Wednesday, June 25, 2014

O4S Trivia: Book II

Okay, ready for the next installment of O4S trivia?  I definitely am, as Carcosa has one of my favorite scenes in the series.  WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS. 

Let’s go.

1. More Stephen King Shout-Outs.
The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.  So begins The Dark Tower series, which are among Coyote’s and my favorite books of all time.  In Carcosa, a woman in red flees across the desert, and the gunslingers follow.  Our version of Carcosa is a place where time and distance is “soft,” and the world has definitely “moved on,” littered with crumbling relics.  The relics, like bombs and Gatling guns, have disturbing implications for what came before.  It’s implied that Carcosa destroyed itself in a war.  What’s left has reverted to a crude Old West culture with struggling farms, desert and bandits. 

No meks in King's story, though.

2. Westerns. 
The Gunslinger as a western also ties in with our KC references—as I mentioned in the last trivia post, KC is a cowtown.  We host the American Royal World Series of Barbecue every year.  Kearney, MO is home to the James-Younger gang, who, as you may also recall, play a big role in Book I.

In Book II, JD really gets to take the lead, as he fits right in in western-themed Carcosa.  As Murphy will later say, “Guns, dusters, plenty of stuff to shoot.”  Yeah, JD’s home.  In his backstory, you will see that he met his wife, a smokin’ hot Latina, in Yuma, AZ.  As JD is driving along that western highway, he’s listening to John Lee Hooker’s “Bad Like Jesse James” on the radio.  The location is a nod to 3:10 to Yuma.  It’s also just up the road a piece from Tacna and the Devil’s Highway, where Bill, Emily and Vickers will enact their own showdown some thirty years later. 

Finally, Nathan DePriest is our pale rider, both of the Clint Eastwood and Biblical variety.  There’s also Nathan’s lair, known as Calvera, Spanish for “skull,” and a reference to the villain in The Magnificent Seven.
 
3. More Kansas City Shout-Outs.
In Book I, the team sets out from KC.  Bill drinks Roasterie coffee.  In Book II, we see that Kate works for the Kansas City Public Library, the Downtown branch, which has been listed in several places as one of the world’ s most beautiful libraries.  It does have the giant chess set on the roof.  Kate also stops by Fervere’s, a KC bakery, for her cook-out with Bill and Cecil.  We never say it, but it’s implied that Clayton lives in Hyde Park, a grand and historic KC neighborhood. 

The main library building


The library parking garage

4. Languages
The written and spoken language of Carcosa reflects its past as a place where many worlds once connected, what Coyote and I think of as a “hub” dimension.  The Mayan writings we connect back to Book I—presumably, Whitefeather’s visions (or, more likely, his extradimensional excursions) took him to Carcosa.  Carcosa’s proximity to Excelsior Springs also influenced the architect who designed the Hall of Waters. 

The names and nationalities of Carcosa’s inhabitants illustrate the diversity of the place—or the remnants of it, anyway.  Old Geb, his granddaughter, and Bran Okafor are dark-skinned, African-looking people.  Okafor is actually a Nigerian name.  A lot of Carcosans are Latino, like Diego.  The Eerin's names are derived from Australian aboriginal words.  The Hormiga folk have Biblical names, mostly from the Apocryphal texts, like Enoch. 

A translator amulet was necessary to navigate the linguistic waters, and what good is magic in a series like this if you can’t talk to your extradimensional neighbors?  Coyote is an old-school Trekkie, and he always appreciated their universal translator devices.  We’re both Star Wars fans, and one of the things that disappointed most about the prequels was how everybody suddenly spoke English.  We missed the polyglot universe of the original trilogy.   

5. Lovecrafty Goodness
Carcosa is more popular than ever these days thanks to True Detective.  (I blogged about that, too.) 

As much as we owe to Lovecraft, with our concept of horror (madness and the terrible beings that lurk outside the known universe), we also owe much to the older incarnations of Carcosa, from the works of Ambrose Bierce and Robert Chambers. 

In our book, Bill is tormented more than ever by the King in Yellow—or is he?  In his backstory, we learn that he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, the result of a spectacularly deadly mission in Peru.  (BTW, the Lima beastie came straight out of one of my nightmares.  You’re welcome.)  Ah, PTSD—the gift that just keeps on giving.  Bill also wrestled with a little problem with prescription pills.  Again, the concept of mental illness as horror is very Lovecraft.  We find the idea of losing one’s mind to be just as frightening as any Elder God. 

In the original Ambrose Bierce story, Carcosa was a ruin—hence, our Carcosa is a ruin.  Of course, our Carcosa refers to an entire planet, not just a town or city.  In Robert Chambers’ work, Carcosa was cursed.  (I forgot to mention in the Book I trivia post—we named the fictional town of Chambers, KS after Robert.)  Our Carcosa is decidedly cursed—virtually all of the wildlife is deadly and/or poisonous.  The majority of the people and animals suffer from what they call “blights,” genetic mutations that have been handed down over untold generations. 

We also reference Lovecraft’s The Doom that Came to Sarnath, about a ruined city that was once a cultural mecca.  Religion was its downfall.  Presumably, religion was also the downfall of the Sarnath in our Carcosa, which is what brought such devastation to the land and its creatures.  We include the remains of Lake Hali.  In Lovecraft’s work, Carcosa was on the shores of Lake Hali.

6. The Eerin
The Eerin are one of the extreme examples of genetic mutation, presumably from some sort of horrible nuclear fallout.  We couldn’t imagine anything worse than being an albino mutation in the middle of a desert.  Hence, the Eerin are cave dwellers.  They were once gentle, nomadic shepherds.  It is also implied that their relatives are the ones who went and got all citified and founded Sarnath.

A lot of elements went into creating the Eerin.  We decided to get a lot of names from Australian Aboriginal words.  The word eerin means “small gray owl,” fitting for nocturnal, subterranean creatures.  Their home is Canungra, which means, “place of owls.”  They refer to the dead gate as the Cobar, which means, “burnt earth.”  Their cleansing ritual, Yarrawonga, means “water running over rocks.” 

The Eerin history is gruesome.  They hid themselves away in the caves as a war raged outside hundreds of years ago.  When they ran out of food, they resorted to cannibalism.  The current Eerin no longer partake of meat.  It has become a religious and cultural tenet for them. 

We include a creation tale for them, which we based on Gnostic traditions—the idea that the world had been created by a demiurge rather than God, hence the world is unclean, material, and separate from the pure spiritual world.  That’s why the Eerin are so fanatical about cleanliness and purity.    

One can also assume that Nathan DePriest was born in Canungra and, at some point, became an exile. 

7. The Mushroom Trip
This.  This is, quite possibly, my favorite scene in the whole series.  Obviously, the sequence is rife with symbolism.  Kate eats mushrooms, like Alice in Wonderland, another favorite of ours.  It starts with her going down into the stone grotto below Canungra, a reference to the omphalos, the axis mundi, the navel, the Center of the World.  Her Eerin guide is Kudin, whose name means, “navel.”

From there, she connects to the divine—the spirit of Carcosa itself, which she discovers is not dead after all.  It helps her really tap into her own magical abilities. 

The catfish is a nod to the actress who played Kate West in the original film, a singer, songwriter and guitarist, who had a catfish tattoo to symbolize the blues.    

"Don't you worry.  I'll bring you to the other side."

The mushroom trip foreshadows events for the rest of the series.  To prepare ourselves to write this scene, we spent several days writing out what information we wanted to hint at and the best way to symbolize it.  We also watched the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, “Restless,” several times.  Lots of inspiration there. 

Except we inflict ABBA on Kate rather than Grace Slick.

8. Order History
In Book II, in addition to getting some backstory on some of the characters, we also get more backstory on the Order itself.  The Order is, for all intents and purposes, a borderless nation.  It has its own laws, traditions, and even schools. 

Doug gives a pretty extensive history lesson to the team, and Clayton and Alyssa’s foray onto the Field of St. Matthew, the Order’s construct (or pocket dimension), also illustrates the organization’s long and storied past.   

The Rosslyn Chapel was built by the Sinclairs—historically true.  Obviously, we made up the part where they are members of the Order.  Around that same time period, Starry Wisdom had thoroughly infiltrated the Catholic Church, which is why the Templars were persecuted. 

The Rosslyn Chapel

For our purposes, the Sinclairs built the Chapel to house the segments of the Staff of Solomon.  All of the ornate carvings and the unusual architecture of the Chapel itself are spells to ward off the enemies of the Order.  The Rosslyn Chapel serves as the entryway to the Field of St. Matthew, the Order’s headquarters.  This is where the Oracles live, where the Council of Names convenes.  The Council of Names, like the organization it serves, is ancient, venerable, and international.  (Did you catch that Galileo reference?)

Further glimpse into the Order is offered through Alyssa and Clayton’s chapters.  You see Clayton’s role as a regional director.  You also see that the Order, being a human institution, is not infallible by how it treats its Oracles. 

9.  Five Towns, Five Moons
In numerology, four is a number of stability and order, whereas five is a number of chaos and strife.  Hence, Carcosa is a place of five moons and five towns.  The Eerin’s myth tells how the Fifth Moon once gave birth to the demiurge, a being called Yapabat, (from an Aboriginal word meaning “untamed”). 

The five towns are:
  • Elysium - named for the mythological afterlife; a paradise.
  • Siloam - named for the healing spring in the Bible; there is also a Siloam Springs in Missouri.
  • Pata Sur – okay, I made this one up as a joke.  Literally, “south paw.”  My husband is a leftie.
  • Hormiga – this came from something my great-grandmother always used to say.  She used to say that bad deeds led al ojo de la hormiga, “into an ant’s eye.”  Seemed fitting for a Carcosan town.
  • Trapiche – the fifth and final town.  Trapiche refers to the star-shaped pattern of inclusions in gemstones, like emeralds.  A hint of what is to come in Book III.


10.  Parallel Characters
Like many authors, we have several pairs of characters who mirror each other.  JD and Nathan are a big example—their speech patterns are very similar; they’re both hard-bitten gunslingers; they both follow a certain ethical code; they’re both kinda insane.  Obviously, the crucial difference is JD has morals.  But we think that Nathan is what JD could have descended into, had his circumstances been different; had JD lacked the crucial intervention from Clayton.    

Katarina and Alyssa is another such pair.  They were both abandoned by their parents; both mages; both abused horribly; both taken in by a loving caregiver; both have a fondness for knives.  Both young women will do anything for their parental figures, including becoming a bodyguard/human shield. 

Unfortunately, Katarina’s caregiver turned out to be Bathory, who took the girl’s already damaged psyche and twisted it further for her own ends.  Alyssa, on the other hand, was rescued by Clayton. 

I know who I’d pick to adopt me.


Motifs & Symbolism
The Book Cover – Book I’s element was water.  Book II is earth.  Carcosa is a place of desert hardpan, sand and farmers.  Hence, the cover is a sandy color, all greens and brown earth tones. 

Bunnies – Alyssa’s Bugs Bunny lighter.  The rabbit-like creatures hopping around Carcosa.  We find out that Vickers is something of a magpie where magical artifacts are concerned, keeping trophies for himself from Order and Starry Wisdom operatives—among which are rabbit items. 

Water – Book II is notable for the lack of water in Carcosa.  Diego’s fountain is dry, his well is nearly tapped out.  There is the rainstorm where Bill and Emily really start to bond; the gentle stream lapping its way through the Field of St. Matthew.  Kate has to undergo a ritual bath to enter Canungra, and of course, there’s the empty fountain at the center of the Locus in Trapiche.

Sri Yantra – no Sri Yantra this time around.  There is no connection from Carcosa to heaven.  The closest you get in Carcosa is “Elysium,” where at least you can buy a bath. 

Phoenix – not an actual bird this time, but Clayton and Alyssa find themselves on a layover in Phoenix.  (Yes, that’s Arizona again.) 

Minotaur – the minotaur appears to Kate in her mushroom trip.  I don’t know if I’m more disturbed by the fact that it’s eating a steak, or that it uses A1 Sauce. 

It will share its meat with you.

Pomegranates – In Book I, Akhenaton sips his pomegranate juice in the end.  In Book II, Kate is tempted by the handsome rancher named Diego, whose home is called Granada—Spanish for pomegranate.  Solomon’s pomegranate scepter is among the Order’s treasures.  The pomegranate is an ancient symbol across many cultures.  The Egyptians regarded it as a symbol of prosperity.  The ancient Greeks called it the "food of the dead," and of course, it's associated with the Persephone myth.  

Also, after we finish each book, Coyote and I celebrate-- we toast with pomegranate juice.  

Beverage of choice for Elder Beings.

Colors – White – in the O4S verse, white is associated with madness and disorder.  Hence, Nathan is an albino who favors white garments. 

Names – There's the Council of Names who rules the Order-- once again hearkening back to the ancient Egyptian belief in the power of names.  The Order arose from learning the name of Atum, the Elder Being, which gave them the power to trap it and learn Its secrets.

Grigori is Hebrew, for “awake,” or “watcher,” and Chaldean, for “guard.”  It’s a Biblical term associated with angels.  Doug “Doc” Grigori certainly represented all that was good and just in the Order.  Watcher is also another reference to Buffy and the Council of Watchers. 

We made David “Cecil” Morgan’s middle name Ganesh, because his mom was a hippie, but also because Ganesh is the elephant-headed Hindu god, a patron of arts and sciences, which seemed fitting for our techie.

Some religions: no mushrooms required.


If you have questions or comments about the O4S verse, please don't be shy!  I'll be posting Book III trivia soon.  


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Meet Poet T.L. Washington

So, let’s start with an introduction.

My name is T. L. Washington, and that is me below.  I’m 43, married to the smartest woman I know, (Lori Jo), and live in beautiful Boise, Idaho. I am not much to look at, but boy do I make up for it with humor and depth. I consider myself a poet, a writer, a student of philosophy, and dare I say it, a student of life. Not necessarily in that order, but you get the gist of things.



I’ve been writing for most of my life, but didn’t start taking writing seriously until last year. I am originally from a small town called Drew, Mississippi, with a population of about 2,000 residents. Six years in the US Army gave me experiences to which I could postulate on people from all walks of life. My years with the philosophy department in college gave me the ability to frame my questions and develop context for that understanding. The rest, well, like many of you, I’m figuring it out through trial and error.

This is my webpage address. Here you can find out little things I care to share.

This is my Facebook page. Here you can see what I’m up to in real-time. Yay, more sharing.

Below are the books I’ve written so far. They are aptly named, for they are my initial attempts to fly. Talk about bumpy starts and rough landings. But I wanted to start with poetry to get my feet wet, and now, I’m stretching out my wings to soar the heavens. The next step for me is the release of several original short stories, and then, a series of full length novels. I’ve included the book cover(s), a synopsis, and excerpts from each book.

I hope you enjoy reading them, as much as I did writing them.

(L)ive (O)nly (V)ibrant (E)xistence,
T. L. Washington  


The Little Book of Big Poetry (The Sacred and the Sinful) Book 1

This is the first book in the series. I was so nervous when this came out. It is where I learned what not to do. But still, it is a great treat. There are lots of little gems in there, and some of them will keep you going back to gain a deeper understanding. They say you never forget your first…well, this was my first.

Sample Poems:

Poem #1 – When These Tired Bones Give Up the Fight (And I Close My Eyes)
Outside my window the sun goes to bed
As its colors fill the skyline with regret
I press rewind on the conversations of the day
Shockingly provocative, in a perfectly perverse way

The night creeps in with the mystery of not knowing
Prompting routine bedtime rituals, of all individuals
I am thankful for the challenges, that haven’t yet paralyzed me

A list of names for thoughtful blessings
Of family and friends, to whom love brings
As dream welcome my surrender to its charm
The night recaptures what the day took from its arms


Poem #6 – My Conversation with the Prostitute Paula Marie (The Years Have Worn Down Her Spirit) 
Men have bad intentions
Saints and sinners both
I listened as she spoke

Never done right by me
They’re no good you see
Plenty of hurt along the way
Damn them all, she says

Ever since childhood
Thugs to my womanhood
Hope and faith die slowly
Nothing but tears to keep you company
Being alone is lonely
Men rent, but don’t own me

Women pay good attention
Give til they run empty
Sacrifice for promises
Hell of thing honesty
Trust is untrustworthy

We all say something different
The same, but different
Lies to cover up betrayal
Truth to mask denial
I had no words to comfort
As she got off the bus
Somewhere near Latah Street


The Little Book of Big Poetry (The Sacred and the Sinful) Book 2

This was the follow up to the first book. I tried to expand my field of inquiry with this book. It felt a little more comfortable the second time, but I was still chipping away at the rough edges. The texture of this book became richer with content. I am proud of this book.

Sample Poems:

Poem #5 Useful Animals (Pedigree is everything)
Look at us
Such useful animals
Oh how we dance around
Such proud cannibals

We prey and we pray
We slay and we stay
How wonderfully deranged we all are
We pay the keeper, who plays the grim reaper
Isn’t that a little bizarre

Look at us
Such foolish mammals
Were bloated pedigree
Locked into one channel

Oh how amusing it must seem
To the one who goes unseen
We darling little animals
Getting jiggy to sadistic anthems


Poem #17 The Lonely Exodus of Prayers
Breach the night sky
Scale two fences thereby
Occupy and defend your position
Brutalize your self-apprehension

Do it with flare if you dare
Inform me when you’re there
Destined to survive perdition
Go on then – make your confession


The Little Book of Big Poetry (The Sacred and the Sinful) Book 3

This was the third book in the series. It was a delight to write, and equally delightful to hear from people who read the other two books. I started to find my stride with this one. I believe it shows growth in content and character. By golly it worked out well.

Sample Poems:

Poem # 3 Vetted (A 2.0 Adaptation)
Here it comes, the glorious feat
where upon the angels weep
where beneath the demons sleep
once more for property rights

Here it rests the forgotten miracles
alas, the finish to blistering serials
lament and sign accepted rituals
enough already, count me in

Here it dies the lasting whispers
bastard heirs and tainted vigils
of trinkets that excite all the senses
let go...let go...let go
rest my friend

Poem # 4 Adequate Portions Relative to State
What will become of me
when my words fail to capture the moment
when guilt over decadence finds a new lover
as my memories become nothing more than a cover

how about my children
who’ve yet to reach full potential
my loves that carry on the vigil
my angels who need no further council

Am I a relic of my last attempts
Should I hide away with regret
Seek shelter from the storm
Lay down in this bed of thorns

What will become of me
when the trivial skews my noble accomplishments
will I suffer the joke of brutal and cruel observance
when the night sheds its counterpart
as if life itself was the master's art

What will become of you
when there's no me to complete the part of two
will you find comfort in what was an attractive
distraction
tell me, did I at least provide you with a dramatic
narrative

As such - the battle rages on with zeal
and the animal in me consumes his last meal
for even giants relish In the prior glorious feats
until death emerges yet again to claim its mortal meat



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

O4S Trivia: Book I

So I realized the other day that it's already been a year since we finished Book III, Where Flap the Tatters of the King.  We're already a year into working on Book IV, Going Forth by Day.  We're about 200 pages in and not moving along nearly as quickly as I'd like, but whaddaya gonna do?  Genius can't be rushed.

I'd been meaning to compile some O4S trivia for some time.  I'm kicking it off with Book I, The Order of the Four Sons.  

SPOILERS AHEAD.

1. O4S was originally a movie. 
Back in 2005, some friends of mine hooked me up with a local director who was in search of a screenwriter.  He wanted to make a horror film in Excelsior Springs.  So we did it, and not only did I conceive of what is now the O4S-verse, I got to play a small part.  (I also got to help scout locations, build sets, and hold a boom mike.  It was a small production.)  The movie was filmed over the summer and then . . . well, nothing.  It never got edited into an appreciable product.  I retained the rights to the script. 

The main characters are based loosely on the actors who played them: Kate, JD, Murphy, Bill, Doug, Cecil, Clayton, Alyssa, Emily and Vickers.  The actors who played Kate, JD and Bill are all talented singers and musicians.  The real Murphy was actually a cop/EMT.  (In fact, while filming the movie, he and the other principal cast members were on their way to an outdoor set and witnessed a car accident.  He jumped out of the car to administer first aid to the victims and stayed with them until an ambulance arrived.)      

While filming, I met this nice guy named Coyote who was an extra.  (He played an eretic.)  He was also a writer.  After the movie wrapped, we kept in touch. 

One day, about a year later, he called me up and said, “Why don’t we make that script into a series?”

I don’t think either of us had any idea of what we were getting ourselves into.

2. Thanks to the movie, I’m stuck with an ugly cat. 
Late one July afternoon, as we were getting ready to shoot some night scenes, I heard a kitten mewing outside the Royal Hotel.  I found her huddled in a patch of dirt.  She was only three weeks old, malnourished and dehydrated.  We got her some water and I took her home early the next morning.

She looked like an orange cat that’s been dragged under a truck.  I thought she was dirty, so I gave her a bath.  It turns out, that’s just what she looks like.  To make matters worse, she has squinty little eyes, bat ears, and a funny little Pinto bean nose.  We named her Otter.  She never got very big, but she has an over-sized personality, and she coos when she’s happy. 

Dis beast.

She has come to be the inspiration for several of the creatures who appear later in the series—the Hormiga Beast and the mermaids, for instance (“They glided over the surface, their long, lean bodies like otters, racing for it”—not accidental phrasing).  She has also inspired critters in other tales of mine—the dragon in The Ice Dragon, the sphinx in The Winter Prince, Carlos’ cat in Under Julia.  Coyote and I frequently ask ourselves where we would be without my little beast.  Where indeed.

3. Real locations.
The Royal Hotel, the Hall of Waters, the Elms, the Monterey Motel, the Salem Hill Cemetery (where there are, in fact, quite a few Masonic graves) are all real places in Excelsior Springs, MO.  Several of them are rumored to be haunted. 

The Royal Hotel

The Hall of Waters

The Swithin Bell & Candle occult shop is fictional though, in case you were wondering.  (My mother went up to Excelsior for a day-trip and called to ask me where it was.  Since everything else was real, she assumed it was too.)   

4. Family connections.
My step-father’s family has lived in the Northland area of Kansas City for generations.  The site where the Royal Hotel now stands was originally the Snapps Tavern, owned by Lena Hill.  My step-father is related to Ms. Hill.  Also, my husband and I have had several relatives who’ve worked for the Elms Hotel. 

5. Stephen King shout-outs.
King has been a tremendous influence on modern horror and it’s almost impossible to write a series like O4S without giving him some shout-outs.  In the case of Book I, it’s mostly the structure—multiple points of view, and supporting documentation like news articles and diaries, which is how he structured his first novel, Carrie.  Also, the haunted hotel schtick, since The Shining was the first King book I ever read.    

6. The history.
The James farm is in Kearney, MO, just up the road from Excelsior.  Their father was one of the founders of William Jewell College, in Liberty, MO.  There really is a theory that Jesse James survived being shot and went into hiding.  Though, as far as I know, they were never involved in a pseudo-Masonic organization like the Order.  The Whitefeathers are entirely fictional, though there are a lot of people in the area of Native American and French descent.    

The Outlaw

Elizabeth Bathory, obviously, is based on a real person, and so is Katarina Benicka.  Mihaly and Klara, however, are fictional. 
The Lady in Red

Jack the Ripper/H. H. Holmes are based on the real-life serial killers.  I am not the first to suggest that they were the same person.  Why not?  The dates check out. 

The Devil in the White City

Then, of course, there's this guy:

Amenhotep IV

Akhenaton was most famous for trying to institute monotheism in ancient Egypt.  He was also known for having a strange androgynous build, believed to be caused by a rare genetic disorder.  

7. Eretics: zombies en flambe?
Eretics are . . . something I totally made up, I guess.  I could’ve sworn I found a reference to them in Eastern European folklore, but now I can’t, for the life of me, find the original source to cite.  (It has been nine years since I first came up with them, after all.)  I wanted something Eastern European because—Bathory.  But not vampires.  Anything but vampires.  Since necromancy is something of a specialty of Bathory’s, I thought they were the perfect demon henchman for the Blood Countess.  According to the article I came across all those years ago, eretics (or eretiks) are reanimated corpses.  They are red and burnt-looking because it is believed that their spirit has been called back from the fires of hell.  In the O4S-verse, it's believed that the concentrated power of the spell that has reanimated them burns out their already-fragile, decomposing bodies.  I love the smell of burning zombie in the morning!

8. The book covers.
Each book corresponds to an element.  Book I is water, hence the cover is blue with a pattern to suggest water. 

9.  MJ-12.  It's a thing.
Recently, my husband and I were watching old X-Files episodes and the MJ-12 project was mentioned.  He turned to me and was all, "Wait-- MJ-12?  That's really a thing?"  Yes.  Yes, MJ-12 is really a thing.  I was a big X-Files fan back in the day, so I read everything I could get my hot little hands on regarding UFOs and government conspiracies.  MJ-12 is short for Majestic-12, the project believed to have been formed after the Roswell Incident to study UFO technology.  For O4S-verse purposes, we wanted a shady government branch that dealt with paranormal activities.  It makes sense to us that any UFO technology in our stories is more likely to be extra-dimensional rather than extraterrestrial.  

10. A major character dies in every book.
Hey, we’ve got nothing on George R. R. Martin.  But we did have four major character deaths planned from the inception.  Sorry, but it had to happen.  We, the authors, are dark, chthonic gods who demand sacrifice.  Keep those boxes of tissues handy.


Motifs & Symbolism (Stuff that recurs throughout the series):
The series was pretty well planned out, from beginning to end, before we started writing Book I.  Because of that, we were able to pepper in a lot of clues/foreshadowing and recurring images throughout the books.  Here are a few.  

Bunnies - A reference to Watership Down, one of Coyote’s and my all-time favorite books.  (I loved the movie so much as a kid, I begged my mom to rent it every weekend from the local video store.  Finally, the store just gave me the rental copy.  Also, I now have a tattoo of El-ahrairah on my right shoulder.) 

Prince with a Thousand Enemies

Water - Kansas City is basically one big flood plain.  We have the Kansas and Missouri rivers.  We have Excelsior with its mineral springs.  We have innumerable small rivers and creeks.  We have more fountains than any other city in the world except Rome.  It pisses down rain here all spring and summer.  Water, water, everywhere—a powerful symbol of life, femininity, fertility, intuition, and all kinds of mystical stuff.    

The Sri Yantra - In Book I, it makes its first appearance in the Hall of Waters.  A Hindu Yantra of nine interlocking triangles that radiate from a central point, it is the Cosmic Yantra, or the Yantra of Creation.  The opposite of Isfet, in other words. 

Get thee behind me, Isfet.

Phoenix - Seen at the top of the Hall of Waters.  A symbol of rebirth. 

Minotaur - In Book I, there’s just a brief reference, when Murphy remarks on the labyrinthine quality of the “Other Hotel” construct.  Kansas City is a cow town.  

Anyone lived in pretty cow town?

Colors - We’re heavy into color symbolism.  All of the main characters are assigned a color and a corresponding element; e.g., Kate’s color is blue and her element is water. 

Names - In many world religions and traditions, names are very powerful.  To speak the name of someone or something is to create it, or to have power over it.  It's a major tenet in demonology.  Isfet, the force our heroes are fighting against, means destruction, to “unname.”  All the characters' names means something significant.  For example, JD Garnett's name is a play on the blood-red stone.  We assigned him the color red, the element of fire, and he's stone-cold killer.  Clayton is so named because we assigned him the color gray, and the element of earth ("clay").  Grabowski means "place of the hornbeams."  I can’t think of a name more earthy than a tree.

Names are also bound up in personalities, personas and aspects.  Hence, sometimes JD is just JD, and other times he's the Colonel, depending on his mood.  Our names are also associated with people's perceptions of us.  Elizabeth Bathory is sometimes Erzsebet, sometimes Eliza and sometimes the Blood Woman.  Jack, of course, sheds personas whenever it suits him, taking his "H" names for reasons known only to him.

Egyptian and Lovecraftian imagery - too much to name here.  The Order and their nemesis organization Starry Wisdom go back to ancient Egypt, as does the creature, Akhenaton.  Akhenaton is a thing of Isfet, and hence, a bringer of chaos and madness.  (Madness robs one of his/her identity, which, again, is connected to the idea of "unnaming.)  Akhenaton is also a great swapper of identities, like Jack.  It is the King in Yellow, a reference to the Chambers work which features more prominently in Book II.  


Stay tuned-- I'll be posting trivia for Book II soon.  While you wait, you could always read (or re-read) the O4S series to date.  Just sayin'.