To create a fictional world, you have to have a bit of the archaeologist or prospector in you. A penchant for saying ‘what-if’ helps a lot, too.
What if the eagle that flew by, yards away, pacing your jog on the bluff, was ten times bigger; if the tree-house in the backyard was a hundred times larger and higher and much more than the occasional playhouse for your kids; if the kilted guy you heard on St. Patrick’s Day played bagpipes that were…alive?
The dark, gritty fantasy world of the Six Kingdoms materialized over many years, unearthed book by book, and it comes with kraken that rule the seas and Erseiyrs the skies; with magnificent castles and timbered roads that link villages high in the canopy of forest wilderness; and in cities like Draica you’ll find bloodsnare dens, where pale musicians play living, parasitic creatures, the symbiosis producing an audible narcotic.
And somewhere above, the High Fates at their Loom Eternal weave the fabric of lives, whether human, stoneskin, Timberlimb or the mysterious and nightmarish Murkmen who haven’t as yet made their appearance in the series but will, I promise.
If you visit the Six Kingdoms I just hope you’ll be cursing or thanking those High Fates for what they’re doing to heroes, heroines and the in-betweeners: Lukan Barra and Rui Ravenstone; Falca Breks, Amala Damarr, Shar Stakeen and a Timberlimb named Gurrus. And hissing at the likes of Vearus Barra, Saphrax, Lambrey Tallon and Heresa Hoster.
The first book in the series, The Shadow of His Wings, was a finalist for the Crawford Award for best first fantasy novel and was Nebula nominated like the second, The Mace of Souls. Pass on the Cup of Dreams is the third and longest, to be followed by Kraken’s Claw which is set primarily in the city of Milatum, the jewel of the kingdom of Keshkevar, though for a time Falca Breks finds it anything but glittering.
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And the suspense novels?
Research for The Piper’s Sons, nominated for best novel by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Association, took me to various places in Washington state and elsewhere. The Cascade Mountain forest fires of the book were real; the derelict WWII freighter run-aground on an island in the San Juan archipelago wasn’t, but I had a fun time poking through the innards of an old Liberty ship berthed in San Francisco.
Prospecting for another suspense novel, Morgan’s Mill, found me on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where maternal ancestors once had a gristmill, if not secrets beneath it. I provided those. Family secrets are rarely as juicy as you’d like.
A third, Two Graves for Michael Furey, will be published in 2015. It’s set in the Northwest and in the Erie Canal region of upstate New York, near where I spent my high school years. Having a hero who never quite made it to The Show as a ball-player is, after all, the next best thing to your getting there.
Home now is in Edmonds, Washington, not far from the ferry landing where, in that 1959 best-selling post-apocalypse novel On the Beach (and movie; Gregory Peck played the lead), the submarine sailor jumped ship to live out the remaining radioactive hours of his life. Even if the worthies of the local Chamber of Commerce know about the fictional connection they’re keeping mum, understandably.
Still, a nice place to write books.