Ecuador. It’s a small country when compared to some of its South American neighbors – like Brazil. But Ecuador, I think, surpasses many South American countries for its cultural richness, the sheer boldness of colors you see everywhere, and for its ancient heritage.
In fact, this is the topic of a report I found today that Megan had written when she was oh, maybe in 6th grade. There were photos of our trip there – her first, my second, Rob’s third.
I ran across this report because I was searching through all my files for old book contracts and royalty sheets. I’m not an organized person – royalty sheets were mixed up with family stuff, Megan memorabilia, even mail from readers and notes and letters my parents had written me over the years. No order whatsoever. But the discovery of Megan’s report with the photos of that trip to Ecuador, were a definite synchro for me.
I have been writing Apparition, the third book in my series of novels that takes place in or revolves around Esperanza, Ecuador. Running across Megan’s report with these photos was an adrenaline kick for my muse. Get moving, go forward, finish this sucker.
The word Esperanza means hope. Thousands of years ago, Esperanza was a nonphysical location, a place for souls in transition – people in comas, at the edge of death. Here, a person could decide whether to return to physical life or to pass on into the afterlife. Everything in this nonphysical location was similar to physical life – buildings, towns, cars, cities, countryside, businesses – but desires manifested almost instantaneously and communication was primarily telepathic.
The guardians of this non physical place were cazadores de luz – light chasers – evolved souls whose job was to make sure that transitionals got to where they were supposed to go. Their job was complicated by brujos - hungry ghosts whose only desire was to be physical again. Over the centuries, the brujos learned how to seize the physical bodies of these transitionals and often lived out their mortal lives. The situation eventually became so dire, so impossible to control, that 500 years ago the light chasers closed Esperanza to transitionals and brought it into the physical world, replete with a history, a mythology. Their hope was that the brujos, robbed of an endless source of physical bodies to seize, would move on. And for a time, they did, scattering across the world.
But about 20 years ago, some of the brujos began returning to Esperanza. Because the town retains some of the magical properties from when it was a nonphysical location, it’s the only place where brujos can manipulate energy to create a virtual environment and virtual human forms for themselves. They built their virtual world in twin peaks that rise from a desolate landscape outside the city. Their virtual physical forms are real and solid enough to fool most of the residents of Esperanza most of the time and provide the brujos with a limited sensory experience. But it’s not enough. Ten years ago, they began to seize people in Esperanza – primarily for sex, but also for the experience of physical life. In essence, they are nonphysical terrorists against whom the residents of Esperanza defend themselves.
In Esperanza, nothing is what it appears to be – not the people, the landscape, the wildlife, not even the fog.
In Ghost Key, available today, Dominica heads to the U.S., to an island off of Florida’s west coast to form a new tribe of brujos. Her human host is Maddie, the 19-year-old niece of the woman who helped defeat Dominica’s tribe, and she’s a handful.
Yes, it’s true that the setting for the book is not particularly original: isolated island, quarantine situation. That’s a favorite for many novelists, and with good reason. Your characters are confined. TV does this scenario very well. But you won’t find ghosts like these brujos in other fiction. (Excerpt here). And that brings me to Apparition. My editor told me that for this last book in the series (in my contract) I had to disappear the city.
Really? And just how the hell am I supposed to do that without looking like a complete idiot? Without killing more than 30,000 people? Without someone, uh, noticing? In this era of smart phones and You Tube, Twitter and Facebook, there is always a witness to everything.
My editor and I went back and forth about something replacing Esperanza, the physical city, with something else. She eventually agreed to my vision and I started writing.
As I was rewriting tonight, I ran across Megan’s report and the photos she used to illustrate it. At some level, I needed to see these photos, to draw their energy around me, and the pictures helped me to put myself back there. Yes, I can disappear a city. But what will replace it? Beats me. In fact, Rob, my first reader always, suggested an ending that is enticing. I may not be turning this book in to my editor in October.
in the mountains near Banos, Ecuador