Friday, February 10, 2023

Friday Notes

I'm probably going to be dark for the weekend, but hope to be back next week with some excerpts from or commentary on Courting up in the Inherited Stars series. 

It's also book four that includes a StarDog. Courting Disaster was originally published in Pets in Space 2, but this story is being extensively revised, updated and expanded, so it will be a very different book once it's published, though the premise and characters will be the same. 

Truth be told, Courting Disaster was my least favorite story of all the StarDog tales I wrote for previous Pets in Space collections, so I've been taking quite a bit of time to work on some of the issues I had with the story. It's really a pivotal book in the series and will set the stage for future works, so it deserves the extra time and attention. I don't want to publish it until it's where I want it to be (but it's getting there fast--*knock on wood*). 

As a side note, Luna, our pup whose namesake is the StarDog in Courting Disaster, just had surgery to remove a mass, so we need to keep a very close eye on her for the next few days, hence my going a bit quiet. 

See you next week! 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Pyramids: Fact and Fiction

Writing my upcoming novel, Draxis, involved a lot of research into ancient cultures, and primarily the Egyptian and Olmec societies. That, of course, entailed a lot of research on pyramids.

Pyramids turned out to be a pretty fascinating subject. 

Ancient Pyramids were Bright and Shiny

The pyramids weren't always crumbling masses of dissolving limestone.

That's how the pyramids appear now, as immense pointed structures of jumbled sand-colored rock, but they were once smooth-sided, being adorned in polished limestone. These casing stones were individually cut to specific angles to seamlessly cover the structure, and were then sanded until they shone. In the ages since, this polished outer layer has been knocked loose by earthquakes or dismantled by more modern residents for buildings and other uses.

Sudan has More Pyramids than Egypt

Egypt is renown for its pyramids and has around 140 (that we know of to date), but there's another culture that has even more. To the south, in present-day Sudan, more than 200 pyramids have been found!

Until the mid-20th century, most archaeologists considered the Sudan pyramids as nothing more than extensions of Egypt, instead of the remnants of a unique culture. But the pyramids in Sudan, most located in Meroe, are structurally different. They are smaller, steeper, and surrounded by collections of chapels and monuments that are unique to Nubian culture.

Though Egyptian-type pyramids are found in a very large area, including Italy and Greece, there are many forms of pyramids that are located in widely diverse areas -- including deep underground.

The Americas Contain More Pyramids Than the Rest of the World Combined — And the Largest!

In ancient Mesoamerica, a region spanning from much of modern-day Mexico through most of Central America, peoples such as the Olmecs, Incas, Aztecs, and Mayan had their own brand of pyramid structures dating back to around 1000 BCE. In fact, they built vast numbers of them but unlike the Egyptians, they didn't use them exclusively as tombs.

The most well-known structures are in Teotihuacan (Tay oh TEE wah con), an ancient Aztec city near present-day Mexico City. The Pyramid of the Sun was the largest of these structures and was built by constructing retaining walls which were filled with rubble, then had an adobe retaining wall encompassing the structure that was cased in limestone. The nearby Pyramid of the Moon was built the same way. It was discovered that the Pyramid of the Sun hides a secret: another pyramid, accessible through a cave beneath the structure. These pyramids have been dated to 1 and 200 CE, but the pyramid inside the cave is much older.

The  Olmec civilization built their own brand of pyramids. The Great Pyramid in La Venta (near present-day Tabasco, Mexico) is different: It’s essentially a clay mountain. Later Olmec pyramids were also earth mounds, and they were only covered by stone steps to finish them.

The Great Pyramid of Cholula, or Tlachihualtepetl, in Mexico, is the largest pyramid on the planet -- but by volume not by height! It dates back to circa 200 BCE, and in essence, it's basically six pyramids stacked over each other. 

Later civilizations expanded this earlier work, taking care to preserve the older structure. The new layers are composed of adobe bricks. Over time, the pyramid eventually became covered by jungle foliage and was later abandoned. That may have been fortunate, because when the Spanish invaders swept through, led by Hernan Cortez, over 3,000 inhabitants were murdered and most of the infrastructure of their culture was destroyed. The Spanish apparently thought Tlachihualtepetl was just part of the natural topography because it survived the assault by the invaders who dismantled or destroyed many of their other buildings.

Discoveries are Still Being Made

The tallest of the Egyptian structures, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, has been under rigorous study for more than a thousand years. Yet, even today, we’re discovering more about what is inside, including vast new chambers that were previously sealed and unknown. Using cosmic ray technology, the Scan Pyramids project -- a collaboration between Egyptian, French, and Japanese research institutions began in 2015 -- is using updated technology for a non-invasive searches inside the structures.

To date, they’ve found two previously undiscovered areas: a corridor on the north face of the pyramid and a huge void above the Grand Gallery measuring at least 100 feet long. It appears to be a similar structure to the Grand Gallery that connects various areas of the pyramid, including the burial chamber.

A team of American researchers wants to use other technology to get a complete three-dimensional image of the void area to determine if it's just a structural facet or a previously unknown chamber. Once completed, this study could provide much information on exactly how the pyramids were built.

Pyramids According to Draxis

My work-in-progress (temporary title: "Draxis") puts a totally different spin on pyramids. In this fictional version, the heroine learns that the Egyptians didn't build the pyramids, they merely repurposed the structures (including the Sphinx) that were already there, and were far, far older than the Egyptian dynasties by at least 6,000 years -- and still standing, though crumbling. 

The Egyptians performed the mother or all fixer-uppers and repaired and re-coated the massive structures to be the bright and shining monuments their culture became known for. 

They re-carved the head of the giant Sphinx, once a massive lion believed to honor the constellation of Leo -- which was in a different position in the skies in that earlier time. The Sphinx structure had been built in that ancient past so it faced directly toward the constellation shaped like a lion. The Egyptians carved the head of the lion into the likeness of their Pharoah, leaving the head clearly out-of-proportion to the rest of the structure, as we can see today. 

The mysterious earlier civilization had build the pyramid structures as giant power-generating stations that drew energy from the natural world to supply their advanced society that had thrived until the Younger-Dryas event wiped out civilization, as well as technology, as they knew it. Millennia later when the Egyptians re-worked these structures they found a maze of passages and chambers inside that they didn't understand, but branded with their symbols and painted with their stains to appropriate them as their own. They then used them (possibly) to bury their venerated dead.

The civilization on the planet Draxis also uses pyramids for most of their primary structures, though they more resembled the pyramids of the Americas with stepped terraces and attached porticos. The Draxians use primarily pastel colors to finish them -- soft beiges, peaches, aquas and lavenders -- with elaborate geometric murals. They didn't build them for looks. They built them because they were the standard for structures in their hot, dry, sometimes harsh culture -- stable, cool and energy-generating.

Although their grand palace is not a pyramid, it does have twenty-seven towers topped with pyramidal structures to generate energy, just as Earth's variety are suspected of doing by some researchers. One of these towers is used by the royal physician for it's healing properties, and this is where the heroine, Katrina, awakes at the beginning of the story.

Who the Draxians are, and what their civilization represents is what Katrina will discover as the story unfolds. Draxis is a civilization in decline, and an ancient legend says that a person known as The Flame will either save them or plunge them into oblivion. The ruling monarch, King Alii'us (Ah LEE us) loves Katrina, and believes her to be The Flame. But can he convince her that both he and his planet need her desperately even though she demands to be returned to her former world, and her former life?

This is the opening of the story (prefaced by a brief prologue that sets the stage for Katrina's journey). 

If you enjoyed the premise of "Draxis" and you're curious about the upcoming book, here's a bonus for you. There's a free short story set in the world of Draxis available on this blog titled The Recruit. It's a quick read, but it's packed with mystery and action, and there's a character from the story you'll meet in the book. 

The premise of The Recruit is that it's a scene taken from the book, but turned inside out and presented from a different POV. It takes place in the ancient jungle known as the Green Death, which is another name for The Black Stand mentioned in Juggernaut. (Juggernaut takes place on the planet LaGuardia, which had it's name changed from Draxis centuries before.) Click this link to read The Recruit.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023


Danger, Will Robinson!

The Juggernaut introductory price is ending very soon!

Grab your copy for .99 cents NOW before it goes to the regular price of $2.99.

Click here to see the book on Amazon.

(The price change is at the whim of Amazon KDP, but the sale price will probably end in the next 24-48 hours.)

Monday, February 6, 2023

JUGGERNAUT Excerpt: Man Troubles

Welcome to today's excerpt from new release Juggernauta book in the Inherited Stars series. The story is an expanded, revised version of a shorter story originally published in Pets in Space 5 (no longer available).

This comes with a quick reminder the Amazon Kindle book will only be on sale at .99 cents for a few more days. If you're reading this on February 6th, this is a great time -- and  possibly the last time -- to grab it at a bargain price. (Click this link to visit Amazon.)

Scene Set-Up

Lieutenant Commander Dekessa "Dek" Garr is having man problems. No, not the romantic kind. (At least, not yet.) As second in command, she's been left in charge of the ultra-secure Site D, located in an underground lava tube. But her fellow security team members aren't quite sure how to deal with her as their new boss, and the mysterious stranger -- and his StarDog partner -- who has suddenly been dumped in her lap isn't being very cooperative either.

Excerpt from Juggernaut:

Satisfied Telon’s creature posed no threat to her personnel, Dek left Major Remm in charge of getting the man and his pet settled in quarters.

She directed the major to have the quartermaster assign a vacant berth in Block A. Having the mystery guest and his pointy-eared partner quartered on her level would help her keep a closer watch on their activities.

As she made her way to the mess to grab a morning meal, she met Sergeant Garr on the path.

“Congrats…Boss,” he grumbled, clearly not happy with her in-charge status.

Dek ignored his jibe. “Those kids on the beach. They okay?”

“Yeah. Staggered away from the perimeter shortly after you left, shaken, but under their own power. But since when have you been sentimental about interlopers?”

“It could become a security issue,” she clarified. “They might be back. Possibly with friends.”

“Maybe we should just blast them next time.”

Again, she let his insolent response slide off. “We need to consider placing a secondary deterrent at some distance beyond the barrier.”

“What would you suggest?” Garr gave her a scathing look.

“Why don’t you come up with a plan. Put some thought into it and report back.”

“Yes, sir.” Garr performed an exaggerated salute.

“Carry on.” She passed him, continuing her trek to the mess hall, but the cold burn of Garr’s gaze drilled into her back.

Countering his challenge with a tasking was a subtle form of discipline she hoped might temper the junior officer’s streak of insolence. Pulling rank on him on her first day as acting commander would only heighten his belligerence. Better to give him the time to work through his issues on his own. Patience could win wars before they even started.

When she reached her destination, the boisterous din of the breakfast crowd fell to a sudden hush. Ignoring their scrutiny, she grabbed a tray. Conversations picked back up as she went down the line, selecting im-eggs and pancs from the offerings, before turning to make her way to a table with a couple of other members of the task force. Their conversation stopped as she drew near, and they exchanged glances.

“Acting Commander,” they muttered in stereo.

“Sergeant Caffron. Officer Bell.”

She settled and thumbed quickly through the StatCon messages scrolling on her wristcom. While her companions focused on wolfing down their meals, she switched on the surv-cam video to zero in on the site’s visitor. She locked on the feed of Telon milling beneath the ceiling breach, smiling as his little beastie scampered along the fallen jumble of basalt, her fluffy, cream-colored tail a stark contrast to the mottled black rocks. The little critter’s enthusiasm made Dek crack a tiny smile, too.

At the abrupt sound of scraping chair legs, she glanced up. Her two companions gave her stiff nods and walked single file to deposit their trays in the receptacle. She now had an eight-topper to herself in spite of the growing crowd. Obviously, command was going to be a lonely job.

Dek took a couple of bites of her meal and washed it down with a long swig of weak kinna before checking the surv-cam footage again.

Telon—and his little prototype—had vanished.

Dek straightened in her chair, scowled, and flipped through the various surveillance feeds. Quarters block. Zip. Command offices. Nothing. Secure lift entrance—she held her breath—nope. Her guest and his pet had seemingly disappeared into thin air.


Enjoy this excerpt and want to read another snippet? Check out last week's excerpt from Juggernaut here.

Thanks for visiting The Firebird today!