D for Donibane

My 2020 Blogging from A to Z Challenge revisits my best posts from the 2014 to 2019 Challenges.

D for Donibane 1914 (2017)

My Kanata alternative history triggered by Leif Eriksson colonising Vinland, inspired me to rewrite some key episodes in history. I wanted the legacy forged by a Viking alliance with the indigenous people rippled down time. A 21st Century Viking Age.

This episode is a crucial stage in the development of the airships at the heart of modern Kanata. Before the ‘our timeline’ revelation, will you recognise the real historical event? Expect more alternative history ahead.

Links to my other A to Z posts can be found here: https://rolandclarke.com/blogging-from-a-to-z/blogging-from-a-to-z-challenge-2020/

To visit other participants see The OFFICIAL MASTER LIST: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YphbP47JyH_FuGPIIrFuJfAQiBBzacEkM7iBnq6DGDA/

What is my coolest research?

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I’m attempting to ignore the heart-wrenching stuff going on – a family crisis on top of the medical problems that meant I was late posting last month’s post for Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day. No real excuse then for evading this post although I’m so depressed I can’t escape to my writing worlds, just into a game world where I can fight spiders and hyenas rather than injustice.

Okay, so what is this month’s optional question?

May 3 Question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

That got me thinking about all the different bits of research that I had done for my various books from my debut to novels at the first draft stage. My debut was set against the equestrian world that I worked in as a journalist so there were some minor extra questions that I had to ask or facts to check – but I had to research diabetes and sportspeople, plus PTSD. For other books, there have been how online games are produced, shamanism, Romany customs, and policing in a bilingual country. But weird or cool?



Artist’s concept for a high-altitude, long-duration airship that could be used as a research platform or for commercial purposes. Image credit: Mike Hughes (Eagre Interactive)/Keck Institute for Space Studies


Coolest must be researching the latest developments in airships for Eagle’s Passage, my alternative history set in 2020. Here and there are so many great things happening from Air Cushion Landing systems to NASA’s challenge to produce a high-altitude airship. A high-tech airship called Draken Njal Migisi is the main craft in my novel and I got the chance to project many of today’s design ideas, including one for SOLAR-JETS – engines powered by solar kerosene, which I also use in my post-apocalyptic novel Storms Compass. I still use solar cells as a key component.

And for anyone wondering about my airship’s name, the first word is Norwegian for Dragon – as some longships were called – and for Njal Migisi visit my C is for Cristóbal Colón post in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Mind you, researching the History of Kanata has been cool – and at times weird.


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day. We post our thoughts on our own blogs. We talk about our doubts and the fears we have conquered. We discuss our struggles and triumphs. We offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling.

Please visit others in the group and connect with my fellow writers.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter hashtag is #IWSG

And be sure to check out our Facebook group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/

Our revved up IWSG Day question may prompt us to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. If so, we include our answer to the question in our IWSG post or let it inspire our post if we are struggling with something to say.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 3 posting of the IWSG are Nancy Gideon, Tamara Narayan, Liesbet @ Roaming About, Michelle Wallace, and Feather Stone!


D is for Donibane

A2Z-BADGE-100 [2017]

My 2017 theme is “The History of Kanata”, the parallel world that is the setting for “Eagle Passage, and the theme reveal is here. I also wrote about this world in my blog post ‘This could be Kanata.


D is for Donibane: The firm of Migisi Rederi have decided to attempt winning the Daily Mail £10,000 Flight Across Atlantic prize that is on offer to the first person to make the trans-Atlantic crossing by air in seventy-two hours. This substantial prize is open to pilots of any nationality, and machines of foreign or Albion construction, so the Kanatian freight company builds a hundred and six-meter semi-rigid airship, Dajoji. On 14th June 1914, the airship leaves Donibane, Vineland with its crew of seven including Juhán Allekuk, Arto Brune, and Janna Migisi.

27 hours later, Dajoji reaches Galway, in Ériu [Ireland], ahead of their competitors; although, they have rescued the French aviators from the downed Blériot Aéronautique plane. The Migisi Rederi achievement heralds a new dawn for airships as the principal means of air travel since their fleet of small airships is already carrying goods within Kanata.

The problem of flammable gases like hydrogen had been significantly reduced by the discovery of vast quantities of helium under the central Great Plains area of both Kanata and the Dixie States in 1903, following an oil drilling operation.



Landing of British dirigible R-34 at Mineola, Long Island, N.Y. 1919 – Photo: United States Library of Congress


In our timeline: Wikipedia – In April 1913 the London newspaper The Daily Mail offered a prize of £10,000 (₤887414 in 2015) to

“the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland and any point in Great Britain or Ireland” in 72 continuous hours”.

The competition was suspended with the outbreak of war in 1914 but reopened after Armistice was declared in 1918. The possibility of transatlantic flight by aircraft emerged after the First World War, which had seen tremendous advances in aerial capabilities.

During 14–15 June 1919, the British aviators Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight in a Vickers Vimy IV. The Vimy twin-engined bomber was converted for the long flight by replacing its bomb racks with extra petrol tanks.

Pilot John Alcock and navigator Arthur Brown flew the modified Vickers Vimy, powered by two Rolls-Royce Eagle 360 hp engines. It was not an easy flight, with unexpected fog, and a snow storm almost causing the crewmen to crash into the sea. They made landfall in Galway at 8:40 a.m. on 15 June 1919, not far from their intended landing place, after less than sixteen hours of flying.

The Secretary of State for AirWinston Churchill, presented Alcock and Brown with the Daily Mail prize for the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in “less than 72 consecutive hours”. There was a small amount of mail carried on the flight making it also the first transatlantic airmail flight.

The first transatlantic flight by rigid airship, and the first return transatlantic flight, was made just a couple of weeks after the flight of Alcock and Brown, on 2 July 1919. Major George Herbert Scott of the Royal Air Force flew the airship R34 with his crew and passengers from RAF East Fortune, Scotland to Mineola, New York (on Long Island), covering a distance of about 3,000 statute miles (4,800 km) in about four and a half days. The flight was intended as a testing ground for post-war commercial services by airship (see Imperial Airship Scheme), and it was the first flight to transport paying passengers. The R34 wasn’t built as a passenger carrier, and extra accommodation was arranged by slinging hammocks in the keel walkway. The return journey to Pulham in Norfolk, England, was from 10 to 13 July and it took 75 hours.

The two primary lifting gases used by airships have been hydrogen and helium.

Hydrogen is the earth’s lightest element, and it can be obtained easily and inexpensively, but its flammability makes it unacceptable for manned airship operations.

In addition to the famous Hindenburg disaster, dozens of hydrogen airships were destroyed by fire, and no American airship has been inflated with hydrogen since the crash of the U.S. Army airship Roma in 1922.  The use of hydrogen as a lifting gas for passenger airships was completely abandoned by the late 1930s.

Helium’s non-flammable nature makes it the only practical lifting gas for manned lighter-than-air flight, but it is scarce and expensive, and the use of helium can reduce a rigid airship’s payload by more than half. The USS Shenandoah ZR-1 made its first flight on September 4, 1923.  It was the first ascent of a helium inflated rigid airship in history.

After an oil drilling operation in 1903 in Dexter, Kansas, helium was found concentrated in large quantities under the American Great Plains, available for extraction as a by-product of natural gas. However, it was not available in any quantity until the 1920s.

Could airships have ever out-performed planes? Was the earlier discovery of helium as a lifting gas the catalyst?




Important Links for the A to Z Challenge – please use these links to find other A to Z Bloggers

Website: http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/atozchallenge/

Twitter handle: @AprilAtoZ

Twitter hashtag: #atozchallenge

This could be Kanata


The Norwegian Viking ship Draken Harald Hårfagre sailing outside Greenland – http://www.drakenexpeditionamerica.com/

What would have happened if Leif Eriksson had settled Vinland permanently in 1000 AD?

That question was an itch that I have kept scratching for many decades. Sailing across the Atlantic, albeit on an ocean liner, and arriving in America by sea, made it one I had to resolve.

NaNoWriMo gave me the perfect opportunity, and a short story called ‘Eagle Muse’ became the starting point for a novel called Eagle Crossing. In fact, ‘Eagle Muse’ was dis-assembled to become the components in scenes from an early chapter to the ending.

So, what, you ask impatiently, is the book’s connection to the Vikings?

Well, the lead character, Torill Migisi is descended from the shamaness that helped persuade Leif Eriksson to stay and work with the indigenous people – a thousand plus years earlier. Yes, this is alternative history, set in a world that is still in the Viking Age.

It’s 2020 AD, and the Migisi family have an international shipping business, but using airships – yes there are steampunk echoes as well. But these airships are high-tech, sleek and fast – but not as fast as the jet that Torill’s brother salvaged from the depths of Lake Gichigami. Yes, the Big-sea-water in The Song of Hiawatha which we know as Lake Superior.



The indigenous people have equal, if not a higher status on this continent, so many places and people have native names. For instance, Stadacona is the capital of this confederation, and Migisi is a Chippewa name meaning ‘Eagle.’. Is any of this a clue to where Kanata is? I hope that you all said Canada, especially as that originated from a St. Lawrence Iroquoian word, ‘kanata’ meaning village or settlement. All you Canadians reading this knew that of course.

So what’s a jet doing in a world of airships? That’s the question that drives Torill’s quest to save the Migisi business because the jet has the white star markings of the Dixie States, the Southern neighbor of Kanata, with their capital at Charlotte. Hey, what happened to Washington? Did the British burn it down again? Not quite, but the Dixies lost it in a border dispute with Kanata, and Britain has been a Viking nation and Kanata ally since 1040.

Hey, what happened to Washington? Did the British burn it down again? Not quite, but the Dixies lost it in a border dispute with Kanata, and Britain has been a Viking nation and Kanata ally since 1040.

However, the major concern is the continent-wide Arms Ban. Someone must be using the star-marked jet to stir up another war with the Iberoamérica Coalition. But who? Is the answer in the past? Kanatian forces did help the Texians defeat the Mexicans at the Alamo, but Migisi involvement in the under-hand events of 2020 implicates Kanata. Can Torill prevent the continental war that the three nations have avoided for a thousand years?

Don’t panic, the book’s blurb is shorter than the above. I’m just giving you a tour of the developing world. The novel has two plotlines: 1) Torill’s quest to prevent a continental war that would cost lives and bring the end of a rich legacy; 2) the historical development of this Viking Age and the Migisi family’s role down the ages.

I track this evolution through flashback chapters like ‘1759- Stadacona’ when on 13 September, the French attempt to seize the Kanata capital – a rewrite of the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, outside the walls of Quebec City. The Alamo is there, along with Columbus’s arrival in the Bahamas – 492 years too late.

There are more flashbacks, in America and back in Europe where Vikings were an influential force in our timeline. With Kanata behind them, these warrior-traders can change European history. So watch out Napoleon, and forget about the World Wars – unless that jet with the stars causes one.



Wikipedia: USAFU.S. Air Force photo


Where can these Vikings come unstuck? Is this world possible? Do you want to live in the Kanata Samtök?

D is for Duskweald


D is for Duskweald: In our A to Z tour of the World of Gossamer Steel, there is an ancient woodland sacred to the Alfar or elves, which lies at the heart of The Country. Only the descendants of the horsemen of the Steppes and the Sámi reindeer herders dwell on the edge of The Duskweald, a sacred place that has become central to their beliefs and rituals. Few outsiders ever dare to venture into the trees. Duskweald is also a prestigious guild in the MMORPG ‘Gossamer Steel’.

Wikipedia says, “Dusk is the darkest stage of twilight in the evening.” In Hinduism, which is one of the significant components of Gossamer Steel, twilight is a time when some sacred ceremonies are performed, in part because the power-seeking Asuras are active. One of the most crucial festivals is Diwali, the festival of light – lights in the midst of darkness.

Weald is another word for woodland, although to me, being born and bred in Sussex, The Weald is a once wooded area between the North and South Downs in Southern England. As we live beside a wood and have done so since we married, my wife’s website is The Duskweald.

"Light In The Forest" by dan

“Light In The Forest” by dan


However, in my fictional world the darkest side of dusk and twilight is the end of our modern technological world, an apocalypse that involves aspects of Ragnarök or Götterdämmerung, The Doom or Twilight of the Gods. The Country is one of the few regions that survives the devastation of the world.

D is also for Dravidian pirate Devaki, captain of the hybrid-airship Garuda, and for solar array astronaut Donn Thorson, plus the mysterious doppelganger that inspires the science of Dasra Ashvin.


The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behaviour.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. Please visit other challenge writers.

My theme is ‘The World of Gossamer Steel’, the SF-fantasy setting for a series of short stories and novellas that portray the tales behind the MMORPG that is central to my crime novel , Wyrm Bait’.



A is for Array

B is for the Blood-Marked

C is for Cory

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2014] (1)