Brown River Queen cover art

Sunday, December 11, 2011

DIY Fantasy Art

Sometimes I wish I wrote Westerns or straight-up 1930s detective film noir mysteries or even spy thrillers.  Say I wrote Westerns, for instance.  Then I could hang pictures of horses on the walls and leave a saddle casually draped over the back of a rocking chair and even hang a ten-gallon hat on a peg by the door, and I think all that would help set a mood for writing.

But I write fantasy.  Now, don't get me wrong, there is some fantastic fantasy art out there.  I know, because I own a lot of it.  And I love it.  My study walls are covered with dragons and elves and swords, and that's just the way I like it.

Even so, it's always seemed to me that it's harder to decorate your writing place if you tend more toward Tolkien than Tolstoy.  So much so, in fact, that I've taken to making my own art, based on some of the devices and items in my tales.

Which brings us to tonight's photo session, in which I subject -- er, treat -- you to a couple of things I made when I was, for one reason or another, unable to write.

These are wands, because wands are to a fantasy author what Colt revolvers are to the guy who writes Westerns.  Now, I know the image invoked by the word 'wand' is usually a more or less straight piece of wood, with maybe a few details carved into it.

Not so in my imaginings, though.  Look, if anyone could grab the nearest stick and start working magic just by waving it around and saying "Abracadabra!" you'd have a few millions Dark Lords strolling around any given tract of land.

So I've always imagined that the wands and other implements in my stories are complex, finely-crafted instruments that took hundreds of hours of intense effort just to shape.  Too, I seldom assign my characters one-wand-does all type instruments -- no, if they want to generate heat, they'll need a special wand for that, which won't be the same wand they'll use to stir the wind or call down a few thousand foul-tempered fruit bats.

Even the magic in Markhat's world requires a lot of time and effort, which is the main reason common folk have little or nothing to do with it.  The only piece of magic Markhat routinely carries is his old Army flash-papers, which are just what they sound like.  It's a piece of (by now) ratty paper, inscribed with a hex symbol.  If he tears it in half, and the hex is still active after all these years, he'll release a brief flash of extremely bright light.  That's it.  He can't ever use it again, and the paper burns itself up when the simple spell is activated.  It's not going to reduce whole armies to ashes or knock down city walls.

The magic in Meralda's world is a little more accessible.  I won't say too much about it here, but readers will recognize that her magic behaves much like our electricity.  It can be grounded out.  It can be stored in devices rather like batteries.  It generates (or absorbs) heat when it is manipulated.

But enough blathering, let's look at the wands!

First up is a smallish hand-held wand carved from a nice blond oak.

It's about a foot long (that's nine hundred and eighty seven thousand meters for my Metric friends).  I think I did most of the actual carving in a couple of afternoons; sanding it took much longer.  Both sides look the same.

This is the kind of wand I picture Meralda carrying, or leaving lying on her work-table.  And yes, in the long-established cinematic tradition of this world, it glows a brilliant blue at the end when it's in use.

Here's a closer shot of it. The symbols carved into have deep mystical meanings, or they just sort of wound up that way, I'll leave that determination up to you.

This wand lives on a pair of hooks that hang it out in front of three mystical runes, which together spell out the eldritch phrase "I'd really like a sandwich now."  I like this wand, and I use it mostly to deter Balrogs and, though I probably shouldn't, heat marshmallows. 

Next up we have a wand in a box!  With a carved sigil on the lid, to wit:

Is that a dragon?  Um, yes, as the runes in the body clearly spell out 'dragon.'  Do they really?

Um, sure.  Anyway.  Check out the box, which I also made.  It's oak, and even the hinges are handmade wood.  I was really proud of those hinges...

As you know, having metal around certain wands is dangerous :)

Now let's open it up, and check out the wand!

Yep, more runes.  These spell out the usual arcane disclaimers -- not responsible for intentional misuse, do not expose to oscillating thaumic aether fields, yada yada yada.

And here's the wand itself, which was carved from pecan ...

Pretty nice!  That's a pure copper sphere in the handle, with copper leads spiraling down into the wand. I drilled and twisted and mounted all that while listening to Pink Floyd while a thunderstorm raged outside.

This is the sort of wand I picture the Corpsemaster from Markhat's world carrying.  Or even Meralda, if she'd had a very bad day and someone insulted her hair.  I can see her whipping this out and dealing a little mayhem in that instance.

So that's the sort of things fantasy authors get up to in order to avoid work, i.e., the writing of new fantasy novels.

My next project will probably have a more steampunk bent.  I may reproduce, using simple materials, a radio Meralda is even now trying to perfect as part of the next book.  That would be fun...yes, FUN...

PS: If you just read this and you have no idea who Markhat or Meralda are, well, they're characters in my books.  Here's a link that will take you to all of them!

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