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 Epic Tragedy of Love

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film)

Romeo and Juliet (1968 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Literature, history and mythology¬†is littered with great heroes and heroines, those mystically imbued figures whose short poetic lives have enriched ours, and whose tragic and doomed love affairs have become the stuff of legend. As a child I was first aware of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo & Juliet, and their struggles against a world so determined to tear them apart. Their torn loyalties of family, responsibility, duty, honour, and the forbidden love they held for each other, seemed to mirror the angst we teenagers inevitably felt. Luckily at my school, we had a rich diet of Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, Anthony & Cleopatra (another doomed couple), Julius Caesar, Hamlet (unrequited &¬†destructive¬†love), Othello (jealous, possessive love) & Macbeth¬†(the manipulation of love). I was fascinated by the interplay of characters, how each couple and individual reacted to the circumstances they found themselves in, the choices they made, whether destiny played a part, how love could be corrupted or could corrupt others. As a hopeless romantic, (Shh! Don’t tell anyone! I try not to admit it and refrain from reading any chick-lit, ‘slushy trash’ as I call it, hey…sci-fi/fantasy girl here!), I do see the allure of such characters and such stories and how they ultimately convey the human condition in all its absurdities, frailties, flaws and its¬†glory.

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shal...

The Lady of Shalott, based on The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Growing up, my reading lists widened and as my love of the fantasy genre and its origins took hold, I began delving into ancient mythology. The wonderful Welsh¬†sagas of The Mabinogion (based on tales from 1190-1350) and particularly¬†Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte¬†D’Arthur (1485),¬†is still a favourite of mine, and the eternal love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere & Launcelot. Somehow, you can still sense¬†the searing¬†pain of betrayal in Arthur’s heart, the conflict in the lovers and their guilt at their actions, yet their total inability to stop themselves falling in love. Of course, it is as true today as it was in 600AD, you cannot help who you fall in love with. I remember watching John Boorman’s mesmeric 1981 film Excalibur, with its incredible visuals and Carl Orff’s thunderous Carmina Burana spurring the horses on through the mists of battle. But still, through all the magic and heroism, it was the tragic love story that kept haunting me. As I’m typing this, I’m sitting looking at a beautiful print of The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (1888), based on the famous Tennyson poem and all that doomed heart ache just comes flooding back.

tristan and isolde

tristan and isolde (Photo credit: kairin)

When you think of the greatest and most tragic love stories you probably think of the ones I’ve mentioned and of Tristan & Iseult (Isolde), Paris & Helena, Orpheus and Eurydice and perhaps poor Pyramus and Thisbe. Having¬†lived in ancient Babylonia in neighbouring homes, they fell in love with each other as they grew up. Their respective families were fervently against the match, so one night the two lovers hatched a plan. They decided to meet up under a mulberry tree in the nearby fields, and run away together. Thisbe reached the tree first, but frightened at seeing a lion approach with blood stained jaws, she ran and hid in some rocks, dropping her veil as she ran. The lion picked up the veil just as Pyramus arrived. Devastated at seeing Thisbe’s veil in the lion’s bloody mouth, Pyramus took his sword out and killed himself. When poor Thisbe eventually emerged from the rocks and saw her beloved Pyramus dead, she too took his sword and killed herself.¬† ūüė¶

Pyramus and Thisbe

Pyramus and Thisbe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Then, you have the sad¬†tale of Heloise¬†and Abelard, which is perhaps the most tragic love affair of all, especially as it is a story based on an actual event. Being fact rather than merely myth, makes us all marvel at the power of sacrifice and the power of love. Heloise (1101-1164) and Peter Abelard (1079-1142) had their story immortalised by British poet, Alexander Pope in 1717, who¬†turned¬†it into a piece of classic literature, ‘Eloisa to Abelard’. Heloise¬†and Abelard were ridiculously in love and doomed to a tragic end in mid 12th century France. Abelard was a well-known¬†French philosopher, considered one of the greatest thinkers of the 12th century. Heloise, was¬†the niece and pride of the Canon Fulbert, who wanted her to have the best education possible. Abelard became¬†the girl’s live-in tutor, 20 years her senior. A¬†romance blossomed between them, a romance that¬†so enraged her disapproving uncle that he had Abelard castrated shortly after they were discovered. Distraught, the lovers entered¬†a monastery and nunnery and wrote a set of now-famous letters to each other up until their death, though they never met again.

Abelard and his pupil, H√©lo√Įse, by Edmund Blai...

Abelard and his pupil, H√©lo√Įse, by Edmund Blair Leighton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These¬†tragedies both real and imagined have inspired such a rich tapestry of stories. As a huge fan of fantasy, from the world’s first ever story, The Epic of Gilgamesh¬†to Beowulf to The Lord Of The Rings, Narnia and Game Of Thrones etc., I still like my fantasy to have that tragic element, that hint of doomed love or sacrifice. In the classic tradition J.R.R.Tolkien of course, being a scholar in ancient Nordic and Celtic mythology, was able to bring many of these elements into his work, particularly in¬†The Silmarillion.

Cover of "The Silmarillion"

Cover of The Silmarillion

The Silmarillion, I book I still adore and one which¬†I am very lucky to have a cherished first edition of, has two tragic love stories which really wrench at the heart. The first of course, is the heroic¬†story of Beren¬†and Luthien, later mirrored in the love story of Aragorn¬†and Arwen¬†in LOTR. Here, the story of Beren¬†and Luthien¬†(with similarities to Orpheus and Eurydice) tells of the love between a mortal man, Beren¬†and the most beautiful immortal elf-maiden, Luthien¬†Tinuviel¬†and the struggles and obstacles they face¬†in their quest to be together. But for me, by far the more tragic love story and the one which is the antithesis to Beren’s¬†story, was the darker tale of poor Turin Turambar. Despite being a great hero, Turin Turambar, seems forever cursed with ill fortune and the very worst of luck. He battles valiantly against evil foes, yet whatever he turns his hand to seems to go wrong. Eventually both Turin and his sister¬†Nienor¬†are enchanted by a mighty dragon, Glaurung. Under its enchantment, they fall in love with each other and live as man and wife. But, when Turin kills the dragon and the spell is lifted, they are driven mad by the realisation of their sins and they both commit suicide. This perhaps, is Tolkien at his¬†darkest, but still as a reader, you cannot help feeling such sorrow and sympathy for these two sad characters.

My personal favourite though, and a story that inspired Tolkien himself,¬†has to be the story of Sigurd and Brynhild, from the Volsunga¬†Saga. Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigur√įr) and Brynhild¬†from the Volsunga¬†Saga (ancient Norse mythology

Sigrdr√≠fa gives Sigur√įr a horn to drink from.

Sigrdr√≠fa¬†gives Sigur√įr a horn to drink from. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

c.1000AD), is a bittersweet tale of romance, heroism, greed, betrayal and tragedy. The later German hero, Siegfried from the Nibelungenlied (1180 to 1210) (The Song of the Nibelungs) and Wagner’s Ring Cycle, is based on Sigurd and the Volsunga¬†Saga. Basically, urged on by Loki and Odin, Sigurd¬†kills the dragon Fafnir and takes his treasure hoard. He bathes in the dragon’s blood to become invincible, and meets Brynhildr¬†‘shieldmaiden’, who in some incarnations of the story is a Valkyrie imbued with supernatural powers. They fall in love but Brynhild¬†prophesies his doom and marriage to another. They part temporarily. Sigurd travels to the court of Gjuki, whose wife, Grimhild¬†poisons him with an ‘Ale¬†of Forgetfulness’ to force him to forget Brynhild¬†so he can marry their daughter, Gudrun. Meanwhile, Gunnar, Gudrun’s brother¬†courts Brynhild¬†who is still waiting for her beloved Sigurd. To win Brynhild¬†over, Gunnar devises a plan and convinces an enchanted Sigurd to¬†help him.¬†Unable to get near to Brynhild¬†himself,¬†but seeing that Sigurd¬†can, Gunnar swaps bodies with him to seduce Brunhild¬†and break her defences/powers, enabling him to seize his prize thereafter. Eventually, all deceptions come to light. Gunnar plots against and kills Sigurd, in some stories Brynhild¬†then kills him, but the story ends with Sigurd and Brynhild finally reunited in death as she throws herself onto Sigurd’s blazing funeral pyre! What a way to go!English: A Christmas bonfire in Guelph, Canada.

 

The map to the human heart is a complicated route indeed, full of hidden perils, surprises and joyous heights!

Now…you may well ask, why on earth I am exploring tragic love affairs in literature, myth and history? Why the sudden interest?

Well…I’m glad to say I haven’t had a tragic experience myself, but…I am, I’m afraid,¬†witnessing one as I write this. Yes, I’m not talking about my favourite tear inducing movie, or the howls of, “NO, GOD NO!”¬†that I heard being¬†cried at the TV screen from my friends who were apoplectic at the death of Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. No…I’m talking about a real life love tragedy unfolding before my eyes right now – a scene of unparalleled sadness, of unrequited love that makes all of the previous tales pale into insignificance.

Forget Romeo & Juliet, Heathcliff¬†& Cathy, who cares about Tristan & Isolde? This is the sad sad¬†tale of…Tolly & Mimi…

On the 1st August 2009, four years¬†ago this very day, I was travelling back from Bridgewater having rescued two gorgeous white balls of fluff from the most hideous living conditions you can imagine. Four years later, my beautiful white wolves, brothers Korrun¬†& Tolly,¬†are happy and healthy and well…totally gorgeous. 349

Only one problem…Tolly is in love, deeply, passionately, unconditionally…an¬†all consuming obsessional love and one which tragically, it is completely unrequited.

Wherever Mimi goes, Tolly follows, every move she makes he mirrors, no more than two inches from her face at all times, staring adoringly, gazing, dribbling, sighing with pensive longing when she retreats upstairs. Such desperate longing, such sadness…the poor boy just hasn’t realised that cats and dogs simply don’t…well, it’s a barrier greater than that of the Capulets and Montagues!

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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

‘The Next Big Thing’ – I’ve been tagged!

Still chasing my tail here, but a¬†few weeks ago I was very kindly tagged in “The Next Big Thing” – a blog hop where you answer a series of questions about your work in progress or your NEXT BIG THING, before nominating others for the same award. http://youngbyname.me/2012/11/14/my-next-big-thing/

I was tagged by fellow indie author, Debbie Young, who had her first book, ‘Sell Your Books!’ published only two weeks after my own.

Product DetailsDebbie Young¬†also works for Readathon UK http://www.readathon.org¬†an amazing national organisation that promotes¬†children’s reading in schools and libraries across the country.¬†I was utterly thrilled when Debbie and Readathon¬†UK¬†approached me to do an interview, especially considering the literary giants such as Michael Morpurgo, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Rosen and Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo)¬†who support them. Great company to be in! http://www.readathon.org/blog/2012/11/author-teacher-joins-forces-with-readathon/

Anyway, back to ‘The Next Big Thing’!

Ummm, right, my next project/work in progress…well, I have many (head stuffed with ideas thankfully), but I am currently writing the second book of my epic fantasy trilogy!

1) What is the working title of your next book?

The sequel to White Mountain and Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles? Well to be honest that is a tricky question to answer. I had always envisioned and planned for the book to be called ‘Darkling Rise’, a title I love and an appropriate one for the story, as it revolves around the rise of a ‘darkling’ – a growing dark power. However, this may not be the final title…

2) Where did the idea come from for your book?

032Years ago, when I first had the genus for White Mountain, I knew the general direction the story was heading in. I actually have the ending for Book 3 in my head, though the journey to get there isn’t worked out yet! A lot of The Darkling Chronicles story was inspired by my four-month¬†odyssey around New Zealand back in 1997, an astounding country of epic¬†scenery and breathtaking views. This was truly an inspiring and life-changing experience and one I have written about in my series of travelogues on this blog. The other ideas for the story simply came from my own personal life and experiences, many of¬†which have been rather¬†traumatic and verging on the melodramatic to say the least. I am very pleased to say that those times are behind me and life is now a myriad of happy days…or should I say…a happy daze! ūüėÄ

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Chapter Twenty-One - Into The LightEpic fantasy! Sometimes referred to as ‘classic’ or ‘high’ fantasy. Having said that, it is also a contemporary fantasy as the story is set¬†now within our modern world. It is also¬†an adventure story, a mystery, a romance, an adrenaline fuelled action thriller, a children’s book, a Young Adult (YA) novel and a poetic saga!

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

To be honest, I do have a rough screenplay of White Mountain. It would make an¬†AMAZING film as¬†it is so epic and cinematic in scope, so who knows? Maybe one day…

But I do LOVE this game! Christopher Plummer or Patrick Stewart would be my first choice for Mr Marval¬†Agyk¬†due to his natural gravitas, similar appearance¬†and receding¬†hairline not to mention that wondrous voice! Besides the wonderful Sir Ian McKellen has¬†portrayed Gandalf¬†so well, that any other wizard part would draw too many comparisons. Rufus Sewell would be¬†stunning for the voice of Gralen, that lovely blend of age and sulkiness. Either Henry Cavill, James Purefoy¬†or Tom Hardy¬†as brooding Korrun¬†and new British actress, Felicity Jones or Gemma Arterton¬†or even Anne Hathaway as Wendya. Peter O’Toole would be simply perfect as eccentric and frail King Dorrol¬†and¬†maybe even Gary Oldman¬†as King Baillum? As for my arch-villain, Morreck, I always saw the character as a mixture¬†of Brad Pitt and Pol Pot! A character electrifying,¬†charismatic and handsome, described as ‘perilously fair’, a person you would be instantly attracted¬†and drawn to, but a figure who despite his beauty, is rotten to the core. I’m sure Brad Pitt is a lovely person, but as he is a great actor and is, let’s face it, gorgeous to look at – he would be PERFECT to play Morreck¬†The Corruptor! ūüėÄ

If I had my pick of directors…it would have to be Christopher Nolan or Ridley Scott, two real¬†visionaries!

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

For White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles:

Attacked and drained of most of his powers, a dying sorcerer must race against time to save himself and the fate of all, from an enemy intent on cleansing the planet and destroying humanity…

For ‘Darkling Rise’ – Book 2 of The Darkling Chronicles:

Darkness spreads as prophetic warnings come to pass¬†and a series of disturbing murders and disappearances multiply across the globe – the hunt is on and the war to end all wars is upon us…!

6) When will your book be published?

Book 2 will be published in September/October 2013, with Book 3 due for publication in 2014.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Ahem…I’m still writing it! My first book had a gestation of over 10 years, yes, 10 years! – creating the back story, the world and universe that the story takes place in, not to mention my exhaustive research. My time frame for writing Book 2 is considerably shorter! ūüėÄ

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Wow! That’s hard. Certainly readers of Book 1 have compared it to J.R.R. Tolkien, David Gemmell, Terry Goodkind, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, C.S. Lewis, Rick Riordan even G.R.R.Martin in it’s epic scope. I would place my work somewhere in there, hopefully between the poetic nature of Tolkien and the dark gift for character of Pullman and George Martin.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Again, personal life experiences good and bad. Places I’ve been to, natural landscapes hold a real magic for me and of course, I had an epic story I wanted to tell. Book 1 is the beginning of that story and is an inspiration in itself, but now the story has a life of its own and it wants to come out!

Humanity beware –¬†you’re in for a nasty awakening!

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The fact that it is an epic fantasy in the classic sense but with a contemporary twist and that it is set within our modern world. Humans and millenia old magic are about to clash…head on! Can our technology save us from an ancient force determined to cleanse the planet of the plague of humanity?

*****

Now to highlight and ‘tag’ some other writers for “The Next Big Thing”! In no order…

Product DetailsAndrea Baker – A great writer of paranormal fantasy, Worlds Apart’ – Leah, from deepest darkest Warwickshire! Check out her wonderful¬†debut novel…

Leah knows that her mother died in a car accident when Leah was small and that her father, who used to be the gentlest dad in the world, has become increasingly controlling and occasionally violent. She also knows that her recurring dreams are telling her something more about how and why her mother died, and why her dad turned nasty, but they are becoming progressively more disturbing and confusing. When Leah meets Ben, she is excited to have a friend she can confide in and have fun with, but is he what he seems? The voice of Leah’s mother repeatedly tells her to rely on her instincts, but when Leah is run over in a freak accident and Ben’s family take over her welfare, are they protecting her or using her? And why would anyone, good or evil, bother with an ordinary girl just about to go to university? http://www.andreabakerauthor.com/
*****
Image of Lindsey J Parsons

Lindsey Parsons¬†– A fantastic¬†fantasy writer with a huge imagination! Check out her debut novel…

Product DetailsVortex¬†is a fantasy romance novel aimed at the upper teen/young adult market. It is the first book in a trilogy called The Return of The Effra. Back cover description: On a night when prophecies stir, an outraged dragon vents his anger, Damian is ripped from everything he knows and Sam’s nightmares become real… Sam isn’t enjoying university life, she’s disillusioned with her course and having second thoughts about her future. It doesn’t help that she keeps having a scary, recurring nightmare and when she thinks things couldn’t get worse a creepy man follows her back to her room. Damian is unique, he has silver eyes, horns and wings, he is also being visited by a ghost girl. She looks so sad and frightened he feels compelled to help her, but the night he reaches out to save her from a dragon’s fiery breath he gets ripped from his life, his world, from everything he knows. Now it’s Damian who’s lost in an unfamiliar world that’s devoid of magic and full of strange monsters. His only connection with home is Sam who he recognises as the ghost girl. Sam has to put aside her fear and disbelief in Damian’s explanations about himself to try and help him find his way home. But in a world without magic is this possible? http://lindseyjparsons.wordpress.com/

*****

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsWill Macmillan Jones¬†– A prolific razor-sharp wit and laugh a minute purveyor of comic fantasy. He makes Sir Terry Pratchett seem only mildly funny! Check out his latest novel, the third in his wildly¬†hilarious and anarchic,¬†The Banned Underground series…! http://willmacmillanjones.wordpress.com/

The Vampire Mechanic, the third book in the Banned Underground series, is a unique mix of fantasy and Terry Pratchett-style humor for the rock generation and their kids. Different from other comedic fantasies, it parodies the touring music scene, bureaucracy, taxation and with its tongue-in-cheek slapstick humor, witty puns and word games.

*****

Katrina Jack – An excellent writer of gritty urban fantasy. Land of Midnight Days (The Silver Flute Trilogy) available in Kindle Edition and soon to be released as a hardback! Check out her first novel…Product Details

What would you do if your life was filled with fear: hide, run away – or would you fight back?

In a city at war with itself, Jeremiah Tully already knows how to survive, now he must learn how to live. Mute from birth, of mixed race heritage and his only possession a charmed flute, Jeremiah tries to
discover where his remarkable talent as a musician will take him. http://kateannejack.wordpress.com

*****

Many¬†thanks again to the lovely Debbie Young for tagging me! It’s been great fun and a real honour.

Please check out her websites: http://youngbyname.me/ & http://offtheshelfbookpromotions.wordpress.com/newsblog/

Book signing – what you need to know but were afraid to ask!!!

books[1]Okay…I’m jumping ahead here, but seeing as I just had my fourth book signing event on Saturday and have my next coming up this Saturday, I wanted to share the freaky experience of author¬†book signing.

Think you’re ready people? I can guarantee you’re not!

Well, like many of us, my only ‘experience’ of book signing was watching it portrayed¬†on TV and in film, i.e. a pretty exciting, thrilling glamorous thing, right? LOL!!!!!!¬† Oh dear… If you are a celebrity, you’ll have people thronging around you, lining up to get a glimpse of you and a signed copy of your latest tome. If you are a new writer…you’re a nobody. No lining people, unless it’s to the tills, no throngs.

Well, again, like every aspect of a writer’s journey, it will be unique to you. Some writer friends I know don’t do it all. Whether it’s because of time constraints or simply because they feel they can’t and don’t want to do the whole ‘selling’ thing, I don’t know.¬†In fairness, it is an expensive venture, travelling, petrol, parking…it all adds up!

I must shout out though, to some brilliant surprises I had on my book launch at wonderful Octavia’s Bookshop, apart from selling out in an hour! Thank you to my gorgeous fellow fantasy writer, Lindsey J¬†Parsons, turning up (a welcome distraction and lovely support) and¬†my¬†lovely and nutty mate Will Macmillan Jones who LOVES book signings – he¬†has a natural confidence in talking to people and an ease when doing these events.

Octavia's Bookshop signing 2012Then there’s me…the nervous jelly in the corner. Cold sweats, lack of sleep, bitten nails,¬†dodgy tummy, dry throat and well, a host of other nervous complaints. It IS hard and difficult but what nobody prepares you for, is that it is also one of the most totally bizarre experiences a human being is ever likely to find themselves in!

Exactly like walking down the street naked. That is how it feels…and no, I haven’t gone romping down the local lanes and roads starkers! But you feel utterly exposed and naked in a room of crowded strangers…yeap…prepare yourselves guys!

Firstly, you will have to decide on what approach suits you best. By now we all know the changed policy from Waterstone’s¬†head office regarding signings, so NO pushy hard sell! It doesn’t work and it’s at least one of¬†the reasons¬†Waterstones¬†cites for changing their policy, because they were getting complaints from customers who had literally been frog marched to the tills!

Remember you are selling your literary masterpiece, not a tin of beans. Nobody likes being hassled, especially if they’re in a bookshop quietly browsing…so back off. Always go with a relaxed soft sell approach.

That aside, you still need to decide how to do this. Do you stand and wander round the shop? Stay permanently seated at your table? Or a mixture of both? Sometimes the bookshop will tell you what they would like you to do, so you can just follow those guidelines.

My friends all do it slightly differently, which works for them. You’ll need to find out what works for YOU. For me…I just don’t have the confidence to wander, so I tend to stay permanently glued to my table and let people come up to me, or not.

Even though all the Waterstones¬†staff I have met have been absolutely lovely, very friendly, welcoming, helpful and¬†ply you with as much tea/coffee as you want, you will most likely be given a small round black table only a little bigger than a napkin, to display your books. So be prepared! ūüėČ

You may be placed in the fantasy section, teen section, children’s section or by the doors, it totally depends on the store. If they are planning to place you right at the back, you can very sweetly ask if you could be moved. Remember they want you to be¬†every bit as¬†successful as you want to be. You sell a lot of books, it’s great for the store, great for you and most likely you’ll be asked back.

As far as symbiotic relationships go, it’s pretty good – they are the oak tree and you are the nourishing fungus at its roots! Ummm…now doesn’t that sound sexy?!

The next thing you need to be prepared for is…people. Lots of them, none of them, crowds jostling¬†past you, ignoring you, bumping into you. People glancing at you and your book then thinking better of it, shy people wanting to approach but nervously edging past, brash people, “So, what’s it about?” You start your well rehearsed but genuine¬†spiel, “Nah…not for me,” as they drop it on the pile with a clunk. You notice the smear of finger prints on the cover and quickly pop it to the bottom of the pile.

Also, depending on where you are stationed, be prepared for arses¬†(asses for my lovely American friends) and lots of them as you see them¬†leave the shop¬†having NOT bought your book, or worse still, as they queue at the tills and the queue goes back to you. Suddenly you’re sitting in a forest of people’s legs, backs and arses, totally obscured! ūüėõ

You’ll find yourself with a gentle fixed smile, trying not to look desperate as you shift your weight, stare aimlessly into middle distance or try to make eye contact and lightly engage passersby with a, “good morning,” you check your watch. Damn it! It’s 12:30pm. So you change tact to, “good afternoon”.

Or you start to play ‘spot the fantasy fan’ – a fun game which entails eyeing everyone coming into the shop and trying to place which section they’ll head for. Even though I’ve only done¬†4¬†signings so far (my amazing book launch at Octavia’s Bookshop and three lovely Waterstones branches to date, with more going right up to Christmas) I’m getting pretty good at this¬†detective game.

But the frustration comes, if you see someone heading and then lingering in the fantasy section and before you can get a chance to talk to them, they’ve left the shop carrying a Robert Jordan, G.R.R. Martin, Robin Hobb, David Brett and walked straight past¬†you without noticing…despite the 7ft¬†banner next to you! You could try a¬†net or lasso, but I wouldn’t recommend it! ūüėõ

Then,¬†you get the ones who have no intention of buying your book but haven’t had a decent conversation with anyone in a while and as you’re just sitting there doing nothing, how about a chat? You know what? Always be gracious and grateful…at the very least you are talking to someone and look busy – this is good! Unless of course they stop you from engaging with those who really are interested in buying your book. Tricky.

Then, you get the good stuff, the reason you are there, putting yourself through this…the interested person…what a thrill! The person or people who ask questions, are really engaged when you tell them about the story, who ask about when and why you started writing it, your inspirations¬†and in my case,¬†those who¬†get totally enthralled with my¬†illustrations.

Btw, it really really helps to have visual aids! I’m lucky, I have my own illustrations so I enlarge them, colour some of them, even laminate them and put them in this flick through book for people to…er…flick through! If you don’t have any visual aids – GET THEM!

Now don’t get me wrong, even though the experience can be¬†akin to¬†having root canal, which I have had, there is a genuinely awesome payoff¬†– you get to be on the frontline, talking to people about your book, the characters, the plot, how you created it, what your influences are, and most amazingly, you get to sign a book and watch someone walk to the tills and buy it!!!!!!!!!!!

There really isn’t anything like it!

If I hadn’t been sitting in public, I would have welled up and cried, it’s that emotional. A really unforgettable and moving moment.

That’s¬†why you do it, why you put yourself through the nervous emotional¬†exhaustion of it, not to mention the¬†difficulty of travelling there, finding somewhere to park, finding the store¬†etc¬†– because the payoff is¬†SO sweet. Isn’t that what we all want? To feel that sensation – pride, accomplishment and sheer joy? It doesn’t happen often in life so try to embrace it when it does.

So the next time you’re in a bookshop, do spare a thought for the lonely author sitting or standing there, being brave or possibly nutty, and go and talk to them. Even if they’re selling a manual on how to clean the inner tubing from a bicycle wheel and you couldn’t be less interested in what they are selling and certainly don’t want to buy it…spare a thought for them and go a have a¬†natter and a smile, you’ll really make their day! ūüėÄ xx

P.S. Make sure you have a bottle of water with a good screw top, you’ll need it. In your nervousness, if you knock it over you’re¬†not going to spoil your precious books. Oh…and make sure you have at least three pens, at least one is likely to fail on you! ūüėČ

P.P.S. I must say a special mention to my pal Lucy for stopping by and saying hello yesterday while I was book signing in Waterstones¬†Cribbs¬†Causeway, thank you honey! AND a special mention to Bryony,¬†the lovely lady I meet yesterday who was so interested in my book and who I had a¬†fascinating chat with. I hope you keep going with your writing sweetie, and DO check out The Alliance of Worldbuilders¬†on¬†the HarperCollins¬†writing site, Authonomy¬†www.authonomy.com¬†or on Facebook¬†https://www.facebook.com/TheAllianceOfWorldbuilders¬†or on it’s own website http://theallianceofworldbuilders.weebly.com¬†we’d love to see you on there with the rest of us nutters!.

Right, so that’s it, at least for now…everything you needed to¬†know about author signing events, but were afraid to ask! HUGE good luck guys and I hope to meet you on the circuit!¬† ;D xx

OMG! The word is spreading…!

It is true that the world is a strange and bizarre place, but wow, sometimes it can surprise you in an utterly delightful way!

Firstly, there seems to be a small but growing ‘word-of-mouth’ about my book. Exclamations like, “It’s better than Rick Riordan and Harry Potter!”I never read fantasy but I loved this!” “Beautifully written and captivating!” etc. All wonderful comments that fill you with butterflies and a nervous kind of energy you can’t quite explain.

Reviews? The ones I’ve had so far have all been great, but like any author, I’m desperate for more. Reviews after all are what people turn to when deciding what book to pick off of a shelf. They are also essential in spreading the word about your book.

Well, all of these are fantastic but what about the gritty reality of how your book is doing?

I’ve had a little inkling¬†that my debut novel, White Mountain – Book 1 of The Darkling Chronicles, is selling well. But of course, as an author you are a little removed from the hard-line of sales figures.

Instead, we tend to focus on what people think of our books – Did they like it? Were they swept along with the story? What were their favourite characters? Did they like the way it was written? etc etc.

We naturally love our stories and want others to love them too, for an author, there is no greater feeling than having a reader tell you how much they loved your creation. So, actual hard sales don’t really enter the consciousness…maybe¬†they should, but I’m just not a business type person, my brain is far too chaotic for that!!!!

Anyway, imagine my joy when out of curiosity I popped onto Amazon and looked at epic fantasy paperbacks for the last 30 days and found my own book on the first page at No.12!!!!

I couldn’t believe it! My novel was higher in the charts than established authors like David¬†Tallerman, Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time), ¬†A. E. Marling and even G.R.R. Martin! It won’t last of course, and by tomorrow I’m sure it will change…but WOW!

Totally unbelievable!!!!!! ūüėÄ xx