Today I am joined by special guest, Mischief, favorite gargoyle of Garnock the Sorcerer. Thanks to a special translation spell that I found in the Enchanted Library at Beacon House, I should be able to understand him long enough to ask a few questions about what it's like being a gargoyle.
Inquiring minds want to know.
G: So, Mischief, how did you first come to be?
M: So glad you asked so I could take the chance to clear up some silly misconceptions about our kind. Actually, you see, it is not well known, but most gargoyles hatch from an egg in the underworld, where it's nice and warm, like an incubator.
G: An egg??
M: It's true. You must be confused if you doubt me. I understand there is some sort of myth going around that gargoyles were originally sculpted by medieval stone masons to serve as water spouts, made to carry the rainwater away from the walls of the great cathedrals so they would not be harmed by erosion, and last for many, many centuries. Nothing but a glorified water spout! How insulting. It may be true of some, but certainly not of the better class of gargoyles, such as those of us to be chosen to become the familiars of a powerful sorcerer.
G: Indeed. What exactly do your duties as a familiar entail?
M: Oh, mostly odd jobs. Appear when you're summoned. Fetch the items he needs to make a potion. Spy on persons of interest for him. Harass enemies. That sort of thing.
G: You're very good at harassment, aren't you?
M: I like to think so. :)
With that, our special guest, obviously bored, flies away to go cause trouble elsewhere. Which is just is well, because the translation spell has just fizzled out! Until next time. ;)
If you're reading THE DARK PORTAL, you may have come across a mention of "The Souling Song." If you haven't got to that part yet, you soon will! We thought you might like to hear what it sounds like. All story ghosts aside, E and I both find this song incredibly haunting. Below the audio is an old Victorian photo of some of the kinds of real, historical poor children who might have had to sing for a few pennies to buy something to eat. In this case, these were coalmine child workers.
To learn more about how life was for them, click the picture. It will take you to an article from the UK Daily Mail, by Annabel Venning, which discusses a recent scholarly book entitled Childhood And Child Labour In The British Industrial Revolution, by Professor Jane Humphries. Unfortunately, if you think that child labor - virtually child slavery - is the relic of a bygone age, brace yourself and click this grim infographic from the US Dept of Labor, which we came across in our research. It shows the prevalence of child labor in poor countries today. Chilling. (Once you open it, it will enlarge if you click on it.)
Greetings, my gargoyles! Today we're kicking off our Story Extras with a little Behind-the-Scenes about our new release, The Gryphon Chronicles, Book Three: THE DARK PORTAL, and where better to start than by taking a look at the setting?
So how do a pair of American writers end up writing a fantasy novel set in Wales? Well, that's easy. First of all Wales is just plain cool. Just ask Dr. Who. He returns to the Welsh city of Cardiff all the time. And if you don't think the bow-tie wearing Time Lord is really all that cool, then A) What's wrong with you, and B) Just look at their country's flag, the Red Dragon. Seriously cool.
But more importantly, using Wales as a setting was inevitable when you consider the fact that one half of E.G. Foley (ahem, that would be G) was OBSESSED as a kid with reading the great Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander (who was also an American, despite his Welsh name) over and over and over again.
G: Yes, the summer between fourth and fifth grade my family moved to a new state (from PA to New Jersey) and I was pretty devastated to leave my friends and grandparents and cousins behind. At our new home, I didn't know anybody, I didn't like it, and I did not know what to do with myself. In such situations, books can always come to a kid's rescue. I re-read Taran of Caer Dallben's whole saga five or six times in that summer, taking breaks only to try during that loooong summer to train my dog to do Dog Agility tricks, but she really wasn't into it. At all. LOL. So I just went back to reading.
So, Wales was always a draw, and as I started researching it, I grew all the more intrigued. I thought I would just show you a little of what I found so you can see it for yourself and perhaps picture Jake's next adventure better in your imagination.
First of all, you do know, right, that Wales is, um, attached to England. If you didn't know that, you might want to duck before "Old Sack," the headmaster ghost, whacks you in the noggin with an eraser from all the way up at the chalkboard. Wales is the dark greeny bit on the map below.
Jake's Welsh estate of Plas-y-Fforest is in the northern half of the country, in the mountains of Snowdonia. Nowadays, people flock to Snowdonia National Park to go hiking and camping, birdwatching, fishing, and communing with nature. Isn't it magnificent? Click here for more pictures and info about the region.
Moving on, when you read the book, you'll notice that the kids visit the town of Llanberis. So why don't we go visit it, too? Let's take the train. :)
Now make sure you realize that when you're looking at the video of these lovely woods through which the train winds, don't forget, there are probably pixies living in the trees. Just sayin'.
Now then, as you noticed in these pix and vids, there are all sorts of mountains in Snowdonia. In a future blog, we're going to looks at what's UNDER them. You are gonna love it.
Before I wrap this up, I must mention one of the most remarkable aspects of Wales and that is of course it's unusual place names. Wales boasts having the longest name of any village in the world. Behold: Here's the full name and below it, a little audio player so you can hear it the name is pronounced. (Hopefully the audio will work.)
If you find yourself as charmed as we are by Wales and want to enjoy it more (short of a holiday there, like Jake and friends!) then you should look for this Hugh Grant movie of a few years ago, set in Wales. Really cute! I believe at one point in the story he is as puzzled by the Welsh place names as I am!
And finally, because we know our readers are smart and like learning new things, here's a friendly Welsh fellow called Jason Shepherd who will teach us all how to say hello and goodbye in Welsh.
Well, my friends, Da Bo! Until next time. Please visit again for more Story Extras about THE DARK PORTAL! Hope you enjoy the story. xo, G. and E. too :)
Wowee! Want to get a little taste of what it must be like for Jake to take a ride on Red up into the sky? Check this out! Somebody strapped a tiny camera on a real live eagle. Ok, it's not a gryphon, for real, but you've got the eagle head there! You just have to use your imagination. I can't believe how smoothly the eagle flies. Amazing!!! Enjoy ~ G. :)