15 October 2012

Scouting Locations, Rhan Un (Part One)

There are writers out there who can compose wonderful descriptions of places they've never been. I'm not one of them. I need to go where my characters have been or where the heated action takes place. Actually, the opposite often happens: the location inspires my creativity to concoct a scene or an entire story in that setting.

My first novel, Dragon & Hawk hatched from a trip with my son's grade school class to Bisbee and Tombstone. Learning that 300 Welsh miners were recruited in the 1870s to come to the Arizona Territory set my imagination off and running. What did they think of such an isolated place full of dangerous creatures and Apaches who were none too thrilled with invading neighbors? Surely they had to be amazed at the relative barrenness of the land compared to the verdant and lush Welsh countryside. And however did they survive the summer heat? 

Researching documents, letters, and newspapers gave delicious details about their lives. Repeated trips to Bisbee, Tombstone, and the surrounding areas during special events provided me with opportunities to capture sights, sounds, and smells to help readers feel the dust and heat.

My current Work In Progess (WIP) is a short story for an anthology composed by a number of Champagne Authors. Each story will deal with travel in some way and will also have a romantic component. Well, what's more romantic than an ancient castle in a faraway land?
This is Caerphilly Castle in about 1880-- and this is a photo I took there in 2008--->
Caerphilly was painstakingly restored by the fourth marquess of Bute from 1928 to 1939, copying original fallen stones like puzzle pieces to refit the walls and battlements. The leaning southeast tower was left unchanged.

It's a sad place with an air of incredible loss about it. Built by the Earl of Glamorgan in 1268-71 to defend his lands against Llywelen ap Gruffudd of Gwynedd (the last native Prince of Wales), Caerphilly Castle seems a monument to the greed and duplicity of the Marcher Lords. Their petty squabbles and inability to unite under Llywelen cost Wales dearly: English occupation and rule for the next seven centuries with near eradication of the Welsh language.

Feel the cold wind bite one's cheeks as it whisks the water surrounding the castle. The grass is four shades of green carpet across rolling hills. The stones are sharp in places, chipped and notched at the parapets for crossbows. One smells moss and peat with an occasional whiff of baking bread.

This is where my characters came from, this land of castles surrounded by water. Imagine then going from this to the arid, sun-scorched Arizona desert.Bit of a shock, wouldn't you say?

I can't get the true feel of a place from looking at photos on a website. I have to go, walk on the paths, close my eyes and listen to what my characters might hear so I can transport my readers into that time and locale.

Besides, it gives me a great excuse to travel. Stay tuned for Rhan Dwy/Part Two...


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