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A Look Inside: Wither and Ruin, Forgotten Lands Series (book two)

Everyone likes Skittles, right? Well, if not, let’s pretend for a moment that you do. I’ve always said that writing for me is like a bag of Skittles—I have my favorite flavors but I enjoy them all. My writing mirrors that. I don’t just write one genre, though I do have my favorite, and more often than not I throw a few genres together. It’s suicidal in the marketing world, but then, who wants to mold their ideas until they’re like everyone else’s?

For example, my Saratoga Falls love story series isn’t just contemporary romance, but a sprinkle of reality, grit, and heartache. It explores aspects of real life that fascinate me and that I want to know more about.

In 2012, there weren’t too many post-apocalyptic romances with different female POVs on a journey to save themselves and everyone else, either. The Ending Series world we created felt so awesomely original. We wrote what was fun and intriguing to us at the time, without thinking about any sort of preverbal box to fit our story into.

The Forgotten Lands, however, is my red Skittle—it’s the one that tastes the sweetest and impassions me the most.

When you’re writing post-apocalyptic, historical fiction (we can call it alternative history, if you like) something amazing happens for a history nerd like me - you get your fix of the past by exploring what life was, and you get to spin it the way you want to and create life as it could be. Forgotten Lands brings together my passion for history and things of old, with the gasping possibilities of what could possibly be our reality some day (with a little more intrigue and some sort of love story sprinkled in, of course).

  • Dust and Shadowembodied the dingy, decaying world of the old west with a splash of Victorian opulence.

  • Wither and Ruinwill be quite the opposite. Sagebrush will make an appearance in the second installment, but it’s the drifters—the natives—that will steal the show this time, and boy, do I have my work cut out for me with this one.

What do you do when you take real people with a history of knowledge and culture, and you throw in an apocalypse, a new climate, and a completely different way of life? A LOT of thinking to do. Between research and world building, I definitely have a long haul ahead. I want to keep the essence of the people as they were and are today, but I want them to be authentic to the world I’ve created as well. At what point is it no longer history and just fiction? I honestly have no idea. The nerd in me is SO excited to figure it all out, but the writer in me sees weeks of work before I can really dive in and feel my story coming together.

The gist of the story. Without giving too much away, Wither and Ruintakes place right when Dust and Shadowleaves off. If you haven't readDust and Shadow, I hope you do because it’s a kick ass story, and it’s been my favorite book to write to date. Either way, I'll try to keep those of you who haven’t read it in mind as I explain...

Throughout Dust and Shadow, the mountain becomes a character of its own—it’s where the storms come from, and the water. “Drifters” play a huge role and everything about them is shrouded in lies and secrets, curiosity and intrigue. Wither and Ruin takes us to the mountain and explores who and what the drifters are, their lives, and how Sagebrush ties into everything. You will meet new characters and reunite with some of your faves from Dust and Shadow too. There will be more lies and deceit, sharp-tongued but strong female characters, adventure aplenty, sage old women and broad-shouldered warriors. You can check out my Pinterest board if you want to see some of my writing muses.

Historical Fiction in a Post-Apocalyptic World. History is the foundation in which I based the Forgotten Lands series. For book one, I read countless books about Victorian furnishings and etiquette. I researched life in the cities and in the Old Territories as the railroad made it’s made across the country. I researched ancient cultures whose decedents still inhabited the land, and I learned what it would be like to live off that land—to cultivate it. Then I had to forget what I learned and make it my own.

Take life in the 1880s and throw in my own personal catastrophe – the Shift – and everything changes. That’s where the science fiction part comes in, and that’s where I've really had to test my creativity and world building skills. Learning about the past is easy when you compare it to creating a new society who can't live with what they're used to having.

  • What do they eat when their food doesn’t grow?

  • What happens with peaceful people are stripped of the choice to live peacefully?

  • Most interesting question of all is, how do they go about their daily lives when they’re just trying to survive?

Fact and Fiction. While I take many liberties with this series, wielding what transpired in the years since the Shift to my will, I’ve tried to make the stories as authentic as I can.

Research I’ve done so far includes:

  • Native American tribes and their different cultures in the southwest, including dwellings, rituals, and daily tasks

  • Ancient Puebloan religion, folklore, and language

  • Medical procedures and body decomposition

  • Landscapes, flora, and fauna

  • Dry and wet farming, and more

In the process of combining cultures and creating practices and beliefs of my own, I’ve come across some really interesting facts that have already helped shape my story.

Here are a few facts and parallels between Forgotten Lands world and real life Native American cultures that took me by surprise:

  • Hopi means “peaceful” people, which I didn’t know when I wrote Dust and Shadow, so it’s a tad ironic that they were considered so dangerous and were feared in book one.

  • Hopi legend says that the current earth is the Fourth World to be inhabited by Tawa's creations. In each previous world, the people became disobedient and lived contrary to Tawa's plan. They engaged in sexual promiscuity, fought one another, and would not live in harmony. Physical changes occurred both in the people in the course of their journey to and in the environment of the next world. In some stories, the former world was destroyed along with the wicked inhabitants, whereas in others the good people were simply led away from the chaos, and reborn in a sense. (This is very interesting - the Shift changed the world as the characters knew it, most of them died, those who lived were changed forever (physically and culturally) and they learned a powerful lesson. In both stories, the survivors are at the mercy of the gods and mother nature.)

  • Tibet is exactly on the opposite side of the planet from the Hopi Reservation. The Tibetan word for "sun" is the Hopi word for "moon." The Hopi word for "sun" is the Tibetan word for "moon."

As you can probably imagine, it’s easy to get lost in creating a world based on fact and fiction. I' a nerd so half the intriguing bits I've come across are probably nothing to you, so I won't bore you any longer. But as you can probably tell, this is a post-apocalyptic series unlike any other. There are no zombies or Crazies, not mutations or military strongholds. This is a series about adventure and survival in a world filled with one natural disaster after another. It's a series that begs the questions: what if?

I’d planned to have draft one written by the end of July but life seems to have other intentions. While I still hope for a fall release, you can follow my research and progress on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I’m so inspired by these characters, I can’t wait to share their story with you!

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