What sparked the idea for Dawn of Purple and Gray

dawn - grandfatherI have a very vivid memory of my paternal grandfather showing me the contents of a biscuit tin (it was cornflower blue with an orange design) which he took out from the dining room sideboard. Inside the tin, he kept a set of plump dwarf-like clay figurines, something like Snow White’s dwarves, but with grim faces and huge hats. I was very young at the time, and my grandfather didn’t let me handle them. Years after my grandparents passed away, I asked my father, aunts and uncle what had become of the figurines. They had no idea what I was talking about. The family believes the tin and its contents never existed, and I must have dreamt it all.

When I wanted to plot my story, this ‘mystery’ came to mind. Why did I have such a vivid memory of something that never happened? This question, and the ‘dream’ episode I described above, sparked the plot of Dawn of Purple and Gray.

Dawn of Purple and Gray: choice of clothing


dawn - clothing

15 days till the release of Dawn of Purple and Gray, 1st book in the Hyllethan Gifts series!

Today I thought of writing a few lines about the clothing worn by Shael and the rest of the characters. In fact, one way I hinted at the difference between Shael and the Inlanders, and in later books between the peoples of the Inner Lands, Hylletha and Dragonia is through their choice of clothing.

I’ve always found Amedeo Preziosi’s watercolours fascinating, and those, as well as Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring influenced the clothing worn by Shael and the people of the Inner Lands.

Worldbuilding: deities

dawn - godsIt’s been an intense week of going through the last edits but they’re practically done now and I can resurface for air!

This is another excerpt from the first chapter, focusing on the deities of the world in the Hyllethan Gifts trilogy. As hinted in the first few lines, the gods are Zy’el, the god of death and the afterlife, and Ay’el, the god of life. The idea of the eye painted on the boat came from the Maltese traditional fishing boats with their typical Eye of Osiris. As for the gods’ names, the saying ‘the Alpha and the Omega’ led to the names beginning with A and Z.

Worldbuilding a small town and its people

dawn - clay potsOne of the aspects I love about fantasy is the worldbuilding. The possibilities of changing aspects of lifestyle, beliefs, geography, everything really, are endless. And since the Hyllethan Gifts trilogy centres around three countries with four different peoples, their differences can lead to additional tension and conflict.

Book 1, Dawn of Purple and Gray, focuses on one of those countries – the Inner Lands. Here, people live in ‘castles’ which are built on hillsides and are made up of a series of fortifications with the lord’s keep at the top. Merecastle, Shael’s home town, is one of the smallest castles in the land. In all castles, a main Way follows the fortifications and creates a spiral round the hill, flanked by houses. Guarded gates help protect each tier.

The higher up one lives, the more well-to-do or important one is. So marrying someone who lives further up the hill is something a potter’s daughter should feel privileged to be able to do.

Use of proverbs in Dawn of Purple and Gray

dawn - proverbsI chose the proverb “Judge a man by his deeds, not his weeds” for the banner because it underlines a lot of what the protagonist, Shael, and other characters face. In Dawn of Purple and Gray, prejudice results from hearsay as well as from physical appearance. This proverb is just one that Shael remembers her mum saying, and these sayings come to Shael’s mind in times of difficulty.

Inventing proverbs for the novel was fun. A couple of others that appear in the trilogy are: “You can’t make a stew without killing a rabbit” and “Brandish a sword, die by a dagger.” I’ll leave it up to you to decide what those two could be referring to!


Launch of Facebook page

dawn - introThis week saw the launch of the Dawn of Purple and Grey trilogy Facebook page and the response was overwhelming. I never expected it to trigger such a tsunami of encouragement and friendship. It also enabled me to reconnect with people I haven’t seen or spoken to in fifteen years or more!

I thought you might like to get a taste of the book. These are the opening words of Dawn of Purple and Grey:

No more.

No more would Ma fuss and scold and care. No more would she smile away a tear and stitch away a hurt.

Taking in a shuddering breath, her wide trousers and cloak dragging in the swish of the morning swell, Shael touched the side of the Zy’el boat. It drifted away from under her fingers, carrying Ma’s body towards Hylletha, land of the enemy.

As Ma had wished.


Working with a 0-draft

diary 7

Working with a 0-draft enables me to continue developing and strengthening the protagonist and antagonist’s character arcs. It’s the first time that I back-generated the character arcs. But it won’t be the last. Knowing how the character’s arc will end means I can see where I need to strengthen the contrast created by the first chapters of the novel.

Why I swear by O-drafts

diary 6

It’s been four weeks since I started writing this novel and the 0-draft is done. The beauty of a 0-draft for me is the lack of pressure—I know the prose is messy and the draft is missing details such as a number of descriptions, internal thoughts, maybe even some scenes, but it’s a 0-draft and I push on. In fact, it’s about half the length of what the novel will end up being. But I now have a skeleton to work with. And it’s ‘conciseness’ is another advantage: I can see where the parts don’t fit, I can move scenes around, and I can make notes on where more is needed to strengthen the plot, character arcs and theme. Next step: putting each scene under a microscope to do just that.

My worldbuilding process

diary 5For my work-in-progress I knew I wanted a Mediterranean-like secondary world setting with an archipelago and a pre-medieval lifestyle. My research on the Phoenicians triggered ideas for clothing, trade, habits, food, etc. A search for pictures, especially of Phoenician clothing and sea-faring vessels, revealed the type of details I was looking for, too.

Also very helpful was @rebekah.loper’s book #The A-Zs of Worldbuilding. That generated even more avenues for plot and setting.