Born in a Treacherous Time: Book Review

As some of you know, I like torturing quizzing authors about their books before I spill my review. Jacqui Murray has been everywhere sharing her latest, Born in a Treacherous Time. To be honest, I wasn’t sure about paleo-fiction. Paleo fiction? Hmm. But, Jacqui is immensely talented, and I’ve enjoyed her other books, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Well, move over Jean Auel (Clan of the Cavebear), Jacqui Murray has written a mesmerizing book! And I have to rave a little.

Her world-building is fascinating, and one of the things that most impressed me was her full immersion into the prehistoric timeframe that shares so little with our current way of life. I didn’t sense, at any point, that modern sensibilities were leaking into the characters or action. The ancient humans were deftly integrated into the harsh landscape and its primordial life, perfectly balanced between primate and human. The meticulous care taken to create this reality was stunning. What I wanted to know was – how did Jacqui stay on track? How did she keep the characters so honest to the developmental time in history? Here’s her response:

Jacqui Murray

What a great question, Diana.

The short answer is, I spent a lot of time living in Lucy’s world (of Homo habilis). I started by reading everything I could get my hands on about life in that era (a lot of paleo topics like paleoclimate and paleogeology). But scientists have so few artifacts of those ancestors, I had to dig deeply into the worlds of the Great Apes (the animals that came immediately before upright man)—apes gorillas, orangutans. Through the sensibilities and work of women like Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas, I gained tremendous admiration for these predecessors who ultimately shaped man. In fact, now, when I look at one of these creatures, I no longer see an animal; I see a human. Primitive but with the seeds of who we are.  I am disgusted at the barbarian practice of using apes for drug testing as though they are less than human. They aren’t less than me, just different.

Once I grounded myself, I had to remember Lucy’s world had no fire, no clothing, no religion or art, no music, no spoken language, no symbolic names (their call signs were sounds). No cultural rules. Attachments revolved around survival not emotion. And her animal instinct was super-charged with her brilliant brain. As I wrote, I had to make sure I was true to those guidelines.

Here’s an example. I knew hunting (which to them was scavenging carcasses) involved long periods of waiting while the alpha predator finished its meal and other scavengers got first crack at the remains. Lucy would crouch in grass (early human bottoms didn’t allow them to sit yet), the humidity pressing in, the crawly creatures biting through her hair/fur, the sun beating down or maybe rain. I had to remember Lucy didn’t care about any of this and never relaxed while waiting. She was always busy smelling what was around her, smelling for those who hunted with her to know where they were, sniffing to find other scavengers who might try to take her food. She was weaker than every predator in her habitat with worse offensive and defensive capabilities (flat teeth, dull nails, thin skin). But she did have a brain that could plan, think, and problem-solve (in a primitive fashion).  Other animals could do that but their actions were based in instinct. Lucy’s was driven by her growing intellect.

Over all, I kept Lucy honest to her true self because I developed absolute respect for her, who she was, her primitive moral core, her ability to never feel sorry for herself. She’s who I would love to be in a sense but I’m simply not tough enough!

***

And now for my review:

Move over Jean Auel (Clan of the Cave Bear) for Jacqui Murray. I went to bed right after dinner last night because I had to finish this book and would have stayed up all night to do it. What a fabulous read.

Born in a Treacherous Time takes place at the very start of mankind’s development – we are inventive, communal, thoughtful, emotional beings, but still deeply rooted in our animal origins, fully integrated into the harsh volcanic landscape and with the creatures who share our world. Survival is an ongoing challenge and hunger a constant companion. Overlaying the struggles of daily life is the threat of man-who-preys, the next generation of mankind.

The story follows Lucy (Woo-See) through a period of years. She’s a strong character, a healer and a hunter who’s eager to learn new skills that not only make her an asset to her group but leave her an outsider. There are a number of compelling characters, fully developed and distinct, with a wide range of personalities.

No doubt, Murray did her research, but so little is truly known about this time, that I’m certain she had to employ her imagination as well. The world-building is meticulous. Murray deftly presents a world as seen through the eyes of those who inhabit it. She created words (and hand-signals) to describe the landscape based on the characters’ observations: “Night Sun” instead of moon, “Fire Mountain” instead of volcano. Her attention to creating a logical and detailed reality is stunning. I was honestly enthralled.

The world-building extends to characters as well, and I loved that none of them had “modern” sensibilities that would have tainted the believability of the story. No one is squeamish about raw food or bodily functions, and death is viewed as a natural occurrence. The characters have many of the natural abilities and acute senses of the animals living around them, yet unlike their animal cousins, their understanding of the world grows with each experience.

Best of all, as a reader I became quite attached to these primitive humans, empathizing with their struggles, losses, and choices. There is a depth of emotion, spirit of community, and generous nobility that stretches through the hundreds of thousands of years to our current lives. A captivating book that I recommend to any reader who enjoys adventures, exquisite world-building, or works of historical fiction and prehistory.

Want a book that will keep you up all night?

Here’s a global Amazon link: Born in a Treacherous Time.

Check out Jacqui’s blog too: Word Dreams

 

 

At the Mirror: like hell

Tanya, from the incurable dreamer, doesn’t post often, but each time she does I sit down for an amazing read. I laugh or cry or I feel understood or inspired. This is a moving piece about uncovering the beauty of the journey, even when there is pain. I hope you enjoy the read.

like hell

by Tanya

‘Hello.’

*taps mic*

‘Is this thing on?  HELLO.  Can you guys hear me in the back?’  Whispers softly,  ‘Shit, is there even anyone in the back?’

*squinting to see*

‘Okay, well, here it goes.  For anyone who might still be here, this is what I have come to say.’

Out of nowhere, he appears, like a breath of air.  He is poised, pressing a small dark cloth bag firmly against his chest.  Without invitation, he begins to explain that inside the bag, are hundreds of tiny balls.  They are highly sought-after, mystical balls.  Gifts and riches – bountiful, beyond my wildest imagination – are mine, and eternal if my destiny is to pull one from the bag. Destined, he explains, because amongst them is one ball, which if picked, will bring forth afflictions of grand proportions.  He steels himself, then thrusts the bag towards me.  Gesturing at my arm, he demands, stick your hand inside and choose one.  I tell him I don’t want to.  He says the decision is not mine.  I do not understand. Before me, he continues to stand, unmoving, unwavering in his request.  I look around.  There is no one and nothing.  Only me, and only him.

The odds are in my favour, I think to myself, this is not a big deal.  There are so many.  What are the chances?  I mean, surely.  His stare is unrelenting, escape futile.  It’s obvious.  I must choose.  Hesitantly, I reach my hand up high and place it inside the bag.  My hand, now submerged in chance, begins to sift through an endless sea of balls.  Fate tempts and rolls and slips between my fingers.  Just one, I think, just one.

There is no distinction; only smooth similarity.  Panicked, I begin to wonder how I will know. I grab hold, then just as quickly release ball after ball, convinced the right one still awaits.  My eyes lock with his.  Resolute and hopeful, I continue to sift.  My fingers then rest on one.  He senses my choice when my fingers cease to move and I grow still…

(Continue reading: like hell)

 

My Bossy Muse

My muse. Image purchased from shutterstock

I’m polishing up the last bits of Soul Swallower and Legacy of Souls when I hear the clomp of my muse’s heavy boots on my writing-room stairs. I haven’t seen her since September 2016 when she gave me an ultimatum about finishing up The Rose Shield series. It was that or she was going to quit.

Well, I finished it in the spring of 2017 and took the summer off to rest. Instead of popping the cork on a bottle of champagne, she hired a mercenary muse, and abruptly my break was over. The guy was a hulking brute with a bad attitude and worse breath. And not only did he expect me to get writing, but he forced me to exercise.

Amazing artwork by Peter Pham

I can’t imagine what this visit is going to bring, and I brace myself. The door opens and the muse walks in as if she owns the place. She’s decked out in her clunky boots, and she’s carrying that magical staff that I still don’t know how to use since she never shares.

“You haven’t written sci-fi in years,” she remarks, having read my mind. I hate it when muses do that.

“I’ll bet you stopped by to congratulate me on the new books,” I say with a smug smile and flash the yummy covers. “They’re just about ready to go.”

“I’m not here to pamper you, Peach. That’s your husband’s job.” She settles onto a metal quasi-throne with rusted pipes that suddenly materializes against the wall.

I grimace at the contraption. “You know, I hope that’s not permanent. I just cleaned the place up after the bats!”

She ignores me and leans forward, elbows on her knees. “I’m here to talk about the next books.”

“What next books?” Oh, oops. Yeeesh. I wince. “Oh, yeah. Um…”

“Exactly.” Her eyes are blue today and they shoot icicles into my skin. “You’re a few weeks away from finishing the latest series, and you haven’t even thought about the next one.”

“I’ve been really busy!” I cross my arms and huff. “And it’s not like there are any real deadlines.”

“Except mine.” She raises an eyebrow. “You know I have other authors to manage. And there are plenty more in line looking for some guidance.”

“Looking for a taskmaster more like it,” I mutter under my breath and give her a fake smile. I know she heard it or heard me think it. “I can’t believe you have other authors. I thought you were all mine.”

She rolls her eyes. I scratch my head and blow out a breath. “Sorry. You’re right. I haven’t even thought about the next one, and I’ve got nothin’, zippo, squat. I don’t even have a starting place. I need your help.”

“That’s more like it.” Her shoulders relax now that I’ve been thoroughly cowed. “I want you to start thinking about shapeshifters. They’ve been on your mind.”

It’s true. “I can think about them.”

She narrows her eyes at me, but gives the wise-guy comment a pass. “And goblins.”

“Shapeshifters and goblins?” I twist my face. “That’s ridiculous. They don’t go together. I need a new muse.” I laugh but she doesn’t. “You can’t be serious. Are you serious?”

“You can make it work. I want betrayals, lies, manipulation. I want you to make things miserable for your characters and then make them worse. I want twists, flaws, nobility, and redemption.”

I don’t know what to say. My muse has totally lost it. What comes out of my mouth is, “Okay.”

“Good. Three books, two years. It’s a gift.”

I calculate the time frame in my head. It’s not bad. But shapeshifters and goblins?

She gets to her feet, tall and powerful. “Congrats on the latest books, by the way.” The metal throne thing disappears, and suddenly she’s changing, her form taking a new shape. A shapeshifter? She winks a feline eye and pads out the door.

The wheels in my head start turning…

pixabay image compilation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Getting to Know You with author D.Wallace Peach

I’m delighted to be over at Sally’s for a “Getting to Know You” feature that has nothing to do with books. Stop by, and hopefully, you’ll get a laugh from some of my confessions. See you there. 🙂

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

My guest this morning is author Diana Wallace Peach who enchants and enthralls young readers with her fantasy and science fiction series. Apart from YA novels, Diana has recently written and illustrated her first children’s book. More about her work later.

The official biography.

About D. Wallace Peach

D. Wallace Peach started writing later in life after the kids were grown and a move left her with hours to fill. Years of working in business surrendered to a full-time indulgence in the imaginative world of books, and when she started writing, she was instantly hooked. Diana lives in a log cabin amongst the tall evergreens and emerald moss of Oregon’s Coastal Mountains with her husband, two dogs, and Pinky the Cat.

For book descriptions, excerpts, maps, and behind the scenes info, please visit:http://dwallacepeachbooks.com.

Now it is time to find out which of the questions Diana had chosen to answer….including…

View original post 1,681 more words

Covers Revealed!

I love book covers, and I’ll admit that a good cover can reel me in like a hungry fish. Working on covers with a designer is always a time of nervous excitement. For me, it means the books are close to finished, and the story inside my head is finally transforming into something visual that I can share with others… So, without further ado:

Soul Swallowers and Legacy of Souls have covers!

Soul Swallowers

Some souls gift insights, wisdom, a path to understanding. Others unleash power, proficiency with a sword, and indifference to death. One soul assimilates with ease. Swallow a host of the dead and risk a descent into madness.

Estranged from his family over the murder of his wife, young Raze Anvrell wields his fists to vent his rage. Then a chance at a new life beckons, and he retreats to the Ravenwood, the haunt of unbound ghosts. He and his mentor build a freehold and raise horses—until the old man dies and Raze swallows his first soul.

When his brother reaches out, open wounds begin to scar. But the tenuous peace won’t last. While those who rule yield to the lure of their ambitions, slavers roam the countryside. One man manipulates the law; another heeds the souls of violence howling in his head.

Raze too listens to his soul’s whispers, and as danger intrudes on his quiet life, he has no choice but to return to his father’s world and take up the fight.

(Soul Swallowers is currently available for preorder: Global Amazon Link.)

***

 

Legacy of Souls

Peace descends on the Ravenwood, and Raze Anvrell trusts that as love lays open his life, the turmoil of his past will loosen its grip. But in the halls of Avanoe and catacombs of Ezar, political intrigues thicken. Deflection and secrets manipulate the truth and more than one ruler stakes a claim in the quest for power.

A swallower of multiple souls, Sajem files his teeth and inks his eyes. Tentacles of madness slither deeper into the slaver’s afflicted mind. His raids grow brazen, tactics harsh, and conscience stripped bare. Alliances shift, fracture, and form, and no one is too old or young, too wealthy or beautiful to spare.

When death strikes, Raze must battle for those he loves, the principles he holds dear, and the world he desires. While heirs compete for the Ezari throne, slavers plot each other’s demise. If Raze wishes to save his family, his freehold, his chance at love, and his life, he must swallow one more soul.

***

Covers designed by the talented Deranged Doctor Designers.
They specialize in romance and all forms of speculative fiction.

Conflagration #Writephoto

Photo by Sue Vincent

Conflagration

Carnelian skies burnish the dying day just so

On the cusp of our years we awaken

Narrowed to a sliver of brilliant flame

Faithful to the fires sparked in a child’s dream

Longing for dismissed choices, second chances

A conflagration of wishes whirling, urgent

Grieve no more, my heart

Retrace your rubbled path and behold

A sacred branding of the soul

Trust that love mattered

In the final hours as

Our whispered farewells

Nudge us into ash

 

Thanks to Sue Vincent for the beautiful Thursday #Writephoto prompt.