Entering the Hetaera’s Lair
I recently had a business trip to Malaysia. A friend of mine from work suggested that I visit the famous Snake Temple (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_Temple) in Penang. According to tradition, vipers and humans co-exist in the temple and do not harm each other. I’m terrified of snakes personally, but I thought it would be fun to visit, especially considering the chapters in Scourge of Muirwood where Lia visited the Hetaera’s Lair. As with most things, the Snake Temple did not live up to its cool reputation. With all the construction in Penang over the decades, fewer and fewer snakes have come out of the jungle to live in the temple. There were a few there, including one hanging in a tree overhead while I sipped some fresh coconut water. Most of the snakes I saw were captive, although I did get a pet an enormous yellow python and watch a worker face off with a deadly king cobra.
One of the interesting things about Malaysia is the mingling of religions there. Our team did a walk through the historic Khoo Kongsi temple, showing the vast Chinese heritage in Penang. We also walked from there to Little India and ate some spicy samosa from a street vendor and then visited a Hindu temple. Further on, we entered the Moslem district and I was surprised to find this design in the middle of street throughout the district.
It’s the maston square from Muirwood and it was everywhere. I didn’t invent it, though I’ve used it in my books. It’s also referred to as the “Seal of Melchizedek” and you’ll find it throughout the world and in ancient mosaics.
I loved how the blending of religions was demonstrated in Penang. I also loved the food! Being half-way around the world, it was neat seeing how places exist with such rich traditions and legacies which have survived for centuries. Something I learned from the snake handler is definitely going into the book I’m writing now. I’ve made some good progress on the sequel to FIREBLOOD, which I’m half-way through now, and was able to use the long flights to write a few more chapters. Traditions, mysteries, and symbolism—great stuff for a writer to dream about!
Last comment—regarding works that influence us. I learned this week, quite accidentally, that an author who I admire fell from grace this year after it was revealed he made up quotes from Bob Dylan. This is Jonah Lehrer, author of a favorite of mine (HOW WE DECIDE) and how his latest book INSPIRE was pulled from the shelves because of the doctored Dylan quotes. I admitted quite openly in my author’s notes for WRETCHED OF MUIRWOOD that I’m a collector of wisdom quotes throughout history and have used them liberally through all my books. I continue to do that in my writing and most of the quotes are hundreds of years old. I do keep track of which I use and where I got them from and have even challenged readers to figure them out. I’ve also been tweeting them, one by one, through my Twitter account (@muirwoodwheeler). It’s sad to see a writer fall victim to his own success and let down so many. I wish him well and hope he works his way back because the concepts in his book are really very insightful. On the off-chance that anyone thinks I’m trying to take credit for all the inter-chapter quotes in my books…I’m not. Much wiser people than me came up with the ideas first and I try and weave them together because they meant something to me and have hopefully made me a better person. I’m happy to pass them along to others.