Friday, April 30, 2010

There are people who want to cut down Temenggor

There are people who think this place is just a bank for making money out of logs.

This film was taken by a good friend of mine, Chan Kai Soon, in the Temenggor Forest Reserve.

If you think this is worth saving, then sign our petition here.

Temenggor is in Perak state, Malaysia, and holds 10 species of hornbills...and a great deal more, including tigers...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An Australian went up a mountain...

Yesterday daughter and I walked up the mountain/hill that was the inspiration for this book/film. (Actually the film was not filmed here!)

We begin by having lunch at the inn at the foot of Garth Hill, then start on the 8km walk...
The view gets better and better as we climb. Alas, though, the British countryside is being eaten up by housing and development.

Above: view down the Taff valley to Cardiff and the Bristol Channel. Could even see Devon from the top...
Below: on top
Below: if you look hard you can see a black dot in the foreground of the photo below - that's the car parked next to a wall, where we started.
Below: the cairn on top, the Bristol Channel in the distance

Monday, April 26, 2010

Publication date for Stormlord Rising


Publication dates for book 2:

USA: August 1st 2010
UK November 4th 2010
Australia: Voyager edition already available

Here's the real US and UK cover of Stormlord Rising ( no matter what Amazon might try to tell you.) There may be some small design differences between the two countries but basically this is it. A Lovely, lovely cover done by artist Steve Stone, and designed by Peter Cotton, for Orbit editions.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

More inspiration from St Fagan's

Look at this old farmhouse above. The next two photos are the same place. What impressed itself on me most about these early farms: how dark they were inside.

It was a toss up - you couldn't afford glass, yet you needed light. If you made the windows too large then you were going to be darned cold in winter, and possibly wet as well, unless you had tight shutters of some kind.
As you can see, this was a bright spring day, but inside these homes it was dark. Blessed if I know how they could see to do the cooking, let alone anything else. And presumably, if you couldn't afford glass, you probably couldn't afford much in the line of candles or lamp oil either.
Above is a pigsty. Why is it round? Apparently because pigs tend to dig themselves out of styes that have corners. True or farm legend? I suspect it might be because a round one is easier to roof!
If you have plenty of slate - as you did in parts of Wales - then you used it, even in the most humble of farm buildings. Those huge posts? Blocks of slate! Tiles - slate too.
That pink flowering stuff above is heather. The shed is to store the peat for fuel.
The farmhouse above had a single large entrance. To the left was the barn for the animals, and to the right, the living quarters for the family. So you could be both dark - and smelly! The house was rebuilt in the early 1730s, and had room for 12 cows...
Above: a woollen mill, still operating.
Another kind of barn with walls woven from split wood.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fantasy fiction and fact: research is fun.

One thing I work hard at with my fiction, is making my worlds believable. And one way to do that is to think hard about how it all fits together. Practical research helps - looking at the reality of pre-industrial societies, for example, and finding little snippets of information in odd paces.
The other day we went to St Fagan's National Park, which is just a couple of miles down the road. It's an open-air museum, which includes a working farm, a manor house (above, basically a 16th century home that was inhabited and refurbished over the years, well into the 20th century), and numerous buildings moved from their previous sites and re-erected in the grounds. Many thanks to Cheryl Morgan for suggesting this destination. We had a lovely day poking about.

Note the pinkish building above - odd sort of colour for a farmhouse. Apparently, it was a mark of wealth to be able to afford to add colour to the whitewash, so this was one way a farming family could tell everyone how prosperous they were. Nowadays you'd upgrade your digital bling or your car...?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Still more from the Gower Reserve

Above: Spring gorse
Above: Note the climbers. Needless to say I didn't get down to the beach by that route.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Proof the planes are flying...

Today we went to a nearby open-air museum at St Fagan's, just 2 miles or so from where I am staying in Cardiff, and here are a couple of photos to show that yes, the planes are already doing well in British skies.

I actually could have flown out to day. Trouble is, when I discovered there was a spare seat on today's Sri Lanka Air first flight out, it was already too late for me to get to the airport. So I guess I will have to settle for the flight I had already booked to replace the cancelled one - on the 29th. Earliest one possible...

Never mind, thanks to reciprocal agreements with UK, I have obtained more blood pressure medication free of charge, and I have a place to stay with my daughter, so all is well. All I have to worry about is that the Icelandic volcano's sister doesn't decide to blow its top next week...

And the above photo was sunset night before last, taken from the lounge room window. Would that be ash in the sky producing a lovely sunset? Hmm.

Walking in Gower National Reserve, Wales

Still in Cardiff. Weather still magnificent. Britain's bad weather is all a myth...
These are the slopes my knees survived. We climbed down to the beach and back again...

I am also doing a bit of writing. Really. I swear.
So who says the volcano was all bad? Not me....

Monday, April 19, 2010

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Some more from our day in Bristol with Cheryl.
Above and below: part of the university buildings next to the bridge.
The bridge spans the Avon Gorge.

There's an interesting story about the bridge - Telford was supposed to judge the competition, and rejected all the entries, submitting one of his own instead. This ploy was not popular and in the end the project was offered, after another competition, to a 24 year old man called Brunel ...a name now pretty much as well known as Telford.
It was his first major construction, started in 1831. However it wasn't finished until after his death many years later - for political and financial reasons.

A Walk through Bristol

Daughter and I were lucky to have Cheryl Morgan to guide us through the historical and market delights of Bristol, which made all the difference.
Above: You are never far from the water in Bristol - once one of the great ports of Europe, with some unpleasant ties to the slave trade.
Below: The city is full of little corners of architectural gems from the past.

Below: what about the delightfully camp guys on the church clocktower?