How cool are maps?

J R R Tolkein said: “Believable fairy-stories must be intensely practical. You must have a map, no matter how rough. Otherwise you wander all over the place. In The Lord of the Rings I never made anyone go farther than he could on a given day.” I loved following the adventures in the maps, and the artist helped give atmosphere to the story.

I feel very lucky to have an artist as clever as Sam Broad to do the cover and maps for each of the Tales of Fontania. He has an amazing sense of fun and drama. I don’t think he could do a boring picture no matter how hard to tried. His illustrations almost zoom off the page with energy. The other thing I really like is how he adds his own details to the basic ideas.

The Volume of Possible Endings is in five parts and each one is headed by an illustration. The one on page 158 is a fabulous raven soldier. See how his foot rests on the toadstool. See the feather dropping off his hunky arm. And take a look at the can of army rations on p 98. It’s disgusting. I love it.

The inside covers of The Volume of Possible Endings have a map of Owl Town where most of the action takes place. While I’m drafting a novel, I have to do maps myself to make sure I’m sending the characters in the right directions. I’m very grateful that Sam can look at my scrappy scribbles and turn them into versions that are so much fun and – well, I’ve already said clever. But when it’s about Sam Broad, it is worth saying clever at least twice.

Check out more of his work on his website.

Off on its own

This week, the Third Tale of Fontania, The Volume of Possible Endings was published in NZ and Australia at least  I think it’s out in Australia on the same date). I’ve been edgy – excited – happy and nervous – and I’ve decided it’s kind’a like sending your child to school for the first time. It’s what you’ve been heading for since the child was born. Your child has to go. He or she has to start making their own way in the world. But you are anxious for them. All you can do it cross your fingers, close your eyes tight and hope for the best.

It made me think of my own first day at school, Kelburn Normal Primary, Wellington. I remember my mum had put a hard-boiled egg in my lunch-box. I peeled it and dropped the pieces of shell on the ground. I’m sure I wouldn’t have been allowed to drop stuff on the ground at home. Anyway two older girls told me rather bossily that wasn’t the right thing to do, and I must put the rubbish into the bin. Did I pick it up? I’ve no idea but I remember being a bit annoyed that nobody had told me the rules earlier. Possibly I just walked away in a five-year old’s huff.

Here’s a link to a page from Around the Bookshops, one of my favourite blogs for children’s books. It contains one of the first reviews. There’s a photo of me rather happier (and older) than during the boiled egg incident.







What have I been up to? Plus a writing tip for young authors.

Without even leaving my study, I’ve been up to plenty. In February I finished the editing and final proof-reading of The Volume of Possible Endings, the Third Tale of Fontania. It should be in shops in NZ and Australia in a few weeks, the UK and US early next year. Here are two links:  
The Volume of Possible Endings (Gecko Press)

 Random House the distributor


And since October last year I’ve also been writing the Fourth Tale of Fontania. It’s another stand-alone book though it does wrap up some things that have been lurking in the margins of the first three.  

I wanted to complete it by this week. About three months ago  I had to tell my lovely family and friends, ‘No phone calls. No coffees. No hanging out till I have done the job and that means weekdays and weekends.’  Some of them screamed, bless them. But they all  understand how important it is for someone to focus hard on what they’re doing.

So, my nose has been over my keyboard. There I’ve had wild adventures, being attacked by monsters and discovering villains, all in the company of three of the toughest children I’ve ever met in the world of Fontania.

Okay, here is the writing tip.  If you’re writing  a scene and you suspect it’s a bit boring, ask yourself how the main character feels at the start of the piece, and make sure he or she is in a different frame of mind at the end. Try to make a character move from one mood to something better, or something worse. Those changes in emotion help to give a story pace.