Ever since I opened a copy of Tolkien's The Hobbit and unfolded the map I was hooked into fantasy. As a ten year-old, I vividly remember looking at the mountains and forests and could imagine stepping into Middle Earth and meeting his rich characters.
From an early age, I had drawn maps of imaginary worlds inhabited by strange races and creatures. I envisaged impassible mountain ranges, deep ravines, impenetrable forests, and marshes where the insects would eat you alive. And then ask, what creatures would live here? and how would this world shape them?
This is a great way to set up the scene for a story of fantasy and intrigued - so that is what I started to do in 2018 when I first dared to step into the shoes of a fantasy writer. My first stories were in the realm of sci-fi, dystopia and horror, but I'd always wanted to try my hand at fantasy... and return to drawing maps :0)
I finished the first draft of Song of Echoes, in mid 2019, then set about writing the second, Age of Shadows. I was going great guns until March 2020 when Covid-19 struck, and like many others, this completely wrecked my work (my day job of teaching The Alexander Technique, and therefore interrupted my writing routine.
Eventually, I managed to haul myself back into my imaginary world - after all, it was a welcome relief to the madness and soul-destroying 'Lockdowns'! I have all but finished the first draft of the second in the series, Age of Shadows, and hope to have it ready to go by September 2021.
So then I turned my attention to crafting a map of The Five Realms. I used to do a bit of drawing in my teens, and then tried doing portraits of our cats in my twenties. Then the children came along and put a stop to all that frivolous nonsense of enjoying your spare time (I kid, of course!)
So it required some practice to with the fine ink pens to create some of the features below. Yes, I know they could be better, but hey, I'm pretty please with the end result - see the full map here. You're welcome to download it if you're going to read the books - it will save flicking back and forth when you're immersed in the story (and I do hope you will be!)
Here are some of the places from my story.
I'll post more here shortly about the onerous task of naming characters, cities, lakes, rivers and mountains. Some jump straight out from the page, whereas others take weeks :0(
Song of Echoes will be published on the 5th July 2021.
I'm often asked where do I get my ideas for my stories... well, okay not that often, if at all, but I do ask myself that question. For The Never Dawn it's pretty obvious that Orwell's 1984 plays a major part in the concept. But sometimes it's things I've read or watched years before that leave an impression that re-surface to influence my stories.
One I'd forgotten was Fritz Lang's Metropolis. I must have watched it when I was in my mid-teens and it blew my mind, as they say. Lang's 1927 film was decades ahead of its time in both cinematography and story-telling. And if it couldn't get any better, one of the scenes that gave me the idea for Noah's daily shift at the factory, has been set to the music of Pink Floyd (another one of my favorites!)
The scene below is accompanied by Welcome to the Machine', from Pink Floyd's album Wish You Were Here.
Watch and enjoy.
You can find more information about Metropolis on IMBD - it scores 8.3. If you get chance I urge you to see it.
To date I've written five fiction, and three non-fiction books, and the one thing in common will all of them is coming up with the few words for the title! I always struggle and can take weeks (or even months) to find something appropriate.
I've made a promise to myself - next time I'll start with the title and then write the book.
But that didn't help with the three books of my dystopian trilogy. I did what most people do and googled 'how to choose a title for my book' and after trawling through a few websites found this very useful article on indiebooklauncher.com It had some great ideas on how to use the story, or pull out a specific element or essence of your story to find a title - I can thoroughly recommend it if you're in the same position.
For the first book, this was 'Mother's' promise of The New Dawn. This is when all the hard work that my hero and his colleagues have completed day-in, day-out for all their lives pays off. But as our hero discovers, they've been told a big lie and nothing is at it seems and so this promise New Dawn will never come.
So the title, The Never Dawn, came about. I know it doesn't actually make grammatical sense but I ran it passed a few of my readers and book reviewers, along with New Dawn, Dark Dawn and just Never Dawn, and lo and behold, everyone chose The Never Dawn saying it sounded intriguing.
Quite pleased with that one :0)
I finished the second book and was well into the third book but still hadn't got a title for the middle book of the trilogy. I even had the title for the last book before I finally settled on the second.
I went back to the article I mentioned above for the second in the series. In the story, things get very sticky for my hero, in fact, it gets very grim in parts, so much so that I had to re-write parts just in case it was too dark for a YA/NA reader.
The working title of 'Losing The Light' represented the hope drifting away from the main characters - but it didn't really grip my audience when tested. Then came the idea to bring the word 'cloud' into the title. This carries on with the dawn/ sky theme of the first, and it refers to the levels of Noah's world, that is, Cloud Levels. So I came up with 'Cloud Level Nine' - obviously playing on Cloud Nine and could relate to the location of one of the ominous elements of my story.
But while a few of my readers liked it, I wasn't 100% happy with it. For me, it sounded a little Star Trek. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the original and some of the films, but I didn't want my books to sounds like a trekkie book. Then driving home is my car I heard some one being interviewed on the news about a hot current topic, and without going into the details, I commented out loud, 'you're living in cloud cuckoo land if you think that will happen.'
And... there you have it. Ha! I didn't want the land bit, but 'Cloud Cuckoo' said exactly what I wanted it to say. Yes, it refers to an absurd or fantasy element, Cuckoo itself can mean mad, but it also relates to my hero and the situation he finds himself. I loved it, and the majority of my test audience did as well - well you can't please everyone.
As I said, I already had the third title that refers to the big change in the story and taking it outside the setup of the first two - I don't want to say more just in case you've not read them and wish to do so.
The first I went for 'At The Gates of Dawn' and realised this came from a Pink Floyd album from the 60s with the best title ever, 'Piper at The Gates of Dawn'. It's just so evocative and conjures up all sorts of images for me. Obviously I couldn't go for that so decided on 'The Gates of Dawn' to keep it simple.
So finally I'd stumbled on my three titles. And what a relief. Somehow, when the title finally comes along, suddenly the book seems very real 0:)
So to recap, the trilogy consists of
1. The Never Dawn
2. Cloud Cuckoo
3. The Gates of Dawn
And I have also kept a promise to myself. For my next project (a fantasy series) I have already come up with the title, 'Song of Echoes', so at least that's one less thing to be concerned about.
Got any good tips for titles? Please feel free to share them.