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Picturing a World

Jackie Morris: Gently Falling Snow

Mysterious, lovely pictures originally created as Christmas cards to support a musicians' charity, then published in book form with stories to go with them? An invitation to readers to explore further by making up their own tales? —How could I resist?!? I bought a copy and plan to savor it slowly.
For a quick look to stimulate your imagination, spend a minute with the publisher's trailer. And don't miss Jackie Morris's own blog post about making The Quiet Music of Gently Falling Snow. It shows an early sketch of the title picture and reminds all creative people how daily life and doubts accompany achievement.

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In Philip Pullman's new novel, The Secret Commonwealth, while on board a train, our heroine Lyra Silvertonguewatches an old man use a pack of pictorial cards to tell a story to a little boy. After a while, he tells the child to draw a card from the pack. "As before, the picture seamlessly continued the landscape of the previous one, and Lyra saw that the whole pack must be like that, and it must be possible to put them together in an uncountable number of ways" (p. 534). What a wonderful device! I thought when I read the passage. Had Pullman made it up? No: he names that kind of card pack on the next page: MYRIORAMA. Read More 

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Jennings and Jones

Blog post tip: Kathleen Jennings is one of my favorite illustrators working today and the late Diana Wynne Jones one of my favorite authors. Lovely to learn that Jennings has designed the cover for an Israeli edition of Jones's Power of Three. Check out Jennings' post for her preliminary sketches—it's always interesting to see how artists work.

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Anglo-Saxon buildings

Deep immersion in the concrete details of everyday life is key to imagining past or fantasy worlds convincingly, so it is always a pleasure to find a well-written book that provides copious particulars about traditional technologies. Right now, I'm reading John Blair's Building Anglo-Saxon England, which draws on archeology, linguistics, economics, and other disciplines to examine Anglo-Saxon buildings, settlements, trade, and other aspects of the built environment in England between A.D. 600 and 1100. Pointing out that much of Anglo-Saxon construction was wooden and therefore has left few traces, Blair explores the ways scholars have come at questions sideways by analogies to living practices or through clever deductions.
And at least one wooden structure from the 11thC still stands—Greensted Church, pictured here. I have to say the log-cabin look is a surprise. It certainly may give me ideas for a rustic structure in a fantasy idea.

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Book buying

Before settling in to work on my fantasy novella this morning, I made the mistake of skimming the news. After that, I needed a better picture in my mind's eye, for sure, so I visited Terry Windling's Dartmoor Mythic Arts page, which, in turn, took me to Virginia Lee's home page and this mysterious landscape. I allowed myself to poke around at her website and found her illustrated edition of The Frog Bride by Antonia Barber, one of my favorite children's book authors. At Better World Books, I found a copy and ordered it. If you don't know that venue, its profits go to literacy programs, and it provides a carbon offset feature for shipping (at the grand cost of $0.04 in this case!). It's much more worth supporting than the behemoth Amazon. Sales of used books do not profit authors (don't I know!), but they do help circulate work on the budgets that so many of us book lovers can afford.

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Feathered spirit cloak

Serendipity in my blog crawling! The History Blog's Rare Brazilian feathered cloak restored, exhibited concerns a gorgeous orange-red cloak made of feathers while Honoring the Wild at Myth and Moor contains an image of a mysteriously evocative sculpture by Hib Sabin of a raven wearing just such a cloak. The detail of rarity hanging in a collection is from a 1666 catalogue of the Setalla Gallery of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan. A spirit cloak, contemporary mythic sculpture, a 17thC cabinet of curiosities—so many hints and suggestions for metaphors and story lines. What would be your take?

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Bel Salvage

When I read Philip Pullman’s new novel, La Belle Sauvage last fall, I noted with a little puzzlement that he has the hero, Malcolm, explain the name of his canoe by saying that an uncle owns a pub called La Belle Sauvage downriver.  Read More 
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Parentheses (in praise of)

In a fantasy story I’m working on, I sometimes put the narrator’s comments into parentheses. Neil Gaiman has said that, as a child, he fell in love with C. S. Lewis’s use of parentheses for chatty asides, which made him aware that  Read More 
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Searching for words

The conceptual artist Catherine Chaloux tickles my fancy. Although fantasy fiction is a part of my reading and writing life, I have not reacted to her witty, luscious work as a source of stories so much as illustrations of my imaginary self. This picture combines  Read More 
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Od Magic

Some of my favorite novels are fantasies. For a holiday treat, I read Patricia McKillip’s Od Magic. It is a lovely, lively story and I was specially interested in how McKillip interwove four plot lines. It allowed her to jump over the  Read More 
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