Tag Archives: travel

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #5 – Cities & Abbeys

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

I hope you’ll enjoy these views of Edinburgh & Glasgow, and the Borders abbeys of Melrose, Jedburgh, & Kelso. Each shaped Effie’s adventures in their own way, but to find out how, you will need to read on!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #4 – Scottish Highlands

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

Hear anyone say, “Scotland,” and almost instantly images of the Highlands come to mind. And for good reason. They are spectacular in ways that my photography skills cannot nearly do justice.

Here are a few images of the places that inspired my imagination, including some of Effie’s Glen Coe!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #3 – Scottish Writers

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

A trip to Edinburgh can’t be had without recognizing the amazing amount of influential writers who have lived within the city over the past 500 years. There is even a Writers’ Museum dedicated to some of its most famous inhabitants… not to mention the monuments and statues!

Sir Walter Scott’s influence on Scottish culture is hard to deny, and his home of Abbotsford is filled with the rich history of the man’s life. His books are everywhere in Edinburgh. The Scott Monument dominates Princes Street.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s childhood house on Heriot Row features quite a bit in A Fey Matter. After all, it is the home of Thomas Stevenson. But did you know that you can not only walk to it, but lodge in it as well? It’s a hotel and hosts private events!

Kenneth Grahame’s house is also now a hotel. I’ve enjoyed staying here a couple of times, and can recommend it. Its views of Edinburgh Castle and location can’t be beat!

For J.K. Rowling fans, check out The Elephant House cafe, where reportedly a large part of the first Harry Potter book was written. It has a long history of writers finding inspiration at its tables, and the views of the castle are spectacular!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #2 – Borders History

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is available for pre-order! As part of the release, I’m sharing some of the inspiration for the book’s events and places.

The Scottish Borders region is rife with history, and several of the places I’ve visited made it into BARROW WITCH, although not always in their original form. Without spoilers, here are:

  • The Hawick Mote, a hillfort within a town famous for its Tweed knitwear & an annual Common Riding meant to commemorate the defense of the town against Border Reivers
  • The medieval ruins of Roxburgh Castle, an auld stronghold at the junction of the rivers Tweed and Teviot
  • The Jedburgh Castle Jail, a Victorian jail built atop a medieval castle
  • The mysterious Rosslyn Chapel, where the Holy Grail is kept…?

Hope you enjoy reading about these tidbits as much as I did weaving them into Effie’s adventures!

BARROW WITCH Inspiration #1 – Walking the Scottish Borders

BARROW WITCH, book 3 of my Gaslamp Fantasy series, A Fey Matter, is now available for pre-order! In order to celebrate, I thought I’d share a little bit about the inspiration for the book.

A couple years ago, my wife and I walked the Borders Abbeys Way. Well, most of it…in parts. The point is, we walked a lot for several days! Along the way, we not only saw beautiful scenery, we explored the region’s incredible past, enjoyed its rich culture, and found quite a few spots that made it into the pages of BARROW WITCH. Here is a sampling!

Can you spot the tree where Thomas the Rhymer met the Queen of Elfland?

You can pre-order BARROW WITCH on Amazon! It comes out July 28th!

A Slice of the Author – Creating Setting

HWP_000It’s long been argued that all fictional characters contain some facet of the author. To what extent remains a debate, but what about setting? After all, in fantasy and science fiction, the where can be more important than the who or the what. Who is Robb Stark without the cold north of Westeros? Or Katniss Everdeen without Panem and the Hunger Games arena? But does that mean that without living through a Chicago winter, George R.R. Martin couldn’t have envisioned the lands beyond the Wall? Of course not. Yet it’s interesting that he has attributed the creation of his Wall to a trip to Hadrian’s Wall in England. His version is just a bit larger and colder.

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I have also hiked along Hadrian’s Wall. In fact, I have hiked it from start to finish—all 84 miles of it—and believe me, there is no end to the amount of stories to be found there. From the amazing views to the castles and fortresses, every mile is ripe with details fit for a story.

And I think that is where an author creates a setting. It’s by taking details of places they know and adjusting them to create something new. Whether it’s from something they’ve seen, watched, or read about, every scrap becomes a thread that can be rewoven into a new tapestry. Or to extend the common forest and tree metaphor, creating setting is like taking the trees you know and rearranging them into a forest of wonder that no one has ever yet beheld.

Garrett Calcaterra, author of the novel, Dreamwielder, has never lived in a labyrinth of ice caves, but he drew upon his experiences hiking around Lake Chelan, in the Cascades, and around Scotland. As he explains, “I got to experience Edinburgh and do a little spelunking in search of Sawney Beane’s secret lair. These experiences melded together with images I’d seen in documentaries about cliff dwelling indigenous tribes and the earth-shaping powers of glaciers. I came up with this sprawling ice cavern [for Dreamwielder] where an ancient race of humans built a city into the living rocks of the mountain and lived beneath the azure hue of the glacier above them.”

“The Dream Thief of Kuthahaar,” my story in the October 2012 issue of Bards & Sages Quarterly, grew in the telling, as the saying goes. Only in this case, the telling was of another story altogether, my first in the setting of the Immortal City of Kuthahaar, “The Kultar’s Lost Hand.” For that story I created a place with palaces and bazaars, a congested city teeming with guilds and a harsh ruling class, where the dregs of society found solace only below ground, in deep caverns the rich considered fit only for the dead.

But why Sultans and robes and sandals? Why not trousers and frock coats and timber-framed lodges? I didn’t set out to write an “Arabian themed” tale. In fact, I don’t consider the story Arabian at all. The idea for the story spawned from a movie I grew up with, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Yes, that one. Laugh or groan all you like, I was fourteen and it was the coolest thing ever, next to Willow. And it was the scene at the start of the film, where the thief has his hand lopped off that left an impression with me and started the story. I wondered: what did the man do afterward? Did all society shun him? Had he been a villain before? Or had he been respected, maybe even someone of importance? So the man grew a back story and a personality, and all the time the dwellings and clothes and scents and sounds around him stuck in shades of sandstone, with oils and incense covering the stench created by a glaring sun and too many poor toiling in crowded streets.

It wasn’t difficult to fill in the details. A trip to the local farmer’s market may not yield the same foods, but the feeling of congestion is the same. There are any number of candle and incense shops out there, and as for the desert, Southern California is a great stand in for hot and dry! And so each scene was filled in as I needed it, with details summoned from a wide range of memories. I just needed to pick and place them in a context that made sense for this new society.

As the details were drawn in, other stories sprouted from the nooks and crannies. “The Dream Thief of Kuthahaar,” began as I started to wonder who these Seers were who watched the city (a group of sorcerers mentioned briefly in the first story.) They worked for the Sultan, but how did he win their loyalty? If they had such power, why did they not use it for their own aims? As I wondered, not only did new characters spring up, but new parts of the city as well. A temple, parts of the Sultan’s palace, the lands about the city, all became a part of the setting as young Akil, the protagonist, wandered toward his destiny.

Other stories followed full of assassins and heroines, desperate men and cunning scoundrels. Hopefully, many more will come. All will be a fabrication, holding the merest slices of the author, scrambled and contorted, fried and blended, until the place exists only in the imagination.

For those interested, here is a link to the Hadrian’s Wall National Trail site: http://www.nationaltrail.co.uk/HadriansWall/index.asp.

This post originally appeared on Tales From the Sith Witch, the blog of Julie Ann Dawson.

Ahimsa Kerp Interview

I’ve posted an interview I did with Ahimsa Kerp, one of my co-authors from The Roads to Baldairn Motte, over on Realm Tramper. In addition to fiction writing, Ahimsa has written for numerous travel zines and has traveled to more countries in the past 24 months than many people get to in a lifetime.

You can read the interview here.

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