Has anyone got any suggestions for the title for book #2? The theme is Aztec Elements. The second word has to be ‘water’ and the first word needs to be an adjective. The current working title is ‘Bad Water’, but my friend John says it’s not a great idea to have the word ‘bad’ in the title. I’ve got to admit that his suggestion, ‘Dark Water’ works well, especially as one of the scenes takes place in a flooded cavern.
Here’s a first peek at what the cover of book two might look like!
First impression of cover art for ‘Bad Water’
Last week was an important week. Last week, I received the first royalties from both Amazon for the Kindle version of the book (15 sold) and from Grosvenor House Publishing for the paperback sales (22 UK sales and 5 USA). £23.90 and £29.24 respectively. Woo-hoo! It feels great to know that people are reading my work and some are even giving good reviews!
Then Jaguar recognised Two Sign wading towards him through the frenzied action and felt a sudden thrill. Far out on the flank he must have seen the plight of the macehualtin and, knowing that his knights were in control, he’d left them to it, electing instead to help the common warriors. Two Sign was Tlacaelel’s right-hand man but he was also a fighting legend. He had crossed from shore-to-shore and seen the broad expanses of their land. He’d led successful missions from the wilds of Toltec to the borders of Oaxaca and even as far afield as Zapotec. Some even claimed he’d led an army of one hundred of Tenochtitlan’s finest jungle fighters to some distant ruins called Palenque, allegedly in search of gold. Through the ducking, wheeling crowds, Jaguar watched Crocodile’s adoptive father carve his way towards them.
A tall man came at Two Sign, all teeth and spittle, long arms wheeling. The Eagle warrior took the first blow on his fast disintegrating shield and parried the next with his own sword, turning it aside. Quick as a flash the tall man launched a backhanded blow. Two Sign nudged it safely up and over and then had to dance back as the rangy man jabbed at him with his shield. Jaguar saw Two Sign wait. A thrust with the shield, and then another. The Chalca used the length of his arms to keep Two Sign on his back foot. Suddenly the Eagle Knight hooked his shield behind the other as it came at him again. He wrenched the man towards him and calmly inserted his sword into the space between shield and neck. Gangly arms dropped the sword and shield as the stricken warrior clamped his fingers to his jugular in a futile attempt to staunch the wound.
The foundation of every good historical fiction novel is research. Your story needs to be woven onto the fabric of history itself. This doesn’t mean you have to teach your readers history by labouring through a list of dates or tediously enumerating every member of a royal lineage. It’s just needs the the smallest details scattered here and there that give the tale some authenticity by painting pictures in the readers head. If you need to name the entire household of a noble family or create an index of key dates, then do it as an appendix, like George R. R. Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ to name just one example. That way the reader can decide to soak up the extra information if he/she wants to.
Here’s an extract from my notebook. When I was doing the majority of my research, I kept a ring-bound notebook which contains lots of scribbling that including a couple of maps. Rob Cooper has asked for more maps and so has Mel.
Page from research notebook including a sketched map
How accurate is this map? Probably not very accurate. It’s build from some descriptions of the temple complex in Tenochtitlan and a few poor sketches I’ve seen and it’s built using some facts but more importantly, it’s useful as a reference to help me stay consistent when I return to a place I’ve described before.
To understand the importance of the ceremony called ‘New Fire’ or the ‘Binding of the Years’, you have to first understand how the dual, interlocking calendar works and then you have really ‘see’ that the ancient astronomers of the Mayan and Mexica (Aztec) people were the Gnostics of their time. I’ll try to explain both as succinctly as possible as I suspect that the average time anyone spends reading a blog post is about 30 seconds. Here goes:
The tonalpohualli is a ceremonial calendar of 260 days that can be visualised by rotating two interlocking cogwheels together, one of 20 named days and the other of 13 numbered days. Doing this, you will produce 260 unique combinations of number-names before the cycle repeats.
The xiupohualli is the seasonal calendar that matches closely what we know of as a year, that is 365 days. This elapsed period is arrived at by allowing the cogwheel of 20 numbered days to rotate fully 18 times and then, adding five days of padding, a time called Nemontomi, required because the astronomers were able to track the motions of the stars to that level of accuracy.
Now, the end of any year was a little bit of a worry but the really big concern came every 52 (18980 days) years because that is the interval required for a 260 day cycle to mesh with a 365 days cycle and come full circle back to the start. This was quite literally the end of days and this is where we turn to the Gnostics.
The workings of the calendar were undoubtedly the cutting edge of ‘science’ – if we can think of it that way – in Mayan and Mexica calendars. If you want to find a parallel in modern times, the astronomers and priests who understood the measurements that led to these findings were the equivalent of particle physicists. Everyone understands that these people are exploring fundamental truths about our universe. So imagine if the people who just proved the existence of the Higgs-Boson told us in worried tones that additional research showed that the elusive particle turned inside out every billion years, releasing vast amounts of x-ray energy and annihilating all known organic life! We might be sceptical, but the very first question we’d ask in querulous terms would be “When is the next inside-out event due?”
How did I do? Still reading? If you want, there’s loads more information on the Mesoamerican calendar on the internet. The Mayan calendar includes the concept of the long count which recognises that people actually need to be able to track historical events beyond the 52 year boundary. Try www.wikipedia.com and www.azteccalendar.com among others.
‘That was your cue to gently cradle the kindling next to the embers you witless turd!’ Spittle sprayed as Cloud Face ranted on. ‘If you dump that stuff all over the fire-drill at Colhuacan we are all going to die! Do you understand?’
Snake Eyes nodded but it wasn’t enough. The high priest of Huitzilopochtli spat contemptuously and glanced down at the gangly youth on the altar, or what was left of him. Something deep inside the shattered human remains was trying to stay alive. The jaw worked and the eyes rolled down and looked up at the skeletal frame of Cloud Face looming above him. The high priest transferred the dark knife to his right hand and bent over his victim, then slowly, almost tenderly pushed the knife down through the boy’s eye socket until the hilt jammed against his face. The body spasmed weakly and then lay still. Cloud Face retracted the blade and examined it as though trying to understand why it was covered in blood and then he advanced on Snake Eyes.
Today marks the start of the PR campaign to raise interest in my novel entitled “New Fire”. It’s a historical fiction set in 1455AD in the reign of Moctezuma I. It’s an extraordinary period in history that is not well covered. The people and the culture are fascinating too, something that has a lot of mystique, partly due to the lack of records from around that time. Thanks to Cortez and his men, all the indigenous archives were destroyed so we have very little reliable information on how the Mexica (as they named themselves) lived.
The novel itself deals with the lives of a couple of young warriors caught up in the political turmoil that takes place over the course of a handful of days around a ceremony referred to as the ‘Binding of the Years’, an event that occurred every 52 years as the Mesoamerican calendar. A New Fire had to be lit in a complex religious ceremony to appease the gods and ensure continuation of the world as they knew it.
I’ll be posting more information here soon and some extracts from the book too. I look forward to hearing from you.