The Origin Key: Read a FREE Excerpt

Read a free excerpt of my sword-and-science fantasy adventure! Happy reading!

logo-stackedTreasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third-century. While on a quest to avenge a horrific attack on his father the king, a Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. He thinks the villain is hiding there, but a sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden?  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

Readers praise Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

  • OriginKeyCover_lo-res“Filled with wonderful imagery, distinct characters and adventurous plot points that kept me turning the page. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a compelling story, and am looking forward to whatever’s next from this first-time author.”
  • “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key by Susan McPhail is a smart, intriguing tale that seamlessly melds historical fiction, fantasy, and suspense… Highly recommended for fans of history, fantasy, and mystery stories.”
  • “My ONLY criticism is that I was left wanting more. Luckily McPhail left the tale so it can be taken up again. Soon, I hope.”
  • “McPhail paints vivid pictures of the world she’s created and engages all of the readers senses in the story.”
  • Very descriptive. I could easily imagine being in some of the battles! I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a great storyteller!”
  • More books, please.”
  • WOW! Add Susan McPhail to your must-watch writer list!”
  • “This book is definitively the best third-century Persian sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read!

Authors praise Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key

  • “A smart, thrilling mix of history and fantasy. S.D. McPhail is definitely an author to watch.
    – Brian Niemeier, author of Campbell-nominated Nethereal and Dragon Award-winning Souldancer
     
  • “Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a stunning debut novel. McPhail’s creation is packed with tension and excitement, from the political machinations of the empire to the almost Atlantean history of Dodrazeb and mythical Anutupi. The imagery is enchanting, but the adventure is mesmerizing.
     Ashley Chappell-Peeples, author of  Of War and Taters and the Dreams of Chaos series

Amazing Ancient Architects

For most, the word “pyramid” conjures images of ancient Egypt and the Pyramids of Giza. But other ancient cultures also boasted magnificent architecture. The Mayans of the Yucatan Peninsula left behind a vast urban complex at Chichen Itza that includes temples, arcades, an observatory, sports fields, and a magnificent stepped pyramid. Chichen Itza was a sophisticated religious, ceremonial, and cultural center from C.E. 750 to 1200. Today it’s a popular tourist destination.

logo-stackedMy novel,Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a historical sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third century. A Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world who claim to have originated every style of architecture known to mankind—including the ancient Egyptian pyramids.  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

chichen-itza-07The Maya were advanced astronomers, incorporating calendars into their architecture. Each of the four sides of the flat-topped, stepped pyramid Temple of Kukulkan (known as El Castillo in Spanish) has 91 steps. Add the top platform and you have a total of 365 steps, representing one year. It features 52 panels, one for each week in a year, and 18 terraces corresponding to the 18 months in the Mayan year. Furthermore, the design of the pyramid causes a shadow to be cast in the shape of a giant snake appearing to descend to the ground precisely on the spring and autumn equinoxes. Kukulkan is a Mayan snake deity depicted as a feathered serpent.

chichen-itza-08Mayans took their sporting entertainment very seriously. They played a sacred game on an enormous court 554 feet long and 231 feet wide lined with carvings detailing the complex rules. Players tried to hit a soccer-sized rubber ball through stone hoops set high on the court walls. Apparently, winning was extremely important: one of the carvings depicts the captain of the losing team being executed. That’s a rather drastic incentive to encourage a team to win.

chichen-itza-01Another structure, known as the Temple of Warriors, features sculpted feather serpent columns at its top platform. This temple is also the location of a mysterious chacmool, a stylized sculpture identified with multiple Mesoamerican cultures believed to have been an altar for sacrifices. Life-size, three-dimensional, and carved from a single stone, a chacmool is a reclining male figure. His feet and elbows are down while the knees, chest, and head are up. The head is turned ninety degrees. Thought to represent warriors offering a sacrifice to the gods, the hands often form a bowl-shaped receptacle. Offerings could consist of anything from food to colorful feathers, tobacco, flowers, or even human sacrifice. maya_chac_mool

The inhabitants of Chichen Itza abandoned their magnificent city to the surrounding jungle during the 1400s, but left no record of why they chose to do so.

http://www.mysteriousplaces.com/chichen-itza/
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/483
http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/world-heritage/chichen-itza/
http://popular-archaeology.com/issue/fall-2015/article/the-mysterious-chacmool
http://latinamericanhistory.about.com/od/ancientlatinamerica/fl/Chac-Mool.htm

Authors Expo and a Geek Gab Podcast

sae_11Saturday, September 10 was a busy day for me. Representing Silver Empire Publishing, my friend Russell Newquist and I participated in the Huntsville Madison County Library’s Southern Authors Expo. It was a full day of meeting and chatting with readers and other local authors. There was something for everyone, with all genres and ages represented. We connected with some old friends and made lots of new ones.

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After the Expo, I rushed home to settle in at my laptop and don earbuds so I could take part in a podcast discussion with the guys at Geek Gab. It was my first podcast, a new experience for me, and one that I enjoyed very much.

geekgablogoDaddy Warpig (aka Jasyn Jones), Brian Niemeier, and John McGlynn are scintillating and erudite hosts who like to get together weekly and talk books, movies, TV, comics, music, RPG’s, tabletop gaming, video games, sci-fi, fantasy, steampunk, horror… As they say, anything geekish goes. Thanks, guys, for making me feel welcome in your warm circle of geekiness!
The YouTube link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK7gEkdiULE
The iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/geek-gab!/id1125835440

Extra thanks to Brian, as he very graciously took the time to read my book Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, and even provided a blurb that is boldly printed on its back cover. He said, “A smart, thrilling mix of history and fantasy. S.D. McPhail is definitely an author to watch.” I am humbled to receive such high praise from a Campbell award-nominated and Dragon award-winning author. Find his novels Nethereal and Souldancer (Volumes 1 and 2 of the Soul Cycle series) on Amazon.com.

swordtodMy novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third-century. While on a quest to avenge a horrific attack on his father the king, a Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom isolated from the rest of the world. He thinks the villain is hiding there, but a sly princess is determined to sabotage the Persians to protect her kingdom’s ancient secrets. What is she so desperate to keep hidden?  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

Ancient Urkesh: The Real Thing

I write historical fantasy adventure, but the archaeologists working to study and preserve ancient sites are the true heroes. Unique and priceless sites like Urkesh are in danger of being destroyed because of war and political turmoil before we can learn about our ancient ancestors and the civilizations they built.

swordtodMy novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure set in the third-century. A Persian warrior discovers a strange kingdom hidden from the rest of the world. Their vast library contains ancient texts they have translated into common languages to preserve the knowledge of long-extinct civilizations. But what other secrets are they hiding?  Get your copy on Amazon.com!

excavation-at-urkesh

Ancient city of Urkesh, home to the Hurrian culture.

One of the most ancient cities known to exist on earth is Urkesh. Its exact location was a mystery until the 1990s when, after ten years of painstaking excavations, archaeologists identified Tel Mozan in northern Syria near the borders of Turkey and Iran as Urkesh. The capital city of the Hurrians, it flourished between 4000 and 1300 BCE. It initially became powerful because of its location at the intersection of major trade routes as well as its control of valuable copper deposits.

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Intact stone stairway at Urkesh.

Ruins of monumental public buildings, including a large temple and a palace, have been found. The architecture is not only mud-brick construction, but also rare stone structures. Archaeologists have discovered remains of an open plaza, a monumental flight of stairs, and a deep underground shaft related to religious rituals known as the “Passage to the Netherworld.” Urkesh dominated the ancient skyline at the top of a built-up terrace that rivaled nearby mountains.

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Lion and stone tablet inscribed with Hurrian language.

Very little was known about the Hurrians before Urkesh was positively identified. There may not have been many Hurrian cities in what is present-day southern Syria, but their civilization influenced the entire Middle East. They were a major influence on Mesopotamia to the south and cultures such as the Hittites as cities were first developing in that region. Unlike the centralized political structures of ancient Assyria and Egypt, Hurrian urban culture seems to have been more feudal in organization, possibly limiting the development of large palace or temple complexes.

The unique Hurrian language is unlike any other known ancient language. Historians believe that the speakers of this language originally came from the Armenian Highlands and spread over southeast Anatolia and northern Mesopotamia at the beginning of the second millennium BCE.

hurrian-incense-container

Hurrian incense container.

Accomplished ceramists, Hurrian pottery was highly valued in distant Egypt. Khabur ware and Nuzi ware are two types of wheel-made pottery used by the Hurrians. Khabur ware is characterized by reddish painted lines with a geometric triangular pattern and dots, while Nuzi ware has very distinctive forms, and are painted in brown or black.

Also known for achievements in metallurgy, Hurrians traded copper south to Mesopotamia from the highlands of Anatolia. The Khabur Valley had a central position in the metal trade, and copper, silver and even tin were accessible from Hurrian-dominated countries in the Anatolian highland. Among the few surviving examples of Hurrian metal work, some small fine bronze lion figurines were discovered at Urkesh.

Sadly, the Syrian civil war has disrupted the fascinating archaeological activities at Urkesh and endangered future discoveries about the Hurrian culture. The site lies close to the Turkish border, and is now protected by Kurdish troops and a team of local workers.

paved-floor-beehive-oven-urkesh

4,000 year-old bakery with paved floor and “beehive” oven.

Sources:

http://www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places-africa/rediscovery-urkesh-forgotten-city-hurrians-003287
http://www.urkesh.org/
http://www.historyfiles.co.uk/KingListsMiddEast/AnatoliaHurrians.htm
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/06/150604-urkesh-syria-mozan-buccellati-archaeology/
http://ancients-bg.com/urkesh-the-forgotten-city-of-the-mysterious-hurrian-civilization/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurrians

Oooh! (BOOM!) Ahhh! The History of Fireworks

 

Fireworks1

It’s common knowledge that fireworks originated in China, but like many marvelous inventions, it was an accidental discovery. History tells us that alchemists attempting to develop an elixir for immortality tried a recipe of sulfur, charcoal, and potassium nitrate (saltpeter). What they got was gunpowder and soon firecrackers were in huge demand as their loud bangs were used to scare away evil spirits.

Fireworks7Just as in modern times, military engineers saw a practical use for the substance’s explosive properties. Stuffing gunpowder into bamboo tubes was just the first step. The first documented use of gunpowder in a weapon of war is a catapult in the year 1046. Imagine the numerous trials and failures that eventually led to enough success that someone proudly recorded it for posterity!

What you learned in elementary school about Marco Polo bringing fireworks to Europe from his travels in 1295 is true. But Europeans had already experienced gunpowder weaponry during the Crusades. China tried to keep the technology within its own borders, but the formula for gunpowder had been carried to the Middle East by caravans traversing the Silk Road.

Fireworks4By the 15th century, Italians had refined methods for mixing chemicals and shaping aerial shells to produce specific shapes and colors of pyrotechnics. Ambitious displays lighting up the night sky were incorporated into religious and public celebrations all across Europe. For instance, the marriage of England’s Henry VII and Elizabeth Plantagenet in 1486 saw an elaborate presentation of pyrotechnic prowess.

The rise of fireworks as entertainment coincided with the end of medieval warfare. The same science that sent colorful explosions into the air created advances in ballistic weaponry; metal armor could be punctured by projectiles and fortified walls could be demolished from a distance.

Logo-stackedIn my novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, an ancient ritual that incorporates fireworks causes chaos for the hero. A third-century Persian warrior who had never experienced pyrotechnics, he’s interested in using the technology to gain an advantage in war. Get your copy on Amazon.com!

Fireworks8Varieties of Fireworks

Stars: The small bits of explosive that scatter across the sky when fireworks explode
Peony: An explosion of stars in a radial pattern
Dahlia: Like a Peony, but with fewer and larger stars
Chrysanthemum: Like a Peony that leaves a trail of glowing particles as it falls
Crossette: A Chrysanthemum with stars that explode as smaller pieces, creating branches across the sky
Willow: Like a Crossette, but the glowing limbs must stay in the sky for 10 seconds or more
Palm: Like a Willow, but with slower-moving, slower-burning stars, resembling the limbs of a palm tree
Spider: Like the Chrysanthemum, but with longer-burning, droopy tails (like a spider’s leg)
Fish: Explodes into particles that wriggle like fish across the sky.
Rings: From a spherical shell, explosions that spread like Saturn’s rings
Time rain: Big, slow-burning stars that leave trails of sizzling, sparkling stars
Multi-break/Bouquet shells: A big shell containing smaller shells scattered by the first burst

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fireworks

http://www.ch.ic.ac.uk/local/projects/gondhia/history.html

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/14-fun-facts-about-fireworks-180951957/?no-ist

The Origin Key Launch Event

SilverEmpireLaunchesOriginKey

Russell Newquist and Susan McPhail

My first novel was published and we threw a party! Here’s a gigantic THANK YOU to Terranova’s Italian Restaurant, family, friends, and everyone who came out and helped make it a fun event!

On Friday, August 12 we were at Terranova’s Italian Restaurant in Huntsville enjoying fantastic food, signing books, and giving away prizes. Russell Newquist of Silver Empire Publishing was there with me, getting to know some local sci-fi/fantasy fans.

CeciliaDellaPellaWinner1Winner4Winner3Winner2GrandPrizeStephen

Cecilia Della Pella was excited to be one of the first in line to buy a copy of The Origin Key. Later in the evening she won one of the drawings and received a lovely writer’s journal. Other winners went home with copies of the book, an Amazon.com gift card, or a journal.

The winner of the grand prize—a copy of The Origin Key, a copy of Between the Wall and the Fire, a writer’s journal, an Amazon.com gift card, and a signed poster of The Origin Key cover art was Terranova’s own Stephen Johnson!

DinersDiners2 Diners3

If you weren’t able to join us at Terranova’s, don’t worry! You can get The Origin Key in either paperback or e-book format on Amazon.com. Want a signed copy? Look for me at the Southern Author’s Expo at the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library downtown branch on September 10. Start your holiday shopping early and get a personalized copy of my sword-and-science fantasy adventure novel for all the readers on your gift list.

OriginKeyCover_lo-resThe Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a sword-and-science fantasy adventure like no other. Prince Rasteem, a third-century Persian warrior, discovers an obscure culture that uses something more powerful and dangerous than magic: twenty-first century technology.

 

The Origin Key Book Launch

Writing is creative fun, but launching a published book can be a blast! Mark your calendar for Friday, August 12.

 

The traditional way to commemorate publication of a new book is to have a launch party. Help me celebrate this achievement and support a wonderful local family restaurant at the same time on Friday, August 12. We’ll be at Terranova’s Italian Restaurant in Huntsville from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. enjoying fantastic cuisine, giving away some great prizes, and autographing books.

 

Prize drawings begin at 6:30. We’ll be giving away autographed copies of Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key, copies of the anthology Between the Wall and Fire, Amazon.com gift cards, and some beautiful writer’s journals. The Grand Prize package, to be given away at 8:00, consists of The Origin Key, Between the Wall and the Fire, an Amazon.com gift card, a writer’s journal, AND an autographed poster of The Origin Key cover art.

OriginKeyCover_lo-res

The Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key is a sword-and-science fantasy/sci-fi adventure like no other. In the third century, a Persian warrior discovers an obscure culture using something more powerful and dangerous than magic: advanced technology.

We’ve also cooked up some fun ideas for Terranova’s menu! For this one night only, get in the spirit of ancient Persia and the mysterious kingdom of Dodrazeb with these cleverly named drinks and appetizers.

  • The Viper’s Kiss—Dirty Vodka Martini garnished with Olives
  • Wandering Librarian—Vodka, Cointreau, Cranberry Juice, and a splash of Lime
  • Garden of Persian Delights Terranova’s Sangria made fresh in-house with Red Wine
  • Scheming Princess—Terranova’s Frozen Italian Margarita mixed with Sangria
  • Drunken Scholar—Terranova’s Long Island Tea
  • Kamran’s Calamari—Tender, thinly cut calamari marinated overnight and lightly fried. Served with a spicy lemon butter sauce.
  • Conqueror’s Platter—Fried zucchini, mozzarella, stuffed mushrooms, and stuffed shrimp.
  • Rasteem’s Favorite—Breaded mozzarella triangles served with Terranonva’s house marinara sauce.
  • Laneffri’s Choice—Mushrooms stuffed with spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, and Italian spices.
  • Dodrazeb Dip—Creamy spinach and artichoke dip with melted mozzarella served with rosemary croutons.

Don’t have your copy of Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key yet? Don’t worry! We’ll have plenty of copies for sale at the launch party.

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