"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Inspiration Behind The Turquoise Sun

While excavating the primeval cliff dwellings of the long-vanished Anasazi tribe, 19th-century archaeologist Tanya Darrow and rival archaeologist, Keane Trevalyan, find a hidden passageway that sweeps them back in time to the 13th century. Trapped in the untamed splendor of the primitive past, and worshipped as gods by the ancient cliff dwellers, Tanya and Keane are drawn into a lively battle of wit and will, of love and war, and the realization that their destinies have always been linked by one thing ... the Turquoise Sun.

Behind the Story:

Shortly after the Spaniards arrived in the American Southwest, explorers reported the discovery of ancient ruins belonging to a lost civilization in southwestern Colorado.

The first report to gain public notice came after an important discovery by two cowboys in December, 1888. While out searching for stray cattle, Richard Wetherill and Charlie Mason stumbled upon the largest ruin which they named Cliff Palace.

The Smithsonian Institution and other museums had been sponsoring expeditions into the Southwest since the 1880s. With the discovery of Cliff Palace, the interest shifted to Mesa Verde. Both official and unofficial excavating was conducted in the area until Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906.

Many people have theorized on the disappearance of the Anasazi. When I read the history of the Hopi Indians, however, I felt that the question had been satisfactorily addressed by their historians. I chose to use their creation myths, legends, and some of their religious beliefs to provide the basis for this story about the Anasazi.

Studies also reveal that the Anasazi gradually abandoned the cliff dwellings during the same time-frame that the Aztecs, or Aztlans, rose to power in Mexico. Some scholars believe that the Aztecs (whom history records as having come from caves in the north) might have been descendants of those Anasazi who left the hard life in the San Juan River region for the easier life in the tropics.

When I think back to what sparked my initial interest in the Anasazi Indians, I would have to say it started with a hurried trip to Mesa Verde around 1979. It was the first time I’d seen the ruins, and I had never heard of them before this visit. Some ten years later, I read Louis L’Amour’s book, The Haunted Mesa, and it renewed my interest in the mysterious cliff dwellers. Like all writers, it only takes one seed to grow a forest. The next thing I knew, I was up to my ears in some very compelling research, which required that I return to the cliff dwellings around 1992 for more in-depth study. On that trip, with our three children, we visited Mesa Verde in southwestern Colorado, and Betatakin and White House Ruins in Arizona. These places inspired both The Turquoise Sun and Firelight.
   

One of the strongest memories I have was of an old Indian man we passed on the steep, twisting path leading down to the Betatakin ruins. When we looked back, just a moment later, the old Indian was gone–nowhere to be seen on the path above us, leading out of the canyon. It was only a brief passing, eye contact, and exchanged smiles but it had a lasting impression. We joked at the time that maybe he was a ghost of the Old Ones said to linger in the dusty ruins. From him was born the loveable and slightly eccentric shaman in my book, Ten-Moon, who believes it was his power that brought the hero and heroine across time.

When you stand in the ruins with the massive rock all around you, it is indeed easy to imagine that the stone dwellings have retained the imprint of those who lived there. When you go into the kivas and the small rooms where they lived, you can almost feel their presence. If you listen closely, you'll hear the wind whispering through ruins like the voices of those who went before. And one of the voices might even belong to the Old Indian who smiles at tourists on the path to Betatakin...

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