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?!



Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Villain vs Antagonist

Long before I started writing anything, I heard the saying that "every good story has a good villain" - or perhaps that should be "...a bad villain"?!  In any case, I took it to heart as I planned my first novel, and this is what I came up with:



The Dark Master, as he is called, who wears a black robe and causes ripples of terror to pass through the idyllic and utopian communities of Atlan, where the heroine and protagonist of my novels resides. 

Although The Dark Master sounds like a Fantasy cliché, I decided early on that he should be a real and complex character, like the others in my story, and not just a "bad guy" for the sake of having a villain.

In the world I've created for Rhuna, my protagonist, the Dark Master has a name like everyone else, and was a normal citizen of a peaceful society.  His name was Gatherer of Sage, and he was a Herbalist who began to dabble a bit too much in Alchemy and other unknown elements.

His quest to achieve things believed to be impossible or unattainable drove him to rebel against the restraints of society and the criticism by his peers, and before long he was no longer a respected Atlan Master wearing the traditional white robe, but rather a dark one to express his defiance:  hence the moniker, "the Dark Master."

At some point I began to think of the difference between a plain, outright villain, and an antagonist, and realized that some of my other characters, who were basically "good guys" were also antagonists because their viewpoint, opinion or actions brought on a conflict, a new situation and consequences that my heroine, the protagonist, had to deal with.


Now that I've decided what motivated The Dark Master to become such, and what still drives him on, he is no longer a faceless, menacing villain, but a formidable personality that can even be respected or understood to a degree. 

What do you as a reader think about a villain/antagonist you can relate to, or who has depths and dimensions like the good-guy characters in the story?



Monday, 28 March 2016

Book Review: Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr

Murder in Absentia by Assaph Mehr


I had only to read this book's subheading,  "A story of Togas, Daggers and Magic", to know I would enjoy the blend of ancient history and magic, and sure enough, I could hardly put it down!

The ancient world has always fascinated me, and mankind's search for magic throughout the ages is even more rivetting.  Throw in many great characters with Latin names, and an excellent story told in the first person by Felix the Fox about the investigation he is hired to undertake, and you find yourself immersed in another world. 

And a very enjoyable world, at that.  You don't even need any knowledge of history to appreciate this well-told story because it has all the hallmarks of a great book with overall appeal to most readers.   In fact, the author explains in the notes that the setting is far from accurate, but rather a combination of many elements making up the Roman Empire.  Yet the descriptions of food, daily life of the people, the towns and cities as well as gladiator games combine to make a very authentic experience for the reader. 

Personally, I was hooked as soon as I read in the opening chapter that the son of a wealthy Roman had died, apparently from a black magic rite gone wrong.  There is nothing cliché about the magic, nor anything else in this book, for that matter, and I was pleasantly surprised by all the ideas and twists in the story. 

This book is the first in a series of books featuring Felix the Fox, the unconventional Roman sleuth, and needless to say, I'm looking forward to the next book!  In the meantime, I've written a more formal review for this book at amazon and Goodreads, and you simply must see the author's fabulous website.



Friday, 25 March 2016

Nuclear Warfare in the Ancient World

Could it be possible?  An atomic bomb exploding in Ancient India thousands of years ago?


When I first read about it somewhere many years ago, I was skeptical.  Like most people, I believed that mankind had reached the pinnacle of technological development in my own lifetime, not hundreds - and certainly not thousands of years ago.

But then I began to read and research various subjects that interested me, and I soon found myself confronted with discrepancies and doubts. 

I realized that the history we are taught in school and most books is full of holes and big gaps!

And the rest is mostly theory and guesswork!

Ancient Egypt is a fine example of how modern historians fall short miserably when trying to explain the highly advanced engineering techniques evident in the pyramids and other structures.  So it stands to reason that, if ancient Egyptians had ultrasonic drills and technology still ahead of our own, that they could also have discovered how to make hydrogen and nuclear weapons.

Is there any evidence of such weaponry, you ask. 

Yes!  Look at this:

They are skeletons with a very high radiation reading, found in the area where the atomic blast is believed to have occurred.  Nearby, sand had turned to green glass, which is only possible when sand is subjected to unnaturally high heat.

And if written records are any proof of historical events, then there is a clear description of a nuclear explosion in the Vedic/Ancient Indian holy book, the Mahabharata.  Here is just one webpage with further details:


So, in light of this new knowledge, I am going to use the setting of Ancient India for my fourth book in the Rhuna series, and the story will culminate in a nuclear explosion just as described in the Mahabharata, and according to archaeological evidence!



Sunday, 13 March 2016

Astral Projection and OBE in Fantasy novels?




Have you come across Astral Projection or OBE (Out of Body Experience) in any Fantasy novels? 

I haven't.

In fact, I didn't even believe in such things until some years ago, when I began reading all kinds of New Age books to get ideas for my Fantasy series.

Then I remembered some people I knew who insisted they had an OBE under extreme circumstances (nearly drowned, in severe pain) and slowly the subject began to intrigue me more and more.

In the latest and 3rd book in my series - Rhuna, The Star Child - I decided to introduce Astral Projection, calling it by a different name, but describing it in the way some people do, who have experienced it.



I
n my story, the main character learns about Astral Projection from her long-lost father, who had been in exile in Tibet, where he learned Astral Projection along with other spiritual pursuits (like yoga and meditation).

It's a fascinating concept, if all humans can astral project, and if this is the case, why can only certain people master it?  The mind boggles!  But that is what Fantasy should be, in my opinion:  something that makes your mind boggle and churn with concepts that might be possible!

Let me know if you have any OBE or Astral Projection thoughts or experiences!



Sunday, 6 March 2016

Ancient Anti-Gravity?!

Ancient Anti-Gravity?!


Look at this massive stone block with smooth sides and exact angles and measurements!  This is just one of thousands of "megaliths" around the world which defy modern-day explanations.  How were they made, and how on earth were they moved?!

This is one of the subjects that has fascinated me for most of my life, and for the past 20 years I have been reading anything on the subject, slowly gaining more knowledge and forming my own opinions.

If the Ancients had the technology to cut or form massive blocks (out of granite or other stone) to exact measurements and angles, then they would also have had the advanced technology to move and lift them.

So did they perhaps have knowledge of a branch of science or physics that has been lost in the passing of time?  A technology to defy gravity, if only temporarily?  

I have used these ideas in my Historical Fantasy book series, and you can read what professionals think about it in articles such as this: 


http://www.messagetoeagle.com/ancient-knowledge-of-levitation-and-antigravity/

What do you think?

Monday, 22 February 2016

From Writing Letters to Writing Books



From Writing Letters to Writing Books



It began at the age of 10.  A girl I had meet on my first trip overseas with my parents asked to be my penfriend, and my parents agreed for me.  Answering her letters was part of my homework, which I usually did reluctantly at first...until a year or two later, when I lived overseas for a year and missed my friends back home. 

Then letters from home became the most exciting and special thing in my life!  Suddenly, the written word was magical and full of power. 

A year later, and back home, I got excited about letters from new friends I had made overseas.  And then I realized it was just as exciting to receive letters from people I had not even met!

And so, my teenage years were spent "penpalling" with like-minded girls of my own age all over the world.  I began reaching out to unusual and exotic countries, curious to learn what life in a faraway country was like. 

While there were many ways of finding new penfriends, such as ads in some pop culture magazines, there were also "Friendship Booklets" which were sent around from one person to another.  Someone starts a booklet, stapling a few pages together and writing their name, address, age and interests on one page.  They enclose it with the letter to one of their penpals, who then adds his/her name, address and details, and forwards it to another penpal. 

This way, Friendship Booklets reached avid letter-writers and helped like-minded people connect, and waiting several weeks for a reply was the norm back then.

Once you found a like-minded penpal, letters became long and involved, often expressing thoughts and feelings that one couldn't speak easily to anyone face to face.  In this way, letter-writing became an important form of expression combined with creativity, as one still had to form sentences, paragraphs and write in an entertaining style to keep one's penfriends interested and involved.

Those letter-writing days are long gone now, thanks to email and a life busy with other things, but the creative writing and expressions through words have developed and enriched my life, and I thank penpals and Friendship Booklets for these rewards!

Friday, 12 February 2016

Black Magic in Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt is so fascinating, isn't it?  Everyone seems to think so, whether it's the enigma of the Pyramids, the timeless beautystyle of their art and jewellery, the mystery of the mummies, or many other things.

Personally, I became intrigued and fascinated with Ancient Egypt when I was in 5th grade and we did a school project on it.   Back then, I thought the hieroglyphics were great fun - like a code!

Over the years, I learned more about Ancient Egypt as I read all kinds of books - whatever I was into at the time, but what grabbed me the most, and inspired me to include it in my Fantasy/Magical Realism novels, is Ancient Egyptian MAGIC.

People of Ancient Egypt took Magic very seriously, and many superstitions arose from it.  Apparently, a certain priest class could perform magic, which put the common people in awe of them.  Stories about their magic appear in various writings, even the Bible (the Ten Plagues of Egypt).



One of the interesting aspects of their Magic is the use of a primitive doll to represent a person, and then cause that person pain or some kind of harm by sticking pins into the doll.  Yes, like the voodoo doll, and it's also known as poppet magic.

Until I read about these dolls existing in Ancient Egypt already, I thought that kind of magic was a Voodoo thing only, but look at this:


They were performing this kind of "Sympathetic Magick" back in Ancient Egypt already! 

Needless to say, I had to include it in my latest novel, and it features in the 3rd book, "Rhuna, The Star Child". 

Rhuna: Crossroads - Book Trailer

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Inspired by Tibetan Magic!

Inspired by Tibetan Magic!




One of the many things that inspired Rhuna's adventures in my YA Fantasy/Magical Realism series is
the mysticism surrounding Tibet.   Maybe you've heard the eerie chant of the Buddhist monks living in isolated monasteries high in the Himalayas, or you've heard about the legends of sacred ancient texts hidden in some inaccessible hiding place in Tibet. 

What fascinates me most about Tibet, however, are the persistent stories about certain people who appear to have superhuman powers, such as monks that can levitate or become invisible, or do other strange and wondrous things.

Reading snippets like these prompted me to read up on the subject some more, and I got a lot out of
a book entitled "Tibetan Magic and Mysticism" by J.H. Brennan.   Some of the chapter headings are: Strange Powers, Illusion and Reality, Void Mind Meditation, Implications of Unreality, and my favourite chapter:  Tibetan Tulpas.

So, what are Tulpas?

Tulpas are creations of the mind that look like real people, but are the result of many hours of intense concentration by adepts or masters.    The theory is that with the right kind of meditation and concentration, the human mind is capable of creating something tangible and visible.  Like when you imagine something so intensely, that it feels real, only after some hours or several days of continuous concentration, it actually becomes real.  Or almost real.  And that's called a Tulpa. 

What a great idea for one of my future books in the Rhuna series!  I've already planned to set the next and fourth book in Ancient India, and Tibet is just north of there, so that's where she'll be journeying in the fifth book!

Read more about Tulpas on this excellent site:

Mystery Files Blog page about Tulpas



Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Fantasy or Magical Realism?


When I first began writing my novels, I called them Fantasy and Historical Fantasy, but meanwhile I have decided that the new sub-genre “Magical Realism” is much more fitting.

One of the main things that make novels like mine more “Realism” than “Fantasy” is that the people are normal human beings (albeit some with special powers!) who have problems and concerns like everyone else.

For example, my main character, Rhuna, is a woman living in the mystical past of Atlantis and Ancient Egypt, but her relationships, everyday concerns and moments of self-doubt are things that every reader can understand and identify with. 

In the 3rd and latest book, “Rhuna, The Star Child,” Rhuna is re-united with her 18-year-old daughter, who has spent the last few years under her father’s very restrictive control.  And what is the first thing she does when she arrives in Ancient Egypt to be with her mother?  She falls in love with the first intriguing man she meets – but he’s every mother’s worst nightmare because he has a terrible reputation as a philanderer, and he is the leader of an underground Dark Magic organization – which in our day may as well amount to a crime gang. 

So, Rhuna is confronted with the challenges of being the mother of a young woman who is involved with the worst kind of guy, and everyone says so.  But she’ll only drive her daughter away and right into his arms if she puts too much pressure on her to break it off. 

These are the kind of realistic situations and personal challenges my characters find themselves in, and I hope most readers enjoy this kind of light fantasy with realism they can identify with.