I love having this blog where Eric and I can take you behind the scenes for a little peek into the inspiration for our books. We must be careful, however, not to reveal too much and give out any spoilers! We don't want to ruin any of the surprises.
With that in mind, one of my favorite minor characters whom you'll meet in RISE OF ALLIES, Part I, is Constanzio, King of the Tenors! It is actually very rare that we would take inspiration directly from a real person, but when I saw this classic clip of the late, great Luciano Pavarotti, I knew we had our opera ghost.
Since the arts play such a prominent role in this book, it seemed like the perfect chance to pay a humble fictional tribute to one of the greatest musical artists of the last century. Enjoy this brief clip of the larger-than-life Pavarotti ~ or maybe, like Jake, you're just seeing a ghost!
Amazing voice aside, I love his crazy facial expressions and contagious smile. I can see why millions around the world hailed Pavarotti as the rightful owner of the title, king of the tenors! But did you know that Pavarotti was actually an elementary school teacher for two years before becoming a worldwide star? Can you imagine having him as a teacher?? Now that would be a fun day at school!
La Donna e Mobile ~ from "Rigoletto" (1851) by Guiseppi Verdi
Everybody's heard this classical song in commercials, but what does it mean? Now you know!
(Translation from www.classicalmusic.about.com)
To watch an excellent mini-biography video of Luciano Pavarotti, click here.
Much of the story in our new book, THE DARK PORTAL, takes place underground. This was a challenge in a number of ways. But unlike Jake with his mild case of claustrophobia, we LOVE going into caves and underground tunnels, so you can imagine how thrilled and inspired we were to find an outdoor adventure company in Snowdonia, right where THE DARK PORTAL takes place. These folks are not dwarves, but they do take people on underground tours of old Welsh mines!
If you want to get the flavor of what Jake's mine tour with the dwarves and his foray into the coalmine would have felt like, run-don't-walk your clicker over to the website of Go Below Underground Adventures and check out the dramatic pictures. If you live in or near Wales, you should go! We'll be jealous.
But lest you think that's all we have for you today, nay nay! Here is a video by Paul Hawkins of his explorations around an abandoned goldmine in North Wales. Very mysterious! I'd also call your attention to the very lush, green, and mossy woodland setting. Magic in those woods for sure. :)
But wait, there's more. We wouldn't leave you hanging. You want to see inside! Well, Emrys was busy at Waterfall Village, so we brought in these guys to lead you on a tour into a different abandoned gold mine in Wales. (Video copyright credit @ A n00b Production.)
Well, after all that traipsing around in the cold and damp, I'm sure you're ready for some of Snowdrop Fingle's warm bannocks and tea. No problem! I've got an authentic Welsh recipe for bannocks that I will share with you in an upcoming post. :)
And now, here's a special little treat for you, because I know our readers love strange, weird, and wonderful things. A little old-timey horror music on the theremin, originally known as the Aetherphone. Here's the inventor explaining it. He starts playing your classic haunted house spooky music 15 seconds in so be patient. You'll laugh! Until next time...
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.)