Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Ancient Civilizations That Vanished

Some of you know that my blog started out with a central theme back in 2005. I used to write about the stranger and funnier side of science. I often posted about the paranormal or the strange. Even though my blog has pivoted more towards my writing, I still enjoy reading about the weird stuff I used to blog about. Today, I wanted to share my love for this kind of stuff.

One of the subjects that always draws me in is how whole civilizations just disappear. What the hell happens to these people? Many have built whole kingdoms spread over a large area, but then POOF....they're gone. Leaving little to no clues as to what became of them.

Here are 5 really strange instances of entire civilizations that vanished:

1) The ancient Myceneans was the Greek civilization often attributed to the defeat of Troy in Homer's Iliad.
They were a powerful civilization between 15th and 13th BCE. The Mycenaeans were also masters of seafaring, tool making, and warfare. Their demise remains a mystery. Many have attributed to their demise to invaders, earthquakes, and political infighting. Regardless, when the Myceneans disappeared, Greek society entered their own "Dark Age."

2) Indus Valley in the areas of Pakistan, India, Iran, and Afghanistan was home to 5 million people over 3,000 years ago (10% of the world's population at the time). They possessed some amazing technology that included architecture, roadways, and even plumbing with indoor toilets. Then they disappeared. Scientists today believe climate change is what destroyed this civilization. The land used to be much more fertile, but drastic drops in rainfall might have made it impossible to grow crops.

Moai on Easter Island
3) Easter Island. I don't know what it is about those giant head statues called Moai, but they captivate me. Maybe it's the sheer size of these things, and I can't help but wonder just how the heck these ancient Polynesian people moved them. But the Moai line the entire coasts of Easter Island. They inhabited the island from 700-1200 AD before they disappeared. Many believe that deforestation did them in.

4) The Anasazi was a Native American civilization that lived in the area where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah all touch each other. 700 years ago, the Anasazi liked to build amazing towns and cities out of stone. They even carved entire towns out of the faces of cliffs. Then around 1300 AD, they disappeared. Scientists also peg their destruction to climate change, but many other factors just don't jive with that theory. Some even talk about wars or cannibalism, but evidence doesn't prove that either.

Artist's depiction of Cahokia at its height
5) The Cahokians. Okay, I had to write about an ancient civilization that's right here in the St. Louis area. The first Native Americans settled in a region just east of the Mississippi around 700 AD, but the area exploded 300 hundred years later. The Cahokia region is known for its HUGE mounds. As a kid, we took field trips out there and walked up the steps. And there were a ton of steps. The area was said to be home to 40,000 people, making it the largest metropolitan center in the entire world at the time. They were advanced too, even diverting the rivers for agricultural use. Overpopulation is the most likely cause for the civilization's collapse, which happened by 1500. No one knows for sure what happened, but the city that was larger than Rome and London was abandoned by its people.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Why Romance Makes Me Laugh

"Don't make me drop my Kindle!"
Wow. The last time I wrote about writing was way back in FEBRUARY. Sheesh! This blog has been loaded with Insecure Writers Support Group posts, cover reveals, author publication announcements, A-Z Challenge, and other "stuff."

So it feels good to share a little about the world of writing with you all, finally.

I'm up to my ears in editing Shadow Warrior and working with my editor. And this books is a big first step for me. Why? It's because my story has some romantic elements in it. I won't lie. It's been a struggle, but then again, whenever you venture outside your comfort zone, it's always going to be a struggle.

I've never considered myself an overly romantic, sentimental person. Nor am I a cold fish.There are studies that show that men who read fiction tend to relate to other people better. And I do consider myself to have a pretty good emotional quotient for a dude.

But as I've been working on improving the romantic elements in my book, I have some interesting observations to share with you as I've been going through this process.

1) When I write romantic scenes, I laugh. Out loud. At myself. My brain goes from being an intelligent 41 year old to an awkward 14 year old . I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, but I give it my best. Afterwards, I look at what I've written, and I have to laugh at how absurd it is.

2) Thank God my editor is a woman. I need some female perspective (always have), and I'm thankful for my female editors and critique partners. Otherwise, my books would be filled with women who act like men.

3) Writing about a budding relationship between two young people takes me back to my own youth. I try my best to capture all that anxiety and fear, mixed with ecstasy and idealism.  I also think about some of the big mistakes I made as a young adult. Ouch.

4) I actually enjoy exploring romance as a way to deepen characterization. It's a very profound way to make your characters become more real. Now, I'm not a romance writer. I'm very much a plot-driven kinda guy. But romance is such a great new dimension that I really like. Yeah. Go figure.

5) Strong women are awesome. I don't like the idea of having a strong female character that suddenly becomes a stumbling idiot whenever some hunky guy is around. I like strong, intelligent, independent women in the books that I read. So I will make sure to include that in my own writing.

6) Love is a powerful motivator. Whether a book is a Western, sci-fi, action, or whatever...love is a pretty awesome reason for your main character to keep going. We put our characters through hell, and love is definitely one thing that will drive your characters to reach their goals no matter how bad they're suffering.

So having romantic elements in my book has been a great experience. I feel like I'm stretching myself, striving to be a better writer. I think it's important to challenge yourself in order to grow - no matter what you're pursuing. I'm not a very good romance writer.

In fact, a lot of what I write is laughable. So, yeah, I'm no Nicholas Sparks.

But I hope to be a better Jay Noel.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Late IWSG Post and Cover Reveal, Rolled Into One

Dang it, I missed last Wednesday's Insecure Writer's Support Group post, so I hope to make amends today. My work week got away from me. I seriously think I need a vacation.

My edits for my second book, Shadow Warrior, came back a couple of weeks ago, and I've started the process of working on edits. I guess I'm like many writers who have gone through a big debut, and expectations are high.

So there's pressure. But I think a lot of that is internal. I'm tough on myself, and I guess the good thing is that my debut didn't exactly light the world on fire. It's done okay, I guess. So book #2 is another step towards building my little library.

Shadow Warrior is a direct continuation of my first novel, Dragonfly Warrior. Many have said that my first book reminded them of an action packed Western. A "samurai western" is a good way to describe it. That makes sense, since most of it takes place in an alternative North America. The cover's colors reflect that western, earthy feel.

For my second book, I wanted to take the setting more international. The action takes place in England and all over Asia. And the book is overall much darker. I believe in making your hero suffer. And my hero continues his fall in a HUGE way in this book. So I had the cover artist make sure that the colors are more subdued and darker to match the mood of the story.

Here's the cover for Shadow Warrior...

Art by Enggar Adirassa. Typesetting/Formatting by Jen Howard

The agony of a failed quest haunts Kanze Zenjiro, but the betrayal by those he once trusted has turned his world upside down. With a heart full of hatred and defeat, Zen is desperate to return home and demand the truth from his father.

Meanwhile, the Iberian Empire sends their soaring airships and steam-powered giants into the Orient. They threaten to upset the balance of power, hoping to exploit the faraway land in their greed for the resources needed to power their machines. Zen and his companions must fight to keep the world from plunging into total destruction.

And at the center of it all is a nine year old boy with the power of a god.

That's still my main character, Zen, on the cover. He's ditched the traditional samurai top knot hairstyle and his armor. For those that read Dragonfly Warrior, that will make sense. There's also a female assassin by the name of Suzume with him. So yes, there is some ROMANCE in this book to go along with my usual kick ass action. And that is a locomobile in the background exploding. It's like a regular steam train locomotive that doesn't need tracks. Cool huh?

Shadow Warrior's release date is scheduled for August 4, 2014.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A-Z Reflections, and the Power of 2 times 2!

A-Z Afterthoughts
My third A-Z Challenge was a lot of fun, but I feel like I fell short with visiting others. April was a rough month for me, and I was out of town. I spent a total of 14 nights sleeping in a hotel bed. Then, the first moment I'm finally home, three executives from my company's headquarters fly in to visit with me for a couple days.

So for April, work was a killer.

Which meant my ability to visit everybody was limited. For that, I apologize. I know I missed a lot of great posts.

Writing about some great (and some not-so-great) one-hit wonders was a blast. I hope you enjoyed reading them and watching the music videos.

The Power of 2 times 2
I have two great authors to share with you today, and they both happen to be releasing the SECOND books in their series.

First up is the wonderful River Fairchild...

A Dragon’s Lament, book 2 of the Jewels of Chandra series is out now!


Magic is real. So is betrayal.

David enters the Fire Kingdom and events shift from bad to worse. He learns a shocking truth about the dragons, a truth destined to block his efforts to retrieve the lost magic of Shaylar from the ruling Council. After a cave-in and injuries force a rescue, David finds himself more isolated than before as personal concerns scatter his trusted advisors and the wizard who led him there abandons him.

The head of the dragon Council negotiates separate deals with both David and his father, sowing further discord between them. David's close friend, Lothan, disappears into the caves and doesn't return. A group of dissidents kidnap Wilks, the child empath David is sworn to protect. With no options left, he accepts the Council's demands to help them in their centuries-old conflict, risking a war which might kill them all.

Even if David manages to win, there's no guarantee the dragons will let him leave the region alive. They don't want the Kingdom of Shaylar to rise again and will stop at nothing to see it remain a pile of dust.


River Fairchild is somewhat odd, brandishes a dry sense of humor, owned by several cats. Lives in a fantasy world. A fabricator of magic. Makes stuff up and spins tales about it. Believes in Faerie crossings and never staying in one place for very long. Speculative Fiction wordsmith. The secret to her stories? Spread lies, blend in truths, add a pinch of snark and a dash of tears. Escape into her world. She left the porch light on so you can find your way down the rabbit hole.

My blog: http://riverfairchild.blogspot.com

Buy Links:
Amazon US http://www.amazon.com/A-Dragons-Lament-Jewels-Chandra-ebook/dp/B00JRGLTSK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1397780795&sr=8-6&keywords=a+dragon%27s+lament
Amazon UK http://www.amazon.co.uk/A-Dragons-Lament-Jewels-Chandra-ebook/dp/B00JRGLTSK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397873956&sr=8-1&keywords=a+dragon%27s+lament
Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/429993
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-dragons-lament-jewels-of-chandra-series-book-2-river-fairchild/1119269167?ean=2940045838351
Apple Store https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dragons-lament-jewels-chandra/id865687037?mt=11
Other links can be found at: http://riverfairchild.blogspot.com/p/books.html
Also available in paperback

And now is Becca Campbell's cover reveal for the second book in her series!

Welcome to the cover reveal for Flawed: Outsider (book number two in the Flawed series) by Becca J. Campbell! This gorgeous cover art was designed by the talented Steven Novak.


Is He Only Normal?

After a psychopath tried to kill his friends, Josh Schuyler figured 'normal' was far off. The real problem: Josh's friends have all acquired supernatural abilities, while he's still the same average guy. Josh has always believed he was destined for greatness, but he's been out of college for two years without  a clue of his purpose. After watching his friends and siblings develop superhuman traits, he wonders if he might be meant for something grand, too. Can Josh even hope for an extraordinary event in his own future? And how long must he wait for this transformation - if there is one? When Alex met the Schuylers, she was grateful for new friends to whisk her away from her lonely life in California and give her an escape from her divorced, bickering parents and aimless future. But Josh won't drop his defenses, and Alex isn't sure she wants to trade her old life for this new, uncertain one. Nicodemus has an amazing ability he's been milking for years to get whatever or whomever he wants. Things are going great until a young woman - Alex - inadvertently busts his latest swindle. Nic is furious when he discovers his power has been disabled, and he vows to find her in order to wreak his vengeance. She will be punished. All he needs is a little help from his friend, Ethan Black. Josh has been waiting for his big break, or for the chance to be a hero, or just the opportunity to stand out in his own, extraordinary way. Will Josh discover his purpose in time to stop Nic?

Outsider (Flawed, #2) Release

Add Outsider to your Goodreads to-read list here

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Congrats to these two awesome ladies!