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An Invisible City in the Desert

Inspiration for Spirit Woman (Airwoman #2)

I’ve posted many times about where the inspiration for my world-building comes from. In this post, I wanted to outline the genesis of the idea for the invisible city of Shamix in Adillique, one of the worlds in the Airwoman series.

Where did the idea come from?

Back in 2016, I saw an article on the internet and posted about it on my Facebook page. You can see it here: It’s worth a look just to see the amazing pictures of the art installation that artist, Phillip K Smith III created in the deserts of Joshua Tree, California. Essentially, he replaced old weathered horizontal sidings of an old hut with strips of long reflective mirrors to make an incredible optical illusion.

If you look at the photos, the mirrors play with the light and surroundings, reflecting them and making parts of the building virtually invisible.

Interesting pictures and articles like these have a habit of lodging themselves in my brain and, though quite some time might go by, popping up again when I’m creating a world for a story. In this case, this amazing art installation came back to me when I was drafting Spirit Woman.

The Genesis of An Invisible City

I loved the idea of an optical illusion hiding an object from prying eyes–effectively making it completely invisible to anyone who did not know it was there. However, my brain took things one step further, creating a material that didn’t reflect what was in front of it, but projected the landscape from behind. Effectively, giving the sensation of being able to look through the object as though it wasn’t there at all.

Why? Why? Why?

My world building brain is always searching for the reasons behind my ideas and how they’ve come about or influenced the people or world around them. In this case I wondered: Why would a community seek to hide themselves in the landscape? Why would they want to become invisible? The answer seemed obvious: they were a people who felt threatened and wanted to protect themselves from discovery.

These questions led me to delve into the history of the world I had created. During this time I ‘discovered’ the people who had settled in this world had been attacked by the native peoples in a series of conflicts that came to be known as the ‘Wars of Colonisation’.

Why would Travellers colonise another world? Why would they stay when the native people so desperately wanted them to leave? The same reasons that wars have raged for time immemorial on our planet and why civilisations have, throughout history, sought to conquer and colonise others: access to land and resources. Taraqa needed the resources they found on the world of Adillique. When the native people of Adillique sought to reassert their rights to their land, by the only method available to them (guerrilla warfare), the Taraqan settlers and the Travellers fighting to protect their colony used a substance called ‘reflette’ to coat their cities, making them invisible.

It was a sad (but interesting) foray into the history of the world of Adillique, and one in which the native people of Adillique were marginalised, forced to live in servitude to their colonial masters or forced to live in the margins and in hiding in the deserts.

Adillique is one of the many worlds of the Dragonverse created in the Airwoman series. If you haven’t read the Airwoman series yet, you can get a preview here:

*Photo from Eduardo Gutierrez from

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