Roberta Writes – Author discussion with Dan Alatorre #Podcast #Lifeofawriter

I recently had a podcast discussion with Dan Alatorre. Dan is a USA Today bestselling author who has published more than 50 titles and is read in over a dozen languages around the world.

I have contributed short stories to a number of anthologies compiled and edited by Dan Alatorre including Dark Visions, Nightmareland, Spellbound, Shadowland, and Wings & Fire and I have learned a huge amount through working with him.

If you would like to listen to our discussion on a variety of topics including travel, interests, baking, and writing, you can do so here:

Extract from my short story Death Is About Choices which features in Spellbound

The drought was devastating the land.

“It’s terribly dry. The maize kernels are shrivelling on the stalks and the ground is cracked and parched.” The messenger shook with fear as he imparted this information to the Sapa Inca. The emperor was known to lash out in rage at the bearers of bad news.

The emperor’s main advisor, the High Priest of the capital city of Cusco, addressed the deity. “The mountain gods are angry and need to be appeased before they will send rain and restore life to our crops. A Capacocha ceremony is necessary. You must advise the chiefs to bring their sacrificial offerings to the city at once and I will arrange their distribution throughout the empire. I will lead the ceremony at which the purest and most beautiful children will be offered.”

The feathers on the Sapa Inca’s golden headdress swayed as he nodded agreement. A single ray of sunlight shot through the room, reflecting off the golden threads of his heavily embroidered clothing and surrounding him with a golden haze.

“The gods approve.” The High Priest’s face broke into a huge smile.

***

Juanita was not the first child, nor would she be the last, to have made this great journey from Cusco to the base of the high mountain selected by the High Priest, as the most appropriate shrine for his Capacocha ceremony.

The arrival of the ceremonial procession at the site, where the base camp would be established, was met with relief. The location at the foot of the mountain had everything the participants and the builders needed, including water, food, and access to a stone quarry.

Exhaustion was evident in the stiff and pain-filled movements of the older members of the party after travelling for many days. The High Priest had set a moderate pace to accommodate the slower moving among the accompanying priests and worshipers, but it had still fatigued them.

The journey from Cusco to the selected shrine was long and arduous. Tradition dictated that the travellers not follow the easier royal road, but rather take a direct overland route, following a straight ‘as the crow flies’ path from Cusco to their targeted camp site. The group had forged rivers inhabited by shocking electric eels and flesh-eating piranhas. Low, wet swamps greeted them, infested with the highly toxic poison dart frogs, mosquitoes, and powerful green anacondas. They struggled to pass over high mountainous terrain.

Juanita had enjoyed the monotony of the travelling routine after all the pomp and ceremony of her time in Cusco. As each day blended into the next with dreary regularity, she focused on controlling her fear.

What happens to you after you die? Will I really continue to exist as a deity, achieving divine status as a direct link between my people and the gods? Or will I just stop? Will the universe simply carry on without me as if I never existed at all? If only I knew the answers.

Dying along the journey did not frighten her. Such a death might be better than what lay in store for her and the two other children selected for sacrifice, Anku and Palla, at the end of their journey.

At least the end would be quick. Instead, I am one of the living dead with the stamp of sacrifice upon me.

The glimpses of brightly-coloured birds she caught among the palm trees and her sightings of herds of gentle Alpacas on the highland plateaus soothed her agitated soul.

The birds and animals live such peaceful lives. They don’t have to wrestle with the meaning of life and the prospect of an early death. It would be so much easier to be a bird. They can fly away from danger. It must be wonderful to have wings and be so free.

A few weeks before their arrival at the camp, the procession had passed through Juanita’s home village where, in accordance with tradition, her family had joined them. The families of Anku and Palla were already among the travellers, the procession having passed through their villages earlier in the journey.

Her father was the chief of her home village. He and her mother were incredibly proud that Juanita had been chosen for sacrifice by the Sapa Inca.

“Your sacrifice to the mountain gods will ensure a tie between your father, as chief of our village, and the Emperor. It will also bestow an elevated status on our family and our descendants. We are greatly honoured by your selection and you will be forever immortalised through your sacrifice.” Her mother’s expression of exalted wonder didn’t have the desired effect on her twelve-year old daughter.

“Your perfect beauty has been recognized.” Her mother tried another avenue of persuasion. “You are entirely unblemished and beautiful to look at or you would not have been a viable subject for selection.”

Juanita would not be coaxed into expressing gratitude or joy at her situation. She, along with two other children of equal purity, had been chosen to die.

It’s easy for her, she’s not the one whose been chosen to die. She will continue to enjoy the warmth of the sun on her face and the wind in her hair. I’m the one who is expected to be joyous about giving up everything I love.

Two of her brothers were among the worshipers, and she was comforted by their presence—although, being younger than her, she was not as close to them as she had been to her older brothers, Tupaq and Mallku.

Brushing tears from her eyes, she thought of their tragic deaths. Just a few short months before, she’d left the village to travel to Cusco to meet the Sapa Inca and attend the feast held in her honour. The victims of a hunting accident, her brothers’ mummified bodies now lay side-by-side in an underground tomb.

I wish they were here to support me through this awful time. Sometimes I think I see their faces among the people in the procession, but when I try to approach them, they disappear.

Three years ago, before she had been selected for child sacrifice, she had overheard Tupaq and Mallku discussing the practice. It was late one evening, when their parents were away attending a ritual where several animals would be sacrificed. Her brothers thought she was asleep.

“I am worried about Juanita. She is too perfect, too beautiful. She is the perfect subject for selection by the bloodthirsty priests,” Tupaq said.

“I agree and I am also worried, Tupaq,” Mallku’s, deep voice rumbled, “but there is nothing we can do to help her if she is chosen.”

A few months later, their predication had come true and Juanita had been chosen. During the months between her selection and her journey to Cusco, she had been fed an elite diet of maize and meat.

Fattening me up for the kill, she’d thought miserably. They wouldn’t want to insult the gods by sacrificing an inferior product.

Nothing could stand between her and her destiny. Following the deaths of her beloved brothers, she grew unable to eat. She became thin and pale. Her frailty had attracted the attention of the local priest who had told her to start eating again or he would order the arrest of her family and younger brothers. Juanita had obeyed.

Amazon US

45 thoughts on “Roberta Writes – Author discussion with Dan Alatorre #Podcast #Lifeofawriter

  1. What a wonderful.podcast, so fun and light.

    I have only heard half of it, upto you staying in SA for now. Will listen to the rest later.

    You are just amazing with all that you achieve.

    Congrats on a fun podcast

    Liked by 3 people

  2. A wonderful podcast, Robbie. You and Dan are stellar together. Have you ever considered starting a podcast? Dan is using the Spotify/Anchor platform which allows for video conversations. It is easy to set up and I think that more writers should take advantage of reading their books via podcast. Just a thought. I am excited for you!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Human sacrifice seems so strange to me, though I know it has been practiced by many cultures throughout history. Of course one could put war in that category too. Your writing is wonderful, as always. (K)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I loved your chat with Dan. Goodness knows why but hearing you answer ‘Yis’ to Dan’s sometimes tortuous questions cracked me up (did I say I have a soft spot for the South African accent…?). And not moving to the UK because we’re a crowded little island that’s cold and occasionally wet?!! I’m hurt! Still Dan brought out what an extraordinary polymath you are and the idea you’d come here and give up work… oh sure, that’s going to absorb all your energy. Until someone finds out how to take out your batteries you’ll need to keep all those plates spinning or attach yourself to the electricity grid or something. Be grand to meet up in December if you find the time…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI Geoff, I do adore you. You always make me laugh. I must admit that the pandemic really has brought home to me how much I love South Africa and its vast unpopulated spaces. You can drive for miles here and not see a single soul. And then there’s all the amazing animals and colourful people. I don’t think I want to live the UK anymore. It’s to regulated. I like my freedom. Haha, you description of me is so funny and I don’t see myself like that at all… I will let you know our plans a bit closer to the time. We have booked our flights and will be in London on 14th and 15th December.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Looking forward to it… and having spent an epic 3 weeks in your delightful country I do understand the pull. Time to return methinks. Though flying… hmm… maybe I cam sort out a few trains!!

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  5. I haven’t listened to the podcast, but I read every word of your well written tale.
    Thanks Roberta!

    It seems a harsh reality, what people thought/ practised back there and then.
    Yet is it any worse what poo-tin is thinking and doing right now. Things seem to change.. for better or worse? I think they just change.
    I was stuck in S.A. for over a year once. I’ve been to Cusco. I slept in the ruins in the mountains… saw Machu Picchu and learned of the sacrifices. Oddly one of the very few souvenirs I bought was a silver Tumi, made into a charm you could wear on a chain. Turns out it was a miniature of the real one, which was a curved knife, with an Inca head on top, instead of a hilt/handle… …so it rocked back and forth to do the cutting. It was used for certain sacrifices. I still have it, but never wear it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. HI Resa, what a wonderful privilege to spend a year in S.A. I would love to visit the Americas but it is very far away from South Africa and expensive to get there. We usually go to places in the UK or Europe. I agree that nothing ever really changes and it won’t due to the nature of some greedy and power hungry people.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yeah, it seems the same for me. I can get to Europe and N. America, but further is crazy expensive. I ended up in South America by fluke.
        I actually think you would love Canada.
        We are quite underpopulated for the size of the country. There is lots & lots of wild country, despite our rape of the land for natural resources.
        It is mostly quite modern, as we keep ripping up our heritage buildings to make way for new.
        So, we don’t have elephants, but we have polar bears.

        Be well!

        Liked by 2 people

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