Ancient Tunnels and Present Day Mysteries

Today I’m giving you a peek at my latest newsletter. These go out every couple of weeks, and in them I share deeper insights into my book world and inspirations. You’ll also get bonus stuff, like links to a wide variety of free books by other authors, Rafflecopter giveaways, and the chance to participate in surveys that shape my series. Additionally, when you subscribe, you’ll get a free copy of Ancient Voices: Into the Depths, the second book in my series.


Ancient Tunnels and Present Day Mysteries

I love a good mystery, don’t you? Winding its way beneath the green hills of Europe is the erdstall tunnel system.

These tunnels are believed to have been constructed in the Middle Ages, but no one can figure out who built them, or why. And there aren’t just a few…over 2,000 tunnels have been discovered so far! They are smooth and rounded, carved right into the bare earth. They aren’t very large, only a few feet tall and wide. “Slip outs” are small holes that connect passages that are running at different elevations. Some of these are so tight, a person would have to literally squeeze through them to move from one tunnel to another.

Erdstall tunnels have only one entrance and exit, typically buried in the wilderness or among the remnants of old settlements. Not especially convenient! They also have no system for ventilation, and some flood with water. These tunnels are not places where anyone would be able to hang out for long.

Adding to the mystery is the complete lack of archaeological and historical evidence. Their construction is not officially recorded anywhere, and no human artifacts seem to have been left behind in the tunnels themselves.

What are some of the theories? Some say they were used for storage. Not likely given they were small, dirty, wet, and difficult to get in and out of. Another theory is they were places where people hid from marauders. The small size of the tunnels, and lack of oxygen inside, would make this fairly impractical, too. Not to mention with only one way in and out, if their hiding place was ever discovered it would become a tomb rather than a way of escape. Some think the tunnels might have spiritual significance; a place for the souls of the deceased, or perhaps even dark spirits to dwell. Austrian folklore gives goblins the credit for their existence.

I kind of wish I’d known about these erdstall tunnels when I lived in Germany so I could experience one for myself. In reality though, I’m horribly claustrophobic, so you’d have to practically kill me to get me in there. I’d no doubt peer with wonder into the small, dark entranceway, get a nose-tingling whiff of damp earth, take a couple of pictures, and that would be the extent of my adventure.

Mysteries such as these are a wonderful source of inspiration, though. One can imagine the erdstall tunnels weren’t carved by people at all (hence the lack of artifacts or construction records), but by serpents, or maybe hosts of dark fae. Austrian folklore could have it right after all.

In my own stories, I reference secret underground libraries which are connected by hidden tunnels and entranceways. Very few know they exist, and those who do are bound by oaths of silence. It is in my imaginary world that I can fill in my own answers to these questions that no one has been able to fully resolve in the real world. I can turn thousands of seemingly purposeless, dank tunnels into a vital network. Some of them are perhaps decoys, built only to confuse and misdirect. Yet others lead to glorious, irreplaceable collections of the world’s most sacred artifacts.

What do you imagine the erdstall tunnels were for? Who built and used them? You don’t have to be a writer to dream up a few ideas. It seems that even the historians are having to use their imaginations on this one.


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Time is Running Out!

The Rafflecopter giveaway for my newsletter subscribers will be coming to an end very soon. Don’t miss your chance to win an autographed copy of Into the Shadow Wood, a companion book to Journey to Aviad.

Not subscribed yet? Feel free to take a look at my last newsletter.  In this edition, the feature article “It’s Not Easy Being ‘Clean,'” talks about the difficulty I have finding “clean” entertainment, and how my own works are viewed by others because they lack adult content. There is another author update and links to a couple of giveaways for LOTS of free books. When you  sign up for my newsletter, you’ll also get a free e-copy of Book 2 in my series, Ancient Voices: Into the Depths. You can unsubscribe at any time, so really you’ve got nothing to lose!

Want the chance to win an autographed copy of Into the Shadow Wood?

Step 1: Subscribe to my newsletter and download your free ebook
Step 2: Enter the giveaway

That’s it! The winner will be announced in my September newsletter. Good luck!


Enjoy an Excerpt from Into the Shadow Wood

Our weather-worn tents were nestled into a small clearing, like growing things that had sprung up out of the ground. There were so few of us left…so few. Remaining were the stubborn, the desperate—those who, like me, simply couldn’t let go. Something was still driving us to fight—to hope—in spite of the brutal truth that we had lost. What are we still doing here? This decision to go on is folly. Alaric’s words echoed in my mind. They rang no less true now than they had in the heart of the Shadow Wood.

Though I had escaped the confines of its borders, the Wood had not released its hold on my mind, and my nights continued to be filled with its dark torments. I slept fitfully, with a knife in my fist and my bow close at hand…just in case. The Shadow mocked my inner pain, whispering words of despair to my soul; I would never be free. Each morning I bathed in a nearby stream, scrubbing my skin nearly raw, shaving my face, and grooming my hair. No matter how vigorously I washed, I could still feel the slick residue of the Wood’s filth, and my lungs were heavy with its thick air. When I caught glimpses of my reflection in still pools, the face looking back at me seemed not my own. And it was not only my looks that startled me. At meal times, despite my best intentions, I ate like a crazed, half-starved animal. My brethren no doubt saw me as such judging by the cautious looks I caught from the corners of my eyes. So far, none of them had dared to ask about my journey into the abyss—they seemed afraid to know what could have possibly reduced me to such a state.


Book Description: Into the Shadow Wood

Once a proud member of the Sovereign’s prestigious personal guard, Einar has lost everything: his home, his Sovereign, and his purpose. Most of his closest friends have either been killed in battle or executed. His friend Nevon died trying to fulfill a dangerous oath…one that Einar disagreed with, but now feels honor-bound to take up in his stead. The quest plunges Einar into the depths of the dark and twisted Shadow Wood, testing the limits of his strength, his beliefs, and his sanity. What he finds in the Wood is far more ominous than anything he’d expected. If he’s not careful, Nevon’s fate might end up being his own.

 

Want to Win an Autographed Book?

I’m doing another Rafflecopter giveaway for my newsletter subscribers. This time I’m giving away an autographed copy of Into the Shadow Wood, a companion book to Journey to Aviad.

Not subscribed yet? Feel free to take a look at my last newsletter.  In this edition there is a character spotlight on Alaric from Into the Shadow Wood, along with some author updates and links to a couple of giveaways for LOTS of free books. When you  sign up for my newsletter, you’ll also get a free e-copy of Book 2 in my series, Ancient Voices: Into the Depths. You can unsubscribe at any time, so really you’ve got nothing to lose!

So, back to my original question:
Want the chance to win an autographed book?

Step 1: Subscribe to my newsletter and download your free ebook
Step 2: Enter the giveaway

That’s it! The winner will be announced in my September newsletter. Good luck!


Into the Shadow Wood

Once a proud member of the Sovereign’s prestigious personal guard, Einar has lost everything: his home, his Sovereign, and his purpose. Most of his closest friends have either been killed in battle or executed. His friend Nevon died trying to fulfill a dangerous oath…one that Einar disagreed with, but now feels honor-bound to take up in his stead. The quest plunges Einar into the depths of the dark and twisted Shadow Wood, testing the limits of his strength, his beliefs, and his sanity. What he finds in the Wood is far more ominous than anything he’d expected. If he’s not careful, Nevon’s fate might end up being his own.

 

Have a Question? I’ve Got Answers!

In a recent newsletter I set up a survey for my subscribers. They’ve had a chance to respond, so I’d like to open this up to my blog readers as well.

Time for an author interview–and you’re in charge of the questions!

I’ve participated in lots of interviews over the years, including one that was live on internet radio. Most of them have been set up by bloggers or other authors, and not necessarily fans. It has been a while, so I thought it might be a good idea to post a fresh interview, and let YOU ask the questions.

What would you like to know, about me, my writing, or my book series? You can have some real fun with this and ask my characters questions too–they’ve all agreed to participate. The answers will be shared in my next newsletter and get added to my website for everyone to read!

CLICK TO TAKE THE SURVEY

 


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Under the Magnifying Glass: Is it Getting Hot in Here?

Today I’m giving you a peek at my latest newsletter. These go out every couple of weeks, and in them I share deeper insights into my book world and inspirations. You’ll also get bonus stuff, like links to a wide variety of free books by other authors, Rafflecopter giveaways, and the chance to participate in surveys that shape my series. Additionally, when you subscribe, you’ll get a coupon code for a free copy of Ancient Voices: Into the Depths, the second book in my series.


Under the Magnifying Glass: Is it Getting Hot in Here?

Life really pushes us around sometimes, testing our strength, our patience, and sometimes our faith. Writers test their characters just as hard, sometimes harder. We can put them in situations we hope to never face ourselves, then either shove them over the brink, or pull them back at the last second and pick up all the emotional pieces left in disarray.

Now, you might think writers are really just like a mean kid with a bug and a magnifying glass on a hot summer day. But really, we don’t enjoy tormenting our poor characters. We feel their joy, disappointment, and grief just as strongly as if it is our own. In the process of exploring their circumstances and emotional reactions, we learn something about ourselves, and about people in general. Our writing is often an invitation for our readers to do the same–to put themselves in our characters’ shoes just as we have during the writing process.

Einar is tested to the limits of his sanity in Into the Shadow Wood. Likewise, Elowyn faces the greatest test of her young life in Ancient Voices (I won’t go into detail for the sake of those who haven’t read it yet). I dreaded putting her through it, going through a writer’s version of a stubborn, sulking, toddler-like tantrum where I didn’t write for months. I tried to talk myself out of it a hundred different ways, but as I followed all of those different possibilities to their eventual outcomes, none of them took Elowyn where she needed to go. Without that defining moment her life would have been simpler, happier maybe, but not nearly as rich or significant. She could never be the person she was intended to be.

I eventually came to accept that Elowyn’s test was bringing about a necessary pain. So I gave up my tantrum and got down to writing. I got angry. I shed real tears as I wrote, and if anyone had asked me what I was sobbing uncontrollably about, they probably would have thought I was crazy. Maybe writers have to be…just a little, anyway.

In my final acceptance of Elowyn’s fate was a real life lesson for me as well. Parts of my life have not been easy, and I’ve sometimes thought how much better everything would have turned out without them. If I had power over the master delete key, and could go back and remove all those difficult chapters where I was tested, would I? How would that irrevocably change me, since I am a far more complex being than a fictional character? Would my life have been simpler and happier? Would I be a better person without them? I have no way to know, and I am not done being tested, or growing as a result.

Yet I do have faith that what the Bible says in Romans is true, that God really does work for the good of those who love Him. He can take the horrible things we go through and use them to make us spiritually rich and significant in the lives of others–if we let Him. Elowyn can’t see my plans to turn her pain into a blessing. If she was real, she might very well think of me as a mean kid with a magnifying glass. I am equally blind to God’s plans for me.

In dire times it’s natural to wonder why God doesn’t stop the bad things that cause such pain. But if He has a magnifying glass, its purpose is not for torment, but to give clarity and a tool for self-examination. If I can use Elowyn’s trials to write her into her most beautiful future self, how much more so can the Author of all Life write my story into something more glorious than I could ever imagine?


Click to view the rest of this newsletter. I won’t always post peeks on my blog, so subscribe to make sure you don’t miss an edition. They’ll get sent right to your email twice a month, and if you change your mind, you can unsubscribe at any time.

 

Win an Autographed Book!

It was time to say goodbye to the Weekly Fantasy fix

But you can still follow me through my author newsletter, which has deeper insights into my writing, inspirations, and book world.

If you haven’t subscribed yet, now is a great time to do it.

Why now? Because I’m giving away a free autographed book to one lucky subscriber. Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway before the end of April for your chance to win a book of your choice from the Wind Rider Chronicles. I will announce the winner in my May 3rd newsletter.

Want a peek at what you’ve been missing? View my last newsletter, Home is Where the Imagination Is. Or take my just-for-fun fantasy survey, and see how your answers compare those of others.

If you like what you see, subscribe, then enter the giveaway. Good luck!

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Dark Clouds are Gathering. Can you Weather the Storm?

Some pretty ugly weather rolled across the U.S. yesterday and overnight. We caught some of it where I live, though other parts of the country fared much worse. Bright flashes of lighting filled our living room, and great cracks and booms shook the house. You couldn’t see the rain in the pitch dark outside, but you could hear it beating against the siding and roof. The weather alerts were sounding from my phone every 5 minutes, sending my anxiety levels up a few notches each time, and my 6-year-old was squeezing the life out of my arm as we sat on the couch together. We live in a modern, sturdy house—something book characters don’t always have, particularly those living in a medieval or other historical-type era where the weather’s benevolence is crucial to survival.

As I sat there in a comfortable well-lit room, with the lull of the T.V. to distract me from the tempest outside, I was reminded how weather can play a significant role in a story, or even become a character in itself.  It can set the mood for a single scene, or shape the entire plot.  Weather can grow crops, or destroy them, it can fill sails or sink ships, level homes, and flood streets.  Its temperature extremes are sometimes deadly.  Long periods of unchanging weather can affect the mental states of those subject to its effects. For those characters out on the road, the weather can give them an easy-going, pleasant journey or an uncomfortable, and even dangerous one. If a fictional society is largely agrarian, bad weather has the power to completely destroy it—no armies needed—by bringing about starvation and sickness.  In a time before radar and weather apps, sudden changes in weather would no doubt have been mysterious and alarming to the average person. By the time they knew bad weather was coming, there wasn’t much time to prepare.

Do you have a favorite book in which weather plays a significant role? If you’re a writer, how do you handle weather in your own stories? Is it something that just lurks in the background, rarely seen, or are your characters keenly aware of its impact on daily life? Have you ever written a story in which the weather actually took on the role of a character?

Read the rest of this week’s Fantasy Fix newsletter.

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