credit to the characters who have come alive on the pages of RHUNA!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Hydromancy, Water Scrying, Crystal Balls and The Gazing of the Waters

Some years ago, when I was doing research for my first Paranormal Urban Fantasy novel, I read something about using a still body of water like a crystal ball to see things clairvoyantly.   This is perfect, I thought: a way of supernatural or psychic remote viewing without using the common crystal ball.   In my books, the method is described as using a bowl or basin in a dimly-lit room, sprinkle in some coloured powder while speaking words of incantation, then watch the surface of the water swirl with colours until it reveals a vision of a person or place far away.   I called it the Gazing of the Waters – a standard form of communication and remote viewing among the highly advanced, intellectual Atlans who live in an idyllic, utopian society (based on Atlantis).



Back then, I had no idea that what I created for my novels is actually a reasonably well-known method of divination called either water scrying or Hydromancy.  According to several websites specializing in the general subject of Metaphysics, the practice of seeking supernatural communication or knowledge using a surface of water goes back thousands of years.   There are very few written records that go back that far, but Esoteric Wisdom, like all things occult (meaning ‘hidden’ or ‘knowledge kept secret among only a certain few’) has retained this knowledge for our New Age.

Medieval texts often refer to different methods of water divination, but by this time (several centuries ago) the special knowledge of the Ancients had gone underground, and only an empty shell of the original practice remained.  The medieval texts in question list a variety of methods for gaining psychic insight, such as counting ripples in the water - like reading tea leaves, I imagine!
However, Hydromancy’s ‘cousin’, the crystal ball, has come down to us through the centuries, preserving the ancient technique of ‘gazing’ into a smooth, reflective surface with the intention of seeing something.  For this reason, the ability to see visions in water or a crystal ball is often called The Second Sight, and the act of looking into a crystal ball is often referred to as crystal gazing.
Nostradamus, the famous medieval apothecary and psychic, apparently used this method of water scrying to receive his vision of the future which he wrote down and published in the mid-1500s.  He preferred to use a bowl of clean water rather than a crystal ball.  
A very interesting blog article by psychic Richard Lee Van Der Voort, describes his own experience gazing into a crystal ball, and I was particularly struck by the process, namely that the ball becomes ‘cloudy’ before clearing and revealing a vision.  This is exactly how I describe the process of summoning visions by means of The Gazing of the Waters in my Rhuna novels and short stories!
Another aspect of scrying - be it with water, pendulums, tea leaves or what have you – is the required trance-like mental state the one must first have in order for any scrying to be successful.   I’ve also emphasized this in my books, and have called the deep meditation to calm the mind and reach a trance-like state ‘Inside Focussing’.   
Here is an excellent website that describes the techniques you and I can apply to learn the ancient art of Hydromancy or ‘scrying’ in general.  
When we meditate or focus all our senses on our inner mind (Inside Focussing), we access our subconscious minds, which can already reveal a great deal of information. Forgotten memories may surface, or we may gain better understanding of ourselves in general. 

Where visions are concerned, a common theory is that our subconscious minds in a deep meditative or trance state can access the Hall of Records also known as the Akashic Records.  This is an intangible ‘database’ of everything that has ever happened (and perhaps could and will happen?), which I have also used in my novels, starting from book 3 in the series (Rhuna, The Star Child) and which I have named The Infinite.

Another theory is that a vision or message received in a trance can come from a sentient being of some sort: gods, angels, perhaps another person projecting strong mental energy…  Decide for yourself!


Saturday, 30 September 2017

Investigating the Paranormal with Higher Consciousness

Planes and flight have interested me since childhood, and that's how it came about that I was watching a documentary about the crash of a jumbo jet in the Everglades.  Near the end of the program it said that some paranormal phenomena took place, and that certainly got my attention right away!   Then, when I did a google search for it , I realized that it was one of the best-documented paranormal events, with several books and even TV movies about the subject.  How come I hadn't heard of it before?  It was time to catch up - quickly!



It all happened a long time ago now, at the end of 1972 when one of the first jumbo jets crashed into the Everglades one night, killing over a hundred people, including the pilots. But two of the crew apparently didn't pass over as easily, because they were seen many times on other planes of the same airline!  Eastern Air Lines used undamaged parts of the crashed plane in some of its other planes (common practice), and it was on those planes with cannibalized parts that the appearances occurred.

These are the pilots that were repeatedly seen:  Second Officer Don Repo (most frequently around the food-heating ovens in the lower deck galley); and Captain Bob Loft, who appeared as a life-like flesh-and-blood person sitting in First Class a few times.   



And the whole story sounds more credible because passengers and crew who saw the apparitions were well-balanced professionals with a sound mind, and who actually refused to talk about what they experienced, lest they were sent to a psychiatrist and/or lost their jobs.

Even though Eastern Air Lines officially dismissed the notion of any paranormal activity on their planes, they did authorize the cannibalized parts to be removed after over a year of sightings, and apparently this action stopped the ghostly appearances.

Sounds very intriguing in itself, but the book documenting these sightings and paranormal experiences, namely  The Ghost of Flight 401 by John G. Fuller, intrigued me for other reasons as well.


At some point during his endeavour to find out about the paranormal sightings, the author meets some people with psychic abilities who offer to help him with his research, and when I read chapter 10, I was just blown away because it read exactly like the passages in my Rhuna series!  Here is a short excerpt from The Ghost of Flight 401:


“They would begin the session sitting in the comfortable living room… they began meditating.  Then Richard directed them in deep, slow breathing that would intensify their meditation and slowly move them toward an altered state of higher consciousness.” 



If you've been reading RHUNA, you'll recognize the above passage as the same thing Rhuna often does when she meditates to receive visions or do Astral Projection, namely attain a higher level of consciousness - almost like a trance.   Even though I made up these things in my books, I based them on what little I knew about meditation and ESP.  So I was amazed and thrilled to learn that people are doing exactly what Rhuna does, and also having results, it seems!

You can read my review for the book, The Ghost of Flight 401 at amazon and Goodreads

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


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/