PLEISTOCENE CLIMATE: Writing notes from Heart of Fire Time of Ice

Example Clovis Projectile Point

Example Clovis Projectile Point

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?

Should you want to read more, here’s a link to the story: Heart of Fire Time of Ice and to the sequel: All the Moments in Forever.

Thanks for reading!

Eric

Readers Love Series: The Top 16 Recently Released Time Travel Books

Time: A human construct?

Who doesn’t like familiar characters?

Han and Leia? Kirk and Spock? Harry Potter? Katniss Everdeen? I’ll be back!, Aliens, James Bond? That last might be a little too much, since the franchise has almost become a parody of itself.

My point is that we enjoy reading more about characters we’ve come to enjoy or even love. To reinforce this idea, here’s a little bit of research for all of you science fiction fans who are interested in time travel. I researched the top selling science fiction, time travel books with a minimum of 4 stars out of 5 that were released in the last 90 days (from 7/20/2017 – 10/20/2017).

Here’s the advanced search category on Amazon in the Kindle store that I used: English : Kindle eBooks : Science Fiction & Fantasy : Science Fiction : Time Travel : 4 Stars & Up

The top sixteen books in the last 90 days are:
1. Affliction: Green Fields/ book 7/Aug 29, 2017/by Adrienne Lecter
2. Promises To Keep: After the EMP/ (Disruption Trilogy Book 3)/Sep 8, 2017/ by R.E. McDermott
3. Forged in Blood/ (Freehold Book 8)/Sep 5, 2017/by Michael Z. Williamson
4. Angel of the Abyss: A Novel of the Great Tribulation/(The Days of Elijah Book 3)/Sep 12, 2017/by Mark Goodwin
5. Etheric Recruit: A Kurtherian Gambit Series/Sep 13, 2017/by S.R. Russell and Michael Anderle
6. Bombtrack/(Road To Babylon, Book 2)/Aug 21, 2017/by Sam Sisavath
7. Tomorrow War: Serpent Road: A Novel/(The Chronicles of Max Book 2)/Jul 25, 2017/by J. L. Bourne
8. Nomad’s Galaxy: A Kurtherian Gambit Series/(Terry Henry Walton Chronicles Book 10)/Aug 17, 2017/
by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle
9. Empire of Glass/Jul 24, 2017/by Kaitlin Solimine
10. Nomad’s Force: A Kurtherian Gambit Series/(Terry Henry Walton Chronicles Book 9)/Jul 27, 2017/by Craig Martelle and Michael Anderle
11. Bioterror!/(an Ell Donsaii story #14)/Oct 6, 2017/by Laurence Dahners
12. Darkest Before The Dawn/(The Second Dark Ages Book 3)/Oct 6, 2017/by Michael Anderle and Ell Leigh Clarke
13. Into the Fire Part I: Requiem of Souls/(Universe in Flames Book 9)/Oct 15, 2017/by Christian Kallias
14. Wisdom of the Chosen: Spirit of Empire/Book Five/Jul 25, 2017/by Lawrence White
15. ARISEN/Book Thirteen – The Siege/Oct 11, 2017/by Michael Stephen Fuchs
16. Viral Misery: /Book One/Oct 4, 2017/by Thomas A Watson and Nicholas A Watson

(Brief note: Although I’ve read some of his books, I’m not related to Craig Martelle. He does do good science fiction adventures, though.)

You’ll notice that 14 out of the 16 are books that are part of series. The sixteenth book is book one of a promised series. The only stand alone book is placed in number 9: Empire of Glass by Katlin Solimine.

This seems to support my point that once readers have invested time in reading a book they enjoy, they are more likely to read additional books that have the same characters. Once we like an author and a character, we want to find out what happens to them next.

To my discredit, my marketing is not up to the high level of competition that ebooks must face. I somehow thought that all you needed to do was to write a good story. It turns out that marketing is (probably/unfortunately?) even more important than a good story.

My two highest rated books in the same category (time travel — except for publication date) are:

#260 Heart of Fire Time of Ice/February 16, 2016/by E. S. Martell/4 out of 5 stars
#1015 All the Moments in Forever/April 26, 2017/by E. S. Martell (the sequel to Heart of Fire Time of Ice)/5 out of 5 stars

To give some credence to my original point, here are two quotes from the reviews on All the Moments in Forever:

  • “5.0 out of 5 stars/I would recommend reading the first one to see the complete arc Kathleen takes. This book is action-packed and fancy-free. You’ll love reading about this scientist turned demi-god of space and time.”
  • “5.0 out of 5 stars/loved it, loved it. Been waiting a long time for this book. I hope there’s a third. What a wonderful story.”

It seems like my readers also enjoy following familiar characters. My conclusion is that writing series is a viable marketing strategy.

What do you think? Would you rather read a series or a stand-alone book? What if the stand-alone book was really good and the series was maybe a little less well written?

Eric

Paradox: On the Sharp Edge of the Blade – Part of Chapter 8

I’m relieved. I just finished my latest story — title above — and it was a bit of a struggle. The final section had to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle and it gave me a fit. I generally feel more at home writing straight action sequences, so putting things into the context of a meeting was a little more difficult.

Just to give y’all a feel for the story, and, yes, it’s time-travel again, here’s a section from Chapter 8. The main character, Logan Walker, has just arrived in the past, and is still trying to adapt to his unexpected situation.

———————————————————

The moon was high, its bright rays shining through the oak leaves. The light made strange patterns and shapes on the ground between the trees. The blotches of darkness seemed impenetrable, making it impossible to see what lurked below.

Despite his thirst, Logan had managed to sleep for awhile. He wasn’t sure how long it had been. The moon was now nearly overhead. It hadn’t even risen when he had dropped off to sleep.

He carefully studied the ground. There was no sign of the cat creature. Perhaps it had left, looking for other prey. Surely there was something to attract it, something easier to catch than one scrawny human.

He thought about climbing down to look for water, then rejected that idea. Even with the moonlight, he couldn’t see well enough to be sure that something wasn’t hiding, waiting for him to make a stupid move.

The tree seemed to be intent on impressing every nuance of its rough bark on his posterior. He found that changing position every thirty minutes or so made the fork of the branches barely tolerable. Thirst bothered him more and more as the stars wandered towards sunrise. All-in-all it was an amazingly long and restless night.

Logan had always slept late, but now he was beginning to think that the sun had stopped. When that thought first popped up, he snickered, but then stopped to consider his situation.

He was in a tree, trying to avoid some kind of big and really toothy cat thing, and trying to hold out until morning so he could get a drink. He’d been in the front yard, fallen into the drainage ditch, and then this place had somehow grabbed him. He hadn’t consciously wanted to come here. He’d…Oh! He’d wanted to escape that woman. Before that he’d eaten that brownie. Maybe something in it was giving him a bad trip. She’d said it was very strong. Still this didn’t seem like an hallucination. Everything was too real. It had that unmistakable feeling of reality, not like a dream or any kind of altered state of consciousness.

Whatever had happened to thrust him into this situation, it was beyond his understanding. It may have been related to the brownie or it may simply have been chance. It seemed that somehow he’d fallen through a hole, ending in another world, or…and here he paused…another time.

The cat-creature gave him one clue. He hadn’t looked too closely at it, being more concerned with avoiding its jumps, but it had a tawny, sort of stripy coat and a short tail. The most obvious feature was its huge teeth. He’d thought that it reminded him of a saber-tooth tiger, but they were extinct. Only maybe not in this place. Maybe here they weren’t extinct.

Logan gave up trying to figure out what had happened. In a sense it didn’t matter. He was here now and he had to learn how to survive until he could get back to where he’d come from. It really was that simple.

The thought crossed his mind that he might not be able to go back, but he shoved it away. That wasn’t something he wanted to consider.

By this time it was getting light. The sun was peeping over the horizon somewhere out at sea to the east and its light was gradually infiltrating through the foliage that surrounded him. Somewhere a bird started up, singing its morning song. The song quickly changed, and then changed again. It was a mockingbird; had to be. Nothing else sang so many songs at peak volume.

He heaved a sigh of relief. At least he was still on Earth. He’d thought for a moment that he might be on another planet. All he’d had to go on was the impossible cat or tiger of the saber-tooth variety. A mockingbird was at least familiar and made the place seem very Florida-like despite the lack of people and houses.

Logan maneuvered around and stood up, trying to stretch the cramps out of his neck and back while he waited for his left leg to regain its circulation. He’d been sitting in such a way that it was wedged tightly into the fork of the tree and now it hurt and tingled.

He carefully edged over and rested his hand on one of the more vertical branches, unzipped his pants, and relieved himself. The stream spattered on the dried leaves below. There was no answering sound. He’d half expected the cat to come charging out at the noise.

Finished, he began to edge onto the connecting branch to the magnolia tree. He’d descend carefully, then see about a drink. The idea of water tormented him now, and he had to mentally restrain his movements. It wouldn’t be good to slip and fall. He had to be careful.

He reached the magnolia with no sign of his attacker. Just to make sure, he broke off a rotten stub and threw it into the bushes. It made a gratifying rustle and crunch. Then all was silent except for that mockingbird. It continued to sing somewhere over near the edge of the stand of trees.

That was a good sign, wasn’t it? Logan thought that birds might be quiet or sound some kind of alarm call if anything dangerous was nearby, but he wasn’t sure about that. All he had to go on was his brief experience at the dig site, and, years ago, a week at summer camp with the Cub Scouts. He was realistic enough to recognize that he couldn’t really rely on the information he’d seen on TV.

“I wish I’d read more prepper-type stuff on the Internet,” he muttered as he climbed down the smaller tree.

The last branch was about five feet up, and it decided that his weight was too much this time around. It snapped, precipitating him onto the ground in an undignified fashion. The fall knocked the wind out of him, but he jumped up, looking wildly around, preparing to either run or to try to climb the tree again. Nothing happened. The saber-tooth must have given up and gone elsewhere for its meal.


I’m rewriting the first draft now, cleaning it up and working on the flow, so it will read easily. It’ll go to my editor in a few days, then (I hope) be ready to publish by July 1. (I know. I’m optimistic.)

Namaste!

Eric

On Developing a Believable Language for the Pleistocene

How does one come up with believable words from a 13,000 year old language? That issue posed a serious problem for me in my current work in progress.
The story involves a modern physics student who discovers a formula that describes what Fred Alan Wolf (aka Dr. Quantum) calls extraordinary time-travel. As her understanding of the formula becomes more intuitive, she experiences a series of deja vu events that foreshadow her developing abiity to shift times.
Trying to escape an attack, she accidentally makes a jump into the late Pleistocene, in the time of the Younger Dryas. The glaciers are advancing again and the climate is very dry. This is the period that led to the extinction of the Pleistocene mega-fauna: saber-tooths, mammoths, dire wolves, etc.
The land is dangerous and offers lots of opportunities for adventure. A modern woman (or man), unprepared, would probably not last very long in such an environment. She encounters a single hunter and their struggles to survive make for an exciting story.
One of the primary problems in the scenerio is that the two must communicate. He has his own language and she speaks English. He turns out to be somewhat of a linguist and learns English quickly. Some readers may feel that his ability to quickly learn English, is a stretch. If pressed, I’ll admit that there is some validity in that criticism.
For the sake of the story (and because I’m the author and can make such a decision), I decided that he was intelligent, his memory was excellent (this is usual in cultures with strong oral traditions), and he wasn’t stressed with all of the minutiae that we have to remember on a daily basis.
It might also be that his brain structure was slightly different from ours, perhaps in the rate of maturation. Children have no difficulty learning new languages until they reach a certain level of brain maturation. This has to do with the pruning of neuronal branches during the learning process. If that was delayed a few years, then his rapid learning could be explained.
Anyway, I couldn’t see writing an entire book with dialog on the level of “Me Cadeyrin; you Kathleen. Ugh.” It would quickly become tiresome. Since my goal is to entertain my readers, ‘tiresome’ is definitely something I strive to avoid.
Even though he learns English quickly, I thought the story would be more enjoyable if he used some of his own words at times. I personally find that books that have a large number of made-up words are difficult to read, so I limited his words to only a few animal names. The problem was how does one come up with words that are over 13,000 years old and that refer to animals that have been extinct throughout recorded history?
I’m no linguist and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on that issue, rather than actually developing the story. I eventually solved the problem by looking up names for animals in the oldest languages I could find. I was limited geographically also, since the story assumes that the Solutrean theory is accurate, ie. that the Clovis culture originated in Europe. That meant I couldn’t use Asian or Siberian or American Indian words.
I found words in old Norse, Basque, Celtic (both Irish and Scottish), German, Finnish, and Phrygian. Then I made what I considered reasonable modifications to the words.
Cadeyrin’s name can be used as an example of my process. I found the Welsh name ‘Cadeyrn’. I added the ‘i’, since English speakers usually don’t encounter words that contain ‘yrn’. ‘Cadeyrn’ means ‘King of Battle’. That could be reasonably be viewed as an enlargement of ‘Great Warrior’ or even ‘Good Fighter’. This process allowed me to come up with a name that I found believable.
Another example is the old Norse word, ‘ulfr’ or ‘ulfur’ (Icelandic) meaning ‘wolf’. When I shortened it to ‘ulf’ it seemed to fit. The suffix ‘sa’ came from my need to have a diminutive for the word, hence ‘Ulfsa’ means ‘little wolf’. The suffix ‘a’ usually makes a word plural in the story.
Much the same process was used for the other words I semi-invented for the story. After a few hours work, I ended up with a list of names for some of the animals my characters would encounter. The exercise was somewhat entertaining and it gave me a bit of a break from the actual writing.
Look for “Heart of Fire, Time of Ice” on Kindle – to be released soon.
Namaste,
Eric