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Inspiration for the Wildfire Saga

In one of my recent Snippet Saturday clips on my Facebook Author Page, I mentioned that I had a story about how I came up with the idea for The Wildfire Saga. This is that story.

In December of 2011, I happened to be reading the local newspaper — we were living in Wisconsin at the time — and there was an interesting article about a scandal that had erupted at the University of Wisconsin (Madison) involving of all things, flu research. My family was in the middle of a pretty decent flu season that year, so the article caught my attention. Only when I got into the details of the scandal did I realize it was about scientists modifying the bird flu virus to be a biological weapon.

They did what, now?

Well, I take that back — they didn't actually say that it was being changed into a biological weapon. That was just the click bait title. What the article really went on to say was that scientists associated with UW-Madison were genetically modifying the bird flu virus and forcing it to mutate. What got my years going was the mention of the fact that the scientists were forcing the avian flu to mutate faster than it would in nature so that they could see exactly what path it took and then develop methods to combat the virus as it changed. Ultimately they wanted to force the virus to make the genetic shift from birds to humans.

It sounds all well and good, and the article reported that the scientific team actually had a fair amount of success — far more than expected — in developing ways to destroy the virus once it had jumped species. The problem, was that the scientists decided that the best way to share this information with other governments and scientists around the world, was to publish exactly how they got their results.

Normally, that's not a big deal — it's called peer review. Scientists do it all the time and nobody bats an eye. The problem is for them to discuss how they got to their results, the scientists had to show their methods. And that meant publishing — remember this goes out to basically everybody who can click a link — exactly how they forced the bird flu virus to mutate into a highly contagious — and possibly deadly — human strain. Then they had described the equipment they used — again all of this was for peer review. Other scientists have to be able to replicate exactly what they did using the same equipment, otherwise it could have just been a fluke. That's just how science works.

But telling everybody exactly how to do this also meant they told terrorists and rogue states how to do it.

The plot thickens. Someone in the United States Government sat up and scratched their head at this new development and realized that hey, these guys in Wisconsin are about ready to tell Al Qaeda and the Taliban exactly how to make a biological weapon that could have a devastating effects on the human population — which is not ready or prepared in the slightest for something so deadly.

Then the State Department got involved — because it was the Netherlands that decided they were going to publish the paper. And so the plodding behemoth that is our government stepped in and said: "No, you're not going to publish this paper." They wanted to lock down the whole thing. Court cases ensued, international relationships restrained all kinds of threats and deals were brokered and tossed around like crayons at a two-year-old's birthday party, but eventually, the scientists were blocked from releasing the information to the public. Government was hailed as keeping a watchful eye on overzealous take scientists, and the world was made safe from Al Qaeda and the Taliban once more. [1]

That's when it hit me...

What if the government didn't stop someone from doing this? What if somebody, whether they had good intentions are not, actually developed a way to weaponize the flu? And further, what would happen if that virus was then unleashed on the world?

Well, I couldn't just let that nugget of a story sit there, so I had to write it down and then sketch out some quick ideas for what I thought might happen. Along the way, I came up with all kinds of fun adventures for my characters to live through, including presidential assassinations, political intrigue, civil war, and the fact that the virus, engineered as a bio weapon eventually mutated and got out of control, turning on its creators just as much as it would turn on everyone in the world.

Thus, Apache Dawn was born. [2] I wrote the book, at a breakneck pace and when I was done, I sat back and smiled. It was vastly different from Alea Jacta Est in that the cast of characters was smaller, the focus was more on action and the story was much more open-ended. With Alea Jacta Est, I had envisioned the entire story, start to finish. Eric and his team started out in Florida, with the goal of reaching New York. It took three books to get them there, but they finally did it. Then the story ended. Obviously there was a lot more that happened along the way, but I don't want have to litter spoiler alerts all over the place.

With Apache Dawn, I realized the potential for not only creating a storyline, but an entire universe based on what happened when the virus inspired by the the UW-Madison scandal was let loose on the world. Specifically, what happened to the United States — since the virus was turned into a weapon.

I had visions of showing events when small towns dealt with infected people and how they shut their borders and tried to isolate themselves. [3] I decided to tell the story of Apache Dawn from the perspective of a Navy SEAL team, an Army Ranger platoon, a vice president scheming to become president, and the assassin sent by an antagonistic shadow organization set on world dominion. Although in their mind, they were merely trying to right a wrong that had happened centuries ago.

The story continued to get bigger and bigger the more I thought about each aspect of the book. Then I realized it wasn't going to be wrapped up in three books like the Future History Series (Alea Jacta Est and it's two sequels). It wasn't going to be wrapped up in six books. [4] This is partly because with so many characters, I'm able to shift the focus of individual books and tie the storylines together so it makes one cohesive mega-plot line. The other exciting aspect of the project is that I can use the universe that I've spent so much time on and project it into the future.

One of the projects that I have up on the docket — at some point — will be to write a book set several hundred years in the future of The Wildfire Saga. Where people are flying in spaceships exploring other planets dealing with aliens perhaps in all of it tying into the first book that I wrote, with The Wildfire Saga as the history of those books. I envisioned characters descended from the main characters of the first books potentially sprinkled in through the book set in the far future. [5]

In all got started with a simple newspaper article that I read on my couch one Sunday morning in Wisconsin. That's why I read the news. That's why I skim all of the details that I see come across the Internet on a daily basis. I never know when the next story ideas going to explode from an article that most people would read and merely thought, "that's interesting."

Sometimes it takes a few days sometimes it's instantaneously, but I'll get into that process another blog post. Until then, we live in interesting times, so keep your powder dry and your head down, and until next time, stay safe my friends!




[1] About 6 months later, however, the paper was actually published, with some heavy-handed redactions by the government, of course.

[2] At the time, it was called Oath of Office...which another story had claimed recently, so I picked two random words, like a military operation, and Apache Dawn was born!

[3] This became the novella False Prey.

[4] I'm currently working on the seventh book, and there's no end in sight.

[5] I also love historical fiction, so now I'm fleshing out ideas to use some of the historical fiction books that I've partially written and include characters from The Wildfire Saga that might be ancestors of some of the characters in the wildfire saga it's things like that that really get me motivated to write. No matter where I go with the story it always leads to another story which leads to another story.

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