Mapping The Imagination

Maps are a subject I keep returning to again and again and for good reason. Ever since I was a child I’ve held a deep fascination for atlas’s, globes, maps and cartography in general. The mystery of distant countries with exotic names, far flung foreign lands, strange topographic features or intricate maps of fictional worlds have always captivated my imagination and I know I’m not alone in this passion. Maps, particularly when used in fiction, are more popular today than they’ve ever been.

Check out my previous map inspired posts: For the love of maps! & Mapping your fantasy

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In literary terms, the first map I’m aware of studying was probably E.H. Shepherd’s beautifully illustrated ‘100 Acre Wood’ for A.A. Milne’s glorious Winnie The Pooh, that was quickly followed by the maps in Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Tove Jansson’s wonderful map of Moomin Valley and CS Lewis’s Narnia map.

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As all lovers of good fantasy fiction know, there is nothing as pleasurable as poring over a map of your favourite fantasy world, whether it be George RR Martin’s Westeros at the heart of his phenomenal Games of Thrones (Song of Ice & Fire) series, JRR Tolkien’s Middle-Earth in his Lord of The Rings trilogy, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea or Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. 34c29aa5e22785787f24a35d580761c71

 

Now, as an illustrator and author, I create my own detailed hand-drawn fantasy maps for my books and for other authors and publishers. I’ve only illustrated 9 books to date so far but have several projects in the pipeline, and would like to share with you, my fellow map lovers, how I created my latest commission for fabulous fantasy writer, Juliet McKenna and her awesome new River Kingdom series.

Firstly, I cannot tell you what fun it is creating these beautiful objects – “The literal and visual distillation of an author’s imagination through graphite, pen & ink and paint.” It is true that not every great fantasy novel needs a map and some authors like NK Jemisin were initially not keen on them, but for me I love them as I think they create a tangible geographical point of reference from which the story weaves its magic. Funnily enough, Joe Abercromie who apparently wasn’t keen on fantasy maps for his First Law series then included 5 of them in The Heroes (to represent the battle movements)!

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At the end of July I was approached by Juliet McKenna who was looking for someone to do a map for her latest fantasy series, the River Kingdom. That started a really interesting month of creative exploration. Juliet, much like me, is a stickler for detail, which I love. The devil’s in the detail they say and that is particularly true when creating fantasy maps, the more information the better!

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The first thing I loved, is that her River Kingdom is landlocked i.e. set in the middle of a continent, much like my Fendellin map (see left), and avoids the over used cliché of a coastline and seas. This makes total sense to me – as much as I love coastlines, not every land is going to be coastal and yet if you follow the vast majority of fantasy maps they are all either islands or coastal regions! River Kingdom is inland and is all about the rivers and the regions and peoples they dominate.

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For a starting point Juliet emailed me a few pages of notes about her fabulous River Kingdom world, the main rivers (Tane and Dore) in her kingdom, what they are like (winding? straight? navigable? deep? shallow? rapids? maelstroms? etc), how they flow, the settlements and communities along their banks, the different administrative ruling centres and fiefdoms, what the Hill Country was like and forests, a description of the Nilgeh Mire, how the land lies and towns relate to each other, etc. It was obvious from the beginning that this was going to be something rather special, as so few authors really fully imagine and realise the worlds they create down to the everyday detail.

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From this, we started a wonderful creative collaboration, back and forth. To ensure that my clients are 110% with the artwork they receive, I’m a great believer in asking questions rather than guessing, that way you are able to really crystalize what the author/client wants and are far more likely to deliver it.

More questions and details followed, the colour of the waters of the main rivers, their tributaries, what happens when the two great rivers meet, adding wharfs and quays for river folk to travel and ferries, the types of trees in the forest areas, how high are the mountains, how to represent the towns with different allegiances, motifs to be used to represent the Grainland and Grassland areas and lovely nuances like adding subtle terraces to some of the Downland hills and what the geology and terrain was of drier areas like the High Plateau. Discussions about the lovely maps of 15thC cartographer, John Speed and the red colour of towns depicted etc.

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Then, after the graphite and then inking stages were finished, a whole new conversation took place about colours and tones for the finished painted map. Mountainous regions in reality, vary hugely, another reason why I prefer to hand draw everything rather than using computer programs which just replicate the same mountain shape again and again, some smaller some bigger but none with any individuality. Were the mountainous regions alpine in nature, snow capped and grey granite or like the dry peaks of parts of the Andes or more like the Cairngorms and Snowdonia, greener lower peaks?

What about the woodland areas?

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Most forests depicted in fantasy maps tend to be one generic shape repeated infinitum and if they are coloured, one generic green shade. We decided instead to have individual shapes, colours and shades for the different tree types just like a real mixed forest canopy of deciduous and coniferous trees. Yes these are still stylised trees, drawing an accurate observational study of a tree with all it’s intertwining branches would look dreadful in a map context, like a mass of spider webs and would become too distracting to the overall effect.

captureThen you have the map’s compass. I like to do an individual compass for every map and client, so they are unique to that client’s work. In Juliet’s case, I really wanted to include some of the mythos present in her story, namely the fact that her market towns have shrines to the Sun Goddess & Moon God, so I wanted a compass rose with a sun and moon motif at the centre (lol, Juliet is apparently now thinking of using this compass rose as a cross-stitch design!).  🙂

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When painting the map, I found myself using some truly gorgeous pearlescent paints and gold inks for the details (there are amazing art products out there!), I only wish the sheen of these had fully translated into the final scanned map.

So, after a month and a bit of continuous work, we had a finished painted map for Juliet’s amazing new fantasy, Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom, which launches at *BristolCon in less than two weeks! Pop along and meet Juliet in person and grab yourself your own signed copy from the author herself! (check out the gorgeous cover by Ben Baldwin!)

*BristolCon – is a fantastic one day SFF convention in Bristol at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel on Saturday 29th October! The programme of events is here. (Juliet will be there signing copies of Shadow Histories of the River Kingdom and appearing on two panels & I’ll be there too supporting my publishers, Grimbold Books and doing a panel and reading – come along and join the fun!)

So, there you go folks…the process of actually creating and making a fantasy map, it ain’t easy but boy is it FUN!  🙂 xxx

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🙂 xxxx

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White Mountain The Movie – Part II Filming Locations

Taking a slight break from the Distant Worlds author interview series, hopefully this will be a visual treat for all those who love travelling (in real life or in the imagination) and film addicts like me!

As an avid film fan, back in January I had a bit of fun and shared my vision of White Mountain – The Movie, specifically focusing on my dream cast and director.

So, with visionary Ridley Scott directing, Christopher Plumber as Mr. Agyk, Rufus Sewell as the voice of Gralen, either Natalie Portman or Gemma Arterton as Wendya, a possible Henry Cavill or Aidan Turner as Korrun and charismatic Michael Fassbender as evil villain Morreck, the cast is ready.

For the full cast and character profiles, check out my original post: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2015/01/04/white-mountain-the-movie/

Next we shift our cinematic focus to filming locations for White Mountain – The Movie! 😀

*(Please note that apart from my illustrations and a few of my own photographs, most of the images used to show places/locations are NOT my own unless otherwise stated. Many thanks to their various creators. :D)

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In order of book locations, first up, Mr. Agyk and Gralen’s home, White Mountain itself! Real location: Mont Blanc, Switzerland. (My inspiration: Mount Cook ‘Aoraki’, New Zealand).

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The living room.

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The map room, think of a pyramid room covered in maps and star charts with a central dais and the ‘tapestry of time’ shifting world map on it. (Lol, little bit like the map room in Raiders of the Lost Ark!) 😀

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Next, the ice city of Ïssätun, high up within the Arctic circle. Real location: the Arctic, Svarlbard, and Greenland. (My inspiration: the Franz Josef glacier and glacier terminus, New Zealand).

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The ice dungeons below the city.

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Back to White Mountain and the great library ( I love my libraries!).

Photo of Mount Cook aka White Mountain - CopyWhite Mountain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then travel to the Grey Forest deep within the Russian boreal forest or ‘taiga’. Real location: Russian Urals/Siberia. (My inspiration: Forest of Dean, UK and Wistman’s Woods, Dartmoor, UK).

B5C2A8 Russia Siberia Sayan Mountains And Taiga. Image shot 2007. Exact date unknown.

Russia Siberia Sayan Mountains And Taiga. Image shot 2007.

 

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The pancake rocks that Mr. Agyk & Gralen spent the night on, as hunting firewolves draw near. Real location: Russian taiga/Siberia. (My inspiration: Combestone Tor, Dartmoor, UK & Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand).

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Grey Forest clearing

Wendya’s home – a tumble down cottage in the heart of the forest (less Bavarian fairytale and more decrepit than this though).

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Wendya’s summer retreat, high up in the Llrinaru trees – a treetop sanctuary. Real location: Siberia. (My inspiration: the giant Kauri trees of New Zealand).

View over the Grey Forest from Wendya's summer home.

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The Amazon jungle, following the great river and its tributaries deeper into the rainforest.

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The path to the Oracle.

016Jungle path to the 'Oracle of the West'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dead gully.

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The Oracle’s Lair.

chislehurst_03[1]Then cross the Atlantic to the heart of Africa, the Congo Rainforest, home of the most ancient city in the world, Kallorm (Dwellum of old or Silverden in the Ǽllfr tongue). Real location: Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo. (My inspiration: the Waipoa rainforest, North Island of New Zealand and Abel Tasman rainforest, South Island of New Zealand).

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The oldest and largest Dworllian realm, Kallorm – the ‘City of Light’ – a bustling subterranean metropolis of crowded honey coloured sandstone buildings, viaducts, bridges, rivers, forums and market squares deep beneath the jungles of the Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo). Real locations: Sandstone buildings of Petra, Cairo, Nairobi, Kolcatta, Dwarka. (My inspiration: the narrow crowded architectural streets of Rome, particularly the Roman Forum and the market squares of Florence, Italy).

Firstly, one of the many ancient bridges to cross into Kallorm.

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The White Palace, the Royal House of Kallorm and the Senate, the seat of government. Inspired by Indian and Middle Eastern architecture with some Italian Renaissance thrown in!

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The Falls of Tarro. Real location: the Victoria Falls, border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. (My inspiration: the Huka Falls, New Zealand, Lyford Gorge, Dartmoor, UK and Canonteign Falls, Devon, UK)

69b553d5b8c9dd992b0e4d3076d9469b[1]Falls of Tarro and city of Kallorm

Draellth chambers and catacombs beneath the city of Kallorm. Real location: the Hang Son Dong cave system in Vietnam. (My inspiration: the Waitomo caves, New Zealand and Wookey Hole, Somerset, UK).

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The ‘Resting Rooms’ of Kallorm, a peaceful sanctuary and haven to heal all wounds amidst the bustle of Kallorm.

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7b25eed066a091d9324ba17a3ebe459c[1]The journey to Fendellin, following the mighty Indus River up to the wild hills and mountains of the Hindu Kush where the demonic snow leopard attacks.

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The Himalayas, searching for the ‘Lost Kingdom of Dragons’, Fendellin.

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Fendellin, ‘The Lost Kingdom of Dragons’ – the vast hidden land within the Himalayas (the Encircling Mountains), originally an Ǽllfren stronghold, now one of the last Dworllian kingdoms and home of all dragon races…also the home of M’Sorreck himself. Real location: Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal and Himalayan region. (My inspiration: the Southern Alps, South Island of New Zealand and the Tongariro National Park, North Island, New Zealand + the Tibetan legend of Shambhala).

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The ancient steles beside the iceberg lake in Fendellin.

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Mund’harr and the capital, the Golden City. Real location: Architecture of Cambodia, Burma, Laos and Spain.

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Finding a quiet cloister in the city of clouds…

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The Hanging Gardens of Mund’harr. (My inspiration: the hanging gardens of Babylon & Nineveh).

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The blue poppy fields of Fendellin.

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The Tolltek Pass and the road to Morreck.

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The Shudras – the ‘Silent Marshes’.

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Hal’Torren’s choice, the ruins of Oralam. Real location: the deserts of China.

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The salt lake and Kavok’s Peak.

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Valley of darkness, Morreck’s fortress and the stone Sentinels.

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The sentinels

The Cavern of Souls – Morreck’s lair. Real location: Basilica Cistern at Istanbul, Turkey and Petra, Jordan.

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The Flame of Fendellin.

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The cavalcade home.

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Back to White Mountain again.

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***

Lol, there you go, a very looong visual exploration of the cinematic locations for White Mountain – The Movie! You can tell that I’ve spent WAY too much time thinking about all this!

Next time, the beasts and creatures of White Mountain – The Movie! 😀

 

Oh, and for all you lovely White Mountain fans, there’s still a chance to vote for it in The People’s Book Prize. Voting stays open until August 31st, so if you love it please lend your support, every vote really does count! And a HUGE thank you to all the fabulous people who have already voted, White Mountain has garnered the most amazing comments and votes!

THANK YOU! 😀 xxxx

White Mountain

Etymology – What’s in a word? Part III Language and a glossary of objects.

This is the final instalment in my ultra nerdish look at etymology and the derivation of words. Lol, I know I keep saying this but I’m sure this particular post will only be of interest to me and maybe one other person, but it seems right to finish the series looking at the inspirations and roots behind my novel, White Mountain, and the whole of the Darkling Chronicles universe.

White Mountain full book jacket

This last post looks at the finer details of language and gives a general look at the objects and things in White Mountain and their derivation.

Now, although I would never claim to be a linguist or language specialist, I have taught phonetics for the last 16 years and so have a good understanding behind the mechanics of language and word roots. So yes, like a true geek and many other eager teenagers obsessed with JRR Tolkien, I did invent my own working language for White Mountain (although this doesn’t specifically feature in the book, it hopefully gives the background a little more depth/flavour).

My Dworllian language is actually a mixture of Maori, African Ibo & Bantu dialects, Old English, Old Norse and Old Hindi! 😀

One thing you’ll notice that is very prevalent and typical of the Dworllian language, are double ‘ll’ and double ‘rr’. These are most notable in character names which always have these – Korrun, Baillum, Dorrol, Halli, Frell etc., and denote a longer consonant sound in pronunciation. Other races, such as dragons (fÿrrens) do not use these language rules, hence – Gralen, Sedgewick & Varkul. Rollm however is an exception, being so close to the Dworllian race, he has adopted the double ‘ll’ in his name.

Here are two poems/laments from White Mountain in translated Dworllian and English to give you a feel for the language.

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Tè Takka ò Tarro / The Falls of Tarro

Undokko à ullvi ò arras

Beneath a canopy of stars

E sullo agarr aggallm,

Its whispering waters flow,

Undokko tè utta tunga harr

Beneath the towers standing tall

Takollo ōku manava d wharri.

Lies my heart and home.

 

À tūn megirr ò dworri llri

A city great of Dworllian past

Gllès mundii d à gillgalloharr witarr,

Three mountains and a palace white,

Nevfr getàll ù tirr d brkirr are

Nine gates to pass and bridges arch

Ù urru tè ngarro gllm ò sollal.

To reach the secret realm of light.

 

À kōparr ò sillva, à tunorr rarrrn

A veil of silver, a thundering roar

À kurra dollm, à aggakè haea…

A crystal dome, a rain bowed beam…

È sullirr tè kō ò Dwelldi (Kallorm) k’rran,

I hear the song of Dwellum (Kallorm) call,

Ìri ōku manava, e kōhu mōstan takka.

Within my heart, its mists must fall.

 

Kallorm, Kallorm rro k’rran irr wharri

Kallorm, Kallorm come call me home

Ù kanikani d sarri ì Tarro agarri,

To dance and sing in Tarro’s spring,

Kallorm, Kallorm rro k’rran irr wharri

Kallorm, Kallorm come call me home

Ù tallo arro koè whakarri mettan.

To rest amongst your sheltered stone.

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Tè Takollo ò Fendelli / The Lay of Fendellin

Pærr neorr ufèrr tè mundii witarr

Pass now beyond the mountains white

Herrwa ïssa kara pekè d agarri

Where frosted rivers leap and spring

Arro tè lldva narra solall

Amongst the golden grasses light

Herrwa fÿrrens llvar d alla d sarri.

Where fÿrrens dwell and soar and sing.

 

À ettan ǽ llri d fægorr ǽ arras

A land as old and fair as stars

Ò ïsso mund d unasoll n’garr,

Of snowy peaks and moonlit seas,

Ò noktarri naru èrr ettirr affar

Of darkling woods we travel far

Ù selell onù ì sillva lèorr.

To gaze upon its silvery leaves.

 

À ferra whǽ æsell n’korrè fÿrra

A flame that springs eternal fire

À tūn ì tè kōhu atta,

A city in the misty sky,

À bælorra whǽ kēna kaorr elld

A beauty which shall never tire

Arro tè rællan alla harr.

Amongst the banners flying high.

 

À whakarr vas à affar ettan

A sheltered haven, a sacred land

Ǽ llri gllm ò gillga,

An ancient place of Kings,

À sillvorri hirr’kræl, à fÿrri brrin

A shining sword, a fiery brand

Herrwa mahkirri llvar ìri.

Where magic dwells therein.

 

Affar ærr uffè manava fendda vallas

Far east beyond heart’s lost desire

Tè llvmanava ò tè llri vakirr,

The birthplace of the eldest kin,

Tōnna akè solla ò wenalla ò fÿrra

Through rising sun on wings of fire

Takollo warrewa Fendelli.

Lies forgotten Fendellin.

Chapter Thirteen - The Encircling Mountains

Here are a few basic and background terms used predominantly in White Mountain:

Ǽllfr – (referred to in myth as ‘elves’ ‘alfarr’ ‘alfa’ – Greek derivation ‘alpha’ meaning first or primary).

Ǽllfren Sanskrit – A very ancient Ǽllfren text and written language similar to the ancient Indian Vedic Sanskrit.

A’Orvas – Ǽllfren word for the First Realm, equivalent to Valhalla, Elysium, Marrduk (Sumerian – Marduk) and Heaven.

Arrametta – Meaning ‘starstone’. A luminescent quartz type stone that produces light (often when held) and acts of a source of illumination for many subterranean cities and kingdoms (see Kallorm). Sometimes referred to as Arrasoll (starlight) or Kaorrsoll (false light). Dworllian derivation ‘arra’ or ‘arras’ meaning ‘star’ + ‘metta’ or ‘mettan’ meaning stone or rock.

Astarri – Ǽllfren goddess of the moon and heavens, commonly referred to as Ibell’una ‘Lady of the Moon’ in the Dworllian tongue, derived from ‘ibell’ meaning woman/female + ‘una’ meaning moon also derived from Roman goddess of the moon ‘luna’ and arachaic latin ‘lūna’.

Cecrops – legend of the half man/half dragon and hero of Cecropia (Athens). Cecropia, derivation from Cecrops, was the capital of ancient Attica named after city saviour Cecrops and later renamed Athens after Greek goddess Athena.

Dworll – (related to ‘dwarfs’ or ‘dwarves’) Derivation from Old English ‘dweorg’ and related to Old Norse ‘dvergr’ meaning dwarf

Fÿrren – A Dworllian and Ǽllfren colloquialism for any dragon, wyvern, wyrm or fire-drake. Derivation (fÿr meaning ‘fire’ from Old English ‘fȳr’ and Old Norse ‘fūrr’ + en (suffix) from Old English ‘en’ related to Gothic ‘-eins’).

I’Sharri – Dworllian goddess of love and forgiveness. Similar to the Sumerian and Mesopotamia Goddess of love, Ishtar.

Llrinaru – Elder wood. Dworllian derivation ‘Llri’ meaning ancient, old, elder + ‘naru’ meaning wood.

Medeaok – Type of Fendellin alcohol using fermented honey & emmer (ancient type of wheat grown in mountainous regions). Derivation from Old English ‘meodu’ and Welsh ‘medd’ meaning ‘mead’ (wine made from fermented honey).

Mimmirian – Meaning ‘seeing mirror’ from the Dworllian word ‘mimirr’ meaning wisdom or knowledge, derived from the Norse giant Mimir who guarded the well of wisdom near the roots of Yggdrasil. A mimmirian is an ancient mystical communicating device, usually mirror like, with a viewing panel and instrumentation for sound. Derivation from Old French ‘mirer’ and Latin ‘mīrārī’.

Naru’l’tarr – Forest leopard (Amur leopard). Dworllian derivation ‘naru’ or ‘narru’ meaning wood or forest + ‘l’tarr’ meaning swift hunting animal.

Rille – small boat or vessel, often used in funeral ceremonies to carry the dead over a waterfall and into the next world/realm (afterlife). Derivation from ‘rill’ meaning brook or stream also from Old German ‘rille’.

Sillvaf’yrren – Dragonsilver. Dworllian derivation ‘sillva’ meaning silver also derived from Old English ‘siolfor’ & Old Norse ‘silfr’ + dworllian fÿrren meaning dragon (‘fȳrr’ + ‘en’).

Solall – Dworllian meaning ‘light’, derivation from dworllian ‘solla’ meaning sun derived from ‘sol’ the Roman god personifying the Sun and later 15th century Latin ‘sōlāris’ from ‘sōl’ the sun.

Vakirri – V’kirri = Immortals, the first great wizards (grand magi) also known as the ‘magirri’ (magic ones), first order of the wise of which Morreck (M’Sorreck’) is the last remaining one. Mr. Agyk, though an ancient and powerful sorcerer, is not one of the grand magi.

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There, lol, I’m sure I’ve bored you all silly, so I won’t go on!

If you’re a geek like me, then check out my previous posts on etymology 😀 :

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-i-places/

and https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-ii-creatures-and-races/

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Book Signing: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly!

This is the second post I’ve written specifically on book signing, as this is a topic I have some experience with. So, I’d like to share what I’ve learnt and what the experience is like for authors embarking on this scary and exciting journey.

Back in 2012, I had a sell out book launch in prestigious ‘Bookseller Award Winning’ Octavia’s Bookshop, followed by a very successful Waterstones book signing tour. It was both exhausting and exhilarating and costly in terms of petrol/gas and parking, but I loved it and sold a lot of books! Yay! Octavia's Bookshop Cirencester

Fast forward to now. I’ve done my first book fair, my first reading and attended my first convention for my novel, White Mountain (published 1st Dec 2014 by Grimbold Books & Kristell Ink Publishing), and am embarking on yet more signing dates. Octavia's Bookshop

Along the way, I’ve learnt things that work and things that don’t and have had invaluable advice from booksellers and staff on what they like and are looking for, and what they really don’t like!

Now, getting any signing dates is an achievement in itself, it’s very tough out there and many bookshops simply aren’t interested in smaller press and indie authors, sadly all they want are the big names and celebrities to draw big crowds. However, another HUGE reason the large bookshop chains such as Waterstones, WHSmith’s, Foyles or Barnes & Noble in the US have pretty much stopped all indie author signings, is due to the bad behaviour of a few over zealous writers who have ruined things for the rest of us.

Stories of customers being accosted by authors prowling the shops, book in hand, and pouncing upon them or frogmarching them to the tills, have effectively given Waterstones the excuse to shut their doors to all of us. Yes, that one rotten apple really can spoil the barrel!

The climate out there for any author wanting to do signings, is certainly not easy. Waterstones in particular have actually stated that they are no longer doing local author signings in any of their stores, this is a new company wide policy, since I did my Waterstones signings two years ago, which has to be at least partly due to unprofessional bad behaviour by a few idiot authors.

So, what makes an author attractive or not to a bookshop? 45-Chepstow-Bookshop[1]

For what it’s worth, here’s what I’ve learnt about the art of book signing, I hope you find it helpful. In no particular order, here are my 8 do’s and don’ts:

DO’S

  1. Do your homework on the shop you’re signing in. What sort of books do they sell more of? What authors have signed there? Do they have a particular specialism or niche? What is the name of the owner or event manager? If you’re prepared, you’ll look like a true professional and will immediately impress the bookshop owner/staff. No, you don’t need to know every little detail about the shop, but you do need to look like you’re interested in them.
  2. Do organise yourself. Plan your event, what to take/is appropriate to take (depending on whether it’s a children’s bookshop, fantasy/horror bookshop, general book store etc.), know your route there, where the shop is, how to get there, how long it takes, petrol/gas needed, tolls, parking, everything. Will you be eating at any stage? Take water…ALWAYS TAKE WATER! Trust me, you’ll need it!
  3. Do publicise the event. You want it to be as big a success as it can be. So set up FB event pages, tell your family and friends and anyone who will listen. If it’s appropriate make up some cheap flyers or photocopies advertising the event that you can leave at work, try to organise some newspaper coverage if possible. 10614253_846486532082170_6044863703050848758_n[1]
  4. Do be professional. Remember that the bookshop is doing YOU a favour in having you sign there. Yes, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship as they will take between 30 – 40% from each book sold. But do be thankful and courteous – humility goes a long way and will get you asked back again!
  5. Do be flexible in approach and practicalities. Obviously bookshops vary in size from the very petite to the large. By all means take that huge banner along with you, but be aware that some shops may not want it taking up precious floor space if space is tight. SAM_5405
  6. Do provide as many visual aids as possible. We are a very visual species, we buy with our eyes, which is why book covers are so crucial and a bad cover can do untold damage on a great book (I have personal experience in having previously had a very crappy cover – I LOVE my new publisher’s cover which is so good it’s edible!). So, provide materials which will draw the customer to you, whether it’s posters, flyers, bookmarks, postcards or illustrations from your book. Use them. A note of caution though, you have to use your judgement here as an over cluttered table will detract rather than attract, so choose a few striking images/visuals only. For me, being an illustrator too, it’s quite easy as I take along an illustration book to showcase my work, pull in curious customers and it’s a great thing for people to flick through. This is especially useful if you have more than one customer at your table, so while you’re chatting to one person the other is kept busy and interested by the illustrations. SAM_5409
  7. Do keep a record of the number of books you actually sign and sell, this may sound obvious and rather daft, but in amidst the nerves, adrenaline and chatting to customers it’s easy to lose track. You’ll need to know the exact number of books sold either for your publisher or yourself so that invoices to the bookshops are accurate.
  8. Do enjoy yourself or at least try to. Yes it can be nervous as hell, embarrassing and buttock clenching at times, but you’ll need to try and relax. No customer is going to approach an uptight nut job. Find your pace, what makes you comfortable and enjoy yourself. Remember, if you can get a signing in a bookshop, that’s one more bookshop stocking YOUR book and before you know it you’ll be wanting to do more and more signings for the rush of adrenaline as much as for the book sales! SAM_5394

DON’TS

  1. Don’t behave like a diva. You’re not the star, your book is. Diva behaviour will GUARANTEE that you won’t be asked back again. Although you should pat yourself on the back for having written a book, you must also temper that ego with the fact that nowadays every other person seems to have written a book too. The market has never been more saturated and sadly, a lot of it is detritus, poorly written and poorly edited, but nonetheless, it also makes it damn difficult for your brilliant fiction to rise above the masses and be noticed. Acting like a diva will get you remembered in the wrong way!
  2. Don’t be offended or put off if your signing table is the size of a napkin, or if you are placed at the back of the shop, behind a sign, next to the toilet, out in the cold entrance, or are given no table are all. Every bookshop is different, EVERY one, even the big chains differ from shop to shop, so be adaptable.
  3. Don’t intimidate your customers. An obvious, eh? Well you’d be surprised how many authors can come across in a very intimidating fashion and end up putting more potential buyers off just by their body language. Be cheerful, approachable, don’t stare or keep eye contact too long if the customer is merely browsing and casting a curious look your way and don’t cross your arms.
  4. Don’t pounce on customers, shadow them, follow them around the shop like a puppy, frogmarch them to the tills, prowl the shop like a cougar book in hand and strike up false conversations. People aren’t stupid, they know you’re bothering them to try to sell them your book. DON’T DO IT!!! You’re not a secondhand car salesman or trying to hock some dodgy stuff from the back of a van. It’s tacky and unprofessional. You are a professional writer, an author, novelist, behave like one. If people are interested in your book, THEY WILL COME TO YOU! If they’re not interested, then shoving your book under their nose won’t get them buying it and again, will guarantee complaints against you and guarantee that you won’t be invited back! Respect your customers enough to let them CHOOSE what they want to buy. Hard sell NEVER works. Honestly ask yourself – when you’re quietly browsing in a bookshop, do YOU want a stranger sidling up to you? No.
  5. Don’t be late. I know I’m terrible at being late for things, but you really cannot be late for signings. If you say you’ll be there at a certain time, BE THERE! In fact, a good rule is simply to be 30 mins early (40 mins if you want), that way you can introduce yourself, see what space you’ll be working in and have time to set up without being too flushed and flustered.
  6. Don’t be too laid back. This is a big thing, someone has actually invited you to sign your book in their store. So be professional, be organised, know your route there, exactly where the shop is, where you’re going to be parking, exactly how long it takes to get there, what materials you need to take with you, etc., etc. Think of it like a job interview, at the beginning you’ll be as nervous as a job interview before you settle into it and start to enjoy yourself, but you need to look and act the part. Be yourself, but on a good day!
  7. Don’t be too pushy. Even when customers are interested and come to you, you still need to sell them your book, get them interested, hooked, in what makes your book special. But don’t be too pushy about it. It is a fine line, but there’s nothing more off-putting that a desperate person. So practice your spiel beforehand on your friends and family, anyone who will listen, so you can perfect how you’ll speak and deal with people.
  8. Don’t stand! This may sound weird to you, but if you don’t follow any of the advice above, FOLLOW THIS! I cannot tell you how important this is and just how many times bookshop staff have said to me that they like their authors to stay seated. It’s what bookshops and customers expect. SO SIT YOUR ASS DOWN! Actually a recent bookshop member of staff put it brilliantly, “People like to feel at ease. You have to make the customer feel in charge, in power, so they have to be taller than you. If you’re sitting down you’re more approachable, so more people will approach you.” Absolutely! It’s basic psychology 101, let the customer be in the position of power. Stay seated and let them come to you. You won’t look lazy, indifferent or too laid back, you’ll look like a professional. Since when did you ever see a major writer standing up to do a book signing? They don’t. They’re always seated. They’re not signing autographs outside of a football stadium or a film premiere, and neither are you. SIT DOWN! Octavia's Bookshop signing 2012

There, that’s about it! Some of the points may seem obvious but you’d be amazed how you forget everything. It’s easy to panic and forget your name when your first customer looms up. Just breathe, try to calm down, smile and be friendly. Don’t talk too fast and remember to sign your books properly. Even after doing quite a few signings, at a recent book fair and in the heat of the moment, I found myself signing my scribbling signature like I’d do for a cheque rather than actually writing my name! Duh! Remember too, that a lot of customers want their books dedicated/scribed to someone, rather than just having an author’s name.

Other than that, just make sure you have a good supply of reliable pens (black looks best), some clear acrylic book stands (not all bookshops will supply you with these so bring your own), water, a notepad, some good visual aids and of course your lovely books!

For more information on the mechanics of how it actually feels doing a book signing, check out my previous post: https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/book-signing-what-you-need-to-know-but-were-afraid-to-ask/

There you go! GOOD LUCK my friends and may the pen be with you! 😀 xxxx

SAM_5411

Etymology – What’s in a word? – Part II Creatures and Races

Here we are again, delving into the wondrous world of etymology and the derivation of words – a topic I adore, being the nerd that I am!

White Mountain full book jacket

Today, I’m focusing on the races and creatures of White Mountain and The Darkling Chronicles, and the roots behind their invention. Being a total geek for all things of an etymological nature, together with a love of ancient history, archaic cultures, geography, geology and world myths, I’ve used many of these elements in the creation of my races and creatures. Lol, I should also thank the marvellous Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase & Fable for being such an inspiration over the years!

(*My Dworllian language – actually a mixture of Maori, African Bantu & Ibo (Igbo) dialects, Old Norse, Old English, Celtic and Old Hindi).

Races:

Apart from humans, which feature more largely in Books 2 & 3, the main (‘elder’) race featured in White Mountain are Dworlls. Ǽllfrs are also an elder race but although remnants of their culture remain, there are no actual ǽllfrs in White Mountain, having left many millennia before in ‘The Great Exodus’**.

  • Dworlls – Ancient and proud race pre-dating humans. Protectors of nature and custodians of the great forests, jungles and grasslands. Highly skilled craft workers and inventors. Dworlls have broad stocky frames and are stouter than ǽllfrs, especially ‘ground dwelling’ dworlls, though still tall by human standards (average height 6ft). Pale to tanned skin, pale eyes, earth-toned hair, some elders of royal bloodline may have small forehead ridges at the hairline (males only). Dworlls are divided into two principal castes. The taller and more agile mountain dworlls prefer open and airier spaces to their stouter subterranean-loving cousins. These ground or earth dworlls are shorter and broader than their lofty relatives but older in history, heredity and lifespan and were always by far the more numerous of the two types. Dworlls built not merely with grand designs and architectural wonder but with expansion and population in mind. And so sprang the great dworll kingdoms and metropolises of which Kallorm was the first and greatest. Most of these resided underground as is the custom of dworlls but took the breath away in their sheer size and ingenuity.

(Dworlls* – related in myth to ‘dwarves’ or ‘dwarfs’. In derivation terms, to Old English ‘dweorg’ and Old Norse ‘dvergr’ relating to manlike creatures possessing magical powers.)

 

  • Ǽllfr (ǽllfr) – An ancient race of people pre-dating humans, prodigious intellect, great astronomers but fickle in nature and disinterested in the matters of others. These antediluvian beings were tall and sinuous (average height 7 – 8ft), yet broad in frame and with great strength and agility. Angular features with notably high cheekbones, dark skin and dark hair. The height of Ǽllfren society was some 500-340,000 (BC) years ago, whereby it steadily declined. With the advent of a growing human population, and intolerant of this lesser species, the first exoduses occurred. **The final great exodus coincided with the end of the last Ice Age and the boom in human populace, some 10,000 years ago. Very few ǽllfrs remained. Ǽllfrs built their small but grand cities, not merely amongst the heights of mountains, but on the plains and savannahs and even the deserts of the world. But among the great sand palaces and glistening crystal spires, the most spectacular of these cities were those oceanic pearls that perched on islands or cliff faces just above the sea, or those rare marvels that sparkled beneath it.

(Ǽllfr/ǽllfr* – referred in myth to ‘elf’s’ or ‘elves’. In derivation terms, ǽllfr – from Old English ‘ælf’ and Old Norse ‘elfr’. Also related to ‘alfarr’ ‘alfa’ – the Greek for alpha ‘first’ (first race) may have derived from this.)

 

  • Dwelf (dwelfr) – A mixed race person, the result of a rare union between an ǽllfr and dworll. Dwelfrs are taller than dworlls and have the high refined features and darker skin of their ǽllfr kin but with broader stockier frames from their Dworllian parentage.

(Dwelfr* – literally ‘dworll’ + ‘ǽllfr’.)

  • Mage (magus, magi) – Wizard (male witch), with supernatural powers and the ability to manipulate and control magic. Magus a Zoroastrian priest (of ancient Medes and Persia), a sorcerer or magician of ancient times.

(Mage – archaic word for magician/wizard from C14 ‘magus’. Magus – from Old Persian ‘magus’ and Greek ‘magos’. Also referenced in the story of Simon Magus, a sorcerer who tried to buy powers from the apostles in the time of Roman Emperor Nero. Wizard – (male witch) from C15 ‘wissard’ (‘wise’ + ‘ard’) and ‘wise man’/’wise men’ (magi).)

 

  • Wærloga – Old English word for warlock. Literally a man who practices black magic, witchcraft, a dark sorcerer.

(Wærloga – Wærloga or Wǣrloga meaning oath breaker from wær oath + loga liar, also ‘traitor, scoundrel, monster’, also ‘the Devil’, from wǣr ‘covenant’ and an element related to lēogan ‘belie, deny’. From its application to the Devil, the word was transferred in Middle English to a person in league with the Devil, and hence a warlock.)

 

  • Wicca(Wycca) – Witch (wych),one who practices magic (‘the old arts’), from Old English ‘wicca’.

 

Beasts/Creatures:

  • Fÿrren* – Dragon. A Dworllian and Ǽllfren colloquialism for any dragon, wyvern, wyrm or firedrake. Fÿrrens (dragons) also refer to themselves by this name. 2f366ac0ee796ef54fc6cbf42693205b[1]

(Fÿrren* – fÿr meaning ‘fire’ from Old English ‘fȳr’ and Old Norse ‘fūrr’ + en (suffix) from Old English ‘en’ related to Gothic ‘-eins’.)

 

  • Fÿrullfr* – Firewolf. An ancient demon of the old world, firewolves are gigantic beasts, bear-like in size with the tusks of a boar, sharpened fangs and red fiery eyes. A portent of evil they were greatly feared by both Dworllian and Ǽllfren societies for the relentless pursuit of their victims, their voracious appetite for flesh, destructiveness and their ability to breathe fire. Firewolves are bitter enemies of all dragons and are thought to have been the real culprits behind many ‘dragon attacks’ of old.2da19d0044f73e0c41500ddc0ca68907[1]

(Fÿrullfr* – fÿr meaning ‘fire’ + ullfr meaning ‘wolf’ similar to Old Norse ‘ulfr’. N’dirron – Another word for firewolf (fÿrullfr), or any ancient wolf demon known to breathe fire – related to ‘Andiron’ (firedog) from Old French ‘andier’.)

 

  • Naru’l’tarr* – A forest leopard (Amur leopard of Siberia, not to be confused with the Snow Leopards of the Himalayas and Hindi Kush).

(Naru’l’tarr* – Dworllian word naru meaning ‘forest’ or ‘wood’ + l’tarr Dworllian word meaning leopard (sometimes referred to as ‘silent walker’) related to Old French ‘lepart’ for leopard.)

 

  • Mokèlé-mbèmbé (Mokèllé-mbèmbé) – A giant feared lake monster of the jungles of central Africa, specifically the Congo basin around Lake Tele, near to Kallorm and the area that Wendya Undokki grew up. Thought to resemble a living a sauropod dinosaur it was first recounted in oral history tradition by the indigenous Ba’Aka forest people.

(Mokèlé-mbèmbé – ‘one who stops the flow of rivers’ in Lingala or Ngala language, an African Bantu language of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Republic of Congo.)

 

  • Tarpans (tarrpans*) – Often referred to as ‘tarrpa’s’ (Dworllian colloquialism). Ancient and beautiful breed of European wild horse common in prehistoric times (Equus caballus gomelini) but now extinct outside of Fendellin, that used to be widespread throughout Anatolia and the Russian steppes. Hardy animals, similar to the Przewalski’s horse or Dzungarian wild horses of Mongolia, with stiff bristly manes, no forelock’s and thick coats in winter which they moult in spring. However, tarpans have much longer legs making them excellent runners, often have a dorsal or shoulder stripe and have sturdy yet graceful frames akin to Arabian horse breeds. Horse studies 001 - Copy

(Tarpan – from Kirghiz Tatar language. Dworllian* equivalent ‘tarrpan’ or ‘tarrpas’ – double ‘rr’ (and ‘ll’) a feature of Dworllian language and delineated in pronunciation by rolling the ‘rr’ and elongating the ‘ll’.)

 

  • Wargols – Troll like creatures with facial tusks, broad shoulders, muscular arms, dark blueish skin (which gave rise to the term ‘night beasts’), heavy Neanderthal brows and crimson coloured inset eyes (with particularly good night vision). Wargols are evil servants of Morreck (M’Sorreck the Corruptor), enemies of all ancient races and humans, known for their limited intellect but viciousness and strength.

(Wargols* – Ancient Dworllian and Ǽllfren word derived from the creatures’ own thirst for war (often referred to as ‘gols’ for short). Possibly the derivation source for the word ‘gargoyle’ meaning a person or creature with a grotesque appearance, taken from C15 Old French ‘gargouille’.)

 

  • Gorrgos – A powerful, massive and very ancient subterranean beast of archaic times. Snake/Wyrm like in shape and with the capacity to change the colour of its skin. Often referred to as the ‘terror of the tunnels’, it dwells in the deep chambers and caverns of Kallorm’s catacombs and ‘undercity’.

(Gorrgos* – Dworllian word meaning ‘terrible beast’. Possibly the derivation source for the Greek word ‘gorgos’ meaning terrible, also used in relation to the Gorgons – Greek myth of three winged sisters with live snakes for hair.)

 

  • Oracle of the West – A malevolent and powerful creature capable of foreseeing the future (Oracle – Parrtea) – Any ancient and wise creature with prophetic powers to read the future. Usually powerful and often malevolent even dangerous beings. Some have magical and telepathic abilities allowing them to read the minds of their ‘visitors’ (especially the weak-minded) and alter the outcome of any advice or wisdom given. Originally there were nine great, powerful and feared Oracles scattered throughout the ancient world, most of which have since disappeared. Associated legend tells of stories of the Oracles eating their ‘seekers of knowledge’ (visitors) after helping them. As a result, such creatures were feared and given frequent human and animal sacrifices to protect those who sought them out or lived under the shadow of their lair.

(Oracle – from Old French and Latin ‘ōrāculum’ and ‘ōrāre’ meaning ‘to speak’.)

***

Lol, right I think I’ve bored you all silly, so I won’t go on and on any longer, but you get the idea!

Part III, the final part in this etymological series, will look at objects and the things that make up the world of White Mountain! 😀 xxx

https://sophieetallis.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/etymology-whats-in-a-word-part-i-places/

9781909845978[1]

 

White Mountain – The Movie!

 

 

To kick the New Year off, here is a bit of fun. As the final instalment of The Hobbit continues to play in cinemas and my own epic fantasy takes flight and hits Waterstones and Amazon, it got me thinking…

This is probably every author’s dream, to have their book fully realised and immortalised in film, but hopefully in an epic Lord of the Rings quality film and not an ill-conceived damp squib Dungeons and Dragons or Eragon cinematic outing!

So, for my flight of fantasy, here is my White Mountain – The Movie! (Are you listening filmmakers? Hey, a girl can dream!)

***

Director:

Peter Jackson made an awesome trilogy of films with LOTR but then made the Hobbits films…ah, disappointment, so no, he wouldn’t be my choice. For me, despite a few duds along his cinematic career, it really could only be one Director – a visionary filmmaker, director of my favourite all-time film, Blade Runner, not to mention Alien, Gladiator, Thelma & Louise, lol, even Kingdom of Heaven! The one and only Ridley Scott! This, is a director who puts the ‘epic’ in epic filmmaking and has to have about the best visual eye in the business! 😀

The Cast:

Mr. Marval Agyk – played by Christopher Plummer. Scruffy, eccentric, mercurial, warm hearted and a humanist, most unusual in mages of the ancient order. Intensely protective of those he loves but flawed, as too often he allows himself to be ruled by his heart over his head.

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Gralen – voiced by Rufus Sewell. Impulsive, rash, quick to anger and laughter, fiercely loyal, ruled by his stomach. Thought to be the last of his kind/bloodline, the last Eurasian dragon still in existence, he is as head strong as he is stubborn.

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Wendya Undokki – played by Gemma Arterton or Natalie Portman. Somewhat of a hermit. Distrusting of outsiders, humans and the modern world, fragile but capable of great strength, melancholic, conflicted. In many ways, a lost soul scarred by the tragedies of her past and fearful of the future.

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Korrun (of Koralan) – played by Henry Cavill. Angst-ridden, revenge driven, guilt laden, an outsider in every sense. A highly skilled warrior and tracker, he is a survivor, quick witted and suspicious of all. Impulsive, quick to make enemies and slow to make friends he is however, intensely loyal.

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King Dorrol (of Kallorm) – played by John Hurt. Wonderfully flamboyant but frail ruler of Kallorm. Warm hearted, jovial, intelligent but plagued by doubts for the future of his people and the decisions he has made.

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King Baillum (of Fendellin) – played by Alan Rickman. Distant, highly intelligent, cold, a warrior king in the classic sense who inspires loyalty rather than love from his people.

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Frell, son of Baillum – played by Emile Hirsch. Ruled by duty and blind obedience to his father, who he seeks approval from. A skilled fighter and captain, but plagued by self-doubt and mistakes from the past.

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Lord Tollam – played by Patrick Stewart. Jovial, strong, warm of heart. Wistful and keenly aware of everything around him, he is as perceptive as he is kind. Inspires devotion and love from his people and his son.

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Hallm, son of Tollam – played by Ben Barnes. Confident, self-assured captain, master of horses, devoted son. Known as much for his playful nature, as for his skills as a warrior. A cavalier character, he is very protective of his father.

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Lord Nerrus – played by Ciaran Hinds. Strong leader to his people, serious but capable of humour, albeit grim. Fiercely protective of his daughter who he adores, but scarred by past tragedies.

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Orrla, daughter of Nerrus – played by Felicity Jones. Courageous and skilled captain, beloved daughter and strong leader, she is keen to prove her abilities as a master of horses and warrior. Hides her feelings for Frell due to their positions and responsibilities.

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Lord Lorrin – played by Kenneth Cranham. Beleaguered Lord, a pessimist or realist he would say. Keenly aware of the decline of his people and the coming war to end all wars. Courageous and grim in equal measure, but fiercely loyal.

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Sedgewick – voiced by Ian McKellan. The great patriarch of the Fendellin dragons (fÿrrens), powerful, aged, kind. He is the beloved leader of his people and defender of Fendellin. Sworn enemy of Morreck and Varkul, his servant, who brutally killed Sedgewick’s son.

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Varkul – voiced by Jeremy Irons or Bryan Cranston possibly? (any suggestions?) Without redemption, Varkul is as powerful as he is cruel. Known as the ‘dragon killer’, this evil servant and devoted acolyte of Morreck, has been known to feed off his victims.

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Morreck/M’Sorreck ‘The Corruptor’ – The beautiful and charismatic villain of the book played by either Brad Pitt, Alexander Skarsgard or Michael Fassbender. The epitome of evil in every sense. Capable of corrupting the pure, ‘turning’ loyal subjects into crazed killers and brother against brother, Morreck craves absolute power and the ‘purification’ of the planet (the annihilation of the ‘plague of humanity’).

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***

A silly bit of fun, eh? 😀

So there you go…my dream movie cast! Next time, a gallery of film locations! 😀 xxx

To read the book BEFORE the movie, grab yourself a copy now!

UK Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/White-Mountain-The-Darkling-Chronicles/dp/1909845973/

US Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/White-Mountain-The-Darkling-Chronicles/dp/1909845973/

White Mountain full book jacket

Etymology – what’s in a word? Part I – Places.

Okay, I admit it, I’m a HUGE nerd and this particular post will probably only be of interest to me and about three other people on the planet! But I love etymology and the derivation of words.

This is particularly prevalent when it comes to places and place names.

I grew up learning that place names had a beauty and a power all themselves and that they weren’t just a string of random letters but actually meant something. Places had meanings. I spent my childhood in a small village named after a Saxon chief, Alwif, who came across the megalithic stones on the high hill above the village and named the settlement after himself and the largest stone, Alwif’s Stone, which later became Alves’town and then Alveston. Greenhill, just round the corner, was a green hill, Bodyce Orchard was named after the bodies supposedly buried there during the English Civil War (1642-1651). My tumbled down cottage (circa 1577) where I grew up dreaming of dragons and adventure, was on a wonderfully named road – Wolfridge Ride, named after the wolves that used to roam the area when it was forested hundreds of years before and the wolf pits that were dug to catch them along the high ridge.

Lol, I digress…but you understand my fascination with place names and the derivation of words, the inherent mystery and magic in them.

So, here I am lifting the curtain on my weird and wonderful world and some of the strange research I did for White Mountain and for the worldbuilding behind my Darkling Chronicles trilogy.

Despite White Mountain being an epic fantasy in the traditional ‘high fantasy’ sense, it is set now within our modern world, so in addition to my invented places I also wanted to include real places too, to ground the fantasy in reality and give the book an authentic feel for the reader.

I should state here, that having taught phonetics for the last 16years, I understand the basic structures of many Indo-European languages and syntax and so when I decided, like the true nerd that I am, to invent my own Dworllian language, I wanted to make sure that it actually worked…and yes it does!

(*My Dworllian language – actually a mixture of Maori, African Bantu & Ibo dialects, Old Norse, Old English, Celtic and Old Hindi).

Map of Fendellin (colour) (2)

The Locations of White Mountain:

  • The Arctic Tundra – location of Ïssätun*, the Ice City, high within the Arctic circle. An enormous hidden city made entirely of ice where all remaining elder tribes, dworlls and magic-casters etc., can meet, trade and gather news. A cross between a huge shopping mall, a bizarre and a covered market, full of haggling stalls, bridges and walkways, squares and forums for meeting…though it hides a dark secret.

(Ïssätun* – iss or issa meaning ‘ice’ in Old Norse + tun meaning ‘town’ in Old English and Old Norse = my Ïssätun, ‘Ice Town’)

  • The Siberian Boreal forest or ‘Taiga’ (snowforest) – location of the Grey Forest and Wendya Undokki’s home, within the magical Llrinaru* trees with their tree spirits or dryads. The boreal forest is the largest forest on earth and covers an enormous area, home to many indigenous tribes such as the Nenet, Chukchi and Evenki. Like the genus behind many ancient and Anglo-Saxon names, the Grey Forest is just that, literally a grey forest of larches, alder, spruce and ancient silver birch which appear grey when flecked with snow.

(Grey – grǣg in Old English. Llrinaru* trees or ‘The Elder Wood’ – llri meaning ‘old’ or ‘ancient’ in Dworllian + naru meaning ‘forest’ or ‘wood’)

  • The Alps (Alpes – Celtic derivation) – location of White Mountain (Mont Blanc), Mr. Agyk’s ancestral home and home of Gralen, the last Eurasian dragon in existence. (Although the real location which inspired White Mountain was actually Mount Cook ‘Aoraki’ in New Zealand during my epic four month backpacking trip there back in 1997/1998).

 

  • The Amazon – location of the ‘Oracle of the West’ (one of the nine oracles from the ancient world, which included the oracles at Delphi and Cumae) and its lair, deep within the Amazonian basin. From the aerial roots of the mangrove swamps on its Atlantic coast to the black ox-bow lakes that straddle its interior like giant boomerangs, the protagonists must follow a path deep into the heart of the jungle, past dangling lianas and bromeliads and the giant buttresses of its huge mahogany trees to a dark and dangerous power.

 

  • (Democratic Republic of Congo) Congolese Rainforest – location of the huge subterranean metropolis of Kallorm* known as ‘The City of Light’, largest and oldest of all Dworllian Kingdoms, known as Dwellum in Old Dworllish (similar to Sumerian cuneiform in its written language) and Silverden in the Ǽllfren tongue. Kallorm, with its three colossal underground mountains ‘The Three Pillars of Kallorm’ which support the ground above, was founded over 120,000 years ago but has been in steady decline since the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago when the human population exploded. Only the indigenous forest people, the Ba’Aka are aware of the city’s existence. Sapele and Iroko trees and hidden forest clearings called bai’s, dot the landscape and its red iron rich soils and the impatiens that blossom beneath the dappled canopy (bai’s were only recently discovered by Westerners, still hidden in the Congo’s mythic ‘heart of darkness’). Wendya Undokki grew up in the city as a child and used to play in these bai’s (open water meadows), before leaving for the Siberian north and the Grey Forest. 

(Undokki means ‘witch’ in African Bantu languages which is apt as Wendya is a witch!)

  • Himalayas – location of the hidden land of Fendellin*. Tibetan and Indian myths tell of a magical hidden land, lost in the Himalayas, called Shambhala. It was this Shambhala which inspired James Hilton’s 1933 novel Lost Horizon and the land of Shangri-La. Shambhala IS my Fendellin.

“Far East beyond heart’s lost desire

The birthplace of the eldest kin,

Through rising sun on wings of fire

Lies forgotten Fendellin.”

(Fendellin* – fen meaning a low-lying land, marshy or near watercourses from Old Norse ‘fen’ + dell meaning a hollow esp. wooded hollow from Old English ‘del’ or ‘delle’ = my Fendellin* rather simple and Anglo-Saxon in its meaning!)

  • Fendellin* – location of the mountain capital of Mund’harr* and the central plateau named after it. The capital, the Golden City, sometimes referred to as the Sky or Cloud City, sits at the top of Mund’harr, amongst its pinnacles.

(Mund’harr* – mund meaning ‘mound’ in Old English similar to munt meaning ‘mount’ in Old English + harr meaning ‘high’ in Dworllian and related to hār meaning ‘high’ in Old Norse.)

(The main river in Fendellin, ‘The Great Varuna River’ – Varuna from Hinduism, the ancient sky god, later the god of waters and rain-giver.)

(The Shudras, ‘The Silent Marshes’ – Shudras from the ancient Indian Vedas, the fourth varna from one of the sacred texts from the Rig Veda. Shudras was the lowest social class, also refers to swamps and the dark serpents who inhabit them.)

***

There…I think I’ve bored you all enough! But you get the idea.

Part II will look at myths and creatures – wargols, firewolves, oracles, fÿrrens (dragons), dworlls (dwarves), and the Gorrgos!

Below is a map of the world with White Mountain locations and the approximate routes taken to get there! 😀 xxx

White Mountain locations map with routes