Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Digging in the Stars by Katherine Blakeney

Title: Digging in the Stars
Author: Katherine Blakeney
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Release Date: March 28, 2017
Publisher: Blaze Publishing
A lost ancient civilization and the tomb of a legendary king lie buried beneath centuries of ash on the volcanic planet Thror, but that’s not the only reason sixteen-year-old Carter has tricked her Archaeology of Outer Space class into coming here. Her best friend Conrad has just disappeared on a trip to Thror, leaving behind little more than a broken vintage camera. The strange and disturbing photographs she manages to extract make her suspect Conrad’s disappearance is somehow connected to the hidden tomb of the last king of Thror.

Unfortunately, the ludicrously over-friendly ‘Furry Giants’ who have taken over the planet’s barren surface would rather offer her cheap souvenirs than answers, and the local officials insist they have no record of Conrad’s existence. Inspired by fear for Conrad’s life and the chance to make the greatest archaeological discovery of the century, Carter and her friends follow Conrad’s footsteps deep into the mountains of Thror’s forbidden Black Zone and launch an illicit excavation.

Coded messages, stunning ancient ruins, and clues left by Conrad himself begin to surface as the young archaeologists fall victim to an alarming series of accidents staged by the increasingly hostile Furry Giants. Piecing together a history of dictatorship, terrorism and disguise, Carter glimpses the horrors beyond Thror’s flamboyant faΓ§ade and startling revelations about the friend she thought she knew. The masks of Thror hide devastating secrets, and the golden tomb buried deep in the frozen core may claim the lives of everyone she loves.

"Please remain seated as we begin our descent into Thror. Welcome, and enjoy your stay."

The time for action was at hand, and she still didn't feel ready. The flight felt much shorter than she’d expected.

The girls exchanged bewildered looks across the aisles. Stunned silence. They couldn’t have missed that final announcement. Avoiding Professor P’s gaze, Carter still felt the look of shock the professor shot across the cabin. Once, Carter had seen herself arriving on Thror as a great explorer. Instead, she would be remembered as a half-baked deceiver and kidnapper. The Throrians would have called her a scent-changer.

* * * * *

Carter had been so close to her goal. She saw that crack with her own eyes, a portal into a lost ancient world, chambers filed with carvings, images that had never been recorded or reproduced. The greatest discovery of this or any other century, waiting less than twenty feet away. Waiting for her. And Conrad had been there first. The moment she thought it, she felt guilty. She was allowing herself to get carried away by archaeological fervor, mentally competing with Conrad, when he might have paid a terrible price for his discovery.

* * * * *

Professor P tore herself away from her packing once more and gave Lizzie a long, penetrating stare.
"All right. Carter and I are embarking on an unauthorized expedition into the Black Zone to search out traces of an underground chamber, which may or may not lead to the last preserved remnants of Ancient Thror, buried for over a century and possibly last seen by Carter's boyfriend, who has mysteriously vanished and who may or may not have been imprisoned, abducted, slaughtered, disemboweled, and/or otherwise disposed of by the locals. As we risk a similar fate, I feel it is incumbent upon me to protect the rest of you from one of the aforementioned consequences."
Another moment of silence.

"Conrad's not my boyfriend," Carter muttered automatically.

* * * * *

"So let me get this straight," Lizzie broke in, her tone dripping with cynicism. "Our little prodigy's ailing, long-lost, apparently gorgeous sweetheart over there has been leading us all by the nose and feeding her hints, all so he could bring her here and use her as a walking key? How romantic!" She gave a harsh laugh that sounded more like a bark. "And here I was, thinking I had unfortunate taste in men."

* * * * *

"Black heart." His voice creaked like a rusty hinge.

His tremulous paw held up something black and moist. Carter and Professor P instinctively recoiled. Was he offering them the heart he’d just torn out of his chest? Curiosity battling disgust, Carter leaned in for a closer look. A slightly fetid odor of blueberries and lingonberry syrup filled her nostrils. So that was what she’d felt.

"I think it's some kind of fruit," she said. "Probably a bit off, judging by the smell."

"A grocer rather than a pirate then." Professor P observed. "Disappointing."

* * * * *

His diaphanous white and smoke blue robes seemed to be woven of water droplets and strings of light. . . .  Large gems in a striking shade of deep blue adorned his chest and forehead. His opalescent silvery cerata almost brushed the floor and formed a misty cloud around his figure. The endless nose of his golden mask—the longest in the room—was inlaid with patterns traced in rare metals from across the galaxies. Towering over all, he carried his imposing frame with elegant ease and dignity. The most splendid ruler in the known galaxies.

* * * * *

"It is all like they speak in tales of old," he said, as radiant as though he’d just been dropped into a pirate's cavern overflowing with jewels and pieces of eight. "All scents of Thror born in this place, personal essences, poisons for military darts, new smells and perfumes invented every day . . ." Judging by his dreamy tone, they might as well stay trapped there forever as far as he was concerned. The young perfumer's heart was thoroughly seduced.

Carter turned away with an aggravated sigh. It was no use. She tried a few more dives herself, but the water teemed with the residue of waning scents and made her eyes ache. The platform at the center was completely solid.

* * * * *

The long black coat draping off his hunched shoulders seemed like a pair of folded wings, and his skeletal fingers darted back and forth like pale talons as he spoke. Suddenly, the dark hair floating about his face looked like ruffled feathers, and his impossibly pale eyes glowed eerily in the light of the projector. At that moment, he was no longer a sick teenage boy; he was a huge, ferocious bird of prey, a creature of the night. He was as powerful and mesmerizing as the magnificent, winged figure of Mephisto on the screen, enveloping a miniature town with his black wings as he exhaled contagion and death.

* * * * *

Splattered among the thorn bushes, dribbled over the moss, pooling in depressions in the rock, the bloodstains seemed to materialize beneath the searching beam of the lamp in Carter's hand. Ignoring the queasy feeling churning in her stomach and trying to block out gruesome images of Conrad's butchered corpse, Carter pressed on. A bleak determination had taken the place of her exhaustion, fear, and doubt.

* * * * *

"Geysers," he said. "Shoot out of ground. Very sudden. Fry you alive." His bulging eyes peered through the unkempt mohawk drooping across his face. Unblinking, like the eyes of a reptile. "Fireballs," he continued, "flying out of nowhere. Swallow tourist. Become dead."

Meeting his gaze, Carter tried not to blink too. What was he talking about? Why was he so desperate to keep them away? Conrad had definitely been there. Disappeared there, possibly. She imagined a fireball spinning down from the sky to devour him, his camera flying over the edge, released by his charred and lifeless fingers. She suppressed a shudder. 

Author Bio:
I am an author and independent filmmaker/stop motion animator with a BFA in Stop Motion Animation from the School of Visual Arts in New York and a PhD in Film Studies from the University of Edinburgh (Scotland, UK). My thesis focuses on silent film adaptations of late nineteenth and early twentieth century Gothic novels, with a special emphasis on psychological and aesthetic representations of the Monster figure. My debut novel, a YA Sci-Fi adventure called Digging in the Stars, is forthcoming with Blaze Publishing on March 28, 2017.

Raised by an Egyptologist mother, I grew up among museums and excavation sites, where I developed an unhealthy fascination with ancient art and mythology. I divide my time between bringing 12”-tall people to life in my studio in Edinburgh, excavating ancient tombs in the Egyptian desert, and researching Gothic literary monsters in silent film. I have worked for more than 10 years as photographer and videographer for the South Asasif Conservation Project, an archaeological expedition in Egypt and I have published numerous articles on film and archaeology.

I write, direct, design, and animate short films and commissioned projects in my studio in Edinburgh, Scotland and have been employed as an animator, screenwriter, modelmaker and art director for studios in Edinburgh, South Korea and Qatar. I have produced commissioned projects for IdeasTap in London, the Arts Trust Scotland and the British Library. My shorts have won competitions and screened at various international festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2015, my short film The Burglar With the Yellow Hand was nominated for an Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) Research in Film Award.

You can find out more about all aspects of my work on my website. My new blog is all about Digging in the Stars and my references and inspirations as a writer.



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