Release: Destiny Fulfilled (Tales of Two Worlds 5)

We’ve come a long way. Some of us more than others. And in the case of two characters from this installment of Tales of Two Worlds, the distance is unimaginable.

For some, the other world is home, and ours is the alien land. A man on a mission discovers that the land he believed a paradise is instead something else entirely. His sister, happy in the life she has made, fears for him, yet she wants him to experience the same wonder she had a year ago. And her husband would gladly forget about the other world altogether, but he knows he can’t. The bonds of family are strong, even when pulled to their limit.

Since it’s an Otherworld story, you know it’s exclusive to my Patreon. And you know it only costs you 3 bucks a month to pick it up. So I don’t need to say that…except that I already did.

Well, no matter. The next in line is also the last. Tune in this November for the Tales finale, “The Price of Freedom”. Until that day comes, keep reading!

Otherworld and reality

For the most part, I try to make my stories natural. They aren’t necessarily believable, as many of them are set in fantasy worlds, but I strive for realism of the sort that can make a reader feel drawn into the world. So characters act like people. Dialogue is sometimes halting or rambling, depending on the situation. And the settings get a lot of love from me, because I just enjoy worldbuilding.

Otherworld, the setting of my largest series (31 parts and counting!), is no exception. Really, it’s the poster child for my “hardcore” style of worldbuilding, as I’ve stated on numerous occasions. I started developing the world in 2013 as little more than a conlang playground, then redesigned it in 2015 as part of my serious writing push. Through it all, I’ve tried to keep one goal in mind.

This could be our world.

Sometimes, that doesn’t work out. Nobody could have predicted the coronavirus panic this year, that the entire world would shut down for months. So Otherworld stories don’t talk about that; for them (and my other “Paraverse” novels, such as the Endless Forms series), it was nothing more than another swine flu scare. Likewise, the characters don’t have to worry about riots when they’re on Earth. Even the original deus ex machina for getting them away from our planet didn’t materialize: Tropical Storm Chantal was late last year, and it didn’t go where I predicted it would seven years ago.

Despite those flaws, I try to keep Otherworld as close to reality as possible while maintaining the dramatic aspects of the stories. It fits “in the gaps”, so to speak. We don’t know that these things don’t exist. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The big one

Of course, keeping that fiction alive is hard to do when you look at the overarching hypothesis of the series. To sum it up, the Americas were inhabited long ago, far longer than our theories (as of 2013) suggest. The original inhabitants were advanced, and possibly not even fully human—the truth of that remains a mystery even to me. They didn’t have an empire, but they did create numerous points of civilization that have since been lost.

This culture was far better adapted to the cold, dry climate of the Ice Age. When it ended about 12,000 years ago, their largest settlements sank beneath the rising seas, which is the main reason we can’t find them. (Yes, it’s an Atlantis riff. Sue me.) Seeing this catastrophe, they evacuated, using a set of ten mysterious sites containing wormholes. These linked to corresponding sites on another Earthlike planet, a colder one in general, where they set up shop.

Along the way, they brought the plants and animals they were familiar with. Some of those we know: Otherworld has corn and potatoes, New World raccoons and squirrels, though nothing not native to the Americas, with the possible exception of bottle gourds, which may have come over during the Ice Age. But it, unlike Earth, did not suffer the Pleistocene extinctions. So there are mammoths, sabretooth cats, dire wolves, and a few others.

This ancient civilization also interacted with the “first” Americans. Indeed, they traded with them, taught them, respected them. When their perceived apocalypse arrived, they took some of their neighbors with them to their new home. Thus, Otherworld’s natives are cousins to America’s natives. They aren’t the Aztec, Maya, Inuit, or Iroquois. They’re their own people. But they’re related, and they’re much closer to these than they are Europeans, Africans, or Asians.

Once they crossed over, the two races mostly returned to their dynamic. The ancients continued to learn and teach, even going as far as genetically engineering new sub-races of humans. The less-advanced natives accepted their wisdom, in some cases deifying them.

That worked until Otherworld began to snap out of its Ice Age about 4500 years ago. The ancients, now with nowhere else to go, retreated to high mountains and the Arctic counterpart, pushed along by one of their created races. (One small part of this tale is told in my free novel Seasons Change.) Whether any of them remain is an open question, one I have yet to see a need to answer.

Keeping it real

So that’s the backstory. Almost none of it really matters to the main plot of the stories, except that the characters from Earth are trying to piece it together out of curiosity. Still, I wanted it to be something that sounded plausible and wouldn’t be debunked easily. Yes, I’m aware that we’d probably have found evidence of advanced technology before now. And there’s not a millennia-old temple hidden around Soto la Marina, Mexico. Or Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Fossil, Oregon; Pelican Narrows, Saskatchewan…

Still, there could be. So what about the rest of it? Specifically, the timeline. How does that hold up after nearly a decade of new research?

Pretty well, in my opinion. The “gap” trick continues to work, keeping my ancients safely away from debunking. Even better are some of the findings that have come to light in the past three years.

We used to know the timing of the first Americans. It was a done deal. Call it about 13,000-15,000 years ago. They walked across a land bridge where the Bering Strait is now, then kept going through a narrow corridor between the glaciers in western Canada, following the plentiful game as they rapidly spread out through the two continents. Within a thousand years, they were everywhere from Alaska to Argentina, known by the distinct stone artifacts first found in Clovis, New Mexico.

By 2013, that theory was already beginning to crack. Now, it’s dead in the water. Spear points predating the Clovis style have been found in a number of locations, most notably Gault, not too far north of Austin, Texas. Bone tools in the Yukon site of Bluefish Caves go back a full ten thousand years before the earliest Clovis theories—they’re twice as old as the end of the Ice Age!

I’ve incorporated some of these into the Otherworld series. The remains of a child in Alaska showed DNA markers distinct from any extent Native American populations; she became, in my telling, a possible member of the ancient civilization. A similar find in Mexico dates to the “evacuation” period of my setting, and I’m on the fence as to whether that one represents an ancient or one of their neighbors who stayed (or was left) behind at the end of days.

So far, there’s nothing that really destroys the worldbuilding. In fact, some of the archaeological finds can actually be seen as strengthening it. None of them do so as much as last week’s.

Bombshell

The paper is “Evidence of human occupation in Mexico around the Last Glacial Maximum” by Ardelean et al. Written in 2018, it was published in the online edition of Nature on July 22. Six days ago. You don’t need much searching to find a copy…if you know where to look. (I’m not supposed to link to such sites, of course.)

Chiquihuite Cave is in the Mexican state of Zacatecas. Right in the middle of cartel country, I’ve read, so you can imagine how hard it is to run a dig there. Inside were found nearly two thousand stone artifacts: cores, flakes, blades, points, you name it. A bit of charcoal made from a Douglas fir, found near one of the points, provided an estimated date, and it’s unbelievable if you’re a “Clovis-first” adherent.

28,000 years ago. No joke. Twenty-eight thousand. In other words, about as old as the Bluefish Caves bone, which not only guts the theory that the Clovis points represent the oldest inhabitants of the Americas, but also drives a big nail into the coffin of the “Beringia standstill” hypothesis. That states that the first Americans came over from Siberia during the Ice Age, then settled down in Alaska and northwest Canada for a few millennia, sometimes ranging down the Pacific coast in boats.

Of course, the odds are astronomical that these are the oldest human tools south of Juneau. More likely, they represent a snapshot of a culture that lasted for hundreds or thousands of years, which only pushes the migration date further back in time. So we’re really looking at 30,000 years or more.

The population probably wasn’t very high, and these are nomadic hunter-gatherers we’re talking about. Not the ancients of Otherworld at all, yet Chiquihuite is evidence that people were living in the Americas—all throughout North America, for certain—not only at the end of the Ice Age, but at its height. The climate would have been much harsher then. Cold and dry in general, with a lot of erratic patterns near the glaciers. Sea levels were a hundred or more meters lower than today, so as much as three to five hundred feet, which pushes the coastline many miles out from what we see in the present. In other words, plenty of room to hide an Atlantis.

And that’s what I take away from the Ardelean paper. Beyond the groundbreaking discovery itself, I’m happy to see that my outlandish worldbuilding of seven years ago still survives to this day. With upheaval all around it, my creation stands. It grows. I already consider Otherworld to be my greatest creation. Now, though, I can take even more pride in what I made, because it’s…prescient, in a way.

I hope future discoveries can further enrich our knowledge of the earliest Americans. I don’t hold out hope that we’ll find wormholes and genetics experiments, as that’s too crazy even for me. But any evidence that the indigenous peoples of this continent were growing along similar lines to their brethren across the ocean is welcome. Add in the intriguing possibility that the Chiquihuite culture isn’t related to any known Native Americans, and then you start to wonder what else is waiting to be found. Who were the first people to settle in what’s now the US, Mexico, Central and South America? What kind of world did they inhabit?

Were they more than we believe?

Release: A Life Complete (Tales of Two Worlds 4)

Four down, two to go. The Tales of Two Worlds series enters its second half with this fourth installment, “A Life Complete”, which returns to two of my favorite characters in the entire setting. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

To live in the other world is to cast away much of what makes a modern man…or woman. Amy knew this, and she willingly gave up the life she knew, its comfortable familiarity, for love of the unknown. Alex, by contrast, chose this path because he felt he had nothing to lose. Both see now that the road is hard, the struggle real, but they believe that, by working together, they can overcome the obstacles while bringing into their new lives a little piece of the old.

If you want to check this one out, you can find it and all its many brethren over at my Patreon. A mere 3 dollars per month is all it takes, and you get more than just a few novellas. So much more.

For those of you following along at home, the pattern should be obvious. We’ll come to the penultimate tale in September, and it’s called “Destiny Fulfilled”. I can’t wait, but you can keep reading!

Release: Secrets Uncovered (Tales of Two Worlds 3)

Here we reach the halfway point of this newest bridge to the Otherworld. Tales of Two Worlds continues today with “Secrets Uncovered”:

Some things never change, and Jeff believes he has found many of those in the other world. And he has also found archaeological evidence from the most ancient days, tantalizing clues to the mysteries he has longed to solve for over a year. As a professor at an alien university, his responsibilities stand in the way of devoting himself fully to research, but he knows he needs something to show when his friends from home arrive for the third time.

I’ll admit that this one is more “slice of life” than my usual writings, but sometimes you have to take a break, right?

This tale, like the previous two dozen in the Otherworld series, can be found on my Patreon, where you can get the whole set by pledging only 3 dollars. That’s not even a Memorial Day deal—it’s always that cheap!

For the second half of 2020, I’ll be releasing the second half of this series. Next on the list is “A Life Complete”, coming in July. See you then, and remember to keep reading!

A difficult decision

Sometimes, you have to make a judgment call, and it may not be the one you wanted to make.

In my two months of writing hiatus, I contemplated many things, some of which I have discussed in recent posts. In the past week and a half, however, I’ve come out of my personal lockdown to rediscover my favorite hobby. But this disruption to our world has caused me one other problem I didn’t anticipate when The Powers That Be closed everything for what we now know to be something no worse than a bad flu.

As I have said before, a number of my books and shorter works are set in a shared universe. This collective setting, which I sometimes call the “Paraverse” in my mind, now encompasses my extensive Otherworld series, the Endless Forms paranormal thriller series, the Modern Minds short story collection, the RPG knockoff The Soulstone Sorcerer, my historical fantasy novel Heirs of Divinity, possibly my free semi-romance novella Fallen, and a couple of odds and ends I rarely talk about.

These all take place in the same setting, the same world. It’s a world essentially the same as ours, except that there are differences at the margins. So monsters like those in The Shape of Things exist, but they’re so rare that almost nobody believes in them. There’s a portal to another planet hidden deep in the Mexican forests, but it only works one day out of the year (okay, two, but spoiler alert), and it’s almost impossible to find anyway. A secret society dedicated to psionic phenomena existed back in the Roaring Twenties, but the Great Depression basically ended it. And so on.

The link between all of these is Project Daylight, a dark web forum dedicated to exposing the “truth” behind all the weirdness in the world. They’re not always right—some of them believe the moon landings were faked, a point of view I find so offensive I can’t even write about it in detail—but they occasionally knock it out of the park. For the most part, though, they’re the crazy nutter types you’d see associated with Alex Jones, Gab, QAnon, and other internet nastiness.

The members of Project Daylight didn’t exist when I first started Otherworld. That only came about much later, when I needed a reason for the kids who had visited another planet to be found out. Since then, I’ve made them a larger part of that series, even giving the forum’s administrator his own story: “Alone With Myself”. Another member appears in Change of Heart, the latest Endless Forms novel; this one, named Shane (but going by the moniker Lurker), is based on my neighbor, who really does believe some crazy things.

Now, the more historical entries in the Paraverse obviously don’t have a group that formed in 2016, and there’s no evidence the forum even knows about the secret 18th-century college in London claiming descent from Simon Magus through a “lost” book of the Bible actually written around 800 AD. (Yes, in case you’re wondering, that is part of the plot for Heirs of Divinity.) Likewise, they weren’t around to see the foundation or fall of Matrema in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

But they’re around now, and therein lies the problem. See, I had already written multiple stories set in 2020 before this year went off the rails. The Beast Within and Change of Heart both take place right about now. “The Candle’s Flame” finished up just as the Wuhan virus was making its alleged debut in the US (although we now see it was here as early as November, a few weeks before I caught it!), and its immediate successor, The Second Crossing, starts right about now. None of them mention a global pandemic, a panic-induced lockdown, or anything of the sort. Which really breaks the idea that these books are set in our world.

But I think I’ve found a way to save face.

Bear with me here. The problem is that no one could have foreseen our present crisis. If I had written it into a story, even I would have dismissed it as too outlandish. Too unrealistic, and I value realism in my stories. On the other hand, it seems wrong not to mention the coronavirus in some way going forward, seeing as how it defines the current generation the same way 9/11 defined the last. (Take that as you will. It’s an entirely different debate.)

My solution is simple: yes, the virus does exist in the Paraverse. But it was less virulent, less widespread, and less deadly. Thus, it was more in line with what we actually see, rather than what we were originally told. The media reaction in the US was closer to what we saw with SARS way back when. Oh, it was talked about in the news in February and March, but as a problem almost exclusively tied to Asia. Project Daylight found some information about…certain actors trying to hype it as something more dangerous, but that narrative fizzled before it had a chance to affect us too badly.

In this, I recognize that I’m effectively rewriting history to suit not only the best needs of the story, but also my personal beliefs. And that’s okay. I have no problem with it. The Paraverse diverged from our world long ago. I just want to keep it close enough that we can imagine, that we can look at it and wonder how much of it really is happening right under our noses.

Release: Alone With Myself (Tales of Two Worlds 2)

The tales continue. Here’s the second of Tales of Two Worlds. Be warned, this one is the closest I’ve ever written to a “bad guy” point of view.

Another world. The other world. Pete Towson always knew aliens existed, but when he was presented with undeniable proof, with the chance to meet them in the flesh, he knew he had to take it, whatever the cost. Now, alone in an unfamiliar land, he must use all his skills, his intelligence, and his cunning. The first task is survival, but where will his road lead?

“Alone With Myself” is, like every story in the Otherworld series, currently exclusive to my Patreon. You can get it and the entire saga for a pledge of only a few dollars a month.

Next up is “Secrets Uncovered”, coming in May. I hope to see you then. For now, keep reading!

Release: The Frozen North (Tales of Two Worlds 1)

It’s time to build some more bridges to the Otherworld. This set of 6 stories is called Tales of Two Worlds, and it focuses on the “in-between” times following last year’s Point of Origin and Future in Sight.

First up is “The Frozen North”, and here’s a blurb for you:

The other world touches ours in many places, and Damian Enfield believes he can find one of them. The problem? It lies deep in the Canadian wilderness, miles away from any modern civilization, locked in ice for the winter months. Even after he locates the most promising site, time is short, and his team must contend with not only the elements, but other forces beyond their control, for some foes may pose as friends.

As always, my Otherworld stories are available on my Patreon for a mere 3 dollars per month. And you get all of them: 23, as of this writing. That’s too good a deal to pass up.

Make sure to check back in March, when you’ll get the second installment of this series, “Alone With Myself”. Until then, remember to keep reading!

Release: Future in Sight (Return to the Otherworld 8)

This is it, the end of the line. Well, at least for this season. Here’s Future in Sight, Part 8 of Return to the Otherworld.

This is no longer the other world. For those who dwell here, whether by birth or choice, it is home.

Seven have now crossed the stars to take this place as their own, and their reasons are as unique as their personalities. Knowledge, science, acceptance, love, or lust, the outcome is the same. They are the colonists, the pioneers, and their numbers, they know, will grow with each passing year.

But being in this world means becoming a part of it, with all that entails. In a place no longer foreign, they are drawn into politics, intrigue, the games of a land not their own. Those around them, their families, friends, apprentices, and students, can do little but come along for the ride, and that ride is reaching its roughest section yet.

Last time, it was all about Earth. This time, it’s all about the Otherworld. Specifically, this story only has POVs from characters who live there. Whether they were born there, or simply moved, the Otherworld is their home and this is their story. And it’s about to get a lot bigger.

But not this year. Future in Sight marks the end of 2019, at least as far as this setting is concerned. Next year, I’ll be back with 6 new “bridge” stories, a set I’m calling Tales of Two Worlds. And then, in 2021, I hope to bring out Season 3 of the “main” series, which I’ve tentatively titles Adventures in the Otherworld. I’ll see you then!

Release: Seasons Change (Othersides 01)

It’s been about a year since the last time I put out a free story. This one works because it just doesn’t work anywhere else. Seasons Change, the first of my “Othersides” series, is now available on my Patreon.

The rest of this post will contain Otherworld spoilers, so be warned.

Continue reading Release: Seasons Change (Othersides 01)

Release: Point of Origin (Return to the Otherworld 7)

Part 7 of Return of the Otherworld, Point of Origin, is different in a very important way: it’s all set on Earth. Yes, this entry in the Otherworld series never features the Otherworld. It’s got characters from there, sure, but it’s a bit like the bridge stories “The Control Variable” and “The Candle’s Flame”. Indeed, it connects with the latter of those quite often.

Earth, the cradle of humanity. For the returning members of the second expedition, seeing their home planet once more has left them overjoyed, refreshed, renewed. Now, the vigor of youth reasserts itself. Scarcely any time at all has passed, yet some already plan the next voyage to the other world, while those who never left prepare for new discoveries that will rewrite history.

One among them, however, suspected the truth all along. Now that he has proof, undeniable evidence of his theory, he will bring new players to the table. They have a single goal in mind, and many ways to achieve it. For the expedition, tensions are rising. For the siblings who see Earth as heaven rather than home, their innocence may become their undoing.

This was a tough story to write, I’ll admit. Most of my favorite characters are missing. There’s no Alex, no Amy, no Jeff or Lee or their loved ones. Instead, you get the set-up for one of the major conflicts of Season 3, and a very vague, very oblique tie-in to two of my other series. (I’m not joking there. They really are connected.)

Be sure to head over to my Patreon to check this one out, and get ready for the finale, Future in Sight, coming in November. Until then, keep reading, and get ready for Nanowrimo! Oh, and wish me a happy birthday, because it’s tomorrow. Bye!