Monday, August 20, 2012

Inspiration and Research by Jon Baxley

What is it that inspires writers to come up with the central subject of their books? In my case, it was the choice of a single word I had heard many years ago and really didn’t have a handle on at the moment THE SCYTHIAN STONE SAGA began. That word or term was “Scythian.” I knew that a form of the word was in the Bible but other than that, I had no clue what or who the Scythians were. It sounded like a cool name, so I decided to use it.

In fact, I didn’t really research the origin of the name until I was well into the sixth or seventh chapter of the first draft of THE BLACKGLOOM BOUNTY, episode 1 of my five book medieval fantasy series. At some point, I decided to delve into the word and see exactly where it came from. Low and behold, I was more stunned than surprised.

Herodotus wrote of the barbarous customs of the Scythian people several millennia ago. They are chronicled almost universally as great warriors, though I suspect some of their exploits may be more fiction than fact. It is said that Darius the Great warred against the Scythians before he tangled with Alexander the Great. If so, then Scythian history goes back at least 1,500 years and the Scythian Stone around which my series revolves may in fact be older than that. I’ve read that the Scythians were direct descendants of the tribes Moses brought out of Egypt and that the stone may actually have traveled with them, but I have yet to find firm confirmation of that.

Aeschylus wrote that Scythian laws, customs, and manners were accepted by many other nations long before the tribe migrated west out of Russia. Their methods and traditions were adopted as standards for policy, civility and learning. The Scythians had a reputation as the most sincere, least deceitful and most frugal and self-reliant of all the early tribes mentioned in the Greek and Roman archives. They sound like Scots, don’t they?

In fact, a Greek manuscript is where I learned that the first great chief of the Scythians was called Skuthees. It is said that he was a son of Hercules and a noblewoman born half human and half viper—thus producing the Scythians’ warlike disposition. The name for Skuthees’ tribe evolved into ‘Skuthians’, which means ‘people of the fog’ and that was eventually shortened to ‘Scoti’ when the Scythians came across the North Sea to settle in what is now Scotland.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) when I learned that the Scythians actually existed and that they were some of the original bloodlines of Scotland—the main locale of my series. That all played into a nice, neatly trimmed back story to provide the Scythian Stone its bona fides and its importance to the characters in my books.

Amazing what a little bit of inspiration and research can provide, eh? And the really funny thing is, most Scots who have read my books are completely unfamiliar with that rendition of the name origin. All I can say to them is, “Look it up—it’s all there in the archives.”

*****

Jon Baxley owns a small ranch in San Antonio, Texas. He has been writing fiction for the last twenty years. He is a medieval historian and has served in the U.S. Army and the U.S.I.A. as a “consultant” in the former Soviet Union. He now writes fantasy and Cold War fiction full time.

THE SCYTHIAN STONE SAGA is fantasy reading for all ages. However, it’s also a medieval epic with lots of historical imagery, phrases and geographic locations to make the storyline credible for those who want a bit more realism in their fantasy fare. Major reviewers thus far have lauded the first two books for the fast pace, unrelenting action, interesting characters and multiple plot lines that all lead to a dramatic (and some say ‘cinematic’) ending. The third book in the series, THE SCIONS OF SCOTIA is due out very soon.

Jon has a Facebook page under construction. Readers are encouraged to ‘friend’ him there or email him at FiveStarAuthor@aol.com with questions and comments.

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