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  • Matt Dickinson's Everest broadcast 2017 – blog 3

    THE EVEREST FILES AUTHOR IS BACK ON EVEREST AGAIN THIS YEAR ON A FILMING MISSION. IN THIS SERIES OF BLOGS HE REPORTS BACK FROM THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN ON EARTH!

    DEATH ON EVEREST: April ended with tragedy as news rippled through base camp. Ueli Steck, one of the world’s most famous climbers, had died during a training climb on the North Face of Nuptse. It was a staggering blow for the climbing community, many of whom were friends of this high-profile and brilliant climber. We had also had the honour of spending time with him the previous year when we stayed in the same lodge in the village of Chukung. He was a modest and friendly man, not the least bit aloof despite his incredible achievements which include two Piolet d’or awards (climbing’s greatest honour) and a speed ascent of the North Face of the Eiger in less than two and a half hours. So. What went wrong?

    Was it human error? Or had Ueli been the victim of an avalanche or rock fall? Most climbers at Base Camp go for the rock fall theory. The face Ueli was climbing is prone to shed loose rocks once the sun comes up, they get loosened as the ice sealing them to the face melts. Ueli had been climbing SOLO so we will never really know the truth of what killed him. The world of climbing has lost one of its brightest talents. AN

    EIGHT-HOUR EPIC: My original plan had been to join my hosts, the British Army Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017 on their first ‘rotation’ through the ice fall. But the logistics of setting up their higher camps had not been completed at that point so I left with Chongma Pemba Sherpa as my guide to climb up to Camp One and Two. We left at 2 a.m, in the very coldest part of the night, since that is the ‘safest’ time of the day to be traversing the ice fall. Nevertheless we heard two distant avalanches as we crunched across the ice towards the start of the climb, a warning sign that we could take nothing for granted.

    The route through the ice fall was different this year. In an attempt to avoid massive crevasses on the right-hand side, the Sherpa team fixing the ropes had taken the route to the left. I felt my stress levels rising as we traversed some massive OVERHANGING ICE WALLS which were creaking and cracking alarmingly. The route took us right through the zone where sixteen climbing Sherpas were tragically killed in an avalanche in 2014. We heard an ice tower collapse with a tremendous BANG close by. It was a terrifying place to be in and we moved as quickly as we could.

    ARRIVING TO CAMP 1: Daylight was a real morale booster. Everything seems better once the sun rises, even though, ironically, the ice fall then gets more dangerous. But it’s simply good to be able to see and get an idea of the incredible scale of the place. Then the tents of Camp One came into view. A great moment! It had been my ambition to experience the incredible WESTERN CWM of Mount Everest’s south side ever since I was a child. My previous expedition to the summit had been on the North Side of the Mountain so all of this was new to me. The valley was even more spectacular than I had imagined. A broad, majestic sweep of space, flanked by incredible walls of rock and ice on both sides. We still couldn’t relax. Crevasses cross this zone as well. We had to traverse about ten monster crevasses to get to our tents.

    The next stage would be the long trek up to Camp Two.

    Into the ice fall, one of the deadliest zones on Everest. (Photo: Matt Dickinson).

    The ice fall is a zone of highly unstable ice. Avalanches and collapses are alarmingly common. (Photo: Matt Dickinson).

    Me in the ice fall on the climb to Camp One. (Photo: Matt Dickinson).

    Ladders are used to cross the many crevasses. (Photo: Matt Dickinson).

    This is camp 1 at the top of the ice fall-- a welcome refuge after a long and tense climb through the avalanche zone. (Photo: Matt Dickinson).

    Ueli Steck (on the right) tragically lost his life in a fall from Nuptse. (Photo: Amin Moein).

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  • Matt Dickinson's 2017 Everest broadcast – blog 2

    THE EVEREST FILES AUTHOR IS BACK ON EVEREST AGAIN THIS YEAR ON A FILMING MISSION. IN THIS SERIES OF BLOGS HE REPORTS BACK FROM THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN ON EARTH!

     

    HIGH WINDS AND EXPLODING BOOTS!

    The season got off to a windy start! This is often the case on Everest where late winter winds are lurking stubbornly on the slopes. How fast can Everest winds actually be? Well, fast enough to blow a fully grown adult off their feet! This happened to me several times above 8,000 metres on the northern side of Everest. Can you imagine it? A wind so strong it will blow you to the ground? It’s a shocking demonstration of the power of nature.

    The fastest wind speeds are certainly in the region of eighty to 100 miles an hour. Phenomenally fast, a reflection of the fact that these are JET-STREAM WINDS circulating around the planet at high altitude. Jet streams are curious natural systems, best thought of as turbulent rivers of wind. Commercial aircraft often exploit them to gain speed and save fuel on their long trans-global journeys.

    In the very first days at base camp my tent was ripped by the wind. The whole of the back section of the fly sheet came away. Luckily I was able to pin it down with extra rocks!

     

    THE GREAT BOOT DISASTER

    Some years ago, while climbing Aconcagua in South America, the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya, I had a problem with my climbing boots. I say a problem. I mean a DISASTER!!! The sole collapsed on my special high-altitude insulated boots and I had to borrow a pair to keep my dream of reaching that summit alive.

    Now, almost unbelievably, I’ve suffered CLIMBING BOOT DISASTER NUMBER TWO!

    I went into the Everest ice fall for a training climb on my very first day at base camp, confidently dressed in my BRAND NEW, BARELY WORN, ASOLO HIGH ALTITUDE BOOTS.

    And guess what? When I got back to my tent I saw that they were falling apart. The whole of the top part of the boot had split away from the bottom, the glue in the seal simply splitting and cracking away. The left boot was almost as bad. I couldn’t believe my bad luck. Equipment failures like these are extremely rare and I now had my second BOOT DISASTER. I think the freezing temperatures had caused the glue to crack. My hopes of filming up to Camp One and Two were looking very dodgy indeed.

    A LUCKY BREAK For while I genuinely thought my climbing ambitions for 2017 were stalled, but then came a saviour in the shape of a junior Gurkha Officer who just happened to have a spare of boots in my size. When you consider my feet are rather large that was a real stroke of luck! He kindly loaned them to me and the problem was solved.

    Thanks, Chris, you did me a real favour there! So my filming trip was back on but first the winds had to stop!

    The season was off to a hostile start.

    For more information about Matt Dickinson and his book series The Everest Files check out www.everestfiles.com.

    For video clips showing the route to base camp check out www.youtube.com insert ‘Everest Files Matt Dickinson’ in the search box.

    Yaks on the trail to base camp. 

    The view from my tent showing a typical base camp scene.

    High winds pin climbers down in base camp.

    My almost new Asolo boots collapsed after one day in the ice fall.

    All photos were taken by Matt Dickinson.

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  • Matt Dickinson's 2017 Everest broadcast

    Adventurer and author of The Everest Files trilogy Matt Dickinson is back on Mount Everest for the second consecutive year. In 2016 he joined Jagged Globe on an expedition to Everest's South Col as the team's writer in residence and this year he has returned again with a British military team to film the backdrop to his new play, Everest Calling, which will premier at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August at the same time that Killer Storm – the third and final book in The Everest Files trilogy – is launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

    Here is the first of Matt's blogs ...

    THE EVEREST FILES AUTHOR IS BACK ON EVEREST AGAIN THIS YEAR ON A FILMING MISSION. IN THIS SERIES OF BLOGS HE REPORTS BACK FROM THE HIGHEST MOUNTAIN ON EARTH!

    Let’s start from the beginning. Where is Mount Everest? On my school visits I have sometimes been surprised when pupils have guessed it is in the middle of Europe or even in Scotland! In fact Everest is situated on the southern edge of Asia, just on the border of Nepal and Tibet. The mountain is 8,848 metres high, just a fraction over 29,000 feet.

    To get to Everest is a significant journey. You can access it from the northern and southern sides but it takes two or three weeks hard trekking to get to Base Camp. I was lucky enough to reach the summit on a previous expedition, becoming the twenty-seventh British climber to reach the top. My experiences on the mountain have inspired my writing, especially my series The Everest Files.



    The map above (courtesy of Alan Arnette) shows the route from Nepal and the four camps on the trail to the summit of Everest. Nowadays up to 500 western clients attempt to summit the mountain each year, most of them assisted by Sherpa helpers who are professional climbers from the local region. To climb Everest costs over $50,000 US dollars (about £40,000) so you need some very deep pockets or a sponsor. My climbs are paid for by articles I write for newspapers and TV companies that I film for.

    How long does it take to climb Everest? In total it can take at least eight to ten weeks to climb to the summit of Mount Everest. This is because the air is so thin. On the summit of Everest there is seventy per cent less oxygen in the atmosphere than what we normally breathe. The human body needs to adjust to this. Acclimatisation takes a number of weeks as the blood adapts, getting thicker, so that it can carry oxygen more efficiently. The second reason is the stormy weather, which is always unpredictable, sometimes pinning climbers down in their tents for days or even weeks. Then there is the need to build a series of camps, which also takes a lot of time. Camping equipment is heavy and it requires many tons of gear to keep climbers safe on their way to the top.



    Is Everest crowded? Yes! The dream of reaching the top of Everest is one that is shared by people all over the world. Large numbers of trekkers can cause environmental damage and some parts of the Himalaya have problems with deforestation, litter and pollution. Getting to Base Camp is an ambitious trek for anyone but some UK schools take sixth form groups to Nepal to do it! Other students do it as a gap-year trek. Perhaps one day you’ll set out to reach the foot of the highest mountain on Earth! The photo above shows the crowded trails on the way to Base Camp (photo: Matt Dickinson).



    What about the dangers? While the trek to Base Camp is comparatively safe, the climb to the summit most definitely is not! For every 100 climbers who have successfully reached the summit, four climbers have lost their lives. That’s a four per cent chance of death. Would you take that risk? The most dangerous places are the icefall, where avalanches are an almost daily event, and the summit day where the oxygen levels get so low that supplementary oxygen bottles must be used to sustain life. The cost of a summit photograph can be very high. The picture to the above shows the Everest ice fall – a deadly avalanche zone (photo: Matt Dickinson).

    My expedition for 2017: This year I am back on the Nepali side of Everest for the second year running. This time a British Military Expedition of the Gurkha Regiment is hosting me. The regiment is a part of the British Army that recruits soldiers from Nepal. It has a long and proud history and the soldiers are renowned for their extraordinary courage. My job here is to do some filming for a school play I have written about Everest. The play will be part of the Edinburgh Fringe this summer and the video material I am filming will be shown as the backdrop to the drama.

    Matt Dickinson and the 2017 Gurkha Expedition at base camp. Photo: Matt Dickinson

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  • It's all a clever cover up! – Sarah Mussi tells us what she loves about the Snowdonia Chronicles covers

    I have to say hand on heart that every time I go into a school the students, teachers and librarians comment on how fabulous the covers for the Snowdonia Chronicles are. And I couldn’t agree with them more.

    So how does Shrine Bell manage it? How do they continually get it right? How do they create covers that are refreshing, eye-catching and so apt?

    And with Here be Witches they’ve done it again! I couldn’t have been more excited, than when I had a first peek at my latest cover, but hang on a tick – what’s it covering up?

    Here be Witches is the second book in the Snowdonia Chronicles trilogy by moi, Sarah Mussi. It’s a perilous adventure into the magical and murderous realm of mythical Snowdonia.

    The story follows Ellie Morgan, who wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she's caught in the middle of a battle as old as Snowdon itself. A battle between good and evil.

    It starts very like Macbeth with a witches' spell, to wake up the dragons, cast high on the mountain. The spell speeds up time and wakes up a whole lot more than it was designed to - a host of mythical creatures and evil ghosts rise up as well! And nearly all of them want Ellie dead. Thank heavens for loyal friend George, (disloyal) bestie Rhi, and mysterious stranger, Davey.

    Armed with Granny Jones's potions, Ellie and her companions must set out on a journey to reverse the spell, stop the evil White Dragon and find Henry. But as an eternal winter tightens its grip on Snowdon, Ellie and her friends have just three days to survive and complete their quest.

    It’s a mission of life and death for Ellie and her friends and practically no one wants them to succeed.

    Now let’s look at that cover again…

    As soon as I opened the PDF file sent to me by my publishers, I felt a tingle run down my spine. Not only had Nathan (the fabulous and awesomely clever cover designer) created a companion cover artwork to Here be Dragons, but he had subtly changed the cover colour to reflect the magical and symbolic winter that the story is set in. The whiteness of the silvery scales on the cover also – completely capture the feeling of the White Dragon (yep – that’s the bad one) hovering at very close quarters over the whole story. SHIVER!

    Ellie’s journey through Snowdonia in Here be Witches is set against this massive snowfield, an eternal winter, a white countryside and frozen mountain-scape. Above them white snow clouds hover and behind the white snow clouds stalks the White Dragon on his skeletal wings, watching, waiting and weighing up the moment to strike – the moment when Ellie makes a mistake.

    White in some cultures is the colour of death and this cover captures all of the scary sinister nature of impending death in the story. I just loved it! I also LOVED the title with the cute witch’s hat drawn in black. I felt this was absolutely spot on! It pinpointed the humorous elements in the story as George and Ellie tried to stay cheerful by cracking jokes even in the face of death and danger.

    This cover captures the essence of Ellie’s story beautifully, and scarily on the nose too. The magical witch’s mirror on the back is the final masterpiece. The witch’s mirror is the key to whole story, though Ellie doesn’t know this at first … and I’m certainly not going to spoil the story by telling you!

    So just look into the mirror and start reading!

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  • Sarah Mussi's Here be Witches blog tour – Post five

    During my blog tour I have been interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL!

    And today Sarah asks Sarah …

    Q

    Can you recap on Here Be Witches for our readers who have just caught up with this tour?

    A

    Right, Here Be Witches is the second story in the series The Snowdonia Chronicles

    THE SEQUEL TO HERE BE DRAGONS – A PERILOUS ADVENTURE INTO THE MAGICAL AND MURDEROUS REALM OF MYTHICAL SNOWDONIA

    Q

    Now this is our last blog post and we’ve covered characters and whether to change them or not; settings and how to keep them fresh; plot and how each storyline needs to stand alone in a series with an overarching goal, and now we are coming to endings – how do you set up the ending, so that you can write the next one in the series and still end this story off satisfactorily?

    A

    Wow – good question and quite hard to answer … anyway I will have a go at it. I think one of the lovely things about writing a series is that readers can keep spending time with characters they have grown to know almost as deeply as they know themselves and they can be guaranteed another adventure in the company of those characters.

    However the adventures have to be separate and different and some of the characters need to take a break and new characters need to be introduced. Also what this and many other series actually need – right from the beginning – is an overarching structure or goal. Or an unanswered question.

    I think the unanswered question in the Snowdonia Chronicles is: will Ellie and Henry ever really be able to get together, or are the difficulties that separate them insurmountable?

    The series then takes completely different adventures in the pursuit of this one main goal. Each of the series titles will have its own separate sub-goal that maintains the same protagonist, sidekick and romance character and antagonist. This gives the stories a coherence. One of the trickiest things to do is how to end the current story in the series so that it has a satisfactory stand-alone ending with its own complete obligatory scene and yet leaves some exciting yet totally different adventure open to happening in the next book.

    Q

    So how did you do this Sarah in Here Be Witches?

    A

    First of all I had to thoroughly understand what the obligatory or climactic scene needed to achieve in every story, so that I could deliver a satisfactory and complete ending for each adventure – this is what I found out:

    The obligatory scene

    The closing section of a story, just before the end should deliver the final confrontation between the forces for good and the forces of evil. This is the moment when my hero must win against all odds against the antagonistic forces (for now). They must face their worst fears to rescue, triumph and survive. And yet the antagonist must not be completely defeated but retire in malice, ready to fight again in the next story with even more wickedness, malice and motive.

    In preparing for the fight, I had to consider: How does the confrontation develop? Does your hero nearly lose? How do they defeat the enemy?

    I also had to consider what inner resolve/strength/truth is in my protagonist: How does it help my protagonist to grow? How does it help my protagonist to overcome the antagonist? (If they do – or accept defeat.)

    I had to be sure I delivered on all the following:

    ACT 3 The climax /ordeal/obligatory scene/

    Several things must occur at the climax of the story: the hero must face the biggest obstacle of the entire story (so far); she must determine her own fate; and the outer motivation (this story goal) must be resolved once and for all (for now).  

    I wanted the outer motivation to be resolved, but also for the protagonist to win by losing (be kept heroic), undergo a ‘seeming’ death (create reader empathy), and be reborn – or returned to a former (yet wiser) state.

    This is important for the satisfactory ending of the story, but also important so that I could set up the way the next story will develop – so that it seemed right and natural that it should develop in that way. To do this I had to keep the series goal unresolved (will they ever be with the one they love?) but deliver on the narrative goal in Here be Witches (save Henry and Snowdonia and break the witches’ spell).

    Q

    So Sarah how did you end Here be Witches … and achieve this duality?

    A

    Well, just like I set up the prologue in order to overcome problems with a first person narration, I set up the epilogue to bring about closure to the current story and yet introduce the possibility that there was more to come. Below is an excerpt from the epilogue and you can see for yourself how it puts to bed the first story and introduces the possibility that this not the end of things. Here it is!

    So Mote It Be

    Later that spring ~ 30th April ~ The Eve of Calan Mai

    ELLIE’S PHONE 30th April 12.00

    Status: In a committed relationship

    This morning the sun is shining. I’ve biked all the way up to the top of Pen-y-Pass.

    I rest briefly. I check the straw man I’ve made is safe inside my pocket.

    Then carry on with my plan.

    I’m going to Dinas Emrys for the first time since March.

    My heart pounds. I bite my lip. But I’m ready.

    ‘I’m coming Henry,’ I whisper.

    Going downhill from Pen-y-Pass is scary. The road falls away in front of me, there’s a hairpin bend just ahead, so I cling on. The road drops and drops away, and I have that feeling, as if I’m flying off into nothingness.

    I hold my breath. I tear through the sunshine, all the way down to the junction, on to the Beddgelert road. Then I race through the morning like the wind. The bike flies beneath me. I want to reach Dinas Emrys quickly. I want to lay my charm on Henry’s lair, before Sheila or anyone else tries their magick there again.

    I hit the Beddgelert road at speed. Air whips my hair back, stings my eyes. The sky is as blue as blue. Sunlight slants off everything. The sides of the mountain lie covered in thick purple heather. The air is charged with such sweetness.

    I shoot downhill, all the way to Lake Gwynant.

    The water on the lake stretches out shining black. Sundrenched slopes rise from its shores. The road lies totally deserted; the mountain is all mine. Sometimes I like it best that way – just Snowdon and me.

    I race past Lake Gwynant crouched low. Just the grey road, winding on down alongside the Afon Glaslyn, down to Lynn Dinas.

    I squint into the distance. My heartbeat jumps about. The fortress of Dinas Emrys lies smack ahead.

    I think of Henry lying curled under the earth, so near, so far.

    He’ll be there.

    I need to keep it that way.

    What did George say?

    ‘Be careful Elles. Tonight – May Eve – is auspicious. Gran says you must lay a charm to protect Henry.’

    No more witchy stuff with covens. No more trying to wake up my Henry.

    An image of Sir Oswald flashes across my mind. Pale eyes. Hooded eyelids. He’ll be under the mountain too.

    I slow down.

    I swing off the road and cycle up towards a lush green pasture.

    I take my shortcut, through a turning to a farm, behind a row of mobile holiday homes, where I can scramble up a steep slope between trees, and get to the fortress from the back. The bracken is tight and scratchy, but it’s really not too far and saves a good three-mile hike.

    I go through the farm gates; it’s private property, but there’s no need to worry about the holiday homes now. They’ll be full of tourists at this time of year. They won’t give me a second glance.

    I chain the bike to a handy sapling behind the first chalet.

    In front of me rises a steep bank, covered by spindly trees. Thick green moss coats every patch of bark. Their roots are tangled knots of black. In parts, the rocky hillside is almost sheer. High above, a skylark trills out short, rapturous notes. I hoist myself up from trunk to trunk. I try to stay strong.

    Since the spring equinox, I’ve stayed away from here, too many memories, too much sadness, but I guess I’m needed today.

    I climb up to the top of Dinas Emrys. Pause. Pant. Just breathe in warm air.

    Since the second landslide, the hill is not much changed. That is the way Henry planned it.

    I turn to look up towards Snowdon. Everywhere is thick with brilliance, but through the blinding sunshine, blurred by the shimmer of late spring warmth, I think – no – I’m certain, I see a figure.

    There he is: the figure of a young man poised on the edge of the mountain.

    I smile.

    I rub my eyes. Is it really a figure? Or just a trick of the light? A memory perhaps? Or George checking I made it safely? Rays from the risen sun dazzle me. By the time I look again, he’s gone.

    My heart starts pounding.

    I squint just to be sure.

    I wish so much it were Henry.

    Nothing.

    But then this is Snowdon.

    Yr Wyddfa.

    The great burial den of the dragons

    Here anything can happen.

    Especially on May Eve.

    Yes, May Eve and I have come here for crogi gwr gwellt: ‘hanging a straw man’.

    It’s a tradition on May Eve that when a lover has lost their sweetheart, they make a man out of straw and put it somewhere in the vicinity of where the lover sleeps.

    The straw man represents the enemy, the one that seeks to take the heart of the beloved away.

    I find the right spot.

    Just where I stood with Rhi.

    Just where half of the north face of Dinas Emrys split open.

    A vision flashes before me … trees uprooted, boulders cracked; great half-broken tree trunks sticking up in the air. That overpowering smell of crushed foliage, that sickly scent of damp earth, that great scar, huge open depths …

    The vision passes.

    I pin a note to my straw man.

    Gran helped me craft the words:

    ‘By water and fire, earth and air,

    Let Henry’s enemies beware.

    Let the words of my charm,

    Protect his heart from any harm.

    Let the power of my love,

    Strengthened by the stars above,

    Keep him safe, keep him secure,

    Keep his heart forever pure.

    By the flowers of Blodeuwedd

    Let none attempt to breach his bed.’

    ***

    I place the adder stone on the note.

    I sprinkle the place with a potion Gran brewed for me.

    I look up to the mountains.

    ‘I will find a way to be with you again, Henry,’ I whisper.

    Then I pray to Snowdon to keep him safe, out of the reach of any evil.

    Until I can keep my promise.

    And so the adventures of Ellie and The Snowdonia Chronicles will continue into book three … a new story with a new goal, but also one that will be the over arching goal of the series to an exciting conclusion and deliver on the seeds planted in Here be Witches!

    THANK YOU READERS FOR FOLLOWING MY BLOGS!

    I HOPE YOU LOVE READING HERE BE WITCHES.

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  • Sarah Mussi's Here be Witches blog tour – Post four

    During my blog tour I have been interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL!

    And today…

    Sarah continues her interview of Sarah on how to write a sequel in a thrilling and compelling romantic fantasy!

    Sarah

    Welcome to the world of WRITING A SEQUEL.

    I am going to use Here be Witches to explain my thinking on how to give it a go.

    Sarah

    Okay, I’m going to continue to ask Sarah lots of questions to find out all her writing secrets!

    Q

    Can you recap on Here be Witches again?

    A

    Right, Here be Witches is the second story in the series The Snowdonia Chronicles

    THE SEQUEL TO HERE BE DRAGONS – A PERILOUS ADVENTURE INTO THE MAGICAL AND MURDEROUS REALM OF MYTHICAL SNOWDONIA 

    Q

    Ummm, mythical Snowdonia eh? So why did you chose Snowdonia as a setting and how did you make it fresh in book two?

    A

    Choosing a setting is so important, but to tell you the truth, I’ve always loved the mountains of North Wales ever since I went on family holidays there as a child. So on this occasion I was choosing what I knew and loved. However Snowdonia also has all the right ingredients to make a very special setting for a fantasy YA novel.

    Q

    Perhaps you can tell us what you think is important to go into a setting?

    A

    OK, well first let’s recap exactly what a setting is and then I can say what I think it does for a story. So a setting sets up the:

    • Where
    • When
    • Genre
    • Time (in history)
    • Space (in the universe)
    • Atmosphere
    • Other people (family/community)
    • Sensory details
    • Weather
    • Context

    Well those are the major things, but it can do more than that. I chose the setting of Snowdonia because I wanted it to do a lot of things, some of which includes using the:

    Setting as character

    The setting functions here as a prod to get the hero going.

    The setting is somehow part of the main character, for instance, Frodo In Lord of the Rings, is very much an extension of his beloved Shire. Or Ratty in Wind in the Willows is very much a part of the riverbank.

    In The Snowdonia Chronicles the backdrop of misty mountains and dangerous chasms and cliffs not only act as a challenge to Ellie, but are also part of her character. She is first and foremost an outdoorsy mountain girl. She prides herself on knowing the mountain. However much she claims to wish to live in an inner-city flat, we know better. We know that she belongs to Snowdonia just as Snowdonia belongs to her. This means she has a lot of the attributes of the mountains. Mountains are exciting, mountains can be dangerous, mountains need to be explored, mountains can offer us a view when we get to the top – so all of these characteristics be found in Ellie.

    Q

    That’s very interesting …

    A

    There is more …

    Setting can act as a metaphor

    When you choose your setting, it can say more about your story on a sub-textual level. For example:

    Sunny places are usually happy

    Cold places are usually scary

    Dark places might be evil etc

    In Here be Witches, the extraordinary beauty and relative inaccessibility of the Welsh mountains acts as a metaphor for all that is magical and unobtainable – like Henry is for Ellie. The deep feeling of awe and beauty inspired by Snowdonia has fostered many myths and a real belief in magic. I was able to harness all of this in Here be Witches.

    Setting can act as weather too and weather conveys the mood of both story and character. 

    Weather is not just part of the scenery. It can be used in the plot. A good example of this is in Narnia where it is always snowy.

    In Here Be Witches it is always snowy too and if anyone has ever been to North Wales they know this to be true in reality, after all the mountain ranges is called Snowdonia.

    Setting can be an emotion.

    The setting may show a character’s emotions. When the character is sad it may rain. When the character is angry a storm may brew up. In Here Be Witches everywhere is cold and this is how Ellie is feeling without Henry’s presence and the hope of seeing him again.

    Q

    I can see why you wanted to write The Snowdonia Chronicles! Can you give us a teeny weeny excerpt to capture the setting – until our next blog post?

    A

    Sure … it’s from the middle section of the story …

    The ponies struggle on. The temperature drops. An Arctic wind springs up and rushes down the slopes of the mountains straight at us. The afternoon sun shines high above. The snowfields glint bright. I pull up my hood, and button my coat tight against my chin. The ponies stick to a trail that I can hardly make out. Their hooves crunch softly into drifted banks of white. In our wake, the punch holes quickly fill again with fresh snowfall.

    Beside sedge and stonewall, lake and hill, we plod on.

    But no sooner are we in sight of Cadair, than the breath of the great king descends. The Brenin Lywdd is on us like a fist. Cold mist smacks out all vision, stinging bare skin, bruising our chests as we struggle to breathe in frozen air.

    A spectral breath and a grey mist descend around us. Strands of icy air slice into eyes and assault nostrils; snowflakes whirl.

    Instantly we are isolated. Total whiteout. I can’t see further than one metre ahead. There just isn’t a path. When I do catch a glimpse of it, there’s a sheer drop: first on the left, then on the right.

    I’m not joking.

    One metre from the trail.

    Sheer drops.

    I actually close my eyes, squeeze them shut. My heart thuds. I feel dizzy. I hang on to Keincaled’s mane, grip it, icicles and all and whisper:

    Oh my God.

     

    I hope you enjoyed that! Watch out for Sarah’s final post where we will be talking about how to deliver a satisfying stand-along ending without a cliff-hanger as such – inside an on-going series – not as easy as it looks!

    See ya there!

     

     

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