Where do I draw inspiration from? Occasionally from photos like this, of a cloud at sunrise.
Such coincidences spark connections in my imagination, as myth and history and possibility become ideas, and ideas become narratives. What would other people have thought or felt or done upon seeing such a sight? What effect would their responses produce? What would happen then?
It's like the butterfly effect. Or, for you Star Trek fans, "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" (about a language based entirely on allegories).
This one single image makes me think first of the mythological phoenix, but then I wonder how others would have viewed it. To an agricultural people knowing that the winter solstice drew near, would the position of the sunrise along the horizon be more significant? Or would the bird shape in the clouds be read as a waterbird, a sign of oncoming rain, or perhaps a crane, signifying migration? Or would someone trapped in a miserable life see the bird-cloud moving overhead and wish she could fly as freely?
I sit and I wonder about these things, and sometimes I include them in scenes, and sometimes those scenes make it into the finished book.
Limberwood is a remembrancer. He tells the history of his people so they don't forget. But there comes a day when observing events is no longer enough . . .
Will his attempts to provide hope to the denizens of Serpent Gate lead to the destruction of everything he has ever known?
Today I'm working on a section about a character who needs to get from one village to another (a distance of about 45 miles) as quickly as possible. Google says it would take about 16 hours to walk from Tempe to Casa Grande. A messenger accustomed to running the whole distance could possibly do it in 8 hours.
So if this walking character needs to get from the Temple of Lightning to the Temple of Mist before the Outlander chief hears bad news from someone else, the messenger has to be delayed or prevented from starting at all. And will there be time for this character to stop anywhere on the way?
To answer that, I have to go back to something I haven't looked at for a while: Omar Turney's 1929 map of Hohokam canals.
But this is only the Salt River valley. She has to walk all the way down to the Gila River valley, 35 miles farther south beyond the edge of the map.
I have to resist the temptation to get caught up in the map . . . though I cannot help but imagine the many other stories there are still to be told about the people who built these hundreds of miles of canals. How did they manage to not merely survive but thrive in this desert valley with only stone tools and their own ingenuity?
This is another question I often hear.
I actually started with a stand-alone book, "The Rainbow Knife." I shopped it to publishers and even had an agent who put it out for auction. I did get a nibble, with an enthusiastic reader's report from one publisher. But "The Rainbow Knife" was eventually turned down: not enough room on the list.
I heard this as "not commercial enough" and gave up on writing about the Hohokam for a time.
But I keep being drawn back to these amazingly complex and sophisticated prehistoric people, so I wrote "Swallowing the Sun" as a prequel. And then I took the end of "The Rainbow Knife" and decided I had to find out what happened after that. The novel I'm working on today, "Blows a Bitter Wind," is that story.
How much of what I put in my novels is true?
Maybe all of it, the background information, anyway. A lot of research has been done on the Hohokam, and I rely heavily on archaeology as the framework for the stories I tell.
There are also environmental events that must have influenced the Hohokam: floods and droughts, eclipses and comets, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, even solar storms and instances of the aurora borealis being visible as far south as Arizona. Some of these events have been documented in the physical record, while others appear to be shown in rock art or are testified to in other parts of the world.
Still other major events are told of in the folklore and mythology of related peoples, some of them the heirs to the Hohokam world.
But always it comes down to the stories that can be told of individual people within that world: what happens when these masters of the Arizona desert must fight for the survival of their people? Who stands to win, and who will lose, when floods destroy the canals or a freak storm darkens the sun?
These are the stories I tell.
People often ask me this question once I tell them what I write about. I give them two answers.
The first comes from an experience I had many years ago. When I first went to Hole-in-the-Rock (in Papago Park, Phoenix), as I rubbed my hand over the polished rock wall beside the trail, I felt the presence of the countless people who had walked that way before and touched that same rock face. That prompted me to learn all I could about the prehistoric people who lived there: the Hohokam.
The second comes from something I read. I've edited many books about the Southwest and Southwestern archaeology, including several archaeological site reports in the Phoenix area. One of these site reports discusses a fascinating burial at a village called Pueblo Salado (excavated by SWCA).
In a context late in the Hohokam sequence, investigators discovered the skeletal remains of two young men. Both were missing their leg bones, and they had been positioned facing in opposite directions, with their right arms linked.
I started wondering why this burial was so different: were the men brothers? friends? lovers? enemies? That wondering led to writing. And that writing led to more research and more writing, and here I am, three novels and 20 years later.
I still haven't found the right place for this anomalous burial in any of my Hohokam novels, but I'm still working on "Blows a Bitter Wind" . . . maybe the third time will indeed prove to be the charm.
Changing the historic photos into cartoons should better match the petroglyphs and lend a bit more artificiality to the images. The Watermasters stories are not archaeology per se; they are fictionalized, dramatized, modified to represent universal themes that play out in modern life. Cartoonizing carries these faces out of the past and into the present as manifested in a more contemporary medium.
This is the face of one of the main characters from my upcoming novel, "Swallowing the Sun." This young woman becomes a tool to be manipulated by masters of a game with the highest of stakes: her life.
I watched an amazing supermoon rising over the Superstition Mountains, in 1984. This photo reminds me of that experience.
At my rain house, the puddles all spread,
From under it, short streams run.
I stand atop the Temple of Mist;
About me, the mist wreaths my head.
Cupbearers bring me the liquor of life;
The blood-red drink I swallow.
Cast up on the earth as the milk of my making,
The shining road draws the sun.
No more the fields be dry and hollow,
Green shoots no more a-burning.
Swift come the clouds to the Rainsinger’s call;
The spadefoots start their singing.
At the rim of the world the storm it waits,
With thunder and lightning a-borning.
Site powered by Weebly. Managed by SiteGround