Senility forced a wizard into retirement, sending him back to his parents' house in the small village of Xil. Life in Xil has nothing to offer and the old man decides to give nothing in return. He trudges along, one day at a time, trying his hardest to make things difficult for everyone around, including his daughter and grandson living with him. He is comfortable in his unhappiness. It seems nothing can shake him, until a disaster hit and pulls the ground from under his feet.
Zanathu is the first of a series of short stories about the wizards of the world of Arvelas.
On August 11 2013, my wife Leigh had a dream that the Disney World castle fell into a giant sinkhole. On August 12 2013, a villa in Florida partially collapsed in a sinkhole. It was probably just a coincidence, but a creepy one nonetheless. During the day, my wife sent me a news article on the sinkhole in Florida and while reading, the idea came to me that it would be interesting to have a similar catastrophe in one of my stories.
I have a note here saying that in 2014, there was around 6,500 insurance claims a year related to sinkholes in Florida only. In February of 2013, a resort building, near Disney World, collapsed in a 20-meter wide hole, taking the life of a sleeping resident. The body was never found. Maybe this was the story my wife was dreaming about? It could be interesting to know where dreams come from.
While writing the story, I came across a picture of the sinkhole that hit Guatamala City in 2010. You can see it on the following article, posted on National Geographic. The hole seems like it came right out of a science-fiction movie. The scary thing is that this picture is only one of many. A quick search will bring up a series of such occurrences.
The first draft for this story was completed in August 2013 and was around 4800 words. With each of the following revisions, the story grew in length. When I finally sent it to my alpha reader, in 2014, Gaetan came back to me with many comments, most of which were about the characters. I went back to work and when the next full version was completed, in 2015 this time, it was over 9600 words.
Looking back, I would never have thought that I started this story all the way back in 2013. It brings the question as to why it took so long. The answer is a combination of a few factors. The first is that I completed 13 revisions for this story, spread out over 2 years. Some of the revisions only took a few hours, while at least 2 were major re-writes. The second is that I often take a break between revisions, leaving the story aside, so I can detach from it and return later with a fresh eye. Depending on how many stories I am working on at the time, it can take several months before I come back to the same story. The third factor is that I spent a lot of time in 2014 and 2015 working on my writing platform, including my website.
I find taking that much time before the start of a story and the final version can sometimes be difficult. In the case of this story, I believe some of the revisions might have been unnecessary. After all, every time you review a story, there is always something you can change, if not improve. It is important to know when to let a story be and go on to new material. At this point, I am satisfied with this version of the story.
The template for the covers of the short stories taking place in Arvelas all use a photograph taken by my wife or myself. I then edit the picture, sometimes removing parts of it or recolouring it. The picture for Zanathu was taken at Carlsbad Caverns, in New Mexico. If you never had a chance to visit Carlsbad, it is well worth your time. The original picture was not a particularly good one, but for the purpose of the cover, it works well, mainly due to the contrast between the stalactites and the dark background. To see the original picture, you can click here.
I was hoping to be able to have Zanathu stands on its own, but it turned out to be linked to larger events happening in Arvelas. This is probably due to the fact that Arvelas has such a deep well of history and information to choose from. In any case, I hope you can enjoy it, taking into consideration that it is a novelette and will leave some questions unanswered.