Despite my late night blackest imaginings, apparently I can actually write a good story.
“I loved these two books. A wild and crazy ride, with great characters and a very imaginative story. I need more….please!”
The introductory speculation (first sentence, above) probably makes more sense to other authors. I’ll elaborate.
The problem is: writing a reasonably good book is only half the equation. The book still has to find readers and that requires marketing–aggressive marketing. At the current rate of change in the book marketplace, doing a reasonably good job of marketing requires all of your time, so how does one find the time to write?
I’d rather be writing. It’s fun to develop a book and watch the characters you’ve imagined develop. It’s enjoyable to tell an entertaining story. Getting positive feedback is wonderful.
On the other hand, marketing is expensive, a lot of drudgery, boring (at least to me), and frustrating. The learning curve is very steep and to make matters worse, the topography of the available venues and tools changes continuously.
Then there is the competition — millions upon millions of books, who knows? Thousands, maybe even tens of competitors are searching for your perfect reader. (Trying to be funny here.) In point of fact, the better you narrow down your optimal market, the fewer the competing books, but then the fewer the buyers also.
Heart of Fire Time of Ice seems to enrage some readers, while others find it so enjoyable they immediately start on the sequel: All the Moments in Forever. I can live with that, if I have to, that is.
Then there’s Cyber-Witch: The Origin of Magic <sigh>. It won the silver President’s medal from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association this year (2018). People who read it like it, but readers aren’t finding it or are bypassing it for some reason. Few sales to date and I’m deep in the end stages of writing a sequel.
Why am I doing this? I mean writing a sequel for a book that doesn’t sell. Why??? <insert mental picture of a man choking himself with his own hands>
Two reasons really. One is that Cyber-Witch is really close to potential reality. It is a possible version of our world at the very beginning of the AI apocalypse. The sequel extends that world into an interesting future.
The other reason is I think the basic idea is a good one and the characters deserve their story to be told.
The two books are entertaining and hopefully thought-provoking. The reader is led to contemplate questions about sentience and whether an AI can be considered to be equivalent to a human. I’m not positive yet, but I’m pretty sure that the character “Snake” in the second book will tug at the reader’s heartstrings with his (its-although he has decided that he has masculine characteristics) struggles.
As I write, I’m continually amazed at the plot twists that develop seemingly without my active intervention. Things just suggest themselves as part of the story. I’m left wondering how I can blend the various elements into a seamless whole, but they are resolving nicely at this point. Still, I want to be done–just to see how it all turns out.
The one thing I’m sure of is I’m not making much money out of all this effort. However, I still love to write.
Two day Gift for You
Free on Kindle Friday and Saturday
5/12 & 5/13/18. How would you respond if you were faced with a personal disaster and then found yourself in the Pleistocene with no obvious way to return? Predators think you’re food, and then there’s that crazy, elusive girl who keeps showing up.
STORY NOTES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
I had a great time writing All the Moments in Forever. It was the direct result of a reader’s request for a sequel for Heart of Fire Time of Ice. (Yes, I actually do pay attention to my readers.) Since part of the action happens in the Cretaceous period – around 100MYA, I decided to post the information I used (including my authoring decisions) about some of the creatures in the story.
Acrocanthosaurus was a theropod dinosaur from what is now North America. It was similar to an Allosaurus in that its skull was long, narrow, and relatively flat. The Acrocanthosaurus was one of the largest theropods, measuring up to 11.5 meters from snout to tail tip and weighing up to 6.2 tons. Its skull was about 1.3 meters in length, only slightly shorter than that of the largest known Tyrannosaurus Rex, although the Acro’s total size and weight were less.
The distinctive feature of this creature was a rather high ridge along its spine caused by extensions that were more than 2.5 times the height of the vertebrae from which they extended. The creature was bipedal with a long heavy tail. Its legs suggested that it was not a particularly fast runner, despite being the apex predator of its time and location.
My description of the creature as being covered with yellow down and making a cheeping noise was prompted by my sense of the absurd and is almost certainly not accurate.
Astrodon was a genus of large herbivorous sauropod dinosaur, related to Brachiosaurus, that lived in what is now the eastern United States during the Early Cretaceous period. Paleontologists have estimated adult astrodons to have been more than 9 m (30 ft) high and 15 to 18 m (50 to 60 ft) long. The creatures most likely inhabited broad, flat plains with rivers, similar to coastal regions of southern North America. Astrodon lived in the same locations as the dromaeosaurid Deinonychus and the carnosaur Acrocanthosaurus. It was most likely a primary prey source for both predators.
During the Late Cretaceous, starting about 106 million years ago (mya) and lasting to 66 mya, the climate was warmer than it is today. The long-term trend for the period resulted in gradually cooling temperatures that restricted he tropics to equatorial regions. Northern latitudes experienced markedly more seasonal climate.
Dinosaurs reached their apex during this period and there were many species. In this story, I’ve limited the fauna to some of the more common (by the fossil record) types that would have been found in what is now North America. Both primitive birds and pterosaurs could be found in the skies during this period, although they did not seem to overlap ecologically. The birds became increasingly common and diverse, diversifying in a variety of forms.
The fauna was made more diverse by the presence of cimolodonts and multituberculates which were the two most common mammals in North America. Flowering plants began to appear during this time.
The Cretaceous ended with the K-T extinction event that occurred about 66 mya. Before that time, the fossil record shows dinosaurs. After that time, it shows mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles, but no dinosaurs.
Evidence suggests that the dromaeosaurid Deinonychus inhabited a floodplain or swamp like habitat by preference. The land was covered by tropical or sub-tropical forests, deltas and lagoons, not unlike Louisiana. Other animals Deinonychus shared its world with include various herbivorous dinosaurs and the large theropod Acrocanthosaurus.
The Deinonychus had an adult mass of 70 to 100 kilograms which places them roughly in the human spectrum of weight. They ranged to about 3.4 meters in length and stood approximately waist high to a human. Its skeleton suggests that it was an active and nimble predator, capable of outrunning a human. It most likely hunted as an ambush predator, lying in wait and dashing out when a prey animal came near. There is good evidence that the Dromaeosauridae family had feathers. Multiple fossils of Microraptor have been found with feathers and that animal is in the same family, although more primitive than Deinonychus.
Eggs from the Deinonychus species are estimated to have a diameter of 7 centimeters (2.7 inches). Skeletons of various sizes have been found together, indicating that the creature cared for its young and possibly hunted in packs. Its primary prey seems to have been the ornithopod dinosaur Tenotosaurus, although it was possibly capable of bringing down larger animals. The tenotosaurs were larger animals, ranging between 1 to 4 tons and most likely unkillable by a single Deinonychus, thus the supposition that they hunted in packs.
The most noticeable aspect of the Deinonychus was its large, sickle-shaped talon on the second toe of each hind foot. This talon has been reconstructed as being nearly five inches in length (120 mm). This fearsome talon has been hypothesized to be the creature’s main weapon.
It has been estimated that the related creature, Velociraptor, was approximately as intelligent as a rather dull chicken. In order to add interest to this story, I made an artistic decision that the Deinonychus was more intelligent than a modern African Grey Parrot. African Grey’s have been shown to be able to learn vocabularies of more than 1,000 human words and can use the words correctly and even creatively to express thoughts, including humor. If the Deinonychus was on that level of intelligence, then my Deinonychus characters become more believable. Regardless of the realism or lack thereof, I had a lot of fun writing about them.
Gastonia is an herbivorous ankylosaurian dinosaur from the Early Cretaceous of North America. Low and flat, it had heavy armor in the form of a bony shield across the lower back and large shoulder spikes. It was medium sized in terms of its relatives, with a length of about five meters and a weight of approximately two tons. It probably was more or less indifferent to attacks from all but the largest predators. Its armor and spike weaponry would have been sufficient to discourage any but the hungriest carnosaur. The tail was moderately long and lacked the tail club that similar species displayed.
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo that lived in Africa, Europe and Asia up until about 600,000 years ago.
The skulls of this homonin indicate that its brain was nearly as large as that of Homo sapiens. Homo heidelbergensis appears to have been the ancestor of Neanderthals, Denisovans, and modern humans (which arose around 130,000 years ago). Homo heidelbergensis appears to have migrated into Europe and Asia somewhere around 125,000 years ago. It is not known to have found its way to North America.
Males of the species averaged about 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) tall and possibly weighed a light 62 kg (136 lb). Females averaged 1.57 m (5 ft 2 in) and 51 kg (112 lb).This is based on a reconstruction of limb bones. However, according to Lee R. Berger of the University of the Witwatersrand, significant fossil findings show that the species had some populations that averaged over 2.13 m (7 ft) tall. If these taller individuals weight was proportionate to their height, they would have been as large and possibly heavier than the largest modern humans.
My Forest Giants are the result of my speculation that a population of such creatures somehow survived the advent of modern humans by retiring into wilderness areas where humans seldom came. They could have migrated to the new world earlier than humans. If they survived, using the same reclusive strategy, they could have been present at the time this story begins. Tails of their presence along with modern humans could have been handed down verbally from generation to generation, resulting in the ongoing belief in Sasquatch/Bigfoot.
If these creatures were few in number and extremely reclusive, they could find areas of wilderness in North America where they could survive relatively unnoticed.
Iguanodontoids are often included in the Hadrosauroieda superfamily. The Iguanodons were large herbivores that could stand upright, but probably preferred to walk in a quadrupedal mode. They have been estimated to weigh 3.5 tons and to be about 10 meters (33 feet) in length.
My usage of them in this story is problematical. The characters could have mistaken one of the various hadrosaurs for iguanodons, although the observation of a thumb spike would be a good indication that the animal was actually an iguanodont.
Microraptor was one of the smallest non-avian dinosaurs. Adult specimens can be up to 83 centimeters long (2.72 ft) and possibly weighed 1 kilogram (2.2 lb). They were also among the first non-avian dinosaurs discovered with evidence of feathers and wings. Their feathers included long flight feathers on their legs as well as on their wings and their bodies were thickly covered with long plumes on their head.
Careful analysis of their remains indicates that they displayed a black, glossy coloration similar to many modern birds. Their feathers may also have shown iridescence. Microraptors may have been nocturnal predators and the dark coloring might have helped them ambush prey. They were an ancestral species to the Deinonychosaurs although the two may have overlapped and been present at the same time.
The Sangamonian Interglacial Stage is the term used to designate the last interglacial period in North America. It ranged from 75,000 to about 125,000 years ago. It was a period of diverse mammalian species in North America, where the large animals roamed freely prior to the arrival of human populations. The climate was favorable and winters were generally mild in lower latitudes.
Tenontosaurus was a medium-to large-sized herbivorous ornithopod dinosaur. It was about 6.5 to 8 meters (21 to 26 ft) long and 3 meters (9.8 ft) high in a bipedal stance, with a mass of somewhere between 1 to 2 tons. It had an unusually long, broad tail, which was stiffened with a network of bony tendons.
Troodon were smaller dinosaurs, standing possibly waist high to a human and stretching up to eight feet in length, a good part of which was neck and tail. They may have weighed up to around 100 pounds and the largest specimens are similar to Deinonychus in size, although they probably averaged smaller. Their limbs suggest that they were quick and agile. The retractable curved claw on their foot reinforces the idea that they may have been predators. Their eyes were large enough to allow them to hunt at night and they also had some amount of depth perception. Troodon had a large brain relative to their body size. They were probably a match in intelligence to some modern birds. They seem to have matured into their full size by 3 to 5 years of age.
PLEISTOCENE MEGA-FAUNA NOTES
I had a good time working with the prehistoric animals mentioned in my story Heart of Fire Time of Ice. Who isn’t intrigued with creatures such as saber-tooth tigers? (Well, maybe not everyone.)
I couldn’t weave every possible animal into the story, but I used a number of the larger and more prominent ones that I thought my readers would be likely to know.
I made an effort to have the animals behave in ways that are consistent with what we know about them based on similar modern species. My description of their behavior is based on my imagination only and not to be taken as factual.
The saber-tooth tigers’ habits are still a matter of great speculation. No one has been able to satisfactorily explain how they used their enormous canines. The lengthy teeth seem to have been too fragile for the type of hunting techniques used by most of today’s big cats.
I made the assumption that the saber-toothed cats were more like lions and hunted primarily in groups. This would seem to be a necessity, considering the large size of many of the prey animals of the period.
One idea that I took into consideration was that the large numbers of herbivores would inevitably lead to numerous predators. It seems to me that humans of the period would be exposed to a lot of random predation. The large predators most likely wouldn’t actively seek out humans, but they most assuredly wouldn’t turn down a tasty snack, if they happened upon one.
In the next section, you’ll find a partially annotated list of Pleistocene animals. I’ve made some notes on animals that are not commonly known. Not all of them found their way into the plot. In addition, the list is not exhaustive, nor is it in the order in which the animals appear in the story.
MEGA-FAUNA AND OTHER ANIMALS
This section contains a partial list of animals that early North American humans might have encountered. It is not intended to be complete.
Birds – Grouse and other upland game birds, along with most of the ancestors of today’s birds, including many species of ducks and geese. Birds of prey, such as eagles, would have been more common.
Bison – Two species existed in America
Black Bear – The common black bear would be larger due to the necessity of surviving in the colder climate
Giant short-faced bear – six-feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours. This bear would have been the most dangerous, single predator. It would have been very difficult to kill using Paleolithic weapons. It would have been possibly one-third to one-half larger than modern polar bears.
Grizzly Bear – as dangerous to humans then as it is today
Lesser short-faced bear – Closer to grizzly size. Bears were a valuable source of meat and fat for early settlers. Early accounts reveal that they were an important food for American Indians. They frequently diced up venison (which is very lean) and fried it in bear fat. One would expect the Clovis people to have done the same.
Western Camel – the Western Camel was a migrating herd animal
Cave Lion – Pantera Atrox – The American Cave Lion was 40% larger than modern African Lions
Cheetah – The American Cheetah was unrelated to today’s African Cheetah. It was larger than modern cheetahs.
Coyote – possibly a little larger than modern coyotes
Deer of various species
Dire wolf – more closely related to coyotes than gray wolves. Larger and heavier than gray wolves.
Fish – many species, including the Saber-tooth Salmon which was nine-feet long
Glyptotherium – A giant armadillo-like creature; probably a swamp dweller and unlikely to occur near the glaciers
Homotherium – unique hyena-like scimitar-toothed cats that were probably pack hunters, smaller than Smilodon
Horse – became extinct in America, only to be re-introduced by the Spanish
Jaguar – Larger than modern Jaguars
Llama – at least two species, herd animals
Lynx –This small, solitary hunter was also larger than modern versions.
Mammoth – various species of which the Columbian Mammoth is the one referred to in the story. It could weigh upwards of 20,000 pounds.
Mastodon – smaller than the mammoths. They most likely either lived a solitary life or lived in small groups
Puma/Mountain lion – probably larger than the modern animal
Rabbit and other rodents
Skunk and other mustelids such as weasels, etc. Wolverines would have been an occasional danger to humans. They’ve been known to kill both wolves and bears.
Smilodon Fatalis – nearly African lion sized, bulky, ambush predators with six-inch fangs
Giant ground sloth – ten feet tall or more with huge claws – probably found singly or with cubs, but not in groups
Peccary – small pigs, found today in the American Southwest
Pronghorn – 14 species existed; only one exists today
Saiga – antelope
Tapir – most likely swamp-dwelling and unlikely to be far north
Wolf – Gray wolves might have been about the size of today’s Gray wolf. While there are other species of wolf in America, the story restricts itself to the Gray Timber Wolf.
Today, in contrast to the Pleistocene period, the largest North American land animal is the American Bison. The largest predator is the Polar Bear, followed by the Kodiak Bear. A Giant Short-faced bear (illustration above) would probably be almost one-quarter larger than a polar bear.
To a human, either would be a fearsome predator, although not invulnerable. The Inuit used primitive weapons to kill polar bears and the Clovis culture probably would have done the same.
I’ve decided to post some of my notes from the time I was writing Heart of Fire Time of Ice in order to give you an insight into my writing process and also to explain (partly) the context in which I set the story.
I made the decision, when I was first starting to write novels, to research the known scientific aspects of all of my stories. (Some of my stories involve pure imagination, particularly when other planets and alien life-forms are involved.) There is a fine line between spending so much time researching that the story does not get written and simply making things up to give the story a superficial aspect of reality. I try to compromise, researching enough to provide meaningful and mostly scientifically accepted facts or at least theories, but not getting hung up on becoming an expert on the topics I’m researching. This post involves analyzing the climate factors that would have impacted the world that my main characters inhabit for most of the story.
Readers will know that the story involves time travel with a modern woman inadvertently transferred into the Pleistocene period. My heroine, Kathleen, ends up in the later part of the period known as the Younger Dryas. With that being said, I’ll present my notes below:
STORY RESEARCH and NOTES
Researching the Pleistocene forces one to become aware of the climate. The glaciers were the most prominent feature of life. Their presence modified climate, provided an avenue for man to colonize North America and impacted the migration routes and habits of animals. The glacial ice was thousands of feet thick and extended south past the present day Great Lakes.
Near the end of the Pleistocene, Earth had moved into a warming period, and the glaciers started to retreat and melt. The melt-water runoff mostly flowed down the Mississippi river valley. The water flowed into the Gulf of Mexico, was warmed in the shallows of the Gulf and eventually joined the Gulf Stream flowing north. The Gulf Stream acted as a conveyor belt to carry the warmer water’s heat to the northern part of the Atlantic.
The period of the Pleistocene known as the Younger Dryas was apparently initiated by a perfect storm of adverse events. One theory is that an asteroid struck the thickest part of the ice sheet above the Great Lake area. The impact would have vaporized the miles-thick ice, leaving no crater and no evidence and killed millions of creatures including any humans unfortunate enough to live nearby. This is the scenario that I use in the story. (Cadeyrin, the Clovis hunter who is the other main character, had heard of a huge flood when he was a child, and the weather had changed quickly after that event, causing his people to move westward.)
The meteorite (or possibly comet) would have freed melt-water and chunks of ice that could have blocked the Mississippi river. The theory is that the melt-water was then forced to find a new pathway, flowing into the north Atlantic along the St. Lawrence River.
The cold, fresh water would have the effect of displacing the Gulf Stream. Without its warming effect, the north Atlantic conveyor system would break down. This would have resulted in global temperature drops that would cause the glacial ice to begin to grow again.
The increase in glacial ice would then have locked up atmospheric water causing the climate to become vastly dryer. There is geological evidence of huge dust storms that killed vegetation during this period. This would starve the mega-fauna that depended on large amounts of easy grazing.
Based on what is called the Solutrean hypothesis (not currently held in favor by anthropologists), the Clovis people were present on the eastern coast of the North American continent (in fact, there are far more Clovis projectiles found there than elsewhere, lending credence to this idea). Dust and intense north Atlantic storms would probably have caused them to head west, searching for better conditions. It would be very cold and dry there, also, and that would result in less prey, forcing the humans to fight for resources. This scenario nicely sets up the story’s conflict between the Paleo-Indians and the Clovis people. It also works perfectly for my story, so that is why I selected it. In addition, it involves a migration of people from Europe that was quite likely possible. We know that Vikings reached the new world and possibly humans from Ireland and the British Isles, so why not an earlier migration, especially when the climate would have created very low sea levels, leaving the Grand Banks out of water and allowing men to hunt the forests which have left trees that are still found on the sea bottom there.
Thirty species of animals, including several species of rabbits and skunks, became extinct in the Younger Dryas, and Clovis technology also disappeared. Clovis projectiles were replaced with the Folsom variant and other forms of more modern arrowheads. Possibly the Clovis people themselves modified their signature projectile points into the Folsom form. There isn’t a tremendous difference in the points, save in the fluting. Extending the length of the center flute on both sides of the point seems to be a simple advancement that would allow the point to be re-sharpened and re-used more easily when broken.
The Younger Dryas period saw nearly eighty percent of the mega-fauna disappear, leaving mostly bison with a few of the other species. One would expect the carnivores to survive a little longer than herbivores. In the time of this story, the remaining carnivores have turned to scavenging hunted prey and predating on humans more than previously.
While it’s easy to make the assumption that the presence of humans with enhanced killing skills was responsible for the extinction of the large herd animals, it seems more probable to me that the harsh climate and lack of vegetation impacted the mega-fauna to a greater degree than the relatively few human hunters. Despite the near extinction of the American Bison by meat and hide hunters using firearms in the 1800’s, the Bison survived quite nicely for thousands of years prior to that, even while being hunted by the American Indians using Paleolithic weapons and fire-drives.
As to the thought that fire-drives caused the extinction of most of the mega-fauna, I would say that fire-drives depend upon large, open grasslands with dry grass to provide fuel. Lightning-caused fires often burn such areas, and the fauna would have been at least somewhat used to surviving burning prairies as a matter of course.
Still, without time-travel, it’s mostly speculation. However, this is a fictional story, after all, and who is to say that the world of Cadeyrin didn’t exist?
Thanks for reading!