November 12, 2012

Research in Writing

by guest blogger M. J. Schiller
My book, Taken by Storm, released October fifteenth from Crimson Romance, is a sort of Prince of Persiaesque romance set in the fictional town of Avistad and fictional village of Tamook.  I did not have a specific time period in mind when I wrote it, more of a general era, before electricity, guns, and cars.  I did, however, do some research for the book, to ensure that I had an accurate flavor for the climate, the wildlife, and the foods eaten by people of Ancient Persia.  The more research I did, the more fascinated I became with the desert.
Did you know, for instance, that twenty percent of the world’s land surface is desert?  I would have expected it to be much lower; they seem so rare to me.  Maybe the percentage is so high because the Namib Desert expands for over 102,248 square miles on the edge of southwestern Africa.  It also has the world’s largest sand dunes, some as high as 1,300 feet!  Another interesting tidbit I picked up while researching was that the Joshua tree only grows in one desert, the Mojave.  That’s a good reason to preserve our deserts, as their flora and fauna are so unique. Research also told me that jackals and panthers were indigenous to the area and that brought about the following scene:

He [Tahj] felt a draft and turned to find the front door slightly ajar. “Oh, no, Bashea, you didn’t.” He stepped outside and immediately heard her piercing scream coming from somewhere in the forest behind the house. Tahj blew out the candle and dropped it at his feet; it was lighter outside with a three-quarter moon shining down. He tore off around the side of the house, calling out her name.

Again a shriek ripped through the air, followed by the all-too-familiar feline wail of a wild cat. Panicked now, Tahj ran forward, attempting to pinpoint the location the cries came from. Clumsily, he tried to draw his sword as its scabbard banged against his thigh, stumbling every now and then over tree roots and vines as he ran. After about twenty seconds he tripped into a clearing and saw Bashea several yards away, outlined by the moon as she swung a large branch threateningly in front of a pacing panther.

As Tahj watched, the panther sprang. With a mighty swing Bashea clubbed it, sending it flying back several feet. But the branch broke on impact, causing Bashea to lose her balance and tumble to the ground not far from the injured cat. It was evident by the yowl which issued from the animal’s throat Bashea had inflicted some major damage, but, at the same time, it was clear the panther wasn’t done with her yet.

Bashea searched frantically on the ground for another stick as the animal rose slowly to its feet. Tahj ran forward and Bashea, catching his motion, glanced in that direction just as the animal leapt. But before the cat could land on her, claws extended and teeth ready to rip her apart, Bashea’s quick reflexes had her rolling out of the way. The cat took a swipe at her but missed and was about to advance when Tahj came running, yelling to distract it. The panther took one look at Tahj, flailing and screaming, and took off into the brush, leaving Bashea quaking on the forest floor.

Tahj fell to his knees beside her. “Are you all right? Are you all right?”

“Y-yes,” she said, her voice trembling.

 When he saw she had all her limbs attached, Tahj’s adrenaline suddenly turned to rage. “What, in the name of all that is good, were you doing out here?”

So, you see, research gave me the insight into what Bashea might face when she ran away.  The desert world in which Prince Tahj and Bashea spend their time is extremely interesting.  If you’d like to hear more of their story, pick up a copy of Taken by Storm, available through Crimson Romance,,, I-books, Kobo, and other E-book Retailers.

Have you ever visited the desert?  If so, what was your impression?  What regions and climates do you prefer?
M. J. Schiller



Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, M. J. Thanks for being my guest today. I enjoy researching and it's always fun to find a little tid bit you can put into your story.

M.J. Schiller said...

Thank you, Anna Kathryn, for having me here today. Quite a different environment from what you write about, isn't it? But there are some similarities, such as the warmer, drier climate of the West.

I read another interesting desert tidbit on a Snapple cap the other day. Did you know that when a camel is thirsty, it can drink up to 25 gallons of water in three minutes?! Wow! Talk about one long drink of water!

nora snowdon said...

hi m.j.,
interesting post and your book sounds fascinating. i have been to a small desert near Whitehorse, B.C. It's very odd being a small naturally occurring area with sand dunes. not exactly hot, though. nature is often unpredictable.

Diane Burton said...

When I visited Death Valley, I expected the desert to be like what we see in movies of the Saraha--great dunes. I was surprised by all the vegetation.

very interesting post, M.J.

RT Wolfe said...

I loved this book! The trailer is rather awesome, too. I'm looking forward to more from you, M.J.!
-R.T. Wolfe

Debra St. John said...

I've visited the desert in the U.S. (Arizona). I like the lakes in Michigan. Not so hot, not so dry!

Thanks for sharing the excerpt from your book. You really brought the scene to life!

Laurie Larsen said...

When I was a kid we drove from the midwest to the west coast, camping along the way. I don't remember what state it was in, but in a desert-y state we pitched our tent. A neighboring camper came over with a rope and handed it to my dad, instructed him to circle the rope on the ground outside the tent to keep the RATTLESNAKES from crawling into the tent! Needless to say, I've never camped since!!!

Lynn Cahoon said...

First - Anna Kathryn I LOVE your blog header picture.

Okay, back to MJ - I've only been to the Idaho desert aka Mountain Home. And I was in Arizona once and saw a cactus. Oh, and the desert leaving Las Vegas.

M.J. Schiller said...

Laurie- yeah, I SO would have not slept that night. Like a snake won't go over a rope? Gives me the shivers! Thanks for stopping by, girl! You're the best! And best wishes for "Keeper by Surprise!"

M.J. Schiller said...

Nora- so no cacti, then? If you ever get a chance to check out the Senoran Desert in Arizona, it is really pretty. There's a Senoran Desert Museum I visited once, but it's really more of a desert zoo!

M.J. Schiller said...

Thank you, Debra, for your compliment, and for stopping by today. I'm sorry I wasn't here earlier, but we were out getting a car for our triplets, who just turned sixteen! Strangely enough, we ended up with the exact same car as our eighteen year old has. So we now have two beige Chevy Cavaliers!

M.J. Schiller said...

Lynn- thank you so much for stopping by today, especially since I know that you are busy promoting two books of your own, "The Bull Rider's Brother," and "The Bull Rider's Manager." I always find it so interesting the many different climates and environments we live in, from Alaska with its glaciers, to Arizona and its sand. Each person in these areas has their own daily reality in which they live and breathe, and it is so vastly different from the next person's. There are problems that Alaskans share that Arizonans will never know about, and visa versa. It makes you appreciate what a great and wonderful world we have, full of endless experiences and a myriad of choices when it comes to scenery. Makes me want to travel!

M.J. Schiller said...

And Diane, you brought up a good point by saying not all deserts are the same. The diversity of our planet never fails to amaze me. Even in my own state of Illinois. In Galena you'll find rolling hills, but here in Central Illinois, we have miles and miles of flat fields full of soybeans and corn. And the really cool thing is, all of these places have their own special charm, too. Thanks so much for stopping by. I appreciate you're taking time out of your busy day to share with us!

M.J. Schiller said...

R.T., my friend, thanks for coming by, especially when I know you are so busy working on that third book in your series. I can't wait to read the second one, which is waiting on my computer, because I was so in love with your first, "Black Creek Burning." I appreciate your support!

Erin Richards said...

I've never been in the desert. I'd like to visit one someday, maybe Death Valley, but not sure I'd want to live there! I just finished reading Taken by Storm and Mary does a great job describing her desert. You feel like you're there! Great book overall.

M.J. Schiller said...

Thank you so much, Erin! I appreciate your compliments!

The Painted Desert is also striking. I feel very fortunate to have visited several places out West. My Dad and step-mom lived for a time in Arizona and I have other relatives there, too. Tombstone, with its tumbleweed,too. Each have their own flavor.

Thanks for coming by and for always being so encouraging!