Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Returning to My Writing Roots

A touch of nostalgia for the New Year. And a note to you, the reader: I am paying attention . . .

Not only am I once again reading the works of my old favourite authors, with new installments in the Egypt series (Wilbur Smith) and the Thomas Covenant series (Stephen R. Donaldson), but 2015 is the year I will finish the longest story I've ever written. Now that the first draft is complete, I've quickly realized it's merely a beginning.Yes, perhaps an epic sci-fi fantasy is in the works.

No matter how many "new and unusual" books I release, Ice Tomb seems to sell the most. Everyone loves (or hates, but still buys) Ice Tomb. And I am uninspired to write a sequel. Yes, the premise was wild and appealing, but I still find it too ancient and amateurish to pick up the threads, since I wrote it over ten years ago. So I decided to embark on writing another Ice Tomb(ish) story, with a wild and appealing premise, but with even deeper research into the main scientific concept and a more distant otherworldly setting:
Mars.

File:Water ice clouds hanging above Tharsis PIA02653 black background.jpg

Last March, and for the following three months, I took an online course at MIT to upgrade my dated expertise in science, particularly in genetics and genetic engineering.



I developed a "research paper" which will be incorporated in the book. It is fictional, based on fact, but with added fictional components. In other words, nothing in the paper is true except the truth itself. After all, genetic engineering is a relatively new science, and perhaps some of what I propose will eventually be possible. Believe what you will, read what you like, but this paper is completely layered in professional jargon, since I approached it in a professional manner, so I add explanations in the novel to avoid confusion.

Entitled The Furies Bog, the story revolves around this line:


A bog may be Earth’s undoing, but it will be a gift to Mars.

Intrigued? But what has a bog got to do with genetic engineering, you may wonder? What do the Furies of ancient Greece have to do with a bog?

I'm not going to tell you.

But just the title alone and that one line do tell a great deal. They suggest that the story is set in the near or distant future, since Mars is involved. They also suggest there is a link to the past (since I like to include such links in my Ice Tomb(ish) stories). And we all know that, on occasion, bogs and archaeology go hand in hand. For example, the bog bodies of northwestern Europe


 File:Tollundmannen.jpg 
My tales often involve extreme environments, so imagine a scene in say, Polar Bear Provincial Park, and another in, possibly, Botswana, and, of course, there's got to be one on Mars. Did I mention the Everglades? Did I mention Harvard?

I will be releasing snippets of rough material over the next few months as I work on revising the first draft. I completed the final third of the novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in November, so you can imagine how ridiculously huge this novel is. But I promise it will still be fast-paced. And I hope you will find it as fascinating(ish) as Ice Tomb.

In the meantime, I will be asking this question: Are you in it for the long haul? Do you want to invest your mind in a series that may take me as long to write as it took (and continues to take) the eminent George R. R. Martin with his addicting Game of Thrones epic? Will you take a chance on some of my other creations while you wait? They're not all Ice Tomb(ish), but I did pour my heart into them. Mosaic tells the truth, (and not everybody likes to hear the truth), but it has a dark fury and a bizarre structure that make it quite unique. Sinkhole has an Ice Tomb(ish) flavour, but instead of looking outward in an expansive and bleak fashion, it dives inward in more than one sense, a concentrated journey. And, of course, you can always embark on a little time traveling, if you're in the mood.

So this is how we begin the series, you (my fabulous Ice Tomb fanatics) and I (adventure writer, attempting, as always, to entertain you) . . . Remember, this is a rough, unedited version.



http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/97/0_Statue_de_Mars_%28Pyrrhus%29_-_Musei_Capitolini_-_MC0058_%282%29.JPG 

The Furies Bog

Part I: The Discovery

Teresus (king of the Thracians) came to Pandion’s aid and smashed the enemy armies, thus winning a great renown for his glorious victory. Pandion, impressed by his wealth, the number of his retainers, and his glorious ancestry (which he traced back to Mars himself), gave him ProcnĂȘ as wife. But Juno, patron of wedlock avoided the feast . . . . No Graces attended their marriage. Only the furies were there, with torches snatched from a tomb.

—Ovid, Metamorphoses 6.424-431


 File:Polarbearonice.jpg

1.

Baruti cringed as a gust of polar wind swept through the inadequately insulated helicopter and swirled eddies of crisp, bracing air around his face. He breathed out. Ghostly white. He shivered and leaned subtly toward his companion, another perhaps more sane biologist.

Shaun Wilson, a tall ropy fellow with uncanny green eyes and a flop of blond hair reaching nearly to his nose, looked up from his perusal of his GPS, aimed a somewhat wicked smile at him and crooned through the mic, “A little cold, my friend?”
 
“You call this summer?” he grunted.
 
“Still wavering on spring, but yes, it can feel like the dead of winter. Especially if you’re from Botswana.” He added a sly wink.
 
Baruti suppressed another shiver and slunk even deeper into his thin layer of fleece.
 
“Honestly, I don’t know why a man would leave his perfectly comfortable life recording the wildlife of the Okavango Delta and come here.” His hand swept the view outside the window, miles of stunted black spruce bordering on vast polygons of worsted vegetation surrounding syrupy brown water. Miles of unchecked bog—lichen and moss the predominate plant life—a good place to sink and disappear. Yet there was something so calm about it. So . . . unmolested.
 
Colors flourished in the gray dawn. Fringes of sunlight tickled the many ponds, transforming the melting ice into a kaleidoscope of green, yellow, turquoise, even rust. A migrating herd of caribou raised their great antlers as the copter sped past, pausing in their search for a spikelet of sedge to crop. Small birds flapped in the air, and one grand creature with a six-foot wingspan hovered off the coast. An eagle, perhaps?
 
“Yes, it does seem odd,” said the pilot, a thickset, black-bearded Canadian of undoubtedly Italian origin. DeLuca was his name. Wilson said he doubled as a geologist, in a rather sneering manner. Wilson liked to sneer, he noted. And joke. And wink.
 
Obviously he took no delight in inorganic substances.
 
“Too dry and dusty at times. Too moleto. Hot. I needed a change.”
 
“One extreme to the other, though, man,” said DeLuca. “Why didn’t you choose something moderate? South of France. Now that would be the ticket.”
 
“And what would I study there?” asked Baruti. “Sunbathers?”
 
“Sun worshipers. In bikinis.” He looked back and winked; the helicopter shimmied and dropped a few sickening yards.
 
Baruti clutched the seat cushion, his heartbeat matching the thumping of the rotors. “Dr. DeLuca . . .”
 
“Tony,” he replied, swerving and swaying the craft back to level. “And no, Baruti. I’m not going to crash us . . . today.”
 
A strong gust of wind begged to differ as it grabbed the craft and shook its threadbare aluminum frame, rattling every loose component and sending the copter into a miniature rotation. Tony fought the controls and barely averted a death spiral.
 
Bile filled Baruti’s throat. What had possessed him to pursue . . . no, take this course of action as a biologist in the extreme north of Canada.
 
Watch your words, even in thought. It’s easy to let thoughts slip into speech.
 
Wouldn’t it have been simpler to follow the demise of the declining populations of ostriches or wildebeest in the delta? Or even to have resumed his studies of the gorilla in the Congo? And if he must come to this bone-withering, frostbitten land, why not study the woodland fox or the dwindling packs of wolves near the southern border? Why Polar Bear Provincial Park? Why polar bears?
 
It was the only option. Yes, of course, only option . . . for an insane man on an insane mission.

****

End of Excerpt 1


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ARCs Have Arrived

These were just delivered, in time for the Goodreads Giveaway. It's always exciting to see your lengthy labor finally in print. This one in particular, because it went through a complete transformation over the years.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Goodreads Giveaway

Here it is. Enter to win a signed ARC (advanced reading copy) of Mosaic. First ARCs arrived yesterday.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Mosaic by Deborah  Jackson

Mosaic

by Deborah Jackson

Giveaway ends October 20, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, October 03, 2014

Pre-Order of Mosaic Available



Mosaic is out, sort of. The release date is December 6, 2014, and you can pre-order Kindle, iBooks, Kobo or Smashwords eBook copies. The print copies will be available on the release date, but I will be holding a Giveaway on Goodreads for anyone who's interested in ARCs (advanced reading copies) of the print book, in exchange for an honest review. If you would like to review the novel on the bookstore sites or Goodreads, I would be happy to send you a copy, assuming I have some extra copies available following the Giveaway. Please let me know in the comments section or on Facebook, Twitter or Google.

Here are the links to the Pre-Order pages:

Kindle
Kobo
Smashwords



You can also read a substantial excerpt on Smashwords and iBooks. Just click on the links above.

In the meantime, as a run-up to the release, I'm offering Sinkhole (in eBook format) for *free* over the next few weeks. It will be in almost all eBook bookstores, according to their policies.

Kobo
Smashwords
Amazon/Kindle US
Amazon/Kindle UK 
 And other Amazon sites



Yes, I'm having fun with widgets ;-) And yes, I love Apple . . . sometimes.

So, anyway, that's the good news. The oddest book I've ever written is due to be unleashed on the unsuspecting reading public. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mosaic -- Excerpts

 *

Almost there . . . The manuscript is in the hands of the designer, as noted above. Here are a few excerpts, fragments, if you will.

And so the nightmare begins . . . 

Did your parents ever tell you a sweet bedtime story that your busy little brain turned into a nightmare the instant you fell asleep? Did Cinderella ever become ten feet tall and carry an axe? Did Little Red Riding Hood actually transform into a werewolf (after she was bitten, of course). Did Scaredy Squirrel really fall out of the tree, land in poison ivy and a nest of tarantulas, and eventually get eaten by sharks, proving that he’d been right to be afraid, all along? Sure, it happened. And then you would wake up, shaking and sweating, wanting to run into their bedroom, scoot between the sheets, and spill. But you knew that if you did, they’d stop telling you stories.

 ****

“Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.”

 That’s what one of the many doctors who patched me up after the accident said. I think he was the chest guy, in thoracics, or something like that. Of course there was the neuro doc and the plastics lady and the general surg person—you know, the jack-of-all–abdominal organs. Orthopaedics dropped by every other day, waiting for their turn to add more pins to my bones. But no one else called my situation a “curve ball.” Instead, they patted my head and said, “At least you’re not dead.”

 Every day I wished I were dead.

The nurses would come in, crank me up, flip me over, redress wounds, and smile, because they couldn’t really see me. I didn’t blame them. If they’d really seen me, I think they would have cried. And you can’t cry every day.

 But the day that guy said that life had thrown me a curve ball was the first day I managed to move my casted arm on my own. I don’t think he was ever going to say it again.

 But you know what? Maybe it was a curve ball.

Sorry about that, Doc.

****

A Pirate's Captive

One of the most difficult tasks in writing this book was to switch from a modern tongue (and a hockey player's, to boot) to a more archaic and formal one. And sometimes to intertwine the two.

The tossing of the ship was relentless. I felt more than queasy, but not yet entirely green. The aftereffects of the battle persisted, as well. Although it had all but ended, it continued to rage in my head with flickering images of flying shrapnel, blood splatter, and white-faced crewmen scattering like minnows.

The schooner had severed our mainmast with a roar of cannon fire. Men had been shot, split, and disembowelled, and the corvette had listed as water poured into her holes. Now the schooner was coming alongside us. Unkempt, brutish men tossed grappling irons over the side and snagged the rigging. They swarmed onto our ship, landing with heavy boots, their flintlocks exploding, punching holes in the crew.

I scrambled away from the fray, attempting to make myself invisible behind a tattered sail that fluttered in the breeze. Beyond my flimsy refuge, guns barked repeatedly, and men screamed in terror and agony as they lay dying. I shivered and shrank and gripped the sail tightly, hoping the shot would miss me and the pirates would scramble past.

Yet little hope remained. The ship was sinking, and I could not swim. Even if the navy defeated these brigands, would there be time to mend the ship or send longboats over the side before we sank?

A crewman stumbled into my sail, clutching it and falling, tearing the ragged cloth from the rigging, and exposing me fully. He gasped a dying breath as a pirate pulled the cutlass blade free of his belly.

I froze, my heart skipping like a woodland deer. I had no concept of what I should do, or if I should even attempt to flee. The brigand stood stolidly before me, his blade poised for a lethal strike. He loomed over me, nearly two feet taller than I, the wind sweeping fair locks around his sharp cheekbones, the amber stubble on his chin catching the sunlight. Cold blue eyes peeled back my clothing with a single glance. Then, of all things, he chuckled.

“Well, well,” he said. “Bad luck you are, to the navy.”

With casual indifference, he leaned over and wiped the bloody residue from his sword onto the remnants of the sail on the deck.

My gaze tumbled to the short sword still clutched in the crewman’s stiff hand. An idea sprang to mind, a desperate one. As swiftly as a snake strikes, I snapped at the weapon, raised it high, and attacked.

The pirate parried my blow with ease, and sent me stumbling backward with a smirk.

“Bad luck for me, as well?” he asked, advancing toward me.

I stabbed again, clumsily, with the sword, but I possessed no skill with this weapon. I was much more adept with a whip. He struck back with such force that the sword was nearly torn from my grasp, my wrist bent painfully backward. I clutched the sword with both hands, wheeled away from his assault, and charged from the side.

He released his cutlass, to my amazement, and seized my hand before I could inflict even minor injury, driving my sword upward, backward, and drawing me closer. The tip of my own weapon pierced the skin at my throat, but instead of thrusting and ending it for me, he pressed on the nerves in my wrist, eliciting pain, searing pain. The sword clattered to the deck.

“Indeed, I appreciate your courage,” he said. “But I do not appreciate the men with whom you associate.”

“The—the men?” I sputtered. “But you are a pirate.”

“In the past, when we were called “privateers,” we were enthusiastically employed by various governments. Now we are referred to merely as pirates.” He swept his arm in a vast circle to encompass the sinking ship and the array of crewmen who lay dead or dying. “At this point, I think you and your men can refer to me as your better. Now, I will allow you a choice. You may either join your men in death, or you may escape to shore. But I warn you, the community there will not welcome you.”

My breathing quickened. This was no choice at all. He was committing my wellbeing to the tender mercies of the ruffians of the land—the only inhabitants of this outlying region of Florida: a small, struggling remnant of Indians, Spanish men who worked the fishing ranchos, and escaped slaves.

“Would you offer me another choice?” I asked.

The pirate grinned, his eyes sparkling with devilment.

“Perhaps. You are invited, fair maiden, to join my crew. Upon my ship, you may earn your keep.”

Earn my keep? The implications were repulsive and sent shivers throughout my body, but . . . what other option was available to me?

“Very well. I will join you, if you will treat me as a lady. If you will not . . .” I couldn’t even say the words.

His laughter startled the pirates nearby, who were dispatching the crew in the most torturous fashion possible. They stood bewildered and sent long stares in my direction. The pirate laughed as if he found my protests delightful. His grip loosened on my arm, and it appeared he would tumble off the ship. Oh, if only fate would lend me the courtesy! But even as I considered consigning my own body to the sea, since my situation would not improve if he were to shortly meet a well-deserved death, his hand clamped down on my arm again, and he drew me inexorably to his chest. “Do you honestly think that you have any say over how I will treat you? That I shall continue to grant you life is your greatest hope.”

My courage plummeted, along with hopes of any possible leniency. Nevertheless, I thrust out my chin and met his merciless gaze with equal iron.

“I may be your captive, I may be forced to do your will, but if you harm me—if I cannot in this world, then in the next I will make you pay.”

To my astonishment, he seemed even more tickled. “Interesting,” he said. “You have spirit, I’ll give you that. But I have no fear of the next world.” He winked.

Before I had the opportunity to reply, he clapped his hands, and more men poured over the side. Some leaped down into the hold and released the prisoners, assisting them as they stumbled up the steps, where they wobbled on deck with unsteady knees, blinking in the searing midday sun.

He turned to these men and addressed them.

“Good day, gentlemen. I offer you this opportunity. You may join my crew and share equally in our booty, or we will release you on Pine Island, where you may settle in the community. If you throw in your lot with me, you will have ample occasion to improve your situation, since I have freed my ship, my seas, and my settlement from any laws of the land.”

I shuddered. Such lawlessness, such disregard for order. No wonder this wretched land was so uncivilized. No wonder brigands, thieves, and murderers gathered here.

The pirate turned to me and smiled, as if he could read my thoughts.

“Shall we board my ship?” he asked, as if I had a choice.

He shoved me to the railing, looped an arm around my waist, and gripped a rope. Suddenly we were swinging out over open seas and landing smartly on the schooner’s nicely balanced deck. He added a nausea-inducing squeeze and released me, and I found myself face to face with a familiar scarred visage of charcoal hue.

“R–– Reginald,” I sputtered.

“Miss Amelia.” He neither bowed nor backed away. How absurd, how insolent! Nor did he lower his gaze in deference. He clasped a cutlass in his fist in a stranglehold that suggested he’d like nothing better than to carve his name in my flesh.

“Recognize the girl?” asked the pirate captain.

“Yessir,” said Reginald.

“No yessirs, here.”

“Sorry, Cap’n.”

“What would you have me do with her?”

I gaped, entirely flabbergasted. Would this man, insufferable as he was—albeit a ship’s captain—actually let Reginald decide my fate?

“I’d have her learn the way o’ things,” said Reginald.

The captain grinned most unpleasantly and slapped the wretched slave on the back.

“I would have given you the option of killing her,” he said. “But this may serve our purpose better.”
  
Their purpose, I thought? What could their purpose possibly be, other than to hijack ships on the high seas, to bloody and bludgeon men, and to capture and rape women? Perhaps it would be better to die. But first, if the opportunity arose, I would do my best to repay the captain for every injury and every indignity he had inflicted. He would rue the day he’d captured me.