Peek, Steve: Longclaws, Book One of Stone Gates Trilogy
Longclaws had many titles, as it was written and rewritten over twenty years. The one thing that sticks with me about the experience of writing it was the morning after I typed the end. I was in the shower. For some reason I felt down, a sense of loss. Then it struck me; I missed the characters from Longclaws carrying on conversations with themselves.
The time and focus of writing the book created a new and separate reality for me. It really had become the world of the Longclaws and the characters live in it. I say ‘the’ and not ‘my’ characters because they began as my characters but soon enough took on their own life and often directed both dialogue and plot points as the story developed.
Some of them are – in part – based on real people I knew as a child. One of the minor characters, Great Aunt Ruby, was born of a real experience. As the young and already frightened Tom Mason climbs the steps to the rundown country home to begin the experience of his first funeral, his eyes are on his feet and the steps in order to avoid the eyes of people he believes are staring at him. Once on the porch, his mother introduces him to his great aunt and he is forced to raise his eyes. When they lock on Ruby’s face he sees the most unimaginable, horrific site in his ten year old life.
That scene is based on my own experience at my first funeral and the shock of seeing my real great aunt is as fresh and as gruesome today as it was those fifty years ago.
Many reviews of Longclaws applaud the book’s characters. I think that is because most of them, even the creatures to some extent, are loosely based on real people who possessed larger than life traits that stuck with me.
More than one reviewer of Longclaws has described the scenes that take place in the world of the Longclaws as hellish, brutal, the most unforgiving they have ever read about. I think that is because as I wrote the chapters that occurred in the clan’s world, something let go in my mind. Trying to see their environment through their eyes, I saw things I’d never thought about or planned. It was as if a whole ecosystem of nightmare climate and creatures sprung up in my mind. I found myself gleefully typing descriptions and actions of this creature or that plant.
The ‘Mass’ are foot-long scorpion like creatures which, like our own Marabunta – army ants – rise from their nests and cut a swath of death several miles wide until they burrow again. There are plants that grow branches that bow outward, held in place by a natural trigger that releases thousands of tiny, poison tipped darts and enormous thorns that ensnare the prey. When it dies and falls to the ground, the roots devour the nourishment from the fallen victim.
When you look at their world through the eyes of the Longclaw clan members, it’s no wonder they wanted to find the other world of their legends. No matter what it was like, it had to be better than their hostile environment, where to sleep is to die. Constant vigilance is all that affords their kind a tenuous niche in a place of never-ending horror.
Their world is crowded with active volcanoes, sulfur and acid rains, permanent thick clouds turn day into deep twilight. It is a violent place: moment-to-moment survival is victory, every creature is constantly predator and prey, sleep is certain death. This is home to the longclaws, beings of super-human speed, strength and senses. Their predatory skills allow them only a tenuous niche in their hellish environment. Though smart and fierce, their rank in the food chain is far below the top. One clan leader draws from ancient legends of paradise and devises a plan to escape and take his clan to the otherworld – a world filled with slow, defenseless prey. The clan activates an Indian mound deep in southern forests and enters our world -hungry for prey. Torrential rains and washed out bridges force a runaway teen, an old dowser and a Cherokee healer to face the horrors of the clan’s merciless onslaught. Mankind’s legends are filled with vampires, werewolves, dragons and other nightmarish. Perhaps our legend of hell is based on the world of the Longclaws.
Buy Longclaws or Alien Agenda here
Steve is on tour between 12th and 26th July – you can check in with tour central here, and please check back each day to read more fascinating thoughts by this eloquent and interesting author.
Tour arranged by The Finishing Faires