An update on Martian Born and other projects

yuleI was dismayed to see that my last blog post was pretty much exactly one year ago. This gives the impression that I’ve stopped writing, which is false. Martian Born is still moving along, though more slowly than I’d like. I’ve talked it over with someone who was involved in a simulation of living on Mars for NASA, which was a great experience, and I hope to get more information from her as the book progresses. Otherwise, it’s now at about 80,000 words, which is 25,000 more than the last time I updated it.

But it’s slow going. Every new bit of information I uncover in my research forces me to go back and revise what I’ve written. After that conversation I mentioned above, I “moved” the colonies to lava tubes. They’re now at the bases of Uranius Tholus and Ceraunius Tholus, and their spacesuits have been redesigned. You might not think the latter would be a big deal, but it affects the way they enter and leave the colonies, and a number of subtle details. The first month after I got back from the 25th anniversary of Viable Paradise this past October was all about rewriting. My big concern is that there just won’t be a market for it, once it’s done. There have been a ton of YA books about Mars since The Martian came out. The biggest selling point of Martian Born is probably its realism, but any day now another book could come out that would challenge that.

The other reason things have been going slowly is that I lead a double life — I publish adult MM Romance under the name Jamie Fessenden, and that’s been taking up the bulk of my writing time lately. (These books generally fit into the MM Romance genre.) That doesn’t mean I don’t want to write YA anymore. But I’m a bit ADHD when it comes to jumping back and forth between projects. Whatever’s shiniest.

One of the projects I’ve been planning is a new trilogy in the world of Dreams of Fire and Gods, which takes place centuries before the events in those novels, and details the assassination of the emperor and the formation of the samöt.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to finish up a novella called Rosem, and it follows the exploits of Sael, Koreh, Donegh, and Gonim in the months following Gods. A new character has also been introduced: Ven, one of the two soldiers Gonim dragged along to the confrontation with Imen at the barrier. When we first meet him, he is in bad shape….

———————————————————————–

moonlit-cloisterThen Gonim heard a faint sound in the darkness. It was the bell near the gate to the courtyard, which announced visitors to the Temple. Father Kosün had ordered the gate locked after dark, since there weren’t enough men to keep watch, but after the bell rang a second time, Gonim’s curiosity got the better of him. He didn’t have the key, but he could talk to the visitor through the bars. It would do no harm to see what he or she wanted.

Gonim slipped the necklace back over his neck. There was no time to bother with the loincloth, but he pulled his robe over his head. Then he hurried to the gate.

The man standing on the other side was older than Gonim, though not by much, and he was dressed in a tunic with the seal of Dekan Seffni emblazoned upon it. A soldier, then. He gasped when Gonim approached and clutched the iron bars. “It’s you!”

Gonim hesitated. This close, the soldier looked vaguely familiar, but Gonim couldn’t remember anything about him. “Have we met?”

“I saw you…. You were torn open—burned! You had no heart! But somehow… you were saved… and Imen….” He stopped talking, perhaps afraid he was making no sense.

But Gonim felt a rush of joy at his words. “You were there?”

“I was a soldier at the barrier. The day King Caednu burned the emperor’s camp. The old emperor, that is—Savön. Queen Imen ordered me away, but I saw! I saw!”

The man seemed on the edge of hysterics. Was he insane? Had what he’d witnessed driven him mad?

Instinctively, Gonim placed a hand over one of his. The soldier’s fingers were ice cold, but Gonim felt them relax their grip on the bar as his hand warmed them. “Why have you come here?”

“To find someone—anyone—who might believe me. You don’t know what it’s been like. Nobody saw… what I saw. No man can see the gods—that’s what they keep telling me.”

Gonim did know what that was like. “Surely, other soldiers witnessed King Caednu battling with the king of the Taaweh.”

“Only one,” the soldier said. He moved his other hand to cover Gonim’s. “But he refused to ever speak of it, and he has gone to gü-Khemed. If any others saw, they will not admit it. ‘Keep your mouth shut, Ven, if you don’t want the gods to strike you down where you stand!’ That’s what they tell me. But you were there! You saw everything! Please….”

“Aye,” Gonim said. “I saw everything. And more than you know. Queen Imen, King Caednu, the Taaweh king and queen….”

The man sighed and leaned forward as if to kiss Gonim’s hand, but he merely rested his forehead against the metal bar they held. Gonim could feel the warmth of the soldier’s breath on his fingers. “Thank you.”

“Your name is Ven?”

“Aye.”

“I cannot open the gate, Ven,” Gonim told him gently. “Can you come back in the morning?”

“Aye. I’m on a few days furlough.”

A thought occurred to Gonim. “Do you live in the city?”

“I have a room in the outer circle, near the smiths.”

“Do you live alone?”

“Aye.”

It was, perhaps, a bit foolhardy to meet a stranger alone in the city, far away from the monastery—especially one as disturbed as Ven seemed to be—but Gonim didn’t like the idea of having a conversation about that day where the other tadu or caedan might overhear. Perhaps when Ven had calmed down, but at the moment he sounded like a madman. His corroboration of Gonim’s claims would do nothing to persuade the other residents of the monastery.

“Then don’t come here,” Gonim told him. “Wait for me at your home, and I will come see you tomorrow.”

“When?”

“As early as I can. After the bells of Penent.”

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Dreams of Fire and Gods now available in one cheap bundle!

Dreams of Fire and Gods BundleDreams of Fire and Gods is a trilogy of high fantasy novels set in the kingdom of Dasak, which is on the brink of civil war. At the same time the emperor and his regent in the east prepare for battle, another war is brewing—a war between the gods that threatens to completely destroy the kingdom and leave no survivors.

When these novels were first published, there was a long gap between books two and three, leaving readers hanging. But now Harmony Ink has now released the entire trilogy as one low-cost bundle! Get the entire saga for just $9.99!

A thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

In the present day, tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent to the point of war, which will be nothing compared to the war that comes with the Taaweh’s return. Join the regent’s son and apprentice mage Sael and his vagabond lover Koreh as they dodge assassins, rescue the Taaweh queen, and take journeys through the underworld in their quest to save their world from being destroyed in another confrontation between the gods.

Buy Links: 

Harmony Ink/Dreamspinnerhttp://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=7517

Amazonhttp://www.amazon.com/Dreams-Fire-Bundle-James-Erich-ebook/dp/B01BLKYT9A/

Excerpt:

“I SAID I was sorry,” Koreh repeated, exasperated.

“And I said I don’t care.”

Sael stood facing the fire with his undertunic held out to catch the heat. It wasn’t very modest, but he didn’t think Koreh could see anything from where he was standing. Geilin had grown tired of the argument and lay down to sleep after drinking his tea. The old man lay wrapped up in his cloak, facing away from the fire.

“I don’t really think you’re slow.”

“Now that Master Geilin’s told you I’m not.”

Koreh groaned in frustration. “Look. I don’t know how much training it takes to become a vönan—”

“A lot!”

“All right,” Koreh continued, “fine. But it just seemed to me that, after ten years of training, you’d be a little further along.”

Sael glared at him. Was this Koreh’s idea of an apology?

“As Master Geilin already told you,” he responded coolly, “I’m doing as well in my studies as any other tenth-year student. Better than most. I just can’t cast when I’m rushed. I have to concentrate.”

“So, you’re not rushed now. Let’s see you throw a fireball. Just a little one.”

“We’re supposed to be hiding, remember?” Sael snapped. “It’s bad enough we had to light a fire to dry off. If I start throwing fireballs around, they’ll be seen for leagues in all directions.”

Koreh’s derisive snort was the last straw. Sael turned and stalked over to the edge of the clearing. After searching the underbrush for a moment, he found what he was looking for—a sturdy branch about the length of a walking staff.

Koreh was watching him with a smirk on his face when he returned to the fire.

Trying to ignore him, Sael lifted the branch up over his head so it lay horizontally. Then with both hands gripping it firmly, he said, “Grab hold.”

“Huh?”

“I’ll show you something not even your Taaweh could do. Now grab on!”

Koreh hesitated only a moment before accepting whatever challenge Sael was offering him. He approached the boy, looking him dead in the eye before reaching up with one hand to grab the staff.

“Both hands,” Sael insisted, “and hold on tight.”

“Yes, little lord.” Koreh’s voice was mocking.

Sael frowned. “Hold on tight, or you’ll die. I mean it.”

“Fine. I’m holding on.”

The apprentice vönan closed his eyes and began chanting under his breath. It wasn’t easy, because in order for Koreh to grasp the staff, he had to press his body against Sael’s. And he was still naked. That was incredibly distracting, even with the linen undertunic separating their bodies. But the thought of further humiliation if he failed forced Sael to focus.

In the dark, with Druma obscured by clouds, Sael knew his power would be very limited. He could feel the magical energy he’d stored up during the day like a fire burning in his chest and head, but not nearly as hot as he often felt it—the pervasive fog had prevented him from drawing much power, even at midday. Still, it should be enough.

Sael chanted under his breath, ancient words given to men by the gods that simultaneously unlocked channels in the body for the energy to flow through and protected the body from the energy it channeled. This was one of the reasons the training of a vönan was such a slow, painstaking process—it took years to learn how to channel the energy safely before a master would dare allow his pupil to experiment with powerful spells. Every apprentice at the academy had heard horror stories of overzealous pupils bursting into flames. The stories may not all have been true, but the masters never bothered to contradict them.

When the chant ended, Sael opened his eyes to find Koreh watching him with apprehension. Clearly the magic of the Stronni still made him very uncomfortable. He looked as though he were about to say something when the staff suddenly jerked upward, lifting both young men off the ground.

Sael had been prepared for it, but Koreh panicked for a second, scrambling for a tighter grip.

Sael couldn’t help laughing as the staff came to a stop about ten feet above where they’d been standing. “Don’t fall.”

“I’m fine.” Koreh’s startled expression turned to one of defiance. “Is this all you had to show me? We’re barely off the ground.”
Suddenly he gasped as the staff flew upward again, this time coming to a stop just a short distance above the treetops. Koreh hooted in delight.

“Quiet!” Sael said under his breath, though he was secretly pleased. “You’ll wake Master Geilin.”

Koreh ignored him, laughing and twisting his head this way and that to take in the unusual vantage point. “Take us higher!”

“Hang on, then—tight!”

Now that the spell had been cast, it took little effort for Sael to control it, like turning the wick up on a lantern. He felt the energy flowing from his core increase and the two of them began to soar upwards. Higher and higher they climbed, until the light from the campfire seemed far, far below. Despite the night being overcast, the Eye cast a soft blue-gray light over everything, diffused through the clouds, and the gently waving treetops stretching off into the distance all around them seemed ethereal and beautiful.

He feared for a moment he’d overdone it. If Koreh lost his grip, Sael wasn’t sure he’d be able to save him from falling. But Koreh was laughing now like a young child being spun around in his father’s arms.

He was loving this and had dropped all pretense of superiority. When his eyes met Sael’s, Sael saw admiration in them for the first time. And he knew that he would do anything for that look.

But then he glanced past Koreh, and what he saw made his blood run cold. A vast number of tiny spots of light dotted the ground in the distance, hazy in the mist but still visible. They weren’t the lights of Mat’zovya—he could see those on the far side of the lake. These were just beyond, in the fields between the old city and the new. They had to be campfires.

Hundreds of them.

“We’re being followed!” he exclaimed.

Martian Born is going to Martha’s Vineyard!

I was very excited to learn this weekend that I’d been accepted into the 2015 Viable Paradise workshop! This is an annual workshop for science fiction writers taught by published authors in the genre. This year’s instructors include Elizabeth Bear, Steven Brust, Morgan J. Locke, and several others.

I was accepted into the workshop on the strength of the first few chapters of Martian Born, and it’s those chapters I’ll mostly be working on while I’m there. We’ll be staying in Martha’s Vineyard in mid-October, so I hope the weather is beautiful!

This is a very important step for me, as I try to branch out into the mainstream science fiction genre, and I can barely contain myself right now!

Guest Blogger – Hope Ryan on “The Geek and the Artist”

 

Thank you so much for the space on the blog!

When I first sat down to write The Geek and his Artist, I didn’t initially expect to write a character with a disability. I knew Simon had a lot working against him, but as I went, I discovered his ear problem.

I know writers must sound completely insane to most readers, with the way we talk about our characters. But they can surprise us and Simon did that for me. So as I worked on the story, I discovered Simon had lost a lot of his hearing in his left ear.

Well, this certainly gave me pause. There’s always a worry when writing something like a disability. We have to be careful to portray it accurately without going over overboard and annoying the reader.

It also means a mess more research. How does hearing loss happen? What types of hearing aids are there? How does it impact Simon’s opinion of himself?

And the biggest, at least from Simon’s point-of-view; what would Jimmy think?

I had to make sure to show the accommodations Simon has to make. While loss of hearing in one ear doesn’t create a lot of inconveniences, there are some accommodations Simon has to make, like keeping the batteries fresh and sitting so his good ear is closer to someone speaking. In Geek, Jimmy actually took care of this himself, making sure to sit to Simon’s right.

Jimmy knew to do this because, despite Simon’s attempt to keep his hearing aid hidden by his hair, Jimmy still managed to see it once, much to Simon’s chagrin. Simon really did not want Jimmy to know, terrified of Jimmy not wanting him because of it. We, as a society, have made imperfections like the loss of hearing in one ear – such a big deal, it’s no wonder Simon worried so. This, on top of his father’s poison meant Simon expected the worst.

Like writing about abuse, including disabilities is a scary prospect. No matter how you write it, who you talk to, or who you have beta-read it, someone somewhere will have had a different experience. We try to cover all the possibilities, but undoubtedly, someone will not agree. A close author friend of mine included a character with the very same condition she has and had someone tell her she got it wrong.

It’s a delicate proposition and I hope I was able to portray it well enough.

* * *

Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for chances to win a paperback copy of Geek and $25 to spend at Harmony Ink! Each comment below also qualifies you for an entry to the giveaway. One reader today will win a Geek character trading card of your choice!

tumblr_inline_np30cq2jKj1slfj1n_500http://hoperyan.com/geek-tour
a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Simon Williams spends his lunch periods drawing his geek and trying not to think about the terrors waiting for him at home. He needs to get away from his abusive father before he suffers the same grisly fate as his mother. Because he’s learned the hard way running away doesn’t work, he’s counting the days until his eighteenth birthday.

Jimmy Bennet should be spending his lunch studying so his senior GPA is good enough to get him into college, but he can’t seem to focus thanks to his distracting artist. When he’s given the opportunity to tutor Simon in Trig and discovers Simon’s home-life nightmare, he wants nothing more than to get Simon out of danger. This need becomes more urgent when Simon comes to school the Monday after their first date with bruises, but it takes a broken leg before Jimmy can convince his boyfriend the Bennets really want him.

But the danger Simon thought was past shows up at the most unexpected time, and he must stand up to the fears he’s held so long to protect not only himself, but the man he wants to spend his life with.

You can get Geek here:

Harmony Ink Press Dreamspinner Press Amazon AllRomanceebooks Kobo Barnes & Noble

 

 

 

 

 

About Hope:hope (1)

Hope Ryan is an out and proud bisexual, wife of a loving guy and mother to three, including an amazingly brave gender fluid son. She loves to write about the tough stuff, but also wants to see her characters happy in the end. She feels strongly about showing there is hope for everyone, no matter where you come from, how you identify your gender or who you love.

Hope likes to play board and card games and can often be found playing God with her Sims or running around, fighting monsters in a virtual version of Middle Earth. Her TV and movie preferences lean towards anime, sci fi and fantasy, though she’ll never turn down a good happily ever after love story, either. As long as there are explosions or action, she’s happy. She loves to read books of all kinds, though prefers stories about love in its many forms.

Find Hope at her website, email her (hoperyanauthor@gmail.com), or on Facebook.

Guest Blog by Christopher Koehler – “Will Poz Be Controversial? I Certainly Hope So”

Poz_Blog-Tour-Sidebar-GraphicI was aware of the possibly controversial nature of Poz’s content from the moment I started writing it, although some of that possible controversy may not be quite what you’re thinking.

To be perfectly honest, I debated long and hard whether to publish Poz under Dreamspinner’s imprimatur or under its Young Adult label, Harmony Ink. But I wrote Poz with a certain message in mind. I tried to avoid being preachy, but I also wanted to convey that certain message to a young adult audience, and ultimately, my publisher, the Harmony Ink coordinator, and I decided that it suited the Harmony Ink imprimatur. So publish Poz with Harmony Ink I did, and this way the book will have a better chance to be placed in libraries and, I hope, reach its intended audience. Not even I’m so delusional to think it’d ever be used in schools.

The most obvious possible controversy stems from the subject matter: teens and sex, specifically gay and bi teens and sex. Although Remy and Michael are gay, I think it’s safe to include bisexual teens, if only epidemiologically, because part of what inspired Poz were distressing facts about increasing rates of new HIV infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 16-24. That’s roughly the ages covered by the demographics for YA and NA novels.

Any time a book (or movie or any other medium) talks about teens and young adults and sex, people—particularly parents—lose all sense of proportion. The reality is sexuality is set quite early, so trying to keep books involving sex out of the hands of teens? Mom and Dad, you’re closing the barn door after the horses have bolted. It might make you feel better, but it’s too late. Furthermore, Poz will not make your kids gay or bi. They already are.

Given the studies that have shown that abstinence-only sex education programs are an abysmal failure, teens are going to experiment. They want to know about sex, and in the age of the internet, they’re going to find the information. Poz will not put notions in anyone’s head that aren’t already there. All of the sex in Poz is off stage, implied, or the scenes fade to be black before anything interesting happens. Poz will not make your gay children run out and have the gay sex.

Remy, unfortunately for him, does not practice safer sex and that gives me the opportunity as an author to discuss safer sexual practices, as well as what the onset of HIV looks like in this particular case. As an author, gay man, and a parent, it’s my hope that Poz gives me the opportunity to slip some education under the radar, as it were. We’ll see how it’s received, I suppose.

In Poz, there is an age difference across that magic number of eighteen, and the younger man initiates it. This won’t earn me any friends, I suspect, but the reality is young men, gay, bi, or straight, don’t magically turn sexual on their eighteenth birthdays. I accordingly discuss the implications of statutory rape and the murkiness of the laws in the jurisdiction in which the story takes place—implications not just for the two people involved, but the institutions and other people around them. Nothing happens in a vacuum, after all, no matter how oblivious teens can be.

To be honest, I expect this to be the most controversial part of the entire book—a self-aware protagonist knows what he wants—or thinks he does—and goes after it. This isn’t The Rake’s Progress, so Remy doesn’t go to hell or anything, but he does face lifelong consequences. I mean, duh. Look at the title. What’s missing is judgment, and that may be controversial, as well.

All of this said, I won’t turn down a bit of controversy. Controversy inevitably draws attention and drives sales. Is that horribly mercenary of me to say?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Poz faced a certain amount of controversy from within the m/m romance community, as well.

There is a hint at the end that while Remy and his boyfriend Michael are together, they may not always be. Poz has a Happy Enough For Now ending.

I never know if people read all of the blog posts on a blog tour. I’ll assume people do. If you’ve read the other posts on the tour, you know that I torment Remy and Michael over the course of three books, and in fact they’re not together at the end of the second book. It’s a risky strategy and I expect some pushback, if not now, then at the end of the second book, currently titled All That Is Solid (Melts Into Air).

I promise everyone that Remy and Michael will be together forever by the end of book 3, and none of this Romeo + Julio nonsense where they’re forever united in death. The reality—and I realize reality is a controversial subject in Romancelandia—is that high school boyfriends never really stood a chance at a HEA without the chance to grow up first. I hope I can prove myself to you as a writer and that you’ll trust me to make good on the promise of the first two books.

So I expected some beady-eye and some “We’re watching you, Koehler” at the end of All That Is Solid, but I also hope there’s some trust there, too. I’ve fallen in love with Remy and Michael, the way I fall in love with all of my characters, and I want only the best for them. Hopefully you, my readers will, too, and will allow me to make them work for it.

PozFSBlurb:

A Harmony Ink Press Young Adult Title

The Lives of Remy and Michael: Book One

Remy Babcock and Mikey Castelreigh are stalwart members of the Capital City Rowing Club’s junior crew, pulling their hardest to earn scholarships to rowing powerhouses like California Pacific. Just a couple of all-American boys, they face the usual pressures of life in an academic hothouse and playing a varsity sport. Add to that the stifling confines of the closet, and sometimes life isn’t always easy, even in the golden bubble of their accepting community. Because Remy and Mikey have a secret: they’re both gay. While Mikey has never hidden it, Remy is a parka and a pair of mittens away from Narnia.

Mikey has always been open about wanting more than friendship, but Remy is as uncomfortable in his own skin as he is a demon on the water. After their signals cross, and a man mistakes Remy for a college student, Remy takes the plunge and hooks up with him. After a furious Mikey cuts Remy off, Remy falls to the pressure of teenage life, wanting to be more and needing it now. In his innocence and naiveté, Remy makes mistakes that have life-long consequences. When Remy falls in the midst of the most important regatta of his life, he can only hope Mikey will be there to catch him when he needs it most.

Author Bio:

Christopher Koehler learned to read late (or so his teachers thought) but never looked back. It was not, however, until he was nearly done with grad school in the history of science that he realized that he needed to spend his life writing and not on the publish-or-perish treadmill. At risk of being thought frivolous, he found that academic writing sucked all the fun out of putting pen to paper.

Christopher is also something of a hothouse flower. Inside of almost unreal conditions he thrives to set the results of his imagination free, and for most of his life he has been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who encouraged both that tendency and the writing. Chief among them is his long-suffering husband of twenty-two years and counting.

When it comes to writing, Christopher follows Anne Lamott’s advice: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” So while he writes fiction, at times he ruthlessly mines his past for character traits and situations. Reality is far stranger than fiction.

Christopher loves many genres of fiction and nonfiction, but he’s especially fond of romances, because it is in them that human emotions and relations, at least most of the ones fit to be discussed publicly, are laid bare.

Writing is his passion and his life, but when Christopher is not doing that, he’s an at-home dad and oarsman with a slightly disturbing interest in manners and other ways people behave badly.

Visit him at http://christopherkoehler.net/blog or follow him on Twitter @christopherink.

Poz_Blog-Tour-Graphic

Poz_Blog-Tour-Schedule-GraphicTour links:

7 Jan – Prism Book Alliance
9 Jan – Cody Kennedy
10 Jan – The Novel Approach
14 Jan – JP Barnaby
15 Jan – Love Bytes
19 Jan – GGR Reviews
21 Jan – Hearts on Fire Reviews
22 Jan – MM Good Book Reviews
26 Jan – James Erich
28 Jan – Joyfully Jay
2 Feb – Rainbow Gold Reviews

Buy links:

Dreamspinner eBook: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5918&cPath=387

Dreamspinner Print: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=5919&cPath=387

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Poz-Lives-Remy-Michael-Book-ebook/dp/B00RPUB96W/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Poz-Lives-Remy-Michael-Book-ebook/dp/B00RPUB96W/

All Romance eBooks: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-poz-1591190-149.html?referrer=509531de39c1c

Frugal Friday Sale on all Dreams of Fire and Gods eBooks!

FrugalFridayThis Friday, Harmony Ink is having a sale on all three of the Dreams of Fire and Gods eBooks!  That’s including the first novel, Dreams, which won Best LGBT YA Novel at the Rainbow Awards last year.

Each one is just $1.99, so the entire trilogy is just about six dollars!

Here are the blurbs and buy links for each one:

  1. Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book One

    A thousand years ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak by warring for the land and the frightened humans who lived there. Then suddenly the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.

    Now, as tensions escalate between the emperor and his regent, Vek Worlen, the vek’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, finds himself allied with a homeless vagabond named Koreh. Together they flee the capital city and make their way across a hostile wilderness to the vek’s keep, mere steps ahead of the emperor’s assassins.
    But Koreh has dreams—dreams of the ancient Taaweh—and he knows the looming war between the emperor and the vek will be nothing compared to the war that is about to begin. The Taaweh are returning, and the war between the gods may destroy the kingdom once and for all.
  2. Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book Two
    A thousand years ago, two rival factions of gods, the Stronni and Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak in their war for power. Then the Taaweh vanished and the Stronni declared victory.Now, tensions between the human emperor and his regent are at an all-time high. The regent’s son, apprentice mage Sael dönz Menaük, has fled the capital with his master and united with a vagabond named Koreh, but assassins dog their footsteps. The future is more uncertain than ever.Since the Taaweh city of Gyishya reappeared, the mages of Harleh have weakened, cut off from the source of their power. Sael and his father struggle to keep their respective cities from crumbling under the strain or being destroyed by the gods. Then Koreh learns of a dangerous Taaweh plan to rescue their queen from the Stronni—a plan only Koreh and Sael can execute.But they may not get a chance. In Harleh Valley, a young man named Donegh pieces together what happened. Intent, he makes his way through an increasingly alien landscape to carry out his mission: assassinate the Dekan of Harleh, Sael dönz Menaük.
  3. Dreams of Fire and Gods: Book Three
    Long ago, two factions of gods, the Stronni and the Taaweh, nearly destroyed the Kingdom of Dasak in a great war. The Taaweh vanished when their queen was imprisoned, and the Stronni declared victory. A thousand years later, a young nobleman named Sael and his lover Koreh have rescued the Taaweh queen. In the process Koreh was killed, and now an injured Sael struggles to heal from both injuries and grief. Unknown to him, Koreh embarks on a journey across the land of the dead, trying to make his way back to Sael—and to life. But time moves differently in the underworld, and decades pass while Koreh travels.In the living world, tensions between the emperor and Sael’s father, Vek Worlen, who is regent of the eastern kingdom, have soured beyond repair. Worlen conspires with the assassin Donegh to break into the imperial palace and challenge the emperor to a duel to the death. But the goddess Imen has chosen a young priest named Gonim as her champion. Through him she discovers the Taaweh have returned, and her enraged king threatens to destroy Dasak and all its human inhabitants. Sael must save his world, must confront the gods and persuade them not to destroy humankind. But it seems hopeless. If only Koreh were at his side…

Viruses on Mars

virus1So it occurred to me that, when two colonies separated for about fifteen years meet again, one or both might have viruses the other hasn’t encountered.  After all, something as simple as the common cold virus supposedly mutates frequently.  We already know of about 200 different viruses associated with the “common cold.”

Well, now I’m not so sure.  I’ve done some digging and it appears that these types of viruses don’t survive for more than a few weeks in the body—our immune system does a fair job of wiping them out.  And they don’t live outside the body for more than a couple weeks, either.  As far as I can surmise, the common cold viruses stay alive by hopping from person to person, so that there are always people out there harboring the viruses, keeping them alive.

So how would a population of about 20 people keep the cold incubating?  After a matter of months, any cold virus going around would effectively be obliterated.  Fifteen years later, it seems very unlikely there would be any kicking around at all.

Well, it’s a question I haven’t been able to answer with any certainty.  Maybe I’m wrong and there’s a way for the common cold to stay active in a small population.  But in the meantime, a Facebook friend supplied me with a better possibility:  the Epstein-barr virus.

This is the virus we commonly associate with “Mono” in high school or college.  It’s characterized by fatigue, possibly a sore throat, a fever, swollen lymph nodes, etc.  The fatigue can drag on for several weeks, even after the other symptoms have subsided.  It turns out, nearly 90% of humans have had the virus by the time they reach adulthood.  We don’t all notice it, however, because it doesn’t always manifest symptoms.  If you catch it as a child, it’s likely you won’t ever have symptoms, or the symptoms will be mild enough your parents might think you just have a cold.

Unfortunately, as we get older, the symptoms can be more severe.  This is why some teenagers or college students who get the virus experience “Mono,” that fatigue that goes on for weeks and weeks.  In a small percentage of cases, the symptoms can be far worse.  Epstein-barr has been linked to encephalitis and several types of lymphoma.  It would therefore be a serious concern for the colonists.

And the best part (from the perspective of my story) is that it never leaves the body, once you have it.  The virus can remain dormant for decades, until some stress on the body causes it to reactivate.  At which point, it can be passed through contact with the infected person’s saliva—something as simple as a mother kissing her child, someone taking a bite of something and sharing the rest, or a parent picking up toys that have been drooled on.

(In reality, I don’t think this is “cool.”  The person who brought all of this to my attention learned about the virus when it struck her family in a particularly tragic way.)

So after researching this, I’ve had to go back and rewrite a couple chapters.  When it was just the common cold I was dealing with, I could play it for humor.  Now it’s not going to be a horrible tragedy for the colonies—that would derail the story too much—but they’ll have to take it a bit more seriously.