I’m back with another story, but this one isn’t about my protagonist Stanford Archaeologist Clark Ransom at all. It’s about me!
I wrote short stories on an IBM Selectric with carbon paper at Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, California, sending them to the likes of The New Yorker and The Atlantic. I continued the short story gig at Stanford, taking a few creative writing courses, following the same marketing strategy until I had enough rejection slips to paper a dorm room. In grad school at Brown, my dissertation for my doctorate on the medieval psychic labyrinth Piers Plowman became the novel Loose Leaf Rose. I dropped out of the doctorate’s program, sure success was on the horizon. That novel — a psychedelic journey full of unmarketable symbology and literary nuance — gathered enough rejection to make me put aside my ambitions to be a writer.
But several years into a career as a technical writer and software manager, an experience with a real psychic on Martha’s Vineyard, sparked Beggar’s Tomb, which many years later I published as the first novel in my Paradise War series, Defiled.
It took about two decades for me to realize, that although I liked keeping abreast of the current literary darlings, what I was most likely to pick off of a shelf was something by Anne Rice, Stephen King, or many thriller writers.
I then knew I should write what I loved to read.
I moved to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico a few years ago to try life with a new culture, an additional language, and a fascinating history. That history started me thinking about setting a Thriller series around the many archaeological treasures of Mexico. The first three Clark Ransom thrillers take place at the Cañada de la Virgen pyramid outside of San Miguel, the Tula Pyramid where the 18 foot high Toltec Warriors live, and the Cholula pyramid — second largest in the world after the Great Pyramid of Giza — beneath Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl, Mexico’s famed volcanos.
I post images, facts, and what I think might interest you about Clark Ransom’s world on my Facebook Page, in my Twitter account, and on Pinterest. If you’re interested in following me on any of those sites, just click the highlighted links.
Have you ever tried to turn one of your daydreams into a work of art? I’d love to hear about it in a comment.
I’m back again. This time with a quick question. Answer through an easy click and you can assure yourself and other readers will get the most out of my thrillers.Last month I showed how I based the mystery behind the novels in my Clark Ransom Thriller Series on the little scholars know about the Toltec Empire. For those of you who didn’t have time to read that post and are interested, go here:
Pyramids in MexicoWoven throughout the Clark Ransom novels are appearances by gods from the Toltec and Aztec pantheons.
On stage frequently are:
But there are others:
As I write the third, fourth, and fifth novels of the series, I’m sure there will be others.
Now for the question. For most of us, these are difficult, unfamiliar names. What if I put an appendix at the back of each book with short descriptions of the deities’ position within the pantheon, their function in the novels, and images?
If you’d find this useful, please comment below.
Thanks so much,
Yeah! I finished the first draft of The Toltec Conspiracy — first novel in the Clark Ransom Thriller Series. I edit that novel in the afternoons and write the second novel, The Tula Plot, in the mornings
I will talk about where I set these novels since these settings are as important as the characters.
The plot of the first three novels — The Toltec Conspiracy, The Toltec Plot, and The Massacre at Cholula — mirror the mythic/historic movement of the Toltecs. In these novels, the Toltecs — a pre-Aztec indigenous empire — built the pyramid Cañada de la Virgen near San Miguel de Allende, then established their capital and another pyramid in Tula, and then went to Cholula where the Aztecs slaughtered them at the site of the Toltec’s greatest pyramid. See the following map:
What follows is a little more about the first novel’s setting, whose cover is here if you haven’t seen it:
Here is Clark Ransom, our hero, first viewing the Cañada de la Virgen pyramid from the highway below:
With nothing but hills stretching to the horizon, at the center of Clark’s view was a hill atop which sat the stepped pyramid as it had for a 1000 years… The view was pristine, the same as it must have looked to pilgrims, carrying their baskets of tribute up the switchback path carved into the face of the cliffs.
In several visits to Cañada de la Virgen, I sensed an aura that seemed a perfect fit for a thriller.
Here are facts gathered from Wikipedia about the site:
The Toltec-Chichimec founded villages, built pyramids and other architectural structures throughout the central basin of the river now called Laja, known as San Miguel in the 16th century, and apparently, a little less than thousand years ago was called Pánuco.
According to the list of names appearing in the Toltec – Chichimec Codex, which refers to the various provinces that formed the Toltec Empire, Cañada de la Virgen would be located northwest of the Toltec territory. The name of its capital is unknown, because the name is unreadable in the above mentioned list, everything shows it is located a few kilometers south of the site in question. It is a city made up of various architectural, elements including a ballgame court and a huge plaza with three pyramid foundations.
I love the following photo and associate a lot of the wonder of Cañada de la Virgen with its astronomical orientation.
And again from Wikipedia:
The site faces the celestial north, where the stars spin around in a circle throughout the year. The moon moves up the stairs of the pyramid as its cycle advances. It rises and falls perfectly in pyramid notches at key times in the lunar calendar and during solstice periods.
I hope you enjoy your spring or begin to. For some, winter has lasted too long.
The short answer is because I like literature that includes the paranormal or the supernatural. From Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw to Steven King or Anne Rice: they are the books I most enjoy.
This used to embarrass me, because after all I have degrees in English lit from Stanford and Brown.
However, for pure entertainment and the firing of my imagination, give me Anne Rice’s Lestat or even the wraiths of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.
So if this is what I find most entertaining, this is what I should want to write, right?
However, that is the short answer, not the complete one.
To me, the paranormal is not just something fanciful. The paranormal repesents a subtler level of reality, as real as the worlds of material objects, of emotions, or of thoughts through which we move.
Every once and awhile I see reality through a celluloid film strip, which is running a movie of events happening at a subtler level. I can shift my focus to watch this movie — as if I’m dreaming wide awake — or shift again and pay attention to the tables, chairs, people, and obstacles around me.
As a child, I would wake in the night, and find myself surrounded by spectral, but harmless, presences. Watching them was an entertainment. Then I’d fall asleep again.
When this happened at Stanford, in the middle of Introduction to Psychology at two in the afternoon, I found myself in a strange land and it was suddenly the middle of the night. The campus pomegranate trees had transformed the courtyards into a magical and exotic land out of the Arabian nights.
I was admitted to the Stanford clinic and diagnosed as an acute schizophrenic, until a wiser Stanford psychologist, a disciple of R.D. Laing, said these “shifts” were temporary, and if I were in a earlier culture, I would be isolated from the tribe and put into a training program to become a shaman or witch doctor.
The attraction of those naturally ocurring experiences soon had me experimenting with drugs: a lot of LSD. During my trips I traveled to the places my celluloid film strip hinted at.
In time, however, the drugs were no longer a ticket to the astral, and they had taken a physical toll: sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, indigestion, etc.
I, by that time, knew that meditation was the prefered vehicle for tripping, but because of the damage drugs had done to my nervous system, it took years before I had experiences that even approached the intensity of what had happened at Stanford. Also, meditation taught me that although the trips were glamorous, I had a body for a reason and that reason was to do things in this world, the physical, and not to escape into these sublter realms.
Now I abstain from drugs and I meditate, and my first-line contact with the astral/paranormal/supernatural has become my writing. My plots and characters come when I let go and allow them to. And, to my delight, my fiction reveals meanings my intellect could never discover.
I write about the supernatural because that is what has been given to me to write.
I fought it for a long time, trying to write what would be more acceptable to the literary establishment. However, for me, there was no joy, no fun, in that.
So I gotta go where I gotta go, and hope some of you are interested in coming along.