Elspeth Cooper

Purveyor of fine fantasy adventures

Tag: The Wild Hunt (Page 1 of 2)

Where in the world . . . ?

Excerpt from original map. . . or why The Wild Hunt doesn’t have a map.

Pick up a fantasy book and you’re almost guaranteed to find a map somewhere upon its person: tucked in behind the flyleaf, gorgeously painted on the endpapers (Wheel of Time hardbacks, anyone?) or even as the outer jacket itself, like those splendid Joe Abercrombie ones.

The map seems to be an accepted – indeed expected – part of the fantasy furniture. Secondary world = must have a map (con-lang pronunciation guide, glossary and cast of characters optional). Some readers even feel faintly cheated if there isn’t one: a dimension to their immersion is missing.

I can completely understand this. Beyond being a visual treat, the map can be useful. In a military fantasy, where battlefield positions and objectives are fundamental to the drama unfolding on the page, it helps to see them laid out. Likewise in books that involve lots of travelling or a desperate race to reach Point X before the bad guys do, it’s fun to follow along on the map. Or maybe the plot revolves around small, peaceful Country Y which shares a border with the vast, acquisitive Evil Empire Z, and the map provides a graphic reminder of the stakes at play. There’s a reason the internet loves infographics so much: a picture really does paint a thousand words.

As for me, I love maps, especially old ones. Topographical maps, ancient place names and the roads that connect them, all these pieces of history under our feet – they have a thousand stories in them. Maps are like a seed catalogue for a storyteller and a worldbuilder like me, who’s a ‘gardener’ writer. I found out the other day that the Ordnance Survey people actually make a Map of Roman Britain, and I want a copy just because Maps! Romans! Awesome!

So it should be fairly obvious that I also love a good fantasy map. These days I’m not so fussed on the ones that appear geologically unlikely, or have only a few scattered settlements separated by large amounts of empty space in which nothing apparently exists but some plot-significant ruins. I prefer maps that show me a living world, one with navigable rivers and sea-ports for trade, a decent highway system, mixed population densities and variable terrain. A world that looks as though it ought to function reasonably well as a place in its own right, utterly independently of the story.

Another extract from the original mapBut what if the action in our fantasy story happens largely in one place, or the travelogue parts of the story are covered in summary rather than exhaustive detail? What if, at that point, the rest of the landscape is just *there*, in the background, doing nothing but keeping two oceans apart and stopping the mountains falling on your head? Does the book really need a map then?

When Songs of the Earth was about to be published, my editor at the time, Jo Fletcher, asked me if there was a map to accompany it. I explained that I’d drawn one mumblety years ago, before the Great Rewrite of 2004 destroyed the geography of the southern and eastern parts of the Empire [note, not Evil Empire Z above] thus rendering the map horribly inaccurate. Besides, it was a whimsical sketch, not to scale, and unrealistically constrained to fit a sheet of A4 paper as that was all I had at the time.

“Anyway, I’m not sure it really needs a map,” I said. “The story starts in the Holy City then fairly briskly moves to the Western Isles, and I’ve skipped over the dull travelling parts.”

Jo was cool with that, and then she left my publisher to start her own imprint. By the time me and my new editor all got in the groove and the question of maps came up again, it was too late to get one drawn up and in place whilst still keeping to the publishing schedule. Never mind, I thought, we can always do one later.

youarehere2Now here we are, three books down, and there’s still no map. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had to field an increasing number of questions in email, on forums and in interviews why this is so. This post is an attempt to answer them. Short version: it’s my fault.

After I decided that the first book didn’t need a map, it wasn’t until much, much later that it dawned on me that the *series as a whole* kinda did. I’d got tunnel vision with Book 2, and of course it was all perfectly clear to me where everything was, so not having a map isn’t that big a deal . . . Yeah. Right.

Now I could just say I’m the writer, it was my decision, so tough bananas, you’re stuck with it, but that sounds rather high-handed. The truth is I was concentrating so hard on writing the story that I lost sight of the fact that many readers like to see where said story is actually happening. I forgot that I’ve been noodling around this Empire place for twenty years, and you all only got here five minutes ago. It’s sort of my duty to make sure you don’t get lost on your way to the Plains of Nothing But Plot-Significant Ruins.

So, I’m sorry. I hope we can still be friends.

Nothing would please me more than to dust off the old Rotring pen and draw a new map (on a bigger sheet of paper!), or invest in some mapping software to play with, but I would probably enjoy that far too much. As some of you might have noticed, I am desperately behind on Book 4. THE DRAGON HOUSE has to be my priority just now, or my editor will glare at me, and I really don’t want that. She has range weapons, you know. She can pick me off from *anywhere*.

Nonetheless it bothers me that I don’t have a proper map to show you the world in which The Wild Hunt Quartet takes place. It bothers me so much that just as soon as I can, I am going to put some effort into making sure there will be a map (and a pronunciation guide, a gazetteer, a glossary, some deleted scenes and a list of characters) even if I have to make a special website on which to put it.

You can hold me to that.

 

A taster of The Wild Hunt series

It’s always tough for a new author to get traction in the marketplace and make a connection with new readers, and really, all we want is to be read. It’s why we do what we do.

I’m on my third book now, which means I’m not exactly the new kid on the block any more, but I am still enough of a novice in the publishing world that I have to work at getting the word out. I blog, I tweet, I give away dozens of books here Restaurant table being set upand on Goodreads – sometimes I feel like I am single-handedly keeping our tiny local sub-post office in business.

Yet each time I run a giveaway to promote a new release, especially now that we’re into the meat of the series, I get feedback along the lines of “I’ve never heard of you” or “I’ve never read any of your work”.

So I had an idea.

If people have never read any of my work, I should give them some to read. A tasting menu, if you will, of The Wild Hunt.

Step this way, messieurs et mesdames – your table is ready.

To start, a little Songs of the Earth: Chapter 1 | 2 | 3

Then to follow, Trinity Rising: Chapter 1 | 2 | 3

And don’t forget to leave some room for The Raven’s Shadow: Chapter 1 | 2 | 3

Bon appetit!

Image courtesy freedigitalphotos.net

 

The Raven’s Shadow – giveaway!

Cover of The Raven's Shadow***This giveaway is now closed!***

Ooh, a new book . . .

As you may know, this coming Thursday, 15th August, sees the publication of THE RAVEN’S SHADOW in the UK, and shortly thereafter in Australia and New Zealand.

This is the third volume of The Wild Hunt series, and things are heating up. Gair’s back on the mainland with a mission to fulfill. Teia is struggling through the mountain snow, desperate to reach safety before her child is born. As the moons move inexorably towards their conjunction and Ytha’s war band levels its spears at the Empire itself, deception and tragedy await. Actions have consequences, and not all of them can be foreseen.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just a-quiver with excitement.

 

And look! There’s free stuff!

Because I am immensely proud of this book, and y’all are the nicest bunch of readers, I am also giving away some signed copies of the Gollancz edition. These very ones, in fact:

Hardbacks to give away

5 signed, personalised hardbacks, delivered worldwide

To be in with a chance of winning, all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before midnight UK time on 29th August to go into the draw. On the 30th I will select five winners’ names at random.

In the light of the last giveaway, I do have a few things I want to point out. Please note, the Rules of Engagement:

Rules of Engagement

  • One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be discarded.
  • Winners’ names will be drawn at random, using a random-number generator. Randomly.
  • If you leave a comment and it doesn’t appear straight away, that’s because I have to manually authorise comments from email addresses the site doesn’t recognise. It’s nothing personal, I’ve just had all the fake Rolexes, NFL jerseys and Louis Vuitton knock-offs I can stand. Sorry.
  • Only comments on this post are eligible. Please don’t ask to be entered via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit or by email because this needs to be fair and simple to administer.
  • Please leave a valid email address or I won’t be able to get in touch with you to tell you you’ve won. Make sure it’s an email address you actually check more than once in a blue moon, because if you win and I email you and you don’t respond to said email within a reasonable time (say seven days) I will give the book to someone else.
  • The dedication doesn’t have to be to you. It can be your sister, mother-in-law, boss or pet rat – I really don’t mind. I will even post it to another address, if it’s a present for someone. Just don’t ask for gift-wrap as well, because do I look like Amazon to you? Sheesh.
  • Yes, I really will ship worldwide. That includes Chile, Burkina Faso and PO boxes on little islands off the coast of Australia. Neither rain, nor snow, nor glom of nit can stay my messengers about their duty.

All clear? Right, off you go then – and good luck!

 

The Raven’s Shadow: cover launch

The Raven's Shadow final cover artMy lords, gentlepersons and other sentient beings, I give you THE RAVEN’S SHADOW, Book 3 of The Wild Hunt.

This will be arriving on your bookstore shelves on August 15th, in hardcover and trade paperback, so get your pre-orders in, if you haven’t already.

The artwork is once again by Dominic Harman, and continues the book-covers-that-look-like-books theme. Click the image for a larger version. Striking, isn’t it?

Now, you all remember where we left things at the end of TRINITY RISING, yes? Teia struggling through the mountains to avert a disaster only she can see? Gair in mortal peril in El Maqqam? Splendid.

In this book we return to the mainland as the Nimrothi war band advances southwards through the Archen Mountains, bent on reclaiming their ancient homeland with the help of Maegern the Raven, Keeper of the Dead. Under a trinity moon, battle will be joined. Ytha and her war band, forty thousand strong, versus a scant legion of imperial infantry, a handful of Arennorian clansmen, and one damaged gaeden with nothing left to lose.

Places, everyone. And . . . action!

 

In conversation with Helen Lowe (plus giveaway)

Helen Lowe author pic

DGLA winner Helen Lowe

There’s an interview with me over on Helen Lowe’s blog. I had enormous fun chatting with her, on subjects as varied as story structure, having a soft spot for old-fashioned heroes, and my downright unhealthy love for edged weapons.

There’s also some (spoiler-free) hints about what you can expect in Book 3 of the Wild Hunt, The Raven’s Shadow. Click here to read.

For those of you who don’t know, Helen is the author of the Wall of Night series, the first book of which, Heir of Night, pipped yours truly’s Songs of the Earth to the 2012 David Gemmell Legend Award ‘Morningstar’ for best debut.

Look! Free stuff!

Helen has also generously hosted a giveaway alongside the interview. Just leave a comment on her post to go into the draw to win signed, personalised copies of Songs of the Earth and Trinity RIsing (UK trade paperback). Open worldwide; details on Helen’s post.

Free books. What’s not to love?

 

 

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