Wednesday, March 16, 2016

VORTEX: The Story Behind the Book

Mt. Shasta is many things to many people.  In its mystical slopes, some people see a sleeping woman, others a sleeping Indian, and still others an Indian princess.  I see horror fiction.

It is a beautiful sight, with a lovely, small town at its foot bearing the mountain’s name.  The drive alone — from my house, it’s 45 minutes on I-5 — is breathtaking as it winds past dark forests and craggy, gray peaks.  If it weren’t for all the traffic, you’d swear you were in Middle Earth.  I have returned to Mt. Shasta many times over the years.  In 1987, I attended the Harmonic Convergence there, a New Age fair of channels, psychics, healers, drum circles, and vendors selling just about every woo-woo goo-gaw you can think of and some that never occurred to you.  Dawn and I have stayed at the nearby Dunsmuir Railroad Park Resort on a few occasions, and we enjoy visiting the town of Mt. Shasta.  But I’ve returned to Mt. Shasta a few times in my fiction, as well.

My novel Dark Channel was the first story I set there, inspired by a combination of my visit to the Harmonic Convergence and popular channel J.Z. Knight.  In The Loveliest Dead, psychic Lily Rourke owned a New Age book store called the Crystal Well.  The area has shown up in disguise, as well.  In The Folks (1 and 2, both of which will be available later this year), Pinecrest and Mt. Crag are pseudonyms for the Mt. Shasta area.  My novella Vortex returns to Mt. Shasta, and it takes Karen Moffett and Gavin Keoph with it.

Moffett and Keoph first appeared in Night Life, the sequel to Live Girls.  Martin Burgess, a wildly successful horror novelist, has an insatiable curiosity about the paranormal.  He wants to know if the stuff he writes about — ghosts, vampires, werewolves — really exist, and he has a small army of computer geeks and conspiracy theorists seeking out bizarre incidents and esoteric activity for him.  When they inform him of the possibility that vampires are active in Los Angeles, he searches for the right private investigators to hire for the job.  After deciding on Karen Moffett of Los Angeles and Gavin Keoph of San Francisco, he hires them and send them in search of vampires. In Bestial, the sequel to Ravenous, Burgess hires them again to look into the possibility of werewolves in the northern California coastal town of Big Rock.

I wanted to do more with Moffett and Keoph, but instead of having them show up in a sequel to investigate vampires or werewolves, I wanted to do something completely different with them.  I decided to have Burgess send them to Mt. Shasta and see what would happen.  I didn’t have many specifics in mind when I started VORTEX, but the novella has opened a lot of possibilities.

In Mt. Shasta, the investigators meet Penny Jarvis, a young woman with some extraordinary abilities who comes from a secret, government-run school called Aquino Academy, where all of the students have extraordinary abilities.  The first thing I wanted to do after finishing Vortex was to start on a novel about Penny and Aquino Academy.  I was committed to do other things, though, and had to set that idea aside.  But the academy is a fertile subject and I would like to do that sometime soon.  I’m not sure how, but Moffett and Keoph would be involved, as would the new nemesis they encounter in Vortex when a creature named Pyk comes out of —

Whoa.  I’m getting carried away.  I don’t want to spoil the story for you.  My point is that Vortex is going to be a new jumping-off point for Moffett and Keoph.  In it, the possibility of a relationship between the two investigators is introduced, and I will be pursuing that in future stories, as well.

But for now, I will shut up and leave you to read Vortex.  At the moment, it is available for Kindle, but other formats and a paperback edition are coming very soon.  If you enjoy Vortex, I hope you'll post a review and spread the word.

Go with Moffett and Keoph to Mt. Shasta.  Enjoy the scenic beauty.  Have a bite to eat.  But don’t let your guard down.  Something has come out of the mountain . . . and it’s hungry.


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