Under the Covers: Revelations
Step through the mirror and see what’s under the covers of Revelations.
This section includes notes from my research, the inspiration for different scenes and shares some of my favorite lines and moments. Obviously this section includes spoilers, so I’d recommend reading the book before reading through them. But that’s just me.
Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty Chapter Twenty-One Chapter Twenty-Two Chapter Twenty-Three Chapter Twenty-Four Chapter Twenty-Five Chapter Twenty-Six Chapter Twenty-Seven Chapter Twenty-Eight Chapter Twenty-Nine Chapter Thirty Chapter Thirty-One Chapter Thirty-Two Chapter Thirty-Three Chapter Thirty-four Chapter Thirty-Five Chapter Thirty-Six Chapter Thirty-Seven Chapter Thirty-Eight Chapter Thirty-Nine Chapter Forty Chapter Forty-One Chapter Forty-Two Chapter Forty-Three Chapter Forty-Four Chapter Forty-Five Chapter Forty-Six Epilogue
Introducing Dani was a challenge. In my earlier versions, she was coming across as too uncaring and aggressive. I needed to show her vulnerable side and then flip things around to show her power.
I’ve seen my share of people like Josh, who believe intimidation should be the first and only strategy of negotiation. I’m clearly not a great admirer of the technique. As my martial arts instructor says, bullies will always go with their <blank> of death. A grip of death, a looming of death, whatever they think is the fastest way to get what they want. They always believe their secret weapon is inescapable.
The warning about human predators and the second location is from Gavin de Becker’s The Gift of Fear. He begs potential victims to never let themselves get taken to the second location. They need to make a fuss and resist right away because once they are in the predator’s control, their chances of survival are slim.
I made up the town of Perdition because I needed something a little smaller than the traditional party towns. I based it in part on college towns where the population is always changing as students come in and then graduate. It seemed like the perfect place to avoid being noticed and find a ready pool of suitable victims.
I love the term “emergency flirtation device” and I’m glad to have found somewhere to use it.
I also enjoyed exploring the ramifications of feeling what other people feel and having to see their worst secrets. I can imagine it being confusing and discouraging. Michael holds himself back to keep from being overwhelmed but cares enough about those around him to let himself get pulled in over and over.
I believe we all have cosmic flashes, just not as obvious as Michael’s. There have been a number of times when I’ve been trying to do something and obstacles keep popping up. Many times, I’ve discovered that what I was trying to do would have been a mistake. I know others who’ve had similar experiences. I believe that sometimes the Universe does conspire to protect us from ourselves.
I also believe in crowd energy. Sometimes I enter a room full of people and my hackles rise in self-protection. Although everyone is being pleasant, there’s an undercurrent of tension and aggression. Other times, it feels like the good times have soaked into the walls, buoying up everyone’s spirits.
If I’ve done my job right, when Dani leaves the bar with Josh, everyone should think he is the predator. Getting to reverse that and show that she is more dangerous to him was one of those great moments as a writer. It took a lot of rewriting in this chapter to get the balance of danger and pathos right. I needed to show that she is making the best of a bad set of choices but I didn’t want to undermine my original concept. At times I toyed with the idea of having her use something other than orgasm to release the Huntress but that is not how the ancient temple priestesses worked. There was much debate and many people said that no one would want to read a book where the heroine attacks people through sex. I stuck to my guns and now we’ll see if I was right.
Dalhard was a great villain to work with. I’m not a big fan of Evil People. Instead, what scares me are those who believe that the end justifies the means and that their ends justify everything. Vincent and Eric have been held for testing for awhile, kept in isolation. That is why they try to escape, betraying their true natures. It’s also one of the reasons Vincent breaks so quickly with Dalhard.
Dalhard’s little reminiscence about seeing a man lift a tractor is actually a reference to Walter’s imprisonment. And his version of how he came to hire Karan should be read carefully. There’s more to Karan than meets the eye.
I had fun coming up with his “stable” of supernaturals. My two favorites were the descendant of Rasputin and the camouflaging thief. Thanks to many years of geek debates, I had the perfect ironic downside for invulnerability. If nothing can break through your skin and you are immune to chemical reactions, that includes antibiotics and IVs. A simple germ can kill you. And the idea of being able to change the color of my skin to blend in with backgrounds and escape detection is just cool.
This was the first scene I wrote for this book and was originally going to be my opening. It’s still my favorite. There’s something appealing about the pure physicality of how Dani goes through life.
Introducing Gwen needed to be handled carefully. I didn’t want to give away too much too soon but wanted to establish that she is closer to crazy than sane but that she is also loved and cared for. I thought showing Dani taking care of her would help to offset the more violent side of her nature.
Gwen talks to ghosts. They tell her things but like all of us, they’d rather gossip about the bad than remember the good. They also have no concept of visiting hours and personal space. People go crazy getting emails on their phones at all hours, imagine being barraged by the most relentless houseguest possible and never getting away. That’s what her life has been like. She has to choose between insanity-inducing interruptions or living in complete isolation. That mixture of tragedy and innocence is what makes Gwen special.
Bernie’s tantrum is based on an actual tantrum described by one of the moms in a message group. In the space of two hours, her child destroyed the bed in her room. Everything got hauled out in Hefty bags and there weren’t any pieces bigger than a hardback book. And it wasn’t the first time it had happened, although it was the fastest and most thorough. What surprised me was how matter of fact the mom was when she described it. It happened then we cleaned it up, ordered a new bed and got a air mattress out for a few nights. No big deal. I never actually met her but I’ve based Martha on some of the moms I did speak with.
Michael’s mangled lyrics for Old MacDonald are based on the lyrics my husband used to sing to our children. They would laugh like crazy when he got it wrong.
I needed to show that Martha is almost completely broken down to make it believable that she would consider sending her child away for treatment. Most special-needs parents drain themselves horribly trying to manage everything themselves.
Michael knows Martha is on the edge and he knows she shouldn’t trust Expanding Horizons, but how can he possibly convince her of that? It’s a dilemma he’s faced over and over again in his life. He has the knowledge but no way to get it to the people who need to have it. I believe that’s why finding out about the lalassu had such a profound effect on him. It let him be open and honest.
Figuring out how Michael experienced emotions was a challenge. It had to be distinct from his own emotional experience but still powerful and sometimes overwhelming. Sadly, I have no psychic powers of my own, so I had to put my imagination to good use and research with some self-proclaimed psychics.
What’s the natural first step in finding a missing relative? Talking to the forgers who got them their documents, of course. Dani’s world is just so different that it made it a lot of fun to explore.
I debated with myself about whether or not to include Chomp’s scene in the novel. It’s violent and not terribly flattering for Dani. (Although I love the “heads or tails” technique.) In the end, I decided to keep it to demonstrate where she is at the beginning of the book. Her reaction to violence subtly shifts as the story and her character develop. With Chomp, she has no regrets. With Redneck, she finds it unsatisfying. At the end, she’s able to find a different path.
Michael’s investigation goes a little differently than Dani’s. He calls the center, hoping to find a discrepancy he could report to the police. He pursues a legal, open path instead of beating up snitches for information.
I loved Joe’s line about Michael “being a civilian, entitled to pick up women in any situation you like, no matter how weird.” And I like to think that he and Dani would in fact tell this story to their grandkids.
Michael’s enthusiasm and delight in being part of the adventure make me smile, too.
I enjoyed contrasting Michael and Dani’s reactions to the Blue Curtain Club. She sees the potential, he sees the societal implications.
Michael needed to loosen up as part of his character arc. Like a lot of “good” people, he has a rigid morality and doesn’t tend to spend time thinking about why people make the choices they do. He makes assumptions based on what he thinks he knows and doesn’t go past those assumptions. He needed to be introduced to all the shades of gray out there.
This chapter would have been a lot longer if I could have gotten away with it. I enjoyed creating my own burlesque performance and had a lot of fun deciding about costumes, music and punchlines.
When I spoke to burlesque dancers, one of the things they were consistently frustrated with was being mistaken for strippers and people assuming that their bodies were available to touch or grope. Redneck Whiskey is an amalgam of all the stories of bad audience members.
Michael is in a bit of unique situation. His flashes keep pushing him into environments beyond his comfort zone but most people don’t accept psychic instructions as a valid excuse for other people’s behavior. He has to come up with something plausible but hates lying. It really limits his options.
Dani keeps wavering between suspicion and wanting to pretend she has a normal life. I can understand trying to find the fine line between protecting oneself and still having a life. Granted, her situation is a little more extreme but it’s all a matter of degree.
When Michael misunderstands Dani’s reaction, assuming she feels bad about being a burlesque dancer, it was my attempt to show that psychic gifts wouldn’t lead to complete understanding. Understanding someone’s emotions doesn’t help you to understand the reason behind those emotions, a common mistake made by people who claim to be able to spot liars. They may be able to detect nerves, but not being believed could make someone just as nervous as trying to get away with a lie. Dani was feeling bad about not having a normal life, not about being a burlesque dancer.
This chapter is where we learn why Dalhard was recruiting ex-military personnel to begin with. He wants suitable test subjects for genetic manipulation. We also meet Ron McBride and learn about his traumatic experiences. When I first wrote this scene, I was planning to reveal Dalhard’s powers later on. But without understanding what my villain was doing, the scene appeared to be somewhat pointless. So I gave up on the idea of keeping it a secret and made it clear from the beginning.
I deliberately left it ambiguous as to whether or not Rogers really sensed something with Dalhard or if he was just crazy and snapped. Granted, most of the crazy people in my world know something but sometimes crazy is just crazy. Doesn’t mean they’re wrong, though.
Ending with the tiny flash of Gwen’s world and experience was fun and creepy.
Martha’s despair on realizing that she made a mistake sending Bernie to the treatment center is heart wrenching. Michael can’t help but respond to it. He doesn’t have a clear idea of what he’s going to do but his ruse of dropping off a therapy toy is a good one.
Expanding Horizons is based on the creepy sanitoriums from the turn of the century, albeit updated. They were essentially warehouses to keep embarrassing individuals away from society and the doctors had carte blanche to perform experiments on them in the name of improving medicine. They had pamphlets with pictures of beautiful lawns and pristine grounds but hid the reality of their patients’ experiences. The luxuries in the public areas were designed to soothe visitors and donors.
Vapor is my man of mystery. He didn’t give up his secrets easily. He knows a great deal about the Babylon legacy and the Harris family. He has a wide variety of contacts and information at his fingertips. Initially I conceived of him as a spider sitting in a web and collecting information, but that image didn’t end up suiting the character. I ended up seeing him more as a guard dog, protective and powerful.
Dani’s family home was a combination of charming cottage and creepy haunted house. Usually, they would have kept moving to avoid attention but Gwen’s circumstances forced them to stay put. I don’t see them as having a lot of home repair skills and I could see Walter allowing things to fall into disrepair as a sort of camouflage. They would be the creepy family that you almost never see and who local kids point out as being weird, daring each other to sneak up to the house.
Virginia and Dani have a combative relationship. Virginia is determined that her daughter won’t repeat her failures but doesn’t want to acknowledge those failures, which makes for an odd combination of pressure and silence. She doesn’t have a lot of patience. Her gifts as a clairvoyant mean that she knows what people are going to do before they do it. She believes she knows best but is much better suited to command than diplomacy. Walter is her complement, equally dedicated but more accepting of life as it is rather than trying to control it.
Different Ways is based on real therapy companies. The staff there work tirelessly for tiny gains, coaxing children to learn and grow through endless patience and play. Michael’s work with Jason is typical, using a play opportunity to teach him to speak.
George is based on one boy whose family was very frank in discussing their situation with me. He loves Dodge Grand Caravans and will go to any length (including running across busy roads) to get to one. His technique for escaping his parents and therapists is surprisingly effective and documented in this novel.
Michael’s concerns about being judged and possibly losing his job are valid. It doesn’t take much to spook parents and most centers and daycares are leering about hiring men as caregivers for just that reason. It’s a shame because there are a lot of good men who would be excellent role models and teachers who are excluded based on their gender.
When Michael meets with Vapor, he’s starting to understand how deep the rabbithole goes. But the lalassu are no Wonderland. He’s starting to grasp that this is an entirely different world with entirely different rules than the ones he knows.
Having Michael read Dalhard’s location from the jacket fragment was a late inspiration. I’d been struggling for weeks with how to get Michael and Dani to where Dalhard was without the whole thing seeming contrived and awkward. Remembering that Michael would be able to pull the information directly sped up the pace and let me get rid of a number of improbably coincidences.
Dani may have trouble with impulse control but she’s learned the hard way that charging in without a plan is inevitably a bad idea. Michael’s offer to stay with her is prompted by as much self-preservation as apology. He knows that if he lets her disappear, he risks being left behind. But he’s also genuinely curious about her life and wants to make up for being so harsh earlier.
Bernie is being subjected to the Zener test for determining psychic ability. The tester looks at a card which can have one of five symbols (star, square, circle, cross, wavy lines) and the subject must say which card it is. Any results over 20% success is considered significant.
It is a little frightening to realize how vulnerable we all are to false records. Even clearing up a simple clerical error can take months or years. Identity theft can take decades. Changing someone’s history can have a profound impact on their reputation and prospects. This is demonstrated every time we find out something unsavory about a celebrity’s past. Who we think they are becomes rewritten.
Eric is very much the typical oldest child. He takes care of his younger siblings and thinks more of them than he does of his own circumstances. His sense of responsibility helps him to resist Dalhard’s persuasion.
The tip about gesturing with guns came from a police officer I spoke to. He said it was one of the things which drove him nuts in cop shows, that the officers constantly gesture with their weapons. In real life, he told us, people who do that get jumped or shot.
I love Vincent’s remark about being a focus group for which bullets hurt the most. It makes me smile every time I see it.
Michael talking to the burlesque dancers and finding out about their lives is based on my dad. He talks to everyone and is always genuinely fascinated to learn about what is important to them. It used to drive me crazy when I was a kid but now I recognize it as his way of making the world a better place.
I met a wide variety of people who did burlesque as part of my research. One said she began after dumping a boyfriend who was cheating on her. She wanted to feel good about herself and her body and four years later is still doing it. They talked about how amazing and powerful and sexy they felt, regardless of whether or not they had a socially preferred body size. About half of the performers I met would qualify as plus-size and said doing burlesque made them feel gorgeous.
Worst job interview ever. I think Vincent pretty much sums that up. (And I love his sarcastic and irreverent frame of mind. It makes working with him so much fun.)
To be clear, Dalhard is lying. While Rogers is not an exemplary human being, he is not a serial killer or cutting up kittens for entrees. But it does demonstrate how quickly reputations can shift and change, moving someone outside the definition of “innocent”. We often trust what other people tell us, even though we have no direct experience to base it on. (I believe that is the bread and butter of the entire tabloid industry.)
Michael begins to understand that Dani is not just a tease or callous. There is something dangerous inside her and she is protecting everyone else by keeping them at a distance. She uses nicknames instead of actual names to avoid getting too close to other people. She derails conversations to keep others off balance. Everything she does is designed to create a bubble of protection.
Dani’s fight with Redneck Whiskey plays on a line from JMS’s Babylon 5. “They were the bad guys and we were the good guys and they made a satisfying thump when they hit the floor.” The character is celebrating having a clear-cut black-and-white moral choice after years of dealing with shades of gray. Dani is also giving herself the freedom to enjoy a righteous ass-kicking but I wanted to look at how justified it truly is.
Redneck Whiskey is a jerk and a predator, but does he deserve to be hurt physically or killed for his actions? If we do, are we not sinking to his level? Those are the questions I wanted to explore. Michael acts as the voice of law and conscience. No one has the right to be judge and executioner, no matter how emotionally satisfying it might feel in the moment. And yet, it’s hard to feel bad about it when it is framed as defending the innocent.
Bringing Joe back in to touch base with Michael let me deepen their relationship. Initially Joe only appeared in the first few chapters but his character grew to be much more. I suspect he’ll have his own book and adventures before much longer. He wants to help but is tied to the law with all its preconceptions and checks and balances.
Dani has been taught to distrust traditional authority and her own experiences have certainly backed that up. To see the police treating Tanisha properly, protecting and serving her, is a real eye opener for her. It’s part of what gives her the strength to fight the Huntress’s demands. I envisioned her as almost Hunting herself. She gets lost in her own memories and Michael has to bring her out.
Michael is having real trouble coping with what happened with Redneck Whiskey. I based his reaction on my own when I saw The Watchmen. Alan Moore showed just what it is that we’ve been celebrating for all these years in comics and it is actually horrible when you take the time to think about it. For years, the Internet has run guesstimates of collateral civilian casualties in superhero movies. We may cheer as the Hulk rips through a building to jump on an alien invader but the reality is that those buildings are full of people who haven’t been evacuated and are almost certainly injured or killed off-screen.
Now I love comics and comicbook films but I do try to remind myself now and again that they are a fantasy. Real world violence is not exciting when people are caught up in it.
I know there will be groans on reading this chapter and discovering that the farm is not being raided. But it’s actually a much more troubling situation. Gwen has received Eric’s message and the only way she could get it was to destroy the barriers protecting her. An assault team could be hit and defeated. This challenge requires something more than ready fists.
Michael’s initial reaction to seeing Gwen was inspired by the special needs families I spoke to. Many of them do things which inspire negative reactions from the public but are necessary: like letting a child look at an iPad to keep them quiet during a movie or having to lock up food because the child is a compulsive eater. They talked about the reactions they’ve gotten: accusations of abuse and neglect, dirty looks, etc. Without understanding the situation, people judge them. Once they do understand, the painful choices become clear.
Most ghost investigators will tell you that there appears to be a link between electrical conductivity and paranormal activity. Batteries going dead are a common phenomena at haunted sites. One theory is that the ghosts are able to use electrical power to make themselves stronger. To create a completely ghost proof room, one would need to ensure there were no electrical conduits into the space. Salt has been used to ward off evil and spirits since the dawn of writing.
Michael’s adventure into Gwen’s reality is my own Through The Looking Glass moment. Everything he thought he knew is being turned on its head and twisted. She’s not being trapped, she’s being protected. Chuck is real. But he handles it with far more grace than I think I could manage in similar circumstances. Even in the middle of a complete paradigm shift, he takes the time to try and help both Gwen and Chuck.
Having Eric use Rogers as a messenger to Gwen to tell his family to run was just cool. Eric has been asked to kill someone and he’s got a sister who talks to dead people. It’s just neat no matter how you look at it.
This is the moment when Dani decides she can’t hold back any more. She is tired of hating herself and feeling like she’s letting everyone down. If sacrificing herself is what it takes to rescue her family, she’ll do it. It hasn’t quite made it to her conscious mind yet though. From a higher perspective, she’s not ready to make that decision yet. Her impulse is still more suicidal than accepting her role.
I enjoy ghost stories and shows like Ghost Hunters but they’ve often made me think. If believers are correct and human consciousness lives on after death, remaining on Earth, that must be horrible. Ghosts often seem to be desperate to communicate, which makes me think they must be isolated. The human mind doesn’t do well in isolation. It’s one of the cruelest forms of non-physical torture.
Michael gets to see Dani’s pivotal past moments. Seeing her father hurt and misinterpreting the Huntress’s role and being unable to control the Huntress and sparking a riot at her prom. Having been thrust into such responsibility at a young age explains her reluctance to take it on now. Whenever she thought she’s been in control, she’s learned the hard way that she was wrong. It’s made it very difficult for her to let down her guard.
Writing Gwen is always a challenge and a pleasure. She can’t make sense and yet she can’t just be rambling either. Her point of view on the world is unique, making it fascinating to explore.
I love Michael not wanting to breathe so that he doesn’t interrupt the romantic moment. Everyone should get a few transcendent moments in life. He then gets to follow it up by confronting Dani about her assumption that he is the equivalent of a “damsel in distress” needing rescue. He may not be as physically strong but he has skills and knowledge to keep himself safe and be useful.
Michael was a great character to work with. His layers came together slowly. After everything he’s experienced, both directly and second-hand, he should be cynical and withdrawn. He knows everyone’s darkest secrets and no one likes feeling exposed, so they’ve attacked the messenger. But he’s held onto his belief that there is good in this world and the people in it. He refuses to accept the darkness, seeing life for what it can be.
Eric and Vincent at breakfast is one of my more subtle author conceits. While Vincent happily chows down on a steak, Eric can’t tolerate the sight or smell of the blood. Eric is haunted by Roger’s death and Dalhard’s manipulation while Vincent has subconsciously chosen to accept things at face value.
Joe’s confrontation with Dani had very little change from the first draft. They both care about Michael but are on opposite sides of deciding what should happen. It was emotionally powerful, letting them both come to the realization that they aren’t enemies. Dalhard’s appearance lets Dani see her real enemy for the first time. He’s confident enough in his persuasive gifts that he doesn’t feel it’s necessary to resort to any more drastic measures.
I like Vapor’s definition of noble: a grand gesture that makes everyone else miserable and accomplishes nothing. He’s seen so much over his lifetime and it’s left him with very little patience for illusions.
Walter’s chat with Michael demonstrates the family relationship. After years of silence and generations of not trusting anyone, the Harris family has trouble trusting one another. Walter is more comfortable speaking to Michael to try and manipulate Dani than in speaking to his daughter directly. It also gave me a chance to share Walter’s backstory and my thoughts about the difficulty in trying to keep a group secret in the modern information age.
And yes, I do believe that absolute power will make anyone crazy. So Superman really should have gone insane decades ago.
Chuck trying to keep Bernie’s spirits up always brings a little tear to my eye. For all his experience, he’s still a little boy whose been trying to make his own way in the world for a long time. And I think he really cares about Bernie, he just doesn’t have the maturity to deal with his jealousy or the implications of his actions. Having the moment observed by Karan makes it creepier, like a stalker watching a family dinner.
I loved the conversation between Michael and Vapor. Michael is having a difficult time coming to terms with working outside the law and Vapor has no sympathy for him. Vapor’s goal is always to protect the lalassu, by whatever means necessary. And it led to the line “For an illegal hacker who works for a secret society, Vapor has a damn big mouth.”
Dani and Michael’s kiss in the woods is one of my favorite scenes. For the first time in her life, Dani gets to enjoy the passion of a kiss without having to be on guard against the Huntress. Having her anxiety overwhelm the moment seemed like a necessary step in her psychological development. It would be like being told this is the last five minutes you’ll ever have to enjoy yourself. Most of us would panic and fail to actual enjoy it.
Poor Michael is stuck doing the right thing at his own expense and while he does it, it’s not an easy thing for him. He’s tempted to forget about his morals and let himself take what he wants. But then he wouldn’t be Michael. He can’t do something he knows will cause pain.
Using Gwen and Bernie to communicate between the two groups was a late arriving stroke of inspiration. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how to get everyone in the right place when there was no logical reason for the Harrises to know about the urgency of the situation. Then I woke up in the middle of the night, scrambled for my notebook and wrote down what I thought was the solution. In the morning, I discovered I’d written ‘Dead see everything” in scrawling letters. After another few days of confusion, I realized it really was the logical solution.
For McBride, I used his character to explore a question which I’ve pondered for a long time. Why would someone undergo a painful procedure to transform themselves? In real life, we have plastic surgery. In fiction, people get bionic implants, transform into animals or are magically enhanced. I wanted to show that it wouldn’t be a painless or simple procedure.
I also took the opportunity to share a possible explanation of how people with actual superpowers could have developed. Having Vincent share it made it a little more entertaining for me. The ancient astronauts theory was originally suggested by Erich von Daniken, who proposed that aliens had visited Earth to jumpstart human development and technology. The idea that all the ancient legends could be factual accounts of what happened fascinates me (although I think humans were more than capable of developing on their own). People being able to incinerate their enemies with a glance or fly or build massive structures overnight, that would have been quite an exciting world to see.
I love the Stirgises and their camper. I imagine the chaos of having a bunch of active kids in a trailer on an endless road trip and it amuses me. And Laura is so delightfully and innocently tactless. I needed a burst of that to counterbalance the darkness of Dani’s memories.
I spent a lot of time debating whether or not Dani could have been assaulted. It seemed like it would be impossible for a superhero. However, as I did more research, I discovered that physical capability doesn’t guarantee invulnerability. Women with black belts, police officers, soldiers, all of them have suffered assaults. I’ve kept the details of Dani’s assault vague while concentrating on the emotional impact because I don’t believe victimization should be titillating.
There is still a lot of shame involved in reporting an assault. Dani’s reactions are based on my research with actual rape victims. Despite years of encouraging women to believe in “No means no” and that no one can “ask for it” most victims still blame themselves and are reluctant to tell. They believe others will look on them with disgust, and sadly, they are right about that sometimes. They need professional help to regain their former confidence.
Michael has been becoming more assertive and willing to risk conflict as the story progresses. Having him call Dani on her fears was always part of the plan. So was having her discover the truth about what happened in her childhood.
I think all adults are guilty of this to one degree or another. We want to protect children and we forget how frightening events can be when they’re stripped of context. Walter and Virginia had the most awful and traumatic night of their lives when she lost her connection to the Goddess and he lost the use of his legs. They struggled for a long time to heal themselves and meanwhile, they left their children to figure things out on their own. Kids are very inventive at figuring out reasons why they are to blame for bad things which happen. Secrets take on their own weight and inertia if allowed to develop, making them harder to crack.
The scene with Eric and Bernie was a last minute addition to the manuscript. My beta readers wanted more of them and I realized that I hadn’t really taken advantage of their connection. They are the only two in the compound who truly understand what Dalhard is doing. It gives Eric a chance to play big-brother protector and gives Bernie someone she can rely on.
Dalhard is starting to have the first inklings that his plan is beginning to crack apart at the edges. But like most megalomaniacs and sociopaths, he can’t conceive of anyone being a true threat to him. His greed is overwhelming the remnants of his common sense.
Having to sit there and listen to people joyfully anticipate something you think will destroy you is awful. Michael is facing the reality of a hero’s choice: save those you care about or save the world. It’s a horrible choice, which is why arch-villains are so fond of forcing heroes to make it.
Gwen’s drawing of the man standing under the stars with an outline of a flag above him is a reference to McBride and the sequel. She was the logical one to remind Michael that it is the people we care about which makes sacrifice meaningful. If Dani had gone through the ritual without cementing her connection with Michael, she would not have survived her testing. She would have sought oblivion and the divine connection would have been permanently lost.
Crafting Michael and Dani’s sexual encounter was a real pleasure. I’ve noticed a trend toward having love scenes be more like battle scenes lately. People tear each other’s clothes off in a frenzy, attack each other’s lips. I wanted this to be gentler but still passionate. They are building something together, not ripping through a one night stand. Don’t get me wrong. I like a good passionate frenzy. But it didn’t suit the story. This encounter needed to be an oasis for the two of them.
Michael was never going to make it through the novel without going head to head with the Huntress. I thought long and hard about what kind of trials it would present him. The idea of seeing one’s true cosmic significance has always struck me as something overwhelming (and it gave me an opportunity for a little shout out to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy). Being forced to experience all the malice in the world would also be terrifying (I personally believe it is balanced out by the joy, but experiencing only one side would be horrible). It gave me a chance to show Michael’s compassion and nobility of spirit.
Michael’s personal history would have broken someone less caring. No matter what happened to him, how he was rejected, he still sought out opportunities to help and give. I have a great deal of respect for those who struggle against daily challenges and still manage to keep their dignity and optimism.
Deciding how I wanted my Goddess to interact and appear was a huge amount of fun. I decided to go with something dreamlike but still powerful. There are lots of hints that she’s not quite real. I needed a way to explain everything which had happened with Dani and her family and a deity seemed like someone who would have the necessary perspective. Of course, having a direct connection to a deity also forced me to deal with the most primal of questions: why do bad things happen to good people? I’ve never liked the idea of divine “plans” although I think a deity would likely have a more long-term view than humans. Nor do I like the idea of an unconnected and uncaring deity watching it all for their own amusement. The idea that a deity is both limited and caring is the most comforting option in my mind.
The idea of a cosmic game of “Broken Telephone” between the Goddess and Gwen, using the dead as intermediaries, amused me to no end. To me, it also demonstrated the Goddess’s care for her people. She didn’t give up trying to communicate, even though it was difficult.
Dani’s testing needed to be something unusual. A test of blind faith didn’t suit her or the story. Instead, I made the test one of active knowledge. It fit with how the lilitu wake people up by stripping away their illusions. Dani needed to see herself clearly, which she doesn’t quite achieve here, but is the key to her survival later.
I love the scene from Chuck’s point of view. It was difficult to find the right balance between child-like reactions and a quasi-immortal who has been around for almost a century. Using 30’s slang was fun. I also liked playing with the reality of being a ghost. Granted, I don’t have any direct experience, but the idea of a ghost’s emotional state affecting their physical manifestations makes sense to me.
Chuck’s limitations become all too clear in this chapter. He doesn’t think to check about cameras since they weren’t around when he was alive, he’s only looking for physical guards. Karan is able to guess that their captives are up to something and Dalhard rightfully picks McBride as the weak link.
For Dani and Michael’s rude awakening by Virginia, it took awhile to get the right blend of emotional reactions. Virginia is terrified by the loss of control (as only a psychic and control-freak can be). Michael is torn between embarrassment and wanting to follow his therapy training. And Dani is just flat-out irritated by her mother’s intrusion. Laura Stirgis gets to act as the voice of reason.
The idea of the statue physically renewing itself with each High Priestess is one which came to me early on in the process. I thought it made a good independent signal, something which couldn’t be faked by a wannabe vision. And since Dani’s whole path to High Priestesshood was unprecedented, it shows that order has been restored.
Michael inviting Joe to go along on their illegal break in was a controversial decision both in and out of the story. I had several beta readers tell me that they hated it and others tell me they loved it. Personally, I insisted on it because there is a limit to what can be accomplished under the table. The Harris family is so used to taking care of things themselves that they’ve forgotten the law can be a resource. Exposing someone legally is much more effective at neutralizing them than vigilante justice. This decision is part of Michael’s growth and development as a character.
This chapter has a few of my favorite lines in it. “Our witness is the ghost of a twelve-year old boy who has been dead at least eighty years, delivered through a medium who is certifiably crazy.” And “Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum, F*cker” which I’m considering putting on a t-shirt.
It is true that in experiments no animal would get into an enclosed space with a known predator, no matter what inducements were offered. Shocks, food, doesn’t matter. I’m extrapolating slightly that no animal on the planet will do it, but if mice and monkeys won’t, I’m pretty sure no wild animal will either. I first heard this fact during a presentation of Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear on Oprah.
Dalhard’s backstory came to me early on. His mother using his father for power and influence. Him removing his father when his father’s obsessions became an obstacle to his own power. I don’t know if you could have a more perfect environment for raising a sociopath.
Michael has been wanting to rescue Bernie since she was kidnapped and this is finally his opportunity to do it. Their reunion always brings a little teary ache to my heart. Thank you to Alyssa for reminding me to have Michael apologize for not believing Chuck was real.
Chuck illustrates the usefulness of ghosts as he searches the building for victims, scouts for Dani and her brothers and reports it all back to Bernie. The ability to be invisible, walk through walls and floors, all of it makes for great reconnaissance.
I love Bernie’s faith in Michael. He might as well have a red cape and a giant S on his chest as far as she’s concerned. Everyone should have someone who looks up to them that much as well as someone they can look up to.
Vincent and Dani’s fight was another scene which came to me early on and helped me with defining Vincent’s character. He’s looking for someone to take away his responsibility and make him safe and sheltered again. It’s one of the reasons he succumbs so quickly to Dalhard’s persuasive gifts. At one point, I tried the scene with Vincent faking his submission, but it ended up feeling trite and I went back to Vincent genuinely being under Dalhard’s control.
The thought of being trapped and helpless inside my own body is one of the worst things I can think of. When I was young, my best friend’s mother had ALS. My mother explained it to me that eventually her body would stop moving when she told it to. The idea has haunted my nightmares for years.
Every hero has to have a moment of despair and realizing that Dani’s personality has been overwritten and Bernie has been recaptured is Michael’s. I rewrote the scene several times until I was satisfied with his reaction. I didn’t want him completely broken but at the same time, it needed to be a strong wake up call about the difference between fantasy and reality.
When Dani believes that Michael is dead, that is her dark moment and unlike Michael, she dives right into it. I wanted to contrast their reactions. Michael goes down trying to protect while Dani plans for suicidal vengeance.
For anyone who had any doubt, the Goddess is the one waking Michael up in time to escape. Hopefully most of us have never had the experience of trying to escape a locked building before it blows up, but despite what action movies like to show, the average person will have trouble with even simply motor skills under great stress. Military and police recruits practice their skills over and over again so that they become ingrained, below the level of conscious control.
I relied on a number of articles and a Mythbusters experiment to determine the minimum safe distance from an explosion. Michael escapes significantly less scathed than one could expect in real life but he’s a hero in a story, so he gets some slack. Joe, being unconscious, would likely sustain few injuries since he would be flat to the ground and unresisting.
The escape and pursuit scene is Joe’s own awakening. From here, he’s never going to be able to comfortably retreat to denial again. He’s been hitting the snooze button to avoid having to realize what kind of world he actually lives in, but now he can’t go back to sleep.
When Dalhard brings everyone to the airport, he thinks he’s won and no one is in pursuit. Dani is struggling with her despair and then Bernie drops the conversational bomb about Gwen. When I originally wrote this, I had Vincent tell Dalhard about his sister but it bothered me why he would wait so long. Then I realized Bernie was the perfect character for this revelation, because her mixture of childish optimism and complete faith made it even more horrible. Like a five year old telling the secret police about the hiding place under the kitchen floor and the people who live there. And for the record, if I could speak to the dead, finding out what is going on/was going on in Area 51 would be my first question.
I’m a fan of superhero ensemble movies and when they’re done right, everyone plays their part in the finale. Nada may not have been the most powerful lalassu, she couldn’t singlehandedly toss Dalhard and Karan out of the plane or hypnotize them into letting everyone go. She could release a single EMP and destroy the electronics, but she knew she’d only have one chance to do so. She waited and chose the perfect moment, having been told by Chuck via Bernie that Michael is alive and on his way.
Karan kills Nada because he realizes she is too dangerous to transport or keep. She could conceivably continue to destroy any electrical field in range. He doesn’t hesitate, taking the action he deems is necessary.
I think Dalhard’s explosive possessiveness in this scene defines him. His first words are both hurtful and callous: Your dead friend owes me a new plane. He sees Dani as a possession to manipulate. In fact, everyone is a possession to manipulate and if they are not useful, they should be discarded. He’s no longer trying to conceal it, now it’s been brought into the open. His true self has been revealed and it’s not a pretty sight but he still remains ignorant and unawakened. His lack of insight is his worst limitation.
I love the imagery of someone being trapped in their own body but acting in the brief moment when something is important enough. It’s a image of triumph, of the true self overcoming the most overwhelming obstacles. We’re all trapped in some way and we all long to break out, even for a moment. I believe that our traps are often self-constructed. We can’t or won’t see the way out.
Dani needed to free herself in order to escape Dalhard’s control. Throughout her life, she’s never believed that she deserved to win. She had to see herself as the hero of her own story instead of the villain. I chose laughter as the tool to free herself because I believe not taking yourself too seriously is the best way to break out of life’s traps of expectations and fears.
The final confrontation with the Huntress was always designed to show that it was a creation of fear instead of substance. It is literally the monster in the dark, the one which keeps children buried under the covers (because claws and teeth which can rend flesh will somehow be stopped by a thin cottonblend sheet).
When I first observed “George” at the autism center, I was surprised by how effective his escape technique was. By keeping his body perfectly still and shuffling his feet, he was able to move out of range without being obvious. As soon as I saw it, I knew I wanted to use it for Dani’s grand escape.
The first time I wrote the final confrontation, I had Michael attack Dalhard while Dani recovered but it didn’t feel satisfying to me. It took me some brainstorming time to realize that I wanted Dani to be the one to avenge herself. Having Michael physically attack someone didn’t suit his character.
When Karan threatens Michael with the gun, it is the moment where he reveals himself as the more dangerous of the two villains. I’ve always felt the intelligent and practical bad guys were more frightening. Someone convinced they are doing the right thing and that the ends justify the means is the most dangerous combination but ruthless practicality is up there. I’ve laid hints throughout the book that Karan is more than he seems and you’ll discover more as we go through the series. He carefully assesses the situation and chooses the course of action which promises the best chance for survival and eventual vengeance.
Dani also displays her growth in the final confrontation. Unlike with Chomp and Hulk, she’s able to think through the possibilities and decide what is the best course of action. She’s not about to let them go but she can be patient and wait for the right time.
Vincent is my note of tragedy. He’s not cracking jokes or making sarcastic rebuttals. His mind has been rewritten and he was abandoned. He wanted to believe in what Dalhard was offering so badly that he threw away everything else in his life and now he’s left with nothing. I think everyone has had experience with someone who used them and threw them away, leaving them feeling like the biggest kind of fool and loser.
Nada is my true hero. She sacrificed herself to save them all. That defines heroism in my mind. She patiently waited until she had the best chance and then acted decisively and without hesitation. She is my tribute to all those who have sacrificed themselves to make others safe.
Bernie is irrepressible childhood at its best. She has perfect faith that the universe will work itself out in her favor. I miss feeling that way and I didn’t want to take it away from her.
The idea for this epilogue was one of the first images which came to me for this novel. I liked the idea of the hero watching the heroine perform her burlesque routine and feeling proud and satisfied. The heroine isn’t abandoning her wicked ways. She’s still the same exhibitionist but not as aggressive about it. She has support and a place in the world again.
Obviously Dalhard and Karan are still a threat to the Harrises and the lalassu community as a whole. They may have lost the first round but they haven’t been defeated. They’ll be looking to take the fight to a new level in the sequels.
When it came to everyone’s recovery, I didn’t want this to be a complete reset to how things were at the start of the book. Vincent and Eric have both been through a substantial amount of trauma and it would take more than a few months to recover. McBride also has a lot of emotional processing to deal with and we’ll see how he copes with it in Metamorphosis.
I chose Dream A Little Dream of Me as a counterpoint to the primary role of the lilitu: to wake people up. Dani is no longer aggressively forcing people to wake up to their faults, she’s content to allow them to keep their dreams. Originally I had the final line of the song as my last line in the book, but discovered I was violating copyright by doing so. I like my new ending though. Dani finally has someone who sees her for her true self and still loves her. And Michael has found a new community for himself.
That’s it for Revelations. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. See you all again for Metamorphosis.
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