Monday, January 6, 2014

Author Guest Post - Ellen Larson - In Retrospect Blog Tour

I'm so pleased to welcome Ellen Larson to the blog today!


This guest blog is the first stop on my month-long virtual book tour for my sci-fi murder mystery, In Retrospect (Five Star / Gale-Cengage Dec. 2013). Other stops will feature reviews, interviews, and additional guest blogs. My intent is to share more detailed information about the world of In Retrospect than can be found in the standard blurb. I’m going to work from the ground up, and that means starting with the basics: the concept of worldbuilding [].

A quick scan of the Wikipedia article cited above will show that every writer who sets out to create a fictional world is not thinking first about plot and character, but rather about deep background issues such as history, geography, language, and economy. Though my imaginary world is located on Earth, all of these considerations apply—plus the additional demand of explaining in a believable way why the Earth in my story is so different from what we see today.

Imagine then, that in the year 2450 or so, a nuclear war erupts on our Earth, a war that was is violent, so irrevocable, that North America is ripped open from mountains to plains, the seas rise in resulting fury and flood Australia and India, and the Earth itself is tipped off its axis. It takes hundreds of years for the hardiest ecosystem to stabilize, for the radiation to die back to tolerable levels, and for the small clusters of animal life--including humans--that remain to begin to expand again. I imagined this.

And I imagined that, in about the year 2800, several such clusters of humans gather on what had once been the Anatolian Peninsula (modern Turkey), which, thanks to the reformed land masses and weather systems, is one of only a few habitable regions on Earth. These differing groups, coming out of Africa and Russia, have developed their own lingua franca and call themselves the Oku. And they bring with them the real treasures that they had been able to retain from before the great Annihilation: the sum total of mathematics, science, medicine, history.

Over the years, the Oku do their best to recreate an advanced human society. They know from travelers that there were other remnants of humanity scattered here and there around the globe, and they welcome such newcomers. Aware of how close humanity came from disappearing altogether, they forge into their society the lessons of the Annihilation, vowing that such a thing will never happen again. For may years they wear shields, to protect themselves from the radiation, and when that was no longer necessary, they continue to wear them as decorations and symbols of identity—and another way to remember.

About the year 3000, bands of humans from what had been Europe make their way over the New Mountains toward the Oku State. Unlike the early waves of incomers, these bands have forgotten all of their past history, and know only how to fight for what they want. But despite their marauding traditions, they are no match for the technological superiority of the Oku, who welcome them—with conditions—and allow them to settle in the fertile lands north of the Bosporus. The Oku set about educating the Rasakans, as they called them, until such time as they could be united as one people.

It is about this time that the Oku Science Conservatory, which has been busily fabricating all the best of Old Earth technology, successfully recreates the first post-Annihilation time Continuum. They build the Vessel, which allows a select few, the elite Retrospectors, to travel back short periods in time, strictly for principled reasons, such as historical research and forensics. This technology is fiercely protected, for the Oku know its power, and will not allow it to be used except for the highest purposes.

So that is the world I built; the canvas on which I painted the story that drives In Retrospect. Then, in the year 3317, the Rasakans invade Okucha, destroying the Conservatory and half of Oku City. The balance of power seems evenly matched when the great General Omari Zane buckles and surrenders to the Rasakans, who occupy the city state. And when he is in turn Zane is killed, Merit Rafi, the last Retrospector left alive, imprisoned by Rasakan Authority, is dragged into the limelight to investigate his murder—a murder she would gladly have committed herself. And thus the story begins.


Former elite operative Merit Rafi suffered during her imprisonment at the end of a devastating war, but the ultimate torment is being forced to investigate a murder she would gladly have committed herself.

The year is 3324. In the region once known as Turkey, the Rasakans have attacked the technologically superior Oku. The war is a stalemate until the Oku commander, General Zane, abruptly surrenders.

Merit, a staunch member of the Oku resistance, fights on, but she and her comrades are soon captured. An uneasy peace ensues, but the Rasakans work secretly to gain control of the prized Oku time-travel technology. When Zane is murdered, the Rasakans exert their control over Merit, the last person on Earth capable of Forensic Retrospection.

Merit, though reinstated to her old job by the despised Rasakans, knows she is only a puppet. If she refuses to travel back in time to identify Zane’s killer, her family and colleagues will pay the price. But giving in to Rasakan coercion means giving them unimaginable power. She has only three days to make this morally wrenching choice; three days to change history.

As the preliminary investigation progresses, Merit uncovers evidence of a wider plot. How did the Rasakans defeat the technologically superior Oku? Why did the Oku surrender prematurely? How did the Rasakans discover her true identity?

Merit realizes she will only find the answers by learning who killed the traitor, General Zane.
In Retrospect is a good old-fashioned whodunit set in a compelling post-apocalyptic future.

 Buy a copy of In Retrospect from Amazon 

About the Author: 

Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. She has sold stories to AHMM (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp and is the author of the NJ Mysteries, The Hatch and Brood of Time and Unfold the Evil, featuring a sleuthing reporter. Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (Carefully crafted whodunit -PW starred). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she developed a love of different cultures. She is editor of the Poisoned Pencil, the YA mystery imprint. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude.Visit her at


  1. Congrats on your excellent reviews, Ellen! Wishing you much luck with this novel.

  2. Thanks, Jacqueline! I admit I've been having a ball. And it never hurts when the reviewers keep saying "Couldn't put it down."

  3. Ellen: thanks again for writing such a great book and for sending an autographed ARC as a drawing winner from an earlier contest. In Retrospect filled my down time in AZ perfectly, finished it on the plane home. The world building is well done. I was "there" on every page.

  4. That's quite a world you imagined. Good luck with the book and your book tour.

  5. Thanks, Dean. I'm so pleased you got the book (and that you enjoyed it so much!).

  6. Thanks for stopping by, Susan L.! Hope you can visit again over the next three weeks.

  7. Thanks, Susan O. It's a nice tour launch so far.

  8. Sounds like an interesting book! Good luck with the tour.

  9. Thanks, Karen. Got to say that the virtual tour beats being out in the freezing weather! Hope everybody is cozy and warm tonight.