The writing’s on the wall…er…tablet?

I don’t usually re-blog my own posts, in fact, I’m not sure if I’ve ever done it before, but I saw this post I blogged in May last year and just loved the subject matter – writing and the history of writing! Enjoy! ūüėÄ xx

Sophie E Tallis - Author/Illustrator

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gil... The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian, circa 2nd millennium BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, the writing‚Äôs on the tablet and I‚Äôm not talking computer tablets here, in terms of writing and technology, it seems we‚Äôve come full circle! ūüėÄ

Like many of us, when I was a child I believed that the ancient Egyptians invented writing. That hieroglyphics were man’s earliest endeavour at making sense of the world in written form.

Of course, we all know this to be untrue now, that actually Sumer (southern Mesopotamia) and the ancient Sumerians invented writing, Sumerian cuneiform by writing on clay tablets with a reed called a stylus, at least 200 years before the Egyptians.

"The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the mo...
“The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the most famous of all cuneiform tablets. It is the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and describes how the gods sent a flood to destroy the world. Like…

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The writing’s on the wall…er…tablet?

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gil...

The Deluge tablet, carved in stone, of the Gilgamesh epic in Akkadian, circa 2nd millennium BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, the writing’s on the tablet and I’m not talking computer tablets here, in terms of writing and technology, it seems we’ve come full circle! ūüėÄ

Like many of us, when I was a child I believed that the ancient Egyptians invented writing. That hieroglyphics¬†were man’s earliest endeavour at making sense of the world in written form.

Of course, we all know this to be untrue now, that actually Sumer (southern Mesopotamia) and the ancient Sumerians invented writing, Sumerian cuneiform by writing on clay tablets with a reed called a stylus, at least 200 years before the Egyptians.

"The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the mo...
“The Flood Tablet. This is perhaps the most famous of all cuneiform tablets. It is the eleventh tablet of the Gilgamesh Epic, and describes how the gods sent a flood to destroy the world. Like Noah, Utnapishtim¬†was forewarned and built an ark to house and preserve living things. After the flood he sent out birds to look for dry land. ME K 3375.” In the . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As we grow and get older, thus our knowledge grows. What will we learn tomorrow? ūüėĬ†¬†¬†The reason for my focusing on ancient history, apart from the fact that I love it, study it and it continually inspires me, is simply the wonderment of the act of writing itself. That miracle of thought made manifest that we all take for granted.The Sumerians were this planet’s¬†earliest known civilisation, although new discoveries are being made all the time so never let your knowledge be set in stone!

Clay tablet with Sumerian cuneiform script lis...

Clay tablet with Sumerian cuneiform script listing gods in order of seniority, 2400-2200 BC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As well as inventing writing, the Sumerians¬†invented the round wheel, astronomy and agriculture¬†as we know it. A truly amazing people, thousands of years ahead of their time. Yet we know so little about them. Their great ziggurats¬†(pyramids) have not withstood the ravages of time as well as their later Egyptian cousins, many of their stele ‘stelae’¬†(huge standing stones inscribed with cuneiform) are but broken fragments. Of course, time has not been the only eroding factor. Sumer as it was, lying between the great river deltas of the Tigris and Euphrates, is modern-day Iraq, a country which has been ravaged by war for hundreds of years.

English: Ruins from a temple in Naffur (ancien...

English: Ruins from a temple in Naffur (ancient Nippur), Iraq, are said to be the site for the meeting of Sumerian gods, as well as the place that man was created. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sumer’s greatest city states were Uruk, Ur, Nippur, Eridu¬†and Kish,¬†though these are ruins now, their history overwritten by the Babylonian Empire which followed, the Akkadians, Assyrians, Hittites and a¬†host of other invading and overlapping peoples. In such a rich environment, it was hardly surprising that the fertile ground of the Tigris and Euphrates would be a prize worthy of fighting for.

English: Ancient cities of Sumer Espa√Īol: Anti...

English: Ancient cities of Sumer Espa√Īol: Antiguas¬†ciudades¬†de Sumeria Magyar: √ďkori¬†sumer¬†v√°rosok (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But, the reason I’m focusing on the Sumerians in particular, is simply¬†because they also gave the world its very first story, The Epic of Gilgamesh. A wonderful fantasy adventure story on an epic scale, with our hero Gilgamesh, along with his friend Enkidu, trying to defy the gods and find the secret to immortality.

Gilgamesh Sumerian King

Gilgamesh Sumerian King (Photo credit: tonynetone)

Think of it, the world’s very first story, long before the Bible, Torah, Qur’an (Koran), the ancient Vedic Rig-Veda (early Hindu sagas), Buddhist¬†tales, Zoroastrian writings or ancient Chinese scrolls of Confucius, the Sumerians were writing about their lives and they were writing stories. We have¬†SO¬†much to thank the Sumerians for!

What made them first think of projecting their thoughts in written form? No doubt the need for trade pushed the need for communication between peoples.

Evidence suggests that it was this cuneiform, written on clay tablets, that travelled to Egypt and India and other parts of near/middle Asia as part of the ancient trade links of the time; and that these later inspired the Egyptian earliest proto-hieroglyphics and the written language of the Indus Valley Civilisation (centred around Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa), covering modern-day India and Pakistan.

English: Mohenjo-daro

English: Mohenjo-daro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suppose that is one of the contributing factors to my liking fantasy, particularly epic fantasy¬†– ¬†the fact that such sagas were written thousands of years ago, is certainly fuel for the imagination. The Sumerian King List for instance, a legendary text now where fantasy and fact certainly mix. The King List simply lists all the great rulers of the time, but it is not this which makes the record so extraordinary. It is the fact that this document cites many of those Kings as having lived and ruled for hundreds even thousands of years! Immortals? Talk about a feast for the imagination. If you’re looking for inspiration look to history.

Mace dedicated to the hero Gilgamesh (fifth ki...

Mace dedicated to the hero Gilgamesh (fifth king of Uruk, according to the Sumerian king list) by Urdun, civil servant of Lagash, Ur III. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The melding of fiction and fact is something I adore. Looking at history as we know it and daring to ask, what if this happened? For me, researching for an ancient forgotten people/culture¬†that pre-date humanity, I had a lot of rich source material to draw from. Were these Sumerian Kings immortal exiles perhaps? Banished from their own¬†«ľllfren¬†or Dworllian kin,¬†to live amongst lesser humans?¬†Perhaps it was these early sun-gods with their¬†advanced knowledge and long life that seeded our civilisations? Are they the¬†reason for the sudden unexplained¬†jump in technology and culture all those thousands of years ago?

For me, my mind boggled with the possibilities. Certainly a rich pre-history from which to hang the tapestry of imagination.

But, fact and fiction aside, all we do know for certain, is that as readers and writers and lovers of the written word, we owe much to that ancient civilisation and their miraculous inventions!

ūüėÄ xx

Ziggurat at Ur

Ziggurat at Ur (Photo credit: jmcfall)

Mapping your fantasy.

 

middleearth

I love maps, always have. Something inextricably draws me to them. All those exotic names and places, those strange lands… FantasyMapmeth

As a child I obsessively pored over maps and charts, any atlas or globe I could get my hands on, long before I could really read or understand all those mesmeric names and places. It was the beauty of them as objects in their own right and what they represented Рthe imagining of dreams made real.

map

When it comes to fantasy, you can imagine what I’m like when I see a map inside! I grew up enthralled by the maps of Tolkien, tracing Bilbo’s journey in The Hobbit¬†and later, Frodo’s adventures in The Lord of The Rings.¬†E.H.Shepard’s¬†wonderful¬†‘Hundred Acre Wood‘ map from A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh¬†books, the maps in G.R.R.Martin’s¬†novels etc etc. Just sheer bliss and wonderment! map_full

Yes, maps in fantasy books have become another cliche…but you know what? I don’t care, I LOVE them!

 

So when writing and illustrating my first novel, epic fantasy adventure, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, it was a no brainer to include a map.

 

black and white Fendellin Map 001

Afterall, creating fantasy worlds is about the most fun you can have with or without your clothes on. Exploring the subtleties of character, the twists of plot, the deepening of a storyline, the embellishment of a rich history and back story¬†and mixing all those elements and more into one sumptuous thrilling world. Yes…it really is one of the most exhilarating endeavours.

So to encapsulate a part of that rich world in a visual way, to draw the reader in as I was drawn in, was an opportunity I couldn’t miss.

Also for me, as a lover of fantasy especially epic fantasy, to be able to construct a believable world, grounded in reality and embody that world in a map…was just the best.

With that love of maps also came a love of names, etymology – the meaning and derivation of words. For my map ‘The Lay of Fendellin’, Fendellin¬†literally means ‘in a dell or hollow and by a fen/water source’ – very appropriate for the land I invented. My Fendellin¬†itself was inspired by the Tibetan and Buddhist beliefs in Shambhala, a mythical and legendary¬†land still hidden within the Himalayas and untouched by the outside world. A very potent idea. Many people still believe in Shambhala, I wish it existed too. It has inspired stories down through the ages, not least James Hilton‘s ‘Lost Horizon’¬†where he turned the Shambhala¬†legend into his utopian paradise Shangri-La. My Fendellin¬†is wondrous indeed, but could never be described as utopian. Amongst the soft plains of blue mountain poppy and frolicking tarpans¬†(ancient horses), there is always the omnipresent¬†malice of Kavok’s¬†Peak in the distance, birthplace of Morreck¬†the book’s arch villan. Yes, my Fendellin¬†is beautiful indeed but has become a gilded¬†prison¬†for many who live within its Encircling Mountains,¬†unable to esscape.

Mund’harr, the capital of Fendellin, a towering mountain on the Mund’harr¬†plateau with its small city and hanging gardens¬†clinging in winding tiers about its pinnacles,¬†literally means ‘High Mound’ in¬†various Old Norse, Frissan, Germanic and English languages.

Shudras, the ‘silent marshes’ of Fendellin,¬†is an Indian word derived from ancient Sanskrit which refers to the lowest of the traditional varnas or social classes, oppressed people many of whom worked and lived in swamp areas. Also refers to any of several species of dark serpents inhabiting the swamps and jungles of South India.

Fendellin’s¬†largest water course, the great Varuna River, is again derived from Indian Sanskrit. In the ancient Vedic religion, Varuna is the god of the sky and water, ruler of the celestial ocean.¬†Again, in¬†Hindu mythology and post-Vedic texts, Varuna was the god of all the water elements, keeper of the oceans and rivers and god of the dead who could grant immortality. As the inhabitants of Fendellin¬†are all dworlls, with hugely expanded life cycles to our own, all of this seemed a perfect fit.

I could go on…but I’d bore you all silly. Suffice to say, that maps and names hold a special power for me and¬†weaving them into a mixture of actual ancient myth, my own invented mythology and reality is such a heady thrill!

Ah…for the love of maps! Check out my other map obsessed post: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/for-the-love-of-maps/

Chapter Sixteen - The Last March

ūüėÄ xx

White Mountain, Tolkien and my first 5 star reviews!

Firstly, I have recently received my very first reviews! *heart flutters* *gulps*

Three 5* star reviews¬†AND a wonderful review from Tricia Drammeh, a fellow fantasy writer, interviewer and author extraordinaire who was given an advance copy of my book in return for an honest review…wow, what a review! HUGE thanks to Tricia. xx

To the other three unknown reviewers, I’d love to say a massive thanks to you all. I’d¬†be thrilled¬†to think that at least one of you were perhaps one of the lovely customers who I have chatted to at signings…I guess I’m just sentimental! ūüėõ

Books ‚Äļ Fantasy ‚Äļ Epic ‚Äļ Last 90 days ‚Äļ Paperback ‚Äļ English

Amazon…ummm.

Now, I know these figures change daily, so perhaps it’s just the excited newbie in me that takes such pleasure in these things, while other more seasoned authors take the ups and downs of Amazon rankings in their stride…but…I’m SO excited!!!!

This strange world keeps getting stranger…

Currently page¬†2 and No.21 out of 482 results, above Robert Jordan’s very¬†latest book, the lovely Mark Lawrence, Tolkien’s Two Towers and a host of other fantastically wonderful writers!

WOW!

Tolkien’s The Hobbit was the first fantasy book I ever read and ignited a life-long love of the genre¬†as well as a fascination for dragons.

Although I know my novel, White Mountain, is a truly great book – an epic fantasy adventure for both children and adults alike full of dark magic, ecological themes, fire wolves, dragons, love, loss, friendship and betrayal,¬†I would never dare to compare it to any of Tolkien’s tomes, but WOW!!!!

I’m sure this is just an aberration…but how bizarre?!

Think I’ll be floating my way to bed tonight! ūüėÄ xx

21.

Wow! My fifth interview!!!

It’s been less than¬†two weeks since the publication of my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, and what a¬†wondrous whirlwind it has been, with hardly a moment to catch breath!

I guess that’s symptomatic of life really. Remember of the old saying about waiting for a bus then three come along at once?

Well, I’ve been in the very VERY fortunate¬†position¬†of having been on the most magical bus ride in recent weeks, with a few bumps in the road, the occasional¬†pit stop and some breathtaking views along the way…not to mention the magical destination!

So, I must share with you (a few days late I’m afraid)¬†the wonderful interview I did with the multi-talented writing powerhouse that is Morgen Bailey.

For those of you unfamiliar with Morgen with an ‘e’ Bailey, you simply MUST check out her amazing writing blog/website: http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com

An astonishing site and resource for writers of any genre. The multi-talented interviewer extraordinaire showcases poetry, short stories, flash fiction, competitions, forums, events, submission info., writing exercises,  author spotlights, blog interviews, writing tips, podcasts you name it! An emporium of everything a writer and reader could possibly want.

Where Morgen finds the time, I have no idea.

As frequent visitors to my blog will know, I¬†really struggle on a daily basis to juggle the demands of life, work, writing and promoting…just never enough hours in the day!

So, sit back for a moment, relax, make sure that coffee or tea is piping hot and you’re nicely snuggled with your arrangement of cushions, for my¬†5th interview and Morgen’s no.512!!! Wow!

Check it out guys: http://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/daily-interview-no-512-with-writer-sophie-e-tallis

Short link:  http://wp.me/p18Ztn-43V

ūüėÄ xx

New Zealand Odyssey Part IX – Pancakes, White Mountain and The Wonders of the South…

Feeling myself dissolving into the sands of Maraharu, the endless blue horizon before me and the exotic delights of the Abel Tasman rainforest, I felt once more the pull of the road.

Dragging myself away, my heart full of a strange tranquility I had never known, I rejoined my odyssey…afterall, who knew what wonders might¬†lie around the next corner?

I took the winding hill roads and said goodbye to the sun-kissed vineyards of the¬†Nelson and Marlborough¬†regions. Passing through the thick coastal rainforests I joined the main highway and turned south towards the wildness of the South Island’s craggy coastlines and mountain ranges. That¬†is New Zealand’s beauty and its magic…the drama of its ever-changing¬†landscapes. Nowhere on earth, do you have a country only¬†the size of Britain and yet with such varied geology. White sandy beaches and deserted¬†islands, tropical jungles, active volcanoes, mountains, grasslands, fiordlands, moorland, temperate rainforests, huge freshwater lakes, giant sandhills…New Zealand has it all!

Leaving my rental car in Murchison, a small isolated town surrounded by towering hills in the heart of the Nelson Lakes National Park, I took a cheap bus and followed the highway west towards the coast, feeling the temperature visibly cool. With so few roads, dictated by the mountainous landscape, so many places I passed through felt like frontier towns, places completely out of time.

I hit the coast just south of Westport. Here the State Highway hugged the shoreline like a ribboning snake, giving the most amazing views out to sea. Again, with nothing but the wild ocean for thousands of miles, you were instantly reminded of just how remote New Zealand is and just how beautiful.

With the impenetrable forests of the Paparoa¬†National Park on my¬†left and long stretches of wind-blown¬†beaches on my right, the landscape grew evermore wild and evermore spectacular. Not being much of a coach passenger, I stopped off at the suitably named Pancake Rocks and Blow Holes of Punakaiki. A weird and wonderful natural geological formation of…well…pancake stacked rocks, perched right on the water’s edge!

After whiling away most of the day, scrabbling over the rocks and trying not to fall into one of the many gaping holes that opened up before you, I caught another bus and continued south, my eyes inextricably drawn to the far off snowy peaks of the Southern Alps.

Trundling¬†into Greymouth, the largest town I’d seen since leaving Nelson,¬†I managed to find a lovely holiday cabin right on the beach,¬†my base for the next¬†few nights. Named after the mighty Grey River-Mawheranui, whose mouth Greymouth¬†literally straddles, it was a strange sort of town. A mismatch somehow, of grey urban sprawl and border town with a dour kind of feel.

Nonetheless, my little beach hut was just the thing, going to sleep and waking with nothing but the sound of the waves! Utter bliss! Half the time I felt as if I had stumbled into Bronte’s Wuthering¬†Heights¬†or an Ingmar Bergman film, so hauntingly barren was the place!

Doing the touristy thing, I headed for the Kumara¬†Junction and¬†boarded a train on one of the world’s most spectacular train rides, the¬†famous Arthur’s Pass. Linking Greymouth and the west coast of New Zealand to Christchurch in the east, it¬†bestrides the country and takes in the most breathtaking scenery imaginable. What a trip! Following the valley floors, with mountainous peaks rising either side, the train climbed and¬†took us up to the alpine heights of Arthur’s Pass, snaking its way through the lofty terrain, before plunging down to the flat¬†Canterbury Plains surrounding Christchurch.

I spent a few hours wandering the very civilised and surprisingly English feeling city of Christchurch, before¬†boarding the train for the spectacular return journey. One incredible journey I’ll never forget…but the best was to come.

Spending a few lazy days beach combing¬†and exploring the area I set off again and headed for Hokitika, famous for its greenstone or jade, determined to buy some locally carved jewelery.¬†But always, the looming mountains of the Southern Alps were calling to me in a way I just couldn’t explain.

And so, hauling my backpack and picking up another rental car, I succumbed to the pull of the mountains and headed towards the Franz Josef glacier. Taking the state highway once more, as it left the coast and wound its way inland over rushing rivers, valley basins and beside beautiful lakes, I felt myself falling in love once more with the sheer unspoilt majesty of the landscape.

Reaching West Coast, the nearest settlement to the glacier, I found a cheap place to stay and started my next adventure…

It was a bright February morning. The sky was the kind of electric blue you never really believe is real somehow. A perfect day. Cold but full of sunshine and possibilities.

I took my car, a run-down automatic transmission thing, down to this little air field…and then I saw it. The tiniest aeroplane I had ever seen! My banged up¬†jalopy looked bigger!

Without much regard, I climbed into the small seat beside the pilot and off we went! Soaring¬† above the lower slopes of the Southern Alps. Trying desperately not to vomit all over the cock-pit, I stared out of the window, nodding at the pilot’s remarks while I kept my mouth firmly shut! (doesn’t happen often)

Rivers snaked beneath us. As we flew over the snow-capped mountains, Mount Cook loomed in the distance – New Zealand’s tallest mountain¬†and the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. Utterly stunning in its grandeur. Nausea disappeared. I looked on in astonishment as we circled Mount Cook’s flanks. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. All I could think of was…”I’ve found it! I’ve found my White Mountain!”

We left Mount Cook, Aoraki in Maori, and landed on a pristine snow field just above the Franz Josef glacier. Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw.

This was nature at its simplest and purest. Nothing but white and the startling blue above. The snow here had a covering of ice crystals which crunched beneath my feet as I left the plane and went walking. I followed the contours of the peaks around me and looked down to the glacier below with its gaping crevasses.

This was a once in a lifetime moment and the real stuff of magic.

With Mr. Agyk whispering in my head, the story of White Mountain began to unfold…

New Zealand Odyssey Part VII – Volcanoes, Fendellin and the Road Less Travelled.

I left the bubbling visceral wonders of Rotorua and headed south, deeper into the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. Driving on long¬†mostly empty¬†roads¬†in blissful sunshine with ‘The Cult’ blaring out of my rental car, I found myself with a constant smile on my face.

I headed towards Lake Taupo, a huge sunken supervolcano or caldera and not only¬†the country’s largest¬† freshwater lake, but the largest in all of Australasia. The 485-square-mile caldera itself, not visible due to the lake waters, was the world’s largest known eruption in the past 70,000 years and tends to blow every 1,000 years. It’s overdue.

Stopping off first, I came to the extraordinary Huka¬†Falls (Huka meaning ‘foam’ in Maori) and the Waikato River. One of New Zealand’s longest rivers, it suddenly narrows from 100m across to only 15m , as its squeezed into a granite canyon before dropping in a series of falls and rapids. The¬†last¬†waterfall being the most impressive, as approximately 220,000 litres per second tumbles over¬†the final drop.¬†Standing on a viewing platform perched just beside it, with the¬†roar of the falls in¬†my ears and the water vapour drenching me, was thrilling, but it was the astonishing colour of it which surprised me. The purest brightest blue.

I eventually left the falls, utterly soaked but gloriously happy and followed the highway south to the town of Taupo, nestling on the shores of Lake Taupo. The lake, more of an inland sea, is enormous, the town though, was small and welcoming. Cruising in an unhurried fashion along the lakefront and stopping for views, I found a cheap motel to call my base for the next few weeks. I dumped my equally enormous backpack, now getting almost too heavy with mementos to carry and checked into the Lakefront Motor Lodge. To my delight, my little room overlooked the lake and had the most stunning views.

I walked along the lakeshore losing myself in the¬†beauty of it all and splashed out on a restaurant for my first evening meal. To describe Taupo as picturesque, is to do it a disservice. Watching spectacular sunsets over its¬†shifting waters night after night, with the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park clearly visible in the distance, it became like a dream world for me and…a dream I didn’t want to wake from.

I spent lazy days exploring the town itself with its¬†marinas and harbours, little shops¬†and lack back bistros.¬†Venturing out I visited the aptly named, the¬†‘Craters of the Moon’, a geothermal and volcanic lunar landscape that brought to life once more, just how powerful mother nature is. Then I tried some of the¬†hot springs in the area. The sensation of having a very hot bubbling public bath, is strange to say the least, but oddly liberating (…no, I kept my bathing costume on at all times!).

But always, it was the volcanoes on the horizon that kept drawing me in. Packing some small provisions, I headed south, skirting around the eastern edge of the lake, towards the National Park.

Stopping halfway, I ventured off to the Kaingaroa Forest, the largest manmade forest in the world! Made entirely of plantation pines, with a few native ferns and species struggling to survive beneath the canopy, it was the strangest, spookiest forest I have ever visited. I loved the feeling of isolation but the silence was overwhelming, no birds, no animals. So alien to the rich diversity of the Waipoua Kauri Forest in the far north, or any of the woods I had wandered in.

Following the¬†State Highway south as it hugged the lakeshore, I passed through Turangi¬†at the southern most tip of Lake Taupo,¬† and entered the Tongariro¬†National Park, one of only 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Trying to keep my excitement in check, I left¬†the main highway or Desert Road as it’s known and¬†came to the much smaller Lake Rotoaira.¬†Sitting on the lake side I had a¬†picnic lunch, watching black swans glide effortlessly as the mountainside behind vented sulphurous steam into the air. Everywhere I went, I found myself saying the same thing over and over, “I’ve found my Fendellin, I’ve found my Fendellin, ‘Lost Kingdom of Dragons!”

“Pass now beyond the mountains white

Where frosted rivers leap and spring,

Amongst the golden grasses light

Where f√Ņrrens dwell and soar and sing.

 

A land as old and fair as stars

Of snowy peaks and moonlit seas,

Of darkling woods we travel far

To gaze upon its silvery leaves.

 

Far East beyond heart’s lost desire

The birthplace of the eldest kin,

Through rising sun on wings of fire

Lies forgotten Fendellin.”

As I travelled further south, nothing could have prepared me for the awe-inspiring spectacle of Tongariro¬†National Park’s crowning glory, its three active volcanoes, Mount Tongariro, the perfect cone of Mount Ngauruhoe¬†and the monstrous size of the explosive giant, Mount Ruapehu!

Leaving the State Highway, I took the road less travelled into a world of epic fantasy and landscapes on a grandeur I could never have imagined before. Raw, untamed, magnificent and the true stuff of imagination!

Climbing the lower slopes of Mount Ruapehu, still steaming from eruptions only a few months before, camping beneath the stars in a sea of yellow gorse as I watched the sunsets bathe the volcanoes in gold…I found myself profoundly moved and in tears so many times, yet I have never felt freer.

Little did I realise while I was immersed in the whole majesty of it, that only a few years later, a certain Peter Jackson would use the same landscapes¬†which had become such an¬†inspiration¬†to me and my¬†first novel, ‘White Mountain’. As I travelled around, I kept seeing real-life locations for my¬†‘Darkling Trilogy’, suddenly brought to life in front of me. Watching the ‘Lord of the Rings’, some four years later, was made even more surreal and magical as a result, not only by recognising places I had visited but by seeing parts of my Fendellin¬†used as their Mordor, my Kallorm¬†used for their Fangorn! Very strange but thrilling!

But my awe-inspiring and magical¬†odyssey was not over yet…