As a child, I grew up on stories of Dragons and princesses, Grandmother Helen filling my head with them every evening when I would return from primary school in Paphos, Cyprus. From the age of six, sitting at the porch in the quaint old town of Kouklia, I can recall the tale of how the princess used her various belongings to thwart the dragon’s advance as it hunted her, tasked by its mistress, the wicked witch to return the princess to captivity. Her comb turned into a forest, to slow down the dragon, and, as the dragon broke through, she hurled more paraphernalia at him, then, turning to her prince as they rode double back she whispered in his ear, and he spurred his white stallion ever onwards. Tale sound familiar? It’s called Baba Yaga, from Russian folklore.
But, even before grandma’s tales, growing up in Glasgow at the age of five, I remember visiting with my dad, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum where I would gaze in rapt wonder at the suits of armour and swords on display.
I would think to myself, staring at the knights’ swords from a safe distance, “Now, these things are large and sharp enough to cut a limb and take a life.” Impressions burnt on a young mind’s canvas, infuse their imagination with images of epic battles, blood, struggle, and conquest. Even adults cannot resist the lure, the magnetising effect of items from our Middle Age past, where a man’s worth was measured equally by his wits, and his prowess on the field, where, to be a lord of note and worth, your parents needed to invest a princely sum, sending you to esquire in the service of a King’s man—a knight. Sound familiar? Nowadays we spend a home’s worth to get a decent education at a University.
Seen below are a few items one can typically see in a day whilst touring the halls of the Kelvingrove (Click on the picture and it will transport you to sites featuring more arms and armour of the epoch: ignore the adverts in these).
Another thing I should mention about being 5 are the times I would sit at the edge of my bed listening to my dad’s stories. You see, dad, before becoming an engineer, was a teacher, having finished the Nicosia Academy for Teachers with a spcialisation in Classical History.
Dad would fill my impressionable mind with images of Gods, giant Cyclops, flying Pegasus, Jason and his gold fleece, Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra, Achilles and Hector…and the list goes on; but always the themes were stooped in ancient history and lore, mostly Greek, of course, or Roman, but they were just Greeks from Rome, ha, ha, ha—just kidding!
Press on the Jason image to be transported to a lovely website with easy-to-read stories of the adventuring Prince:
Cyprus is an island stooped in history. It’s in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Minor Asia east of Greece, west of the Levant, and north of Egypt. A cross roads of civilisations from ancient times, this is probably why I chose to live here, and the fact that I am Greek Cypriot, of course. With heroes and legends like the one below, it is small wonder that my fantasy writing has a distinctly ancient Greek feel to it, with Gods and heroes traipsing about, interacting, loving, fighting, living life!
The picture above was taken by me this summer 2016 on my latest visit to Kerkyra and the Achelion Museum. The painting shows the events of the Illiad. Here, mighty Achilles, heart broken by his beloved friend’s death at the hands of Hektor of Troy, in a fit of rage strings up his arch rival, Hektor, and drags him behind his chariot.
Cyprus’s turbulent history, which continues to this day—half the island is occupied by Turkish troops that invaded in 1974—has been my inspiration in writing my war scenes, and the ancient world, including Europe, Africa, Asia, have formed the canvas for my fantasy mapping and my heroes, and my world of Thalagia originates from Greek myth—Gaia, in Greek, means earth and is derived from Gaea, the Greek deiety personification of mother earth.
You can learn more about Greek mythology by pressing on Gaea’s picture below:
The relief above, depicting the mother Earth deiety, Gaea, is taken from the Ara Pacis Augustae (Altar of Augustan Peace), an altar in Rome dedicated to Pax, Roman goddess of Peace. The monument was commissioned by the Roman senate on July 4, 13 BC to honour the return of Augustus Julius Caesar to Rome after his three year conquests in Hispania and Gaul.
Twelve is an age when you feel that you know more or less where your tastes lie. Whilst my fellow secondary school students at Parktown Boys’ High in Johannesburg South Africa were busy building physiques, playing rugby (a national sport: maybe you’ve heard of the Springboks?), I was nosing around our library reading Herbert’s Dune, adventure stories on animal collectors, Jack London’s “Call of the Wild“, when I came across this book with an amazing cover. I’d never seen such a thing before except, perhaps in the Star Wars movies: but that was Science Fiction. This book…this was something else. I borrowed the book and started turning the pages in class. I was instantly engrossed. Having read the first in the series I knew I needed more. I soon read all the series and reached the climatic finish where Garion faced off with his nemesis, Torak. You might have guessed, I’m describing David Edding’s Belgariad books.
I then remembered having read a similar book when I was a wee bit younger, “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” books by J.R.R. Tolkien. I couldn’t get enough. I returned to that library time and time again. And then, when my family moved back to London, I scoured libraries searching for ways to quench my hunger for fantasy. Feist and Riftwar Cycle, Brookes and The Shannara Chronicles, Hobbs and Farseer Trilogy, Jordan and The Wheel of Time, Goodkind and Sword of Truth Richard and Kahlan books, were soon devoured, with most recent additions including Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, Martin’s Game of Thrones, Lawrence’s The Broken Empire, with my eye trained on Scott Lynch and his Bastard Gentleman books, and Marc Turner and The Chronicles of the Exile.
During my time spent at University, in London, studying engineering, I recall visiting the British Library, a goldmine in history and books. Visits to numerous museums London has to offer is a must, especially when you are a student. I loved the ancient world sections in the British Museum and to this I later added visits to the Louvre, the Athens Museum in Acropolis, and the Egyptian History Museum in Cairo. In between my studies, I visited gaming shops to purchase my miniature war gaming figurines, which back then were made of an amazingly strong metallic material unlike the flimsy plastic ones of today. I would spend hours on my favourite hobby, painting figurines of dwarves, kings, knights, dragons! I specifically remember having a black cloaked, red eyed sorcerer with no skin on his skull. He was awesome! And his arch rival, my personal wizard from Oz, wore a blue cape with stars on it, turning a darker blue towards the feet and ending in a deep purple trim. Those were the days!
Below is one of my favourite figurines which I used to have of a sorceress Dragon Strider and her Black Dragon:
Do any of you remember Hero Quest?
Wow! That was an amazing board game. I used to invite friends over and we would play for hours. I even created my own ‘gaming cards’ adding more characters and expanding on the game.
Alas, Hero Quest and all my miniature pieces vanished during my moves from one place to another, but collectibles are still a part of my life, my passion and inspiration from them flowing into my writing. I love art, always have. You can see the kind of art I like by visiting me on Tumblr.
Did I mention my sister has a Warhammer set? Inspired by big brother, no doubt. The Dungeons and Dragons metal sets are a long lost but very nostalgic time of my life.
Historical fiction books are another delight, with most prominent authors leaving a lasting impression including the legendary David Gemmell and his Troy trilogy, Steven Pressfield with Gates of Fire, Robyn Young and Brethren crusader books, Sam Barone with Eskkar Saga, Ben Kane and his Legion books, and here I must also mention the intriguing and totally engrossing Christian G Cameron and his Tyrant books.
I do, on occasion, read non-fiction books—why yes, of course I do! How else do you guys think I gather the vital information that fleshes out my characters and builds my imaginative worlds? Best combinations to use as a fantasy writer are true stories and fictional. You might have read on HBO’s site how George R R Martin makes no secret of the fact that in Red Wedding, where Robb Stark, the main character—or so we were lead to believe—is butchered during his wedding feast, the events are actually taken from history, and more precisely from a similar event in which the Scottish king—those wonderfull Scots again—murdered the Earl of Douglas when the latter visited him at Edinburgh Castle.
Back to our subject of non fiction goodies, I could mention quite a few; I’ll include a post in the near future giving an insight as to which non-fiction books I have found most useful as I carry out research for my world-building.
In case you are wondering what I’m upto recently, other than reading loads of books—as many as I can find time for—did I mention I’m a father of two? Mostly I write my novels centred on Theo, my main character, a sorcerer’s apprentice. Here’s the pitch:
Dragons rule the skies. In the bowels of the mountains, Ogres lurk, tall as oaks, with groping claws and sharpened fangs. Theo, a mere sorcerer’s apprentice confronts them all. To his will Varwarker must bow, Red Dragon Drake, favourite of Warlock Zarzbudin. For Theo has pledged to rescue Princess Adelayne, Shield Warrior Maiden of the Western Realms.
Tasked by his King, Mage Archon strives to succeed in his mission, no matter the cost, for everyone and everything is expendable. Theo can be of service. Just like his father before him, he is inadvertently drawn into a web of deceit where foes can’t be parried with the sword.
A shadow blankets the land, time is come for brave hearts to take a stand. Serilia, budding Storm Wizard, joins her brother Theo. Nem, a steadfast companion, is also thrown into this explosive cauldron of strife and passion. Their combined efforts must hold the tide that threatens to wipe out their world.
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These have been the ramblimgs of epic fantasy fiction author,