Posted by Literary Titan
Zurga’s Fire takes place in historical Greece and the rest of the Mediterranean and is broken up into four books filled with short tales of adventure. What was the inspiration for this third book in the Orfeo Saga?
The fictional universe laid out by Tolkien in Lord of the Rings was probably the series that got me thinking along the lines of an extended saga. I liked the way Tolkien used ancient sources to create heroic fiction. At the same time I wanted to be more historical like Robert Graves and his series I, Claudius. I wanted to write something that would not be fantastic, and which would not re-tread well known history. The Bronze Age offered scope to speculate. There are few written sources, but what there is offers scope to invent characters and place them in historical context.
Zurga’s Fire introduces the issue of nomads and how they impact civilization. I had been researching nomads for my other interest, Oriental carpets. Nomads were very effective warriors, and they could overwhelm sedentary societies. They did have one weakness, and that was leadership. Every group from that lead by Attila to Ghengis Khan eventually fell apart. A charismatic leader is essential for nomads. In Zurga’s Fire the leader of the nomads is eventually undone not so much by a face to face challenge, but by a crisis in leadership.
Why did you go with the format of short stories told as a collection?
This is a very good question. I really did not think about the format before I started writing the series. I wrote many short stories over a period of years that were never published. Looking back that was probably a good thing. I always liked reading short stories. I think I have a short attention span. The result is that I am quite comfortable writing short stories and I have structured my Orfeo Saga that way too. Many books in the Orfeo Saga are made up of two different stories which are divided into books. In contrast my other series about a Los Angeles based private eye (the Bart Northcote series) are entire novels.
I felt that the characters in this book were complex and well thought out. What was your favorite character to write for?
I think that the character I had the most fondness for was “Zurga.” I gave him a rather ridiculous name because the character went by many names. This name suggests that you cannot take the character seriously. Zurga likes to deceive people as to his true intentions, as well as build up a mythology around himself. Zurga realized early on that he would not be fully accepted. No one would ever select him as a leader. In contrast his protege Orfeo can become a leader. Again I was well aware of Orpheus in the Greek pantheon. While Orpheus was a gifted lute player, he is also credited introducing civilization to savages. My Orfeo character has some similarities with Orpheus, but I have taken all supernatural elements away.
I think of Zurga’s Fire as a historical adventure tale. Did you do any research to keep the setting and characters true?
I studied ancient and modern nomads for years. I read about them, their social structure, history, and particularly art. Many of my research trips were to see nomads making textiles, particularly Turkish speaking people. I knew that for the Bronze Age there were not good historical sources, so I filled in the blanks with what I understood from more modern nomadic groups. I tried to capture their lifestyle in the novel, without going into the nuts and bolts of their society. The interesting thing is that the Greeks had recently settled by the Bronze Age. In the novel they were well aware of the kind of enemy they faced. The same pattern repeats throughout history many times. A group settles and then the next group of nomads impinges on them. Every sedentary group has the same choice. They can fight or they can flee. For Zurga’s Fire I wanted to show how the nomads being horse riders and archers had an advantage. Sedentary society, with farmers, had fewer people who would naturally take on a warrior role. They could fortify cities to stop nomads, but that does not always work. That is the tension I wanted to accentuate in the book.
What does the next book in the Orfeo Saga take readers?
The next book is also divided into two main parts. The first part takes the characters to the New World. There has been a huge amount of scholarly speculation about the contacts between the Old and New Worlds. I think that there must have been limited contact between these two areas, but I am not sure that it occurred as early as the European Bronze Age. However, there was likely early contact. There was a report that a scientist had found traces of cocaine as well as nicotine in Egyptian mummies as early as 1000 BC. I think it is important to look at evidence with an open mind but have a healthy skepticism about big claims.The Orfeo Saga volume 4 has a bit more humor in it than other books in the series. I also thought it was important for Orfeo to take a greater role in his own fate. His teacher disappears during this story.
Part II of the book deals with the rise of Sparta. This is not as far-fetched as some people think. Archaeology is pushing the date for Spartan civilization further back in time. I try to post interesting links to the archaeology on my Facebook page.
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The Getae inhabited the region on either side of the Lower Danube River, in what is today northern Bulgaria and southern Romania. They were in contact with ancient Greeks from an early date. Herodotus – writing in the 5th century BC – extols their martial spirit: “…when it lightens and thunders, they aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own.”
They ruthlessly incorporate conquered people into their society through enslavement, and are prepared to kill those who are not useful to their plans. They have no need for the luxuries of city life. Fighting in troops of mounted archers, they mock individual heroes. Getae have a long history of reducing enemies in deadly hails of arrows while not getting close enough to lose warriors in single combat. Here Orfeo and his warriors must deal with an expanding Getae empire during the heroic age of Greece. Vastly outnumbered, can they stop an invasion that threatens not only their lives, but also their entire culture?
Posted in Interviews
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Pearl of the Seas
Posted by Literary Titan
In this delightfully imaginative tale, two children, Chris and Kate, find a log of driftwood on the beach. They decide to build a boat and sail across the ocean. Whether by magic or imagination, the two friends and their little dog Holly build their ship, name it the Pearl of the Seas, and begin their journey. Like any fairy tale, there are obstacles to overcome, dangers to face, and kind strangers to help them along their way. They rely on friendship, faith, and kindness to see them home to a happy ending.
Intended as a prequel to Black Inked Pearl, a romance novel, this story is dedicated to young teens. I believe it would also appeal to middle-grade youth as well. There’s a real sense of youth-centered discovery and the freedom to let creative fancies bloom into epic adventures. And I don’t use ‘epic’ lightly; the author weaves in themes, events, and allusions borrowed from the Bible, the original Greek epics, tales of Aladdin and Orpheus, and classic narrative poetry. Indeed, poetry is the heart of the tale, and to me, it read less like a novel and more like a prose poem:
“All things stayed silent. Harkening. The gulls sat in white lines along the rocks; on the beach, great seals lay basking and kept time with lazy heads; while silver shoals of fish came up to hearken, and whispered as they broke the shining calm.”
Poems in traditional form are often combined with the prose. Finnegan creates a language that can take some time to get used to the unusual sentence structure and sing-song pattern of the words. In some passages, the child-like way of chaining words together lends an air of playfulness. Since readers (especially young readers) may be inspired to learn more about the poetry and prose of the book, the author includes a section of notes at the end. She offers more information about key phrases and events, poetic references, and the inspiration for some of the key events in the story. I found this to be a big help in deciphering some of the words and concepts of the book.
The characters are charming. Kate and Chris have their own problems in the real world. Kate is perplexed by math and the nuns who teach her; Chris has lost his mother and is being raised by a foster father. Holly, the dog, finds every opportunity for danger and gives both children a chance to play hero and rescue her. Once they’re sailing the sea of dreams, they meet Yahwiel with his riddles, as well as the benevolent King and Queen who live on an Eden-like island. These characters all have an air of the divine, and the lessons they teach are steeped in the Christian faith.
If you’re looking for a unique book for a young reader or a short chapter book to read to very young children, Pearl of the Seas is a unique story that goes beyond mere entertainment. It’s an excellent introduction to poetry, classic literature, and imagination.
Pages: 138 | ISBN: 1625902557
Posted in Book Reviews, Four Stars
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