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Storyteller Series: General chat thread

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Jun 14, 2010, 2:42pm Top

Now that I've completed my giveaways (for the moment), I thought I'd start a more general thread for hobnobbing and chatting about the series.

The basics: this is a series of books set in 6th century Britain just after the historic King Arthur. It follows the adventures of a young man named Gwernin, who begins his career as a traveling storyteller in what is now Wales, and becomes in time - perhaps! - a master bard. The first three books - Storyteller, Flight of the Hawk, and The Ash Spear form what I call the "young Gwernin" trilogy. The second trilogy, "Gwernin's quest", starts with the book I'm writing now, provisionally titled "The Druid's Son."

So feel free to chat, ask questions, and post links to your reviews of the Storyteller books here!

Jun 14, 2010, 9:39pm Top

I'd like to set up a poll in this thread, but I can't find the instructions. Can anyone point me at them?

Edited: Jun 14, 2010, 10:45pm Top

Type "(vote)Your question here(/vote)" without the quotation marks and replacing the parentheses with angle brackets, ie the characters found above the comma and period keys. (I can't type them as an example because the post interprets them as HTML code and attempts to execute them, and they disappear.)

Vote: Did elenchus correctly create a poll?

Current tally: Yes 14, No 2, Undecided 3

Edited: Jun 14, 2010, 11:51pm Top

Well, that's simple - thanks!

By the way, my offer of pdf's to qualified reviewers* still stands, even though the giveaways are over for the moment.

(*public LT account, at least 25 books cataloged and at least 5 reviews posted on LT)

Jun 15, 2010, 1:40pm Top

now, there's a slight problem... apparently you can only have one poll per thread. So in order for me to add the one I had in mind, elenchus will need to delete the example... talk about catch-22!

Jun 15, 2010, 1:42pm Top

Sorry, I was unclear--you can have multiple posts per thread, just not more than one in an individual message! I apologize for any confusion.

Jun 15, 2010, 1:44pm Top

oh, ok. thanks! clearly I have not been paying attention to some of the threads with multiple polls in them! :)

Jun 15, 2010, 1:52pm Top

Let's try it out, then.

One feature of my first three books which seems to have readers divided is the tag line "But that, O my children, is a story for another day" which ends almost every chapter. Some people like it, others hate it. So my first question is:

Vote: Should I drop the "story for another day" tag line in future books?

Current tally: Yes 6, No 8, Undecided 7
For those of you who haven't read the books, here are some sample chapters. Also, I'd be interested to hear the reasons behind the votes.

Jun 15, 2010, 2:19pm Top

I voted "undecided", because it depends.

The formula reminds us that this is a reminisce, told much later. It makes the voice be that of older Gwernin, rather than younger Gwernin (so, at a minimum, it reassures us that Gwernin will survive.) If you want to stay with that framework, I like the device, and it doesn't necessarily mean the chapters need to be as disconnected as they were in the first part of Storyteller -- just consider the Arabian Nights, where despite the same framework the story could break midway through -- Gwernin's done for the night, perhaps, but the story continues.

If you want to get away from that framework, though, you should also move away from the framing device. Since I don't know what your plans are, I don't think I'm really qualified to answer.

Based on the reviews, though, I think people who dislike the tag line may feel more strongly about it than those who like it, so you may want to consider that as well.

Jun 15, 2010, 2:58pm Top

I voted yes - at least at the frequency you mention (I have not yet read the whole books). Once or twice per book, fine, every chapter I would find a bit wearing.

Edited: Jun 15, 2010, 3:38pm Top

I voted no! The framing device lorax mentioned is one reason, as I like it. Another reason beyond it reminding us of the older Gwernin, narrating his biography, is that it presents each chapter or vignette in a form he is likely to have done, as a bard. They are stand-alone, but do link together for those paying attention. I find that fitting and in-character for Gwernin.

There's also a point about the distinct voices that Gwernin has, as either narrator or as a storyteller. But I'm working on my review, so I'll save more comment for there.

Jun 15, 2010, 5:54pm Top

An interesting diversity of viewpoints so far. Lorax has a good point (which I have also noticed) in that people who like the tag merely like it, but people who don't seem to hate it. This is in fact the main reason I'm considering dropping it, or at least using it less often. (I rather like it myself.)

Looking forward to elenchus' review, and to more input.

Edited: Jun 16, 2010, 7:17pm Top

My two cents, gwerin, just having read the sample chapters, and thus perhaps out of the context those who know your work well can better appreciate: If the stories are meant to be read to or by children, they might well delight in the final tag line. Otherwise, I think it's a bit much. Not that I'd get rid of it altogether, but around with it, employ a few variations, and once in a while with something completely different.

Jun 16, 2010, 8:04pm Top

I enjoy it, but it gets to the point where he talks about so many stories for another day that I just find myself wanting to hear all those stories. And when he does actually flesh out something that he teased about earlier (I consider it being teased with a snippet about a great story that he isn't going to tell), I find myself forgetting that it was mentioned before.
I think it would work better if it was used less often (like maybe for things he's actually going to develop...or on the other hand, things he really won't tell us about).

Jun 16, 2010, 8:56pm Top

I have to disagree with copyedit's last sentence -- the tag line only works at all if it's consistent. All or nothing.

Edited: Jun 16, 2010, 10:07pm Top

Agree with consistent, but could be interpreted as when facing a specific set of circumstances. So, perhaps every time the chapter ends with Gwernin addressing an audience (as opposed to just narrating).

Perhaps obvious, but in Storyteller, each chapter is a vignette, so a new chapter doesn't pick up in the middle of a plotline, except in the sense of the overall narrative arc of Gwerin's circuit around Wales. If you were to change to a typical novel format in which chapters simply mark milestones in the main plot, clearly the tagline would not work.

Anyway, as someone who likes the tagline, I readily admit I like reading it every chapter.

Jun 16, 2010, 10:25pm Top

I've been reading Storyteller... and I do find the tagline a bit much sometimes. I like the Arabian Nights approach of ending some chapters on a cliffhanger and some with the tagline. I'm also finding that each chapter leaves me with a lot to think about, which explains my lack of speed in finishing Storyteller...

Jun 16, 2010, 11:59pm Top

I've posted my review:


I'm likely to tweak it or add a paragraph, but the comparison of Gwernin's narrative and in-character voices is there, as mentioned in 11> (above).

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 12:13am Top

Gwernin, I see you've added The Druid's Son to your library and listed it as the fourth installment in the series. Are you effectively at the stage of copyediting? I thought you were still writing and perhaps even plotting the book!

So now I have three novels to explore ...

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 11:01am Top

Wow - some nice conversation here! To respond to some of the points raised:

13: copyedit52: The stories are not intended for children, although I know at least a few people have read them to or with their children (and the short chapter length would probably be a good thing in that context). The tag line does vary a little in a few places in the 2nd and 3rd books.

14: Millie: But it's hard to say whether some of the things mentioned are going to show up again or not, and more especially *when*. My intention is a series of ten books - three trilogies and a prequel - so you may have to wait quite a while to get some of your questions answered...

15: lorax: "the tag line only works at all if it's consistent" - I tend to agree.

16: elenchus: the second book is closer to a novel in structure, or at least has some more novelistic sections, and the third book is closer still. However, the general style and stories-within-the-story persist.

17: 1dragones: glad you're finding it interesting.

18 & 19: elenchus: great review! You've picked up on several things which are important to me in the books, especially the different registers of the narrative voice, and the search for the historical reality of the lives of the early bards. The third strand - the exploration of esoteric traditions - will develop more in the next two books.

Regarding The Druid's Son - alas, I am not nearly at the copyediting stage: I'm still writing, and not doing that very fast at the moment. I added the book last fall when I started working on it, partly for my own amusement, and *hoped* to be at the editing stage by now, but no such luck. Because it's set in Ireland, it's involved a lot more research, and one investigation led to another. I'm currently hoping to have it out sometime late next year.

If I am going to change the use of the tag line, this is the time to do it, because there's a very definite break between the trilogies - in time if nothing else.

eta: Raine's book sounds interesting - I may have to pick up a copy. So many books, so little time!

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 11:19am Top

The tag line:

I found there to be two distinct voices in Storyteller* Gwernin's current voice describing his journey, and his 'professional' voice recounting the traditional tales. I wouldn't have minded the tagline so much if it had only been on one or the other, I can see (conflicting) justifications for both, but on balance would prefer it to only be on the traditional tales, as a marker that this is in the storytelling mode.

DId anyone else find it odd when the strict master bans Gwernin from 'looking at another girl again' and then completely ignores Gwernin's ongoing romance, and later implies he's aware of it, and tacitly approves of it? Is this just something I've misunderstood?

*blimey there are a lot of books called storyteller. And now I've edited I won't be able to call the right one back. Argh. No touchstones it is.

Edited: Jun 17, 2010, 11:42am Top

>21 reading_fox: re: the master bard's ban ignored by Gwernin but without consequence

I took this to be an example of how breaking one rule is taken as evidence that another "rule" (or perhaps better said: benchmark) is met. Gwernin's interest in the girl comes after Gwernin comes to the realisation that his first interest was motivated by looks (in the rivalry with the warrior to court the Prince's daughter), but he came to realise he was attracted to the herb gatherer's daughter for more than her looks. First of all, the herb gatherer's daughter appears to be somewhat apprenticed to her mother in the art of healing / homeopathy, which is a parallel to Gwernin's own situation. But more significantly, I thought, was that Gwernin's shift displays a maturity in outlook, identifying his own motivations and redirecting them rather than simply being ruled by hormones or convention ("a pretty girl"). This maturity is clearly something that would be needed by an apprentice bard, and I took the entire romance as personal development. The master bard weighed Gwernin's immaturity in violating the rule against the signs of increased maturity, and decided the bigger picture was most important. By implying that he's aware of it, the master bard let's Gwernin know he isn't off the hook because it escaped notice, and leaves it to Gwernin to ponder why he was let off.

And of course, Gwernin conveniently is being sent far away soon after, with the master bard's approval. I think this approval is given not only for the larger political concerns, but also the immediate concerns of getting Gwernin to shift focus from his romance.

Anyway, that's how I read it, and is an example of what I took to be more complex plotting in the latter half of the book.

Jun 17, 2010, 12:35pm Top

Hi, reading_fox. From my point of view, what gets Gwernin in trouble here is not his interest in girls per se, but the fact that he is showing off to get their attention by performing without his master's permission, despite being expressly forbidden to do so. This is his real problem - lack of professional self-discipline - and the episode at the sheep-fold shows that he has understood and internalized the rule. After that the romance is neither here nor there.

Jun 18, 2010, 10:08am Top

Gwernin, I'm curious about two books listed in the front matter of Storyteller but not formally recognised as part of the series: Guernen Sang It and Guernen Sang Again. The first has a subtitle implying it contains a story Gwernin told in Storyteller itself, though in verse?

In any event, I was curious as to whether those two books are all verse, and whether writing those poems helped you find your narrative voice for the series. I like that Storyteller clearly is not written in modern colloquial English, but still reads easily and doesn't seem to resort to cliched ideas of how old English would sound. Though I've not read Canterbury Tales in years, it brought that text to mind.

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 10:43am Top

Guernen sang it and Guernen sang again, recently reissued as King Arthur's Raid on Hell and Pryderi's Pigs, are two collections of my poetry. The poems were written while I was writing the first two Storyteller books, and yes, "King Arthur's Raid on Hell" is the same story Gwernin told in the first book. I actually wrote the poem first, as an entry for an SCA competition; the entry was 10 pages long with another 10 pages of supporting documentation. The basic story idea came from Preiddeu Annwn, an early medieval Welsh poem in the Book of Taliesin, with judicious borrowings from the prose tale of Culhwch and Olwen. In the sense that I essentially translated the poem into prose when I needed a suitably impressive tale for Gwernin to tell, it could be said to have contributed, but I think the larger influence is that I myself perform as a medieval Welsh storyteller, telling the tales he tells in the book.

Gwernin's language has three main components: a certain number of Welsh grammatical constructions translated literally into English (e.g., "there was on me a fear"), an almost complete avoidance of contractions, and a preference for older and simpler Anglo-Saxon words (e.g., "belly" rather than "stomach"). There are also one or two phrases I borrowed from Rosemary Sutcliff, whose writing had a great influence on my interest in Dark Ages Britain.

Jun 18, 2010, 11:44am Top


a preference for older and simpler Anglo-Saxon words (e.g., "belly" rather than "stomach")

That's wonderful. I have to ask -- have you read Poul Anderson's "Uncleftish Beholding"? It's a wonderfully clever description of basic atomic (uncleftish) theory, written in purely Anglo-Saxon derived words (many of them coined for the purpose). It's a hoot.

Jun 18, 2010, 11:55am Top

>26 lorax:
That does sound a hoot! Is it in a collection of his? (Poul is a guy, right?) I think I've only read one of his stories when I read almost nothing but SF&F. It's been a while.

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 1:50pm Top

>25 gwernin:

So: are you Guernen in competition, or is that merely a variant of Gwernin?

Love that insight into how to develop a style of speech. I've read some of Owen Barfield on language, but one of these days need to delve into the history of English a bit more. Fascinating the derivatives of words and how the modern meaning is (obviously) related but often so far afield from the original intent. A favourite example of mine is 'thing', originally I believe meant to describe a gathering of people as in a council or town meeting. I find that evolution so interesting.

ETA author touchstone

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 1:41pm Top

"Uncleftish Beholding" - this does sound like fun. Google gave me some bits of it, and a possible link that I can't access from here.

I'm Guernen Cimarguid in the SCA. "Gwernin" was the original form of the name I used (before I started writing the stories), and when I started writing what I thought was two or three first-person medievel travel articles (!), it seemed logical to use my (then) SCA name for the character. Meanwhile when I registered my name with the SCA, the committee that rules on these matters changed the spelling and the by-name. So I'm left with this sort of vaguely Mary Sue-ish overlap ;-) My mental accommodation of this situation is to consider Gwernin-in-the-stories as my very distant ancestor... and how I spell it depends on the circumstances and how I'm feeling that day ;-)

Regarding "thing", there is a SCA group with a Norse emphasis which calls their big official meetings "all-things" and their smaller unofficial meetings "somethings"... Words are indeed wonderful!

Edited: Jun 18, 2010, 3:07pm Top

Oh - one more note re: the poetry collections. The "Guernen sang it" part is based on the first line of the Book of Aneirin: "Hyn yw e gododin. Aneirin ae cant": "This is the Gododdin: Aneirin sang it."

Jun 18, 2010, 3:09pm Top

> 25 In the sense that I essentially translated the poem into prose when I needed a suitably impressive tale for Gwernin to tell ...

Did you translate into prose because Welsh bards don't tell tales that fit verse? Or only sometimes they do, and Gwernin isn't at the stage he can recite verse?

Some of that may be answered in later books, I'm just starting Flight of the Hawk now.

Jun 18, 2010, 3:20pm Top

I'm not actually sure where I read "Uncleftish Beholding"; I know that I found out about it from Hofstadter's brilliant Le Ton Beau de Marot, about translation; I suspect I may have been a horrid person and read it online, since I don't own any Anderson collections and am not sure where else I would have read it.

Regarding "thing", that would be entirely consistent with the Icelandic parliament's name, the Althing.

Circling back to fiction again, Tolkien has the Rohirrim use primarily Anglo-Saxon derived words, though I'm not sure how obsessive he was about this.

Jun 18, 2010, 3:39pm Top

31: I had to think about that. I think the primary reason was just that I wanted a story rather than a poem. I also adapted the language somewhat and changed some of the details - in the original poem the Bard was Taliesin, not Emrys, for example.

In a more general sense, I'm not aware of any examples of long narrative poetry by the early Welsh bards. Of course, that doesn't rule out the possibility of its existence. But if I were to create an English approximation of such a thing, I don't think I'd choose heroic couplets.

Jun 18, 2010, 3:41pm Top

32: Althing: yes, I think that was the model.

Jun 18, 2010, 3:47pm Top

>32 lorax:

Agree about Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot, simply a beautiful book. I must have read about Anderson's "Uncleftish Beholding" there, too, but don't recall. Another reason I value LT, it helps stop the gaps in my sieve-like memory.

I'd tried to read Goedel, Escher, Bach before Le Ton Beau de Maron, and again after reading it: haven't been able to finish it. I'll have to start again, I'm convinced it has more to do with me as a reader, and my mindset when I'm reading it, than it has with the book itself.

Jun 24, 2010, 9:17am Top

Now that this week's tempest has died down, perhaps we can chat a little more...

I'm a bit surprised at the way the poll in #8 is running: in favor of retaining the tag line. I'll have to think about that. I do think it works better where the end of the chapter is also a break in time.

Jun 24, 2010, 9:47am Top

I've been thinking of the poll, and my vote, as well.

I'm about halfway through Flight of the Hawk, and have found the tagline does not work as well this time through. I agree that it has to do with the fact there isn't a break in time like in the first book: Storyteller gives a distinct feel, which I really like, and I think it's due to the vignette approach rather than a continuous narrative.

I like the story being told in Hawk, but don't think the tagline fits that as well. In a couple places, I wondered if there really was another tale to tell, since the plot picked up the next morning in the following chapter. Isn't that the story, in fact? Is it another day that Gwernin is telling this, to his second Samhain audience? I didn't read it that way, so it seemed a tad forced.

Jun 24, 2010, 10:02am Top

37: You're talking about the Pictish section, right? And yes, I don't think it works particularly well there.

Jun 24, 2010, 11:11am Top

Exactly right, with Gwernin and Neirin making the trip as ambassadors to King Mailchon.

I should say, too, that though the two books have much different tones, I like them both. Hawk tells a story I'm very interested in reading, and the vignette approach simply wouldn't do it justice unless it were a single story (chapter), rather than the extended plot. It is interesting to compare, since I imagine many of the single-chapter stories in Storyteller would lend themselves to a similar expanded treatment.

Which raises a question: did you more-or-less choose the expanded treatment? Or did the story in Hawk start out as another short story, but grow out of its container, so to speak? Or put the other way 'round: Did you deliberately choose to make the stories in Storyteller concise and standalone, or did the stories simply end up that way?

Edited: Jun 24, 2010, 12:07pm Top

The stories in the first half of Storyteller were deliberately short because of the space limitations imposed by the monthly publication, which continued through chapter 21. At that point there was actually a gap of several years before I started writing them again. I continued on more or less the same plan about 2/3 of the way through Flight of the Hawk, which was originally intended to be the third section of Storyteller. However, at that point I felt that I was rushing some of the stories, and also that the book was getting too big, so I separated it into two books. (This is the reason for the repeated chapter at the beginning of Hawk.) I then went back and added some chapters in Hawk, including some material in the middle of the Pictish adventure, before I wrote the rest of the book.

So to answer your question, yes, I more or less deliberately chose the expanded treatment in Hawk.

Jun 28, 2010, 11:33pm Top

Regarding #25 above, I've found the documentation I wrote to accompany "King Arthur's Raid on Hell". If anyone's interested, I'd be happy to share it, along with a copy of the poem.

Jun 29, 2010, 11:47pm Top

I would love to see the notes as well as the poem. I have looked forward to reading your notes at the end of the first 2 books, and encourage you to add this sort of material to notes in future books.

Regardless, I'm going to link to this thread from my copies of the 2 books, it's interesting background, esp upon re-reading.

(After a week's hiatus, I'm back to reading Hawk, and have just exited the Pictish lands.)

Jul 1, 2010, 8:27am Top

I'm going to start posting links to new reviews of the Storyteller books here, providing the reviewer doesn't beat me to it ;-)

Yesterday's new review was for Flight of the Hawk by calm, who has promised to join this thread after she finishes reading the trilogy.

Jul 2, 2010, 9:04am Top

Having read two of the Storyteller novels now (review pending for Hawk), LT recommended the Lawhead Pendragon Series, which begins with the novel Taliesin. The reviews indicate it has a strong Christian bent, but without being overbearing, perhaps similar to the way Storyteller has a pagan bent.

Has anyone here read Taliesin? I'm curious how it compares to Storyteller's historical depictions of setting, character speech, character motivations. Lawhead's focus on the bard Taliesin rather than Arthur or Merlin is an intriguing premise.

Edited: Jul 2, 2010, 10:02am Top

I haven't read any of Lawhead's books (I stopped reading other people's Arthurian-period fiction when I started writing my own), but I did look at Taliesin once in a bookstore, read the first couple of pages, and found the narrator's voice very different from my conception of the bard. I think there are almost as many literary versions of Taliesin as there are of Arthur or Merlin.

Hopefully someone who has actually read the book will comment presently ;-)

eta: I've asked someone familiar with both series to comment.

Jul 2, 2010, 2:03pm Top

>44 elenchus: I've read Lawhead's Raven King Trilogy (about "Robin Hood") which I realize isn't related, but I loved them.
That lead me to purchase Taliesin, but since I have a number of books from here to review first, and then an endless supply of other books, I'm not sure when I'll actually get around to reading it.
After reading Storyteller and Hawk (and I'm a little ways into Ash Spear), I'm definitely curious to learn more about Taliesin and see a different perspective (not at all implying that I don't like your perspective gwernin!) I honestly had no idea that this Taliesin character existed before the Storyteller series, because the only book I've really read that's close to the Arthurian times is The Mists of Avalon

Jul 2, 2010, 2:08pm Top

hi Millie, for more books featuring Taliesin, both historical and fictional, see:



Jul 2, 2010, 2:42pm Top

>47 gwernin:

What a fabulous use of the character page here on LT! Wow. I've marveled at the idea but hadn't had any real use for them -- or in any case, didn't think I did. Thanks for posting, gwernin.

>46 MillieHennessy:

It's been the Storyteller series that introduced me to Taliesin, too, though I've read a number of books on that character page without recalling him specifically. None of those I've read featured him as a major character, though.

Edited: Jul 2, 2010, 2:51pm Top

Here's the character page for Aneirin:

That took some hunting: is there an easier way to find a character / people page than
1: searching on people / character from search window on the CK page of a random book, then
2: clicking on a link of the name in the result set? (If none appears, I assume there's no page yet.)

That seems roundabout, but I couldn't find another way to do it.

Jul 2, 2010, 3:01pm Top

For my books, look at the CK: all the major characters and many of the minor ones are listed. For other people's books, I'm not sure. I built a lot of those two pages myself, adding books where I knew the characters occurred.

It's all dependent on members having entered the characters in CK for the pertinent books, of course...

Jul 2, 2010, 3:03pm Top

Thanks for letting me know about this thread. I have read nearly every book Lawhead has written, as well as all the Storyteller series. Regarding Taliesin, the conception and character voice of Lawhead's Taliesin is quite different from the one in the Storyteller series. However, both writers are working from the same source material, and I felt there were certain similarities in the setting, so that I was put in mind of Lawhead's work (which I read a long time ago) when reading Storyteller last year.

In terms of the Christian focus in Lawhead - yes, this is something that is in all his work. However, it is a Celtic inspired Christianity he describes, and one does not feel this is some kind of modern evangelical sermon in the manner of Frank Peretti, or the "left behind" series. I thought it added a nice extra dimension to the story, and Storyteller will be an interesting counterpoint to it.

Taliesin also links in the legends of Atlantis / Llyonesse with the story. That was somewhat unusual, and an interesting idea.

All in all, if you liked Storyteller for its feel for the period, and the Celtic inspired story based on plenty of good source material, I think you will like Taliesin too. If you liked Storyteller primarily for its slight pagan focus, you will find less in Taliesin to like - but will still not hate it. If you like Storyteller because of the character voice and the interesting episodic nature, then you will not find that in Taliesin - but Lawhead writes well enough that you may not mind. If you really don't like the 6th century in Britain, you will hate it :)

Jul 2, 2010, 4:08pm Top

> 49
is there an easier way to find a character / people page

Click on Common Knowledge at the bottom of every page. Choose People/Chracters from the drop down and type the character name into the search box. It will give you list of CK entries, but you can then click on the character name to take you to the character page.

Hope that made sense :)

Jul 3, 2010, 11:16pm Top

>47 gwernin: Thanks for the links gwernin!

>51 sirfurboy: Thanks for the insight! I really loved the Hood series, so I'm hoping the other Lawhead series is just as likeable.

Jul 4, 2010, 9:36pm Top

51: Thanks for posting - diolch yn fawr am dy neges!

Also: a new review for Storyteller today here.

Edited: Jul 5, 2010, 8:22pm Top

I posted a bit on my (rather neglected) blog today regarding my plans for the future of the series, and thought I'd link to it.

(Note: comments are moderated on the blog right now because of problems with a persistent spammer.)

Jul 6, 2010, 2:39am Top

>55 gwernin: In my review I mentioned I was just ordering books 2 and 3 (got them, thank you) and looking forward to 4. Now you have me seriously hooked, your planned third trilogy is set in my backyard.
I managed to wait 23 years for the completion of Katharine Ker's Deverry cycle, I guess I just need to learn a bit more patience.

Jul 6, 2010, 10:17am Top

56: your planned third trilogy is set in my backyard

Excellent! I may use you as a fact-checker, then. Please let me know if you notice any errors of topography or natural history in Flight of the Hawk ;-)

btw, in regards to a discussion some of us had a couple of months back concerning the dividing line between historical fiction and fantasy on this thread, I notice tags on Storyteller are running 21 to 5 in favor of historical fiction.

Jul 6, 2010, 11:06am Top

I also am geeked by the planned series as posted on your blog, gwernin! And very interesting that you indicate your estimated completion percentage for Druid's Son. If that is to help keep you on task, I'll do my bit by periodically checking for updates, heh.

That's interesting about the tags. I agree the series is more historical fiction than fantasy, despite the fact the fantastic elements have increased in Hawk compared to Storyteller. Or at least, it seems that way to me: I did not do a careful comparison by number of episodes or page count, so perhaps it's merely my impression.

Jul 6, 2010, 11:16am Top

Sirfurboy's review mentions that the series is self-published, and implies the books have never been submitted to a publisher. I'm curious about that, gwernin: what is your approach to publishing? Is it simply easier to self-publish, or in some way superior to traditional publication, or do you want to establish an audience before submitting to a publisher?

I have some of the same preconceptions as Sirfurboy re: self-publication, but the first two volumes are better than many published books I've read, and in many respects: quality of writing, assurance of style, coherent world, dialogue, and in the end, the solidity of the stories. I really like the type of plot you've chosen, I'd call it understated with attention paid to the immediate interactions and thoughts of the characters rather than on a swords & sorcery-type quest or conflict. I must admit I didn't anticipate any of those to be the case. Happily, I was wrong.

If any of this is addressed on your blog, please direct me there!

Jul 6, 2010, 11:38am Top

58: Heh, well, you motivated me to update the estimated completion statistics, anyway!

Regarding the fantstic elements in Hawk, there may indeed be more; I haven't analyzed it either. Possibly they are just more overt, and sometimes involve people other than Gwernin (that may be Neirin's influence).

Edited: Jul 6, 2010, 12:41pm Top

59: Self-publishing: Yes, all my books are self-published, although I don't advertise the fact for obvious reasons. It happened almost accidentally, but on the whole I think has worked well for me (in terms of satisfaction, if not necessarily money).

As I've mentioned before, most of the first twenty chapters of Storyteller were written for monthly serial publication in a small local newsletter. At some point in that process, I collected the first thirteen episodes ("A Circuit Round Wales") into a xerox-published comb-bound book for friends. I had some thoughts of submitting to publishers, but (as we've discussed) the book doesn't fit easily into a standard category, and I wasn't interested in altering it to be more salable. So I put it aside, thinking of it as a retirement project.

Then I came across a mention of Lulu.com (I think on The Guardian website), and it sounded interesting. I used Lulu first to publish my poetry collections, liked the results, and actually sold some to some of my SCA friends. So I started writing again, and eventually published Storyteller through Lulu, thinking that I might ultimately sell as many as 100 copies. (Needless to say, I've sold quite a few more than that ;-)

I find that I like self-publishing. I've had discussions with one or two (very) small publishers about the books, which fell through due to lack of financing on their part, but by and large I'm happy doing things this way. I think it is not so much that self-publishing is easier - it involves quite a lot of work that a traditional publisher would do for me - as that it allows me to do things my way, and to do things I wouldn't normally have been able to do (such as cover design); it also allows me to avoid experiences I would not enjoy (e.g. submitting manuscripts, receiving rejection letters, rewriting to suit someone else's taste, etc.). Certainly it is not for everyone. I had twenty years experience writing technical reports and preparing legal exhibits, for instance, which helped enormously.

Plot choice: the low-key plots are a deliberate choice. I used to read a lot of fantasy (in the distant past), and it's not what I'm interested in writing. I think that's partly why I view my books as historical fiction (even if with magical elements) rather than fantasy. Gwernin is not a Hero, and neither are any of his friends; they are people who are sometimes small-H heroic, and sometimes not - and I think more interesting for it. Gwernin falls in the mud, doesn't get the girl, gets lost, and periodically makes a fool of himself; and he never, never saves the Universe from Dire Peril. On the other hand, he's a pretty good storyteller, and he may eventually become a master bard. I think that's enough of an achievement.

Jul 6, 2010, 1:37pm Top

61: I think that's partly why I view my books as historical fiction (even if with magical elements) rather than fantasy. Gwernin is not a Hero, and neither are any of his friends; they are people who are sometimes small-H heroic, and sometimes not - and I think more interesting for it. Gwernin falls in the mud, doesn't get the girl, gets lost, and periodically makes a fool of himself; and he never, never saves the Universe from Dire Peril. On the other hand, he's a pretty good storyteller, and he may eventually become a master bard. I think that's enough of an achievement.

It may be because your fantasy-reading days are in the distant past, but epic fantasy (the saving-the-universe Heroism) isn't the only thing in the genre, and plenty of people like smaller-scale fantasies about real people, that just happen to be set in worlds with supernatural elements. To pick something that bears more than a passing resemblance to Storyteller, consider The King's Peace; it's set in what amounts to post-Roman Britain, with the equivalent of King Arthur trying to hold things together, but fails to be historical fiction because (a) there is magic and divine intervention and (b) women have far more opportunities than in the historical era. But there's no world-saving; maintaining the local bit of the world is the most anyone hopes for.

I guess what I'm trying to say is sort of what I was getting at earlier, in the "Historical Fiction" thread; that being fantasy isn't necessarily a bad thing, and it's a broader category than you perhaps may be envisioning. I'm not saying you should view your own works as fantasy, of course, just that you don't need to be upset if other people do.

Jul 6, 2010, 2:02pm Top

62: Well, I didn't mean to start this argument again ;-) I think last time we agreed that where one draws the dividing line depends largely on what phenomena one accepts as possible in the Real World, and that you and I have slightly different definitions of "possible". However, I take your point that the definition of "fantasy" has shifted over time, and that the main thing is whether people read and enjoy my books, not how they tag them afterward.

It could be interesting to explore our definitions of "magic and divine intervention" as opposed to "supernatural". I'll be interested to see where you think Hawk falls on that scale.

Edited: Jul 6, 2010, 2:43pm Top

Chiming in on the fantasy genre, I should say I read a lot more of that before college, and while my tastes have expanded I still very much enjoy a good fantasy novel. The issue for me usually is that I'm a bit more discriminating than I was, but then I can afford to be since I've read so much of it. And with so much to read, I'm looking for something different, whether the title in question is fantasy or historical fiction. There are a lot of historical fiction books on offer that I skip for much the same reason I pass up another Tolkien clone: there are other books I'd rather read, instead.

I suspect I'm somewhere between lorax and gwernin on my appreciation of fantasy, but I do find it interesting to see whether my opinion changes re: whether Storyteller qualifies as fantasy or historical fiction, or something else, as the fantastic elements (magic, divine intervention, supernatural, psychology) change between the various books. It raises the question of just what it is that makes me pick one label rather than another.

Jul 6, 2010, 4:36pm Top

"whether Storyteller qualifies as fantasy or historical fiction, or something else"

Actually, I kind of like "something else". Which brings me back to why I decided to self-publish...

One thing that came up on the previous thread was the distinction between strong magic (intentionally causing changes in the real world according to the wielder's will, as in Harry Potter) and things like telepathy or true dreaming, where the activity is more passive. Where you stand on the reality of the latter may affect where you draw the line on Hawk.

Jul 6, 2010, 5:42pm Top

>57 gwernin:
Excellent! I may use you as a fact-checker, then. Please let me know if you notice any errors of topography or natural history in Flight of the Hawk ;-)

You'd be welcome to do so, and I shall.
I remember that thread, I suspect part of how people view the distinction in the case of Storyteller will be how they view magic and the supernatural. Though the appearence of both in Storyteller s subtle.

Jul 6, 2010, 9:50pm Top

I wasn't really thinking about a genre while reading the Storyteller series (well, I'm still not), but reading this thread made me realize that. I definitely wouldn't put it as a fantasy, despite the touch of magic, etc. But I also didn't peg it as what I consider typical historical fiction (Philippa Gregory, Alison Weir, etc). I'd stick it in the "something else" category as well.
Bottom line, I enjoy what I'm reading, no matter what genre it is!

Jul 7, 2010, 10:50am Top

My review of Flight of the Hawk is posted, I've avoided spoilers (I think) so it should be safe to read even for those not finished with the book.


I really must get The Ash Spear now, though I have several books waiting for me I'm looking forward to Gwernin's continued exploration of his world. Grove's sense of place is for me as important a character as any person in the series.

Jul 7, 2010, 5:24pm Top

68: Thanks for another good review! It is always interesting seeing the books through other people's eyes.

As a footnote, the Pictish druid is based on a historical character in the Life of Columba (can't link to chapters, but see chapters 34 and 35 in the second half of the index).

Jul 7, 2010, 11:42pm Top

That is fascinating: not only the specific chapters, but that entire book.

I must think to avoid this thread when I have work to do, I end up mired in online readings quite far afield from my appointed rounds. Hrmph.

Edited: Jul 8, 2010, 2:35pm Top

I think the saint's life (written about 100 years after Gwernin's period) also is interesting evidence of the early medieval attitude toward miracles, magical conflicts, monsters (proto-Lake Ness monster), ESP (Columba's repeated clairvoyance), etc.

Jul 8, 2010, 2:49pm Top

I find it amusing but also instructive that your druid is based upon the life of a Christian saint. I imagine the contemporary non-sectarian view was they were equivalent to one another, perhaps akin to how in US culture various clergy are considered equals.

Edited: Jul 15, 2010, 11:46am Top

>59 elenchus:.

Yes I did mention the work is self published, but I hope my review was quite clear that I thought the writing surpassed the quality of most traditionally published works out there. Gwernin thoroughly deserves her success with these books.

Following reading this thread I realised there was Lawhead trilogy I had not read yet, and so I set off to find "Hood". Curiously it was cheaper in audio on iTunes than as an ebook or paper book! So I bought the audio version and put it on whilst driving to Cardiff.

Luckily I did not crash - but it was a close thing at times as I was shaking my fist at the ham fisted failure of the narrator to pronouce a sinlge Welsh word right. The book was set in Wales but the narrator made no attempt at all with pronunciation. Without exception, every word was mangled and often so badly I had no idea what the original was.

I was seething so much that I had to go and buy the dead tree version of the book and give up on the audio. (It was also not helped by the faux English accent the narrator attempted. Lawhead is an American author, I would have been happy with an American accent on the narration. but an American attempting - and failing- to sound English was not good.)

{edit: I should add that the Narrator is not Stephen Lawhead himself but someone called Adam Verner - I realised my paragraph above was not clear on that.}

The story of Hood, though, was classic Lawhead and a good read.

Anyhow rant over. Gwernin, if you ever make audio versions of your books I hope you narrate them yourself. :) Or at least choose a narrator who will attempt a correct pronunciation.

Jul 15, 2010, 9:44am Top

>73 sirfurboy:

That is a great post! I'll be sure to avoid the audio book, as it would maim my nascent ability so that I'd never correctly pronounce a Welsh word. As it is, I'd have assumed it was correct, and then where would I be?

You were, in fact, abunduntly clear that you found gwernin's writing quite good, I hope no-one took my reference to your review in any other way. I agree completely with you, in fact. I wonder if part of the eBook revolution is a parallel revolution in print self-publishing. It would appear that at least some titles do not follow the "vanity press" tradition in that the quality is independent of the mode of publication. As with the revolution in music recording, I take that to be a healthy trend for readers and artists, in terms of their work if not in terms of a paycheck.

Edited: Jul 15, 2010, 8:02pm Top

73: Possibly they got the narrator because the American market would expect a British voice, and didn't realize how bad he was?

I've actually thought about doing audio versions of my books someday. My Welsh accent is probably a North / South Wales mix; I started learning years ago with North Wales tapes, but our local Welsh speaker with whom I've been practicing lately says he has a strong Pembrokeshire accent. My English is a Western / Southern American blend; I was born in Texas but have spent most of my life in the West.

I think unless you listen to an audio version first, when you read a book you hear your own voice. Perhaps the thing to aim for in a narrator is a consistent natural voice without too many peculiarities - and to pronounce the place names correctly!

74: I think the availability of non-traditional publishing avenues can only be a good thing as the major publishers cut back on their offerings while chasing the next big bestseller. I like to think I've done my part by convincing at least a few people that self-published books are not all bad.

"Vanity press" shouldn't really apply to Lulu, by the way, because they don't charge a set-up fee (although they have begun to offer editing and layout packages). All it costs for me to publish a book with them is the price of one or two proof copies and a one-time charge for an isbn and a Bowkers listing. Of course, I've invested quite a lot in the book before I get to that stage, but that's another story!

Edited: Jul 20, 2010, 10:48am Top

Something new...

I've just put up the text of another story I wrote and tell on the Storyteller blogsite. This piece isn't connected to the Gwernin stories (except in being about a young bard), but is set in Wales some 500 years later. I wrote it ten years ago; presently I'll tell you how and why...

Edited: Jul 20, 2010, 11:45pm Top

Pardon, I've only read through post #38.

regarding the tag line, I voted undecided. It has bothered me in the first two books, but it serves a few purposes and, for me, Storyteller wouldn't be Storyteller without the tag line. I think it has worked nicely in places, it's a good ending where there are time or place jumps, and sometimes I get the impression it's highlighting or hinting at something we should take note of.

PS, I love the series completely. (I need to read The Ash Spear before you finish the next book!)

Jul 20, 2010, 9:32pm Top

>76 gwernin: Something new ...

Gwernin, that is a lovely tale and equal to those in Storyteller!

I couldn't help wonder if you slipped in another tagline, I like it as much as "But that, O my children ..." and if anything, it's even more amusing to read after the conversation here. I'm referring to "Now this reply gave Geraint pause, for Penlimon is a high mountain, and it was right out of his way."

Thanks for that, it was like revisiting a favourite book and discovering I'd skipped a chapter the first time through.

Edited: Jul 21, 2010, 10:02am Top

77: Thanks. Another thing to remember about the tag line is that when I started writing the pieces which became Storyteller, they were published as *monthly* serials, so for the reader there was always a time break. That doesn't always work so well with them all packaged together in novel format.

78: Glad you enjoyed it. Geraint makes an interesting comparison with Storyteller for a number of reasons. The repetitive language, for example, which in Storyteller mainly consists of the tag line, is there specifically because Geraint was designed to be a spoken performance piece, and in fact was partly composed orally, without benefit of writing it down. The written version is slightly more elaborate than the version I tell, but not much more so. The demands of oral performance are different, and what might seem somewhat stale repetition in writing is necessary in performance to keep both the storyteller and the audience on track. It's also a good example of how I developed Gwernin's voice partly through my own performances.

Jul 21, 2010, 10:16am Top

I've been thinking about how your experience as an oral storyteller must inform your writing in so many ways, many quite ineffable. I don't think I would have thought it necessary for someone writing about bards to have that experience, and I guess I stand by that assessment. (So few things are necessary if only because someone will come along and be able to achieve something wholly by imagination that most others could not do.) But I assume that so many enjoyable aspects of your storytelling manifest because of your personal experience.

You mention Gwernin's voice specifically as arising (in part) from your storytelling experience. Anything else that you trace back to that? Or is it as elusive to pinpoint as I first speculated?

Jul 21, 2010, 10:39am Top

It might not be necessary to have had experience performing in order to write about being a bard - after all, I write about many things I've never done! - but it's certainly helpful. Another example of the old dictum to write about things you know.

I agree with you that it's hard to say just what other aspects of my writing come from performance - after all, I was writing long before I became a storyteller - but I'm sure there must be many subtle contributions. Audience feedback is immediate; you learn about things that work and don't work in your story in a very personal way, and remember it next time.

Jul 22, 2010, 10:44pm Top

Finally came back and read through, but not the "something new" yet.

I found your comments on plot choice (post #61, last paragraph) quite interesting, in regards to your books. I mean I knew you kept your stories generally low key (especially in relation to typical Arthurian/fantasy type books), but it was nice to see your view on it. For me the fact that you keep the stories low key and yet still make them work and keep me engaged is one of the most attractive aspects of your writing.

Also, I'm fascinated that you developed your writing from your oral storytelling. There is something unique in your work, and I struggle to place what exactly that is. I think your experiences preforming the stories has something to do with this...maybe a lot to do with it.

Edited: Jul 23, 2010, 12:44pm Top

Thanks, Dan. I agree.

With regard to the discussion of audiobooks upthread (starting at #73), my first project is likely to be a storytelling CD. I started work on this a couple of years ago but got sidetracked. I sometimes do a one-hour storytelling set, which includes stories from the books (Arthur and the Three Truths, The Gifts at Arthur's Crowning), Geraint, Gwion Bach, and a poem from Pryderi's Pigs (Blodeuwedd). I think this would make a nice CD and a nice tie-in with the books.

Jul 29, 2010, 7:21am Top

I've finished the trilogy and found all three books very strong. I love the descriptions of the landscape. I've been to several of the places in the first book and found your descriptions of them very accurate, so full marks on your research. Loved the scene in the Preseli's with the mist descending - so atmospheric.

About the mystical elements - I think that the way they are incorporated into the books reflects the thoughts of the time. So on the whole I think that I would say that the Storyteller series is more historical fiction than fantasy.

I'm looking forward to the next book that you write.

Aug 6, 2010, 2:13am Top

84: thanks, calm. I think getting the place descriptions right is important - right, or at least believable and detailed, because of course the landscapes (or many of them) were different 1500 years ago; for example, it's an archaeological guess as to the relative proportions of forest and cultivated land in many places. This is part of the "sense of place" that several people have commented on in the books.

I've been in the UK for most of last two weeks, btw, with intermittent web access, which is why I haven't been commenting. Last week I was in Caerdydd taking a Welsh language course; since then I've been wandering around doing site research for book #5 - out of order, but the chance to take the course was too good to miss. Should be home in a couple of days, and I'm looking forward to it.

Aug 6, 2010, 9:25am Top

Trip sounds wonderful. I'm wondering what your take on Neal Stephenson's Qwghlm might be (pronounced Taggum...of course).

Aug 7, 2010, 6:50am Top

I'm not familiar with Qwghlm - link?

Aug 7, 2010, 10:38am Top

It's a fictional parody of Welsh: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qwghlm

Aug 7, 2010, 3:21pm Top

hmm. well, I would take issue with the supposed pronunciation, for a start. There's no "q" in Welsh, which is why the Brythonic languages (Welsh, Cornish, & Breton) are called "P-Celtic" as opposed to the"Q-Celtic" group (Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx). The "-um" at the end in the only thing that conforms to Welsh orthography. In fact, it's so *unlike* Welsh that I have no idea how to pronounce it.

The location would also suggest a Gaelic (Godelic) branch. Maybe he's one of the confused people who think that Welsh is "Welsh Gaelic"? I've met a couple, but they weren't Welsh...

Aug 9, 2010, 12:55pm Top

I got back from Wales last night, and blogged a little about the trip here. Pictures later today.

Aug 9, 2010, 1:24pm Top


That's why it's a parody. It's not supposed to be Welsh, or even related to Welsh, it's supposed to be a humorously unpronounceable-to-English-speakers language.

Aug 9, 2010, 2:33pm Top

91: thanks, that makes sense ;-) I was a little sleep-deprived at the time.

Aug 9, 2010, 5:32pm Top


No problem. I wish I could be half that articulate when I'm sleep-deprived!

Edited: Aug 13, 2010, 10:21am Top

First picture from my trip is on my blog now. Let's see if I can add it here...

Aug 15, 2010, 11:36am Top

So... a question: is my occasionally inserting pictures of places I've been interesting to people, or does it just clutter up the thread?

Vote: I'd like to see more pictures.

Current tally: Yes 16, No 0

Aug 15, 2010, 11:48am Top

Definitely not clutter. I like the pictures and it is interesting to see what inspires you, so I voted yes.

Edited: Aug 15, 2010, 4:14pm Top

>96 calm:

Agree, and I also learn something about the places gwernin visits, places I'm interested in independently of her books and posts. So I voted yes twice. (Okay, that isn't supported, but I tried.)

Edited: Aug 15, 2010, 6:28pm Top

Regarding places gwernin visits in the books, here is something cool! Coincidentally, it was Caerdydd University where I was staying two weeks ago for a Welsh language course.

It's also an example, of course, of how the archaeological facts keep shifting underfoot!

Edited: Aug 15, 2010, 9:16pm Top

Next picture... in the Black Mountains of south Wales.

Aug 15, 2010, 11:24pm Top

Love the pictures!

(side note - just curious, since I don't know what G. R. stands for, how would you like us to address you? gwernin?)

Aug 16, 2010, 8:31am Top

100: side note: It is a little confusing sometimes, isn't it? Especially as I answer to "Gwernin" in some parts of my life, e.g. the SCA. (It was my SCA name first before I shared it with the Storyteller.) I would say, call me gwernin when it's obvious you mean me and G.R. when there's a need to distinguish between us. (G.R. was my nickname when I was in graduate school because I signed everything that way.)

Aug 16, 2010, 9:08am Top

>98 gwernin:

How cool to be an undergraduate and part of such a discovery. I believe that's rare, but when it happens I imagine it makes life converts of budding archaeologists.

Aug 16, 2010, 9:44am Top

101 - Good deal, your now Gwernin to me. :)
#98/102 - yes, cool story. And fascinating to see that magnetometer survey* - which happens to relate very closely to my own geophysical life.

*link here: http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/news/caerleondiscovery/%5Bhidden%5Dimages/image-158064-...

Aug 16, 2010, 8:51pm Top


That reminds me of another question -- was "Gwernin" historically a gendered name (assuming it is historically attested)? If so, do you play as a male character (forgive me if the terminology is incorrect, I don't mean disrespect) in the SCA?

Edited: Aug 17, 2010, 10:15am Top

104: Good questions. "Gwernin" (in whatever spelling) would have historically been a male name. I am aware of two (possible) attestations. The earlier one, from a probable 7th century inscribed stone found on Anglesey / Ynys Mon, is described by Frances Lynch in A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales: Gwynedd as follows: "The inscription, written horizontally on a rather awkward piece of schist, is a mixture of capitals and half uncials like those on the Cadfan stone... It reads (G)VI/(R)NIN / FILIU(S) / CUURI(S) / CINI / ERE/XUT / HUNC / LAPI/DEM. The name is very uncertain, but has been read as Gvernin (perhaps an early form of Gwern), son of Cuuris Cini, set up this stone. The wording suggests that this is not a gravestone but some other memorial." (Parentheses substitued for square brackets so as not to confuse the touchstones.) The stone in question was found at Llangaffo, near Caer Leb, the place where Gwernin and Ieuan find refuge in Storyteller.

The second attestation, cited by J. E. Caerwyn Williams in the Poets of the Welsh Princes, among others, is to a bard named Gwernen ap Clyddno whose floriet has been dated to around 1250 CE.

Regarding your second question, I do in fact play a male persona in the SCA, although since plain long robes are rather indeterminate, and since I didn't make an issue of it early on, many people are not aware of this. Nowadays I do wear more definitely male garb (short tunic, loose breeches, Saxon-style leg wraps), and let people come to what conclusion they will.

Aug 17, 2010, 12:18am Top

>105 gwernin:

Love it. Complicated, layered, open-ended. Like a good novel.

Edited: Aug 17, 2010, 11:01pm Top

A different day, a different part of the Black Mountains... It would be easy to get lost if that mist came a little lower.

Edited: Aug 20, 2010, 3:43pm Top

btw, for those who are curious and not afraid of (very mild) spoilers, I've been adding CK information for the next book as I go. In particular, I'm using it to keep track of characters...

My ST 4 Refs collection is also a list of references I'm using or planning to use.

Edited: Aug 20, 2010, 4:16pm Top

That is fascinating: not-so-common CK, including last words for a book not yet completed. But I, for one, am quite happy to see at least one character return, whom I shall not name for fear of spoiling it for others.

Ignoring for the moment that I've not had time recently to make progress on any of the five books currently underway: I really need to purchase The Ash Spear.

Incidentally, have you made a decision about the tagline? Perhaps I missed it as we discussed various side topics.

Aug 20, 2010, 4:34pm Top

Thanks Gwernin, this is very interesting. I love that you have your reference list. I take it ST 1 refs, ST 2 refs, ST 3 refs refer to the first three books.

Aug 20, 2010, 6:07pm Top

109: Regarding the tagline, I haven't made a final decision, but I'm leaning toward dropping it for the reasons discussed.

110: Yes, those are the reference lists for the first 3 books. Being able to keep track of things like this is one of the reasons I originally joined LT, back in the days before the social side developed and before I'd published any of my books.

Aug 27, 2010, 10:40am Top

New review: nuatha's review of Flight of the Hawk.

I've been answering questions for a while on this thread; now I'd like to ask some, in hopes of starting a discussion. So:

How many of the Storyteller books have you read? If more than one, which was your favorite, and why? Also, of the interior stories, which did you like the best?

Aug 27, 2010, 12:44pm Top

I like both volumes I've read, but as I note in my reviews they have distinct characters. I'd call Storyteller my favourite, primarily because the episodic approach to the story lends a quality not easily described, but which I very much like. It's a quality I don't associate with many other books, either, another reason to give the nod to it over Flight of the Hawk. Not sure this will be much help to others, but I really can't say enough about this literary quality. It's wrapped up in the sense of place, certainly, and the flow or metre of the prose, and yet somehow something other than that, too. I think it's related to the strong sense that the book (for me) is "about" more than what is on the surface, more than the narrative arc or plot, more than what is literally said. Can't put my finger on it, it struck me from the beginning and shapes the overall impression of the work for me.

The question as to which interior story I like best is intriguing. Must dip into the books and remind myself, and post about it later.

Aug 27, 2010, 1:17pm Top


I've read the first two and love them both. I have a preference for Storyteller (book 1), although it's very difficult to put in the 'why' into words. It's something like what elenchus describes - the episodic approach (although FotH has this too) and some vague literary quality that I can't quite figure out how to express. Perhaps the storytelling itself was slightly different. But then again, maybe Storyteller was simply the first one, and it was new and the book that hooked me in.

My favorite of your single stories is the one I quoted from in my review of Storyteller, where Gwernin and Iuean get lost in the fog and supernatural events may or may not have occurred. A simple weather quirk gave the whole story a magical quality.

Edited: Aug 27, 2010, 4:47pm Top

I have not read any yet, but intend to before too long :)

Has anyone tried one of the pdf versions on a kindle yet? (I have one on order...)

Aug 27, 2010, 5:01pm Top

TimS - I've read the first two on Kindle. Text formatting was bad, but I was able to read it.

Aug 27, 2010, 5:19pm Top

#116 thanks - so I won't use them for "how do I like this kindle", but for later

Aug 27, 2010, 6:23pm Top

116: Dan - can you give me an idea what's wrong with the formating? That's something I need to deal with one of these days when I have a little more time.

Aug 27, 2010, 7:10pm Top

I don't remember exactly, but essentially there was no formatting. It looked the like the text was copied and pasted without font, or paragraph formatting like indents or extra spaces or centering etc. It only meant sections breaks were lost, headings weren't obvious and it simply didn't look nice - but it was readable. This was over a year ago, so things might be different now.

Aug 27, 2010, 9:34pm Top

At least the Kindle hardware accepts PDFs, I downloaded the Kindle app thinking I could use it to read all sorts of eBook formats, only to learn it doesn't. In fact, I purchased an eBook from Smashwords and couldn't use it on the app, discovering I should have bought it through Amazon so it would sync. Very discouraging.

gwernin, I assume you created the PDF, which included formatting, but the trouble lies with Kindle's import of your PDF?

I don't aspire to own every gadget available, rather to knowing as much about each gadget as if I did.

Aug 27, 2010, 10:12pm Top

120: Yes, the problem would seem to be with the Kindle import. The pdf is created through Lulu's upload process, and when viewed with Adobe reader looks exactly like the printed text. I don't have a Kindle or know much about them, as I prefer hard copy books which won't evaporate when the software changes. I could, of course, make the ebooks available through Amazon, which would no doubt solve the format problem, but I don't like their licensing terms. It sounds as if I need a way to get the books into a different format, and possibly a different ebook distribution process as well, since I gather some people have had trouble getting them through Lulu.

Edited: Aug 28, 2010, 7:56am Top

>112 gwernin:
All 3 and eagerly anticipating the next.
I may be able to answer this better in few months when I'm likely to reread them. I read Flight of the Hawk and The Ash Spear back to back, therefore its more difficult to mentally separate them at the moment. Currently I think Flight is the favourite, largely because it fills the promise of Storyteller - unlike several of the other respondents above, the episodic nature of Storyteller didn't gell with me at first.
Interior tales, Arthur as a would be thief.

Edit: typo

Aug 28, 2010, 7:55am Top

Format Issues.
Checking the pdf of Storyteller, the actual pdf file seems fine. My biggest criticism would be that its exactly like the book, large margins and verso and recto pages. (overall a very minor criticism)
Each format has its own set of limitations, not all the conversion software seems to do an equal job across the formats it supports. The best format conversion tool I've found is Calibre (http://calibre-ebook.com/) which has a few idiosyncracies (and I hate the way it attempts to catalogue) but seems to produce good versions in a very wide range of formats.

Sep 1, 2010, 1:55pm Top

New blog post, with some news.

Sep 1, 2010, 2:12pm Top

Congratulations! I suspect you might end working harder after retirement.

Sep 1, 2010, 2:13pm Top

You're probably right ;-)

Sep 1, 2010, 2:13pm Top

PS - did you get anything of value out of the responses to #112? (posts #113, 114 & 122)

Sep 1, 2010, 2:34pm Top

Yes, I think so. It's always good to see different points of view.

Sep 1, 2010, 9:30pm Top

>124 gwernin:

Congratulations! Of course, you're only quitting one job, and I hope the extra time to devote to writing will reward you, and us readers, too.

Edited: Sep 1, 2010, 11:13pm Top

Followup to my >113 elenchus:

One of my favourite interior stories is "Trimontium" from Flight of the Hawk, not only for the treatment of magic (was it all in Gwernin's head? was he clairvoyant with actual events from another time? was it sorcery from his current enemies?), but the wonderful way the Roman, Saxon, Druidic cultures overlap, and seemingly bleed into one another through that singular locale.

From dchaikin's profile, and gwernin's history in geology, thinking about this story brought to mind a book I'd highly recommend: Basso's Wisdom Sits In Places. It is for me the most mind-boggling example of geography, sense of place, cultural reference, and myth I've ever read. It's non-fiction, but written in an engaging style. The Apache use of geography to situate their cultural identity, at least as interpreted by Basso, is quite striking. Highly recommended, and I get some of that layered meaning in the Gwernin story.


Sep 1, 2010, 11:18pm Top

elenchus - I'm very interested in "Wisdom Sits In Places." Thanks for the mention.

Sep 1, 2010, 11:45pm Top

Trimontium - modern name, the Eildon Hills - is a very interesting location. It is of course the place where in later folklore Thomas the Rhymer met the Queen of Faery. The time we visited it - on Beltane Eve, no less - was very interesting indeed, although that (to coin a phrase) is a story for another day!

In a more general vein, the stories associated with particular places are very important all through the books. Indeed, sometimes I and Gwernin were equally surprised at what we found there.

"Wisdom sits in places" does sound interesting.

Sep 2, 2010, 7:52am Top


Have you considered using Smashwords? They distribute several different ebook formats, including a mobi that works great with Kindle. PDFs won't ever sync no matter where they come from, and for most that I've tried reading on the Kindle, PDFs aren't well handled.

120, Only books you get from Amazon will sync between your computer and kindle or other device and only theirs will be backed up for you... however, when using other sites, you should choose mobi or mobi pocket format (.prc), not the PDFs. Although the 3rd party documents don't sync like the Amazon files do, Mobi files do read better than PDF on the Kindle and mobi files can be read with the Kindle application, it just won't save your place for you when you switch between the Kindle and computer. I find a sticky note solves that problem quite nicely. Just write the locations number and then use the "go to" option from the menu to get to that place when you switch devices.

Sep 2, 2010, 8:08am Top

133: Thanks, 1dragones! That sounds like the information I needed - I'll have to follow up on it. I think someone mentioned Smashwords to me before.

Sep 2, 2010, 8:26am Top

130: another title possibly of interest on this theme: Landscape Perception in Early Celtic Literature. (I admit I haven't read all of it yet, but what I read was fascinating, and very appropriate to my period.)

Sep 2, 2010, 9:38am Top

>133 1dragones:
Very helpful about the Kindle app! I bought a book from Smashwords, and downloaded both the PDF and a "Kindle"-designated file, not sure it was mobi, and simply couldn't find a way for the app to import it. That is, it's not that I tried to import it and it didn't recognise the file -- I could not find a way to tell it about the file! No "import" menu selection or whatnot.

Exploring on Amazon.com, I could only find references to purchasing from Amazon, which would then automatically sync my account to my Kindle app. Very discouraging, I've since uninstalled the app. Based upon your suggestion I may try again. I've not found reading eBooks on my PC or netbook enjoyable, except as a PDF or text file, and I have to be very motivated to do it.

>135 gwernin:
I'm hoping I can find that title in the library, I'd bet I'd learn about Celtic literature as much as about geography and sense of place.

Edited: Sep 3, 2010, 10:33am Top

Well, I've been giving Smashwords a try. So far I've uploaded my first book of poetry, King Arthur's Raid on Hell. This took a lot of reformating work, and it's still not perfect in all formats (curly quotes and en dashes seem to cause problems in the simpler formats, for one thing - have to decide if it's worth having those messed up to have the more sophisticated ones look better). Since I don't have any portable devices to test on, I'd like to ask people reading this to download and test for me. The page is http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/23294, and I've generated a coupon code (MZ86J) which will make the book free for the next month. Please try it out, and let me know any problems you encounter!

eta: And please share this information with anyone else who might be interested.

Sep 3, 2010, 2:57pm Top

>137 gwernin:

First of all, thank you.
Checking the formats which are easily viewable online or my laptop (html, java, text all have view on line options, PDF (using Foxit) and RTF (MS Word).
There seems to be a pagination issue, worse in the html file than the other formats. Contents is six pages in the html file with the first half of the introduction on the sixth. The first three lines of Telyn’s Song follow the second half of the introduction. I'll try and have a look at the source code later and see if I can spot why its doing this.
Strangely the javascript version seems to have some incomplete markup tags (FONT> in> T> which don't show in the html version (and should if its the same base file)
The RTF file has An Apology to the Baroness on the page below the end of The Hunting of the Boar of Dunadd then the title and first line of Winter in Earngyld. The same pagination appears in the pdf. (I had thought that having Word set to A4 may have caused some issues, assuming you'd used American paper sizes).
Plain Text, as expected shows issues with some of the "fancier" text formatting options. The title appearing as:
Guernen Sang It:
King Arthur’s Raid on Hell
and other poems

I have downloaded the epub and pdb versions and will ask a friend to look at the lrf (Sony) format. Although mobi is originally a Palm format, I don't know if the Kindle is more sophisticated about handling this format, so will leave this to the Kindle owners.

My temptation would be to have two versions on the finished file, one that uses smart quotes, en and em dashes etc as appropriate and one which replaces these with standard quotes, hyphens etc. The former being for print and the more sophisticated ereaders. I have come across scripts that will replace smart quotes en dashes etc with standard Ascii equivalents.

Is this the sort of feedback you were looking for?

Sep 3, 2010, 3:30pm Top

Yes, definitely. I had noticed some of the problems in the view-on-line files and the plain text; not sure what I'm going to do about them yet... Have to run now, more later.

(I think the novels will actually transfer more easily than the poetry, since the formatting is simpler - expect to have Storyteller over there sometime next week.)

Sep 4, 2010, 8:30am Top

I don't think having two versions of the file for Smashwords would work very well, considering their setup. My inclination is just to suppress the plain text version (you can choose which formats to make available), which has the most junk. I'll do a little reformatting, which I hope will take care of the page break problems, and upload another version in a couple of days.

I'll be busy the next couple of days, so probably won't respond to messages until tomorrow night.

Sep 5, 2010, 7:56pm Top

137> still no delivery date for my new kindle, but I look forward to trying King Arthur's Raid on Hell on it :)

Sep 5, 2010, 8:45pm Top

141: great! by the time you get it, there should be more of my books available, too!

Sep 6, 2010, 12:30pm Top

Update: King Arthur's Raid on Hell has been clear-listed by Smashwords for general distribution. Also, I've downloaded Amazon's Kindle for PC app and Adobe Digital Editions (for the EPUB version) and it looks good in both of those, so I think I'll leave it as it stands for now. With luck, it'll also look good on mobile devices!

133: elenchus, I don't see a way to import a file into Kindle for PC either, but if you click on the file you've downloaded it opens in K for PC.

Sep 7, 2010, 10:47am Top

More ebook news: Storyteller and Flight of the Hawk are on my Smashwords page now too, with The Ash Spear probably joining them by the end of the week. Anyone who has got a pdf version in the past and wants a different version can leave me a private message, and I'll give you a coupon code for a free upgrade.

Re: Kindle for PC, if you download the ebook and click on it, it opens in Kindle for PC, and thereafter Kindle remembers you have it and keeps your place. Don't know how syncing with the actual device works, but that's probably a start!

Edited: Sep 13, 2010, 12:24pm Top

I'm about to get back to writing again after a couple of weekends of traveling, but I was amusing myself this morning with some cover design/redesign. What do you think?

Sep 13, 2010, 12:40pm Top

Both are beautiful. I'm curious about the apples on "The Druid's Son" ... is that an original-sin Christian implication?...which might or might not be strange for a title referencing Druids.

Do you want a Graphic Designer's feedback? I can show my wife, although can't promise she will have time to respond.

Sep 13, 2010, 12:44pm Top

I'm not sure (yet) what the apples might symbolize - I came across the picture in my photo organizer and liked the effect. I might, after the fact, suggest that they could have as much to do with Avalon as Eden...

And yes, if she had time to look, it would be interesting to hear a professional's point of view.

Sep 13, 2010, 12:46pm Top

#147 well, not professional yet. She's in grad school...

Sep 13, 2010, 11:56pm Top

(Erica, Daniel's wife...too lazy to find my own login)

Not even close to professional yet!

I like them. I can make some suggestions, but how much do you want them to look like the rest of the series? They have a slightly different feel. Maybe that is good, maybe you want them closer (or much different.) If you want totally different, I could come up with some ideas.

Sep 14, 2010, 12:06am Top

I like them both, in fact they've grown on me since my first look earlier today.

I definitely like the new designs better than the first Druid's Son cover, they're closer to but distinct from the very interesting aesthetic achieved by the first trilogy. I liked the combination of archaeological photography and fantasy, found it very appropriate to the writing, and the first Druid's Son cover didn't have that feel.

However, I really liked the standing stone depicted in the earlier cover! Maybe that photo could be used in the new designs.

Finally, since the new poetry chapbook is culled from the first trilogy, I'd consider making its cover match the design of first trilogy rather than match the design of the second. Or, come up with a separate design altogether. Seems needlessly confusing / misleading otherwise.

Edited: Sep 14, 2010, 3:00pm Top

149: "Slightly different" is probably about right, then. I wanted to set the second trilogy off visually from the first, but not make it too different. (Good luck with the graduate school!)

150: I wasn't quite happy with the first Druid's Son cover, and I have got less happy with it as time went on, hence the redesign. It had more of a total fantasy feel, which my books are not (imho!). I think the new cover has more of that combination of hard-edged reality and fantasy/magic which the stories have, while still being a bit different from the first set. It's also, I think, a bit ambiguous in a good way - the combination of the title and the picture hopefully arousing curiosity.

Regarding the standing stone - here is the original picture. I took a long series of pictures of standing stones and stone circles while I was in Ireland last year, looking for cover images, and none of them quite worked for me.

The chapbook cover is partway between the first two poetry books and the trilogy. The brooch btw is a museum replica made from 6th century mold fragments found at Dinas Powys, where Gwernin enters his first competition in Storyteller. I know there's some potential for confusion, but the back cover copy / book description should I hope make it fairly clear that this book is made up of extracts from the first three.

Edited: Sep 14, 2010, 11:19pm Top

This is how the new collection looks on lulu. The preview will show you the introduction and the back cover.

Edited: Sep 15, 2010, 9:54pm Top

Time for another scenic picture, I think.

Sep 15, 2010, 10:02pm Top

Assuming that's taken in Wales, by any chance would this be one of the sites on this map?


Edited: Sep 15, 2010, 10:17pm Top

interesting link! but no, this one is in England: http://www.stonepages.com/england/england.html, Stanton Drew.

eta: I did get some shots of #'s 27 and 28 earlier in the trip.

Sep 15, 2010, 10:28pm Top

I found the Stone Pages and love them, but posted the other link as there seemed to be better documentation of Wales sites.

I've just purchased The Ash Spear and my appetite is whetted with these recent pictures. I've promised myself I'd finish a few other titles before following Gwernin again ... and yet, a few more photos like these and I might find myself reshuffling my queue!

Sep 20, 2010, 7:22am Top

My new kindle has arrived :) and I have started the sample of Storyteller. It all looks great so far, and the download from Smashwords /email to kindle was very smooth.

I will take a picture or two later.

The only formatting glitches I have seen so far are a few extraneous hyphens (eg "ob-server", "Ro-mans") showing up in the reflowed text.

Sep 20, 2010, 10:38am Top

Hi Tim, glad to hear it's working well with the Kindle! The hyphens, as you observe, are a problem - they're left over from mandatory line breaks. I'm surprised Smashwords' suggested "nuclear" reformatting process (copy entire document into Wordpad, then copy back to Word) preserved them - guess I'll just have to keep looking.

Sep 20, 2010, 10:45am Top

another problem is that I meant to read the Kindle user-manual first.... but have got addicted to Storyteller :)

Sep 20, 2010, 12:43pm Top

and the kindle read-aloud does not have a gentle Welsh accent - I keep hearing the stories in my head in the voice of my late father in-law. (Though your stories, Gwernin, are not the same as his - yours have a strange lack of purple space-going hippopotamuses named Heliogabalus)

Sep 20, 2010, 3:05pm Top

True it is, there is an absence of PSGH! Although no shortage of other strange beings... Glad to hear about the addiction ;-)

Sep 22, 2010, 5:24pm Top

After the kicking I got on the "VOTE" thread last night, I'm staying out of Talk for a while. If anyone wants to chat, you can find me at http://tregwernin.blogspot.com/, or email me at the address on my profile page.

Sep 23, 2010, 7:45am Top

gwernin - No clue what happened on the thread, but I'm sorry it happened. You'll be missed here. :( I've bookmarked your blog page.

Sep 27, 2010, 12:08pm Top

OK - I couldn't entirely give it up. But I do plan on being here less often - I've got a lot more done on other projects this last week.

163: Thanks. I'm going to try posting more regularly on the blog - Monday, Wednesday and Friday, at least - and I'm regularly posting new pictures there. I'll still answer questions on this thread, but not as quickly.

Storyteller Songs is now on Smashwords, too, with the first 50% available as a free sample.

Sep 30, 2010, 12:42pm Top

This message has been flagged by multiple users and is no longer displayed (show)
This info is for any author that is interested in having an impression. I figured I would share it with you. My opinion of what is "shameless self promotion" is explained in another thread but this part of the thread's topic is about impressions. Advertising your product requires having impressions made. However having an impression made is much different than making an impression and it doesn't guarantee someone that clicked on your Ad will purchase; it only means they have interest. Unfortunately you are doubled taxed. Double taxed because of a sales tax and a cost per click. The following information tells you where to go.

The internet is definitely a formidable form of marketing that is gaining much more use. Facebook and Twitter are only two names of social media that has vast global coverage. Everybody wants to use these “venues” to make Ads that promote their product. Logic or common sense tells one that part of this form of marketing includes large numbers of continuous impressions. However, many times you have to “pay per click.” Think of it as paying an additional tax on whatever product you are trying to promote, but because the individual “clicked” (shows interest) it doesn’t mean that they will follow through and buy instantly. I was fortunate to “stumble” onto a new service offered by Wpromote that doesn’t charge per click. I was skeptical but it was soon changed as I was easily able to contact a person both by phone and email. The key is that you have a one time payment for your choice of level advertising (minimal-very aggressive), demographic, and Ad preferred. For those that have further interest go to my site www.getting-therebook.com and click on their banner that’s within my page to get more info and/or started.

Sep 30, 2010, 1:44pm Top

>165 mdbirmingham:

I don't see the connection of your message to this thread. Perhaps create a new thread in the Hobnob with Authors group, though the impression this message made on me is that it was unsolicited spam.

Did you perhaps intend to post somewhere else?

Sep 30, 2010, 2:02pm Top

It's posted on at least two other threads, all in different groups:

This is advertising and should be flagged as spam. But, I don't think it terribly sinister. If mdbirmingham were to start a thread and post it there, perhaps it would OK with TOS...although I'm not sure.

Sep 30, 2010, 3:34pm Top

Message 165 is spam. Can someone remove it?

Sep 30, 2010, 5:26pm Top

Re: message 165: I certainly agree with the consensus, but I don't think anything can be done about it.

On other topics, I've just opened a 3-week member's giveaway of the new Smashwords version of Flight of the Hawk. Also, I'm continuing to post new pictures on the blog. (Dan, you should be especially interested in the last two, from an unusual limestone terrain in western Ireland.)

Sep 30, 2010, 6:32pm Top

#169 - Gwernin - So, I went to take a look and saw a couple pictures in a curious limestone cobble-stone-pavement looking place, and then I clicked on one... and it took me to your flickr account...and, wow....just wow. (The link to gwernin's blog is in post #162...if anyone is looking for it.)

Oct 5, 2010, 2:33pm Top

170: Glad you enjoyed them - I'm still adding more from last year's Irish trip, so keep checking back. The Burren is certainly one of the stranger landscapes I've seen (and I've worked and traveled in places as diverse as Puerto Rico, west Texas, Nevada, and coastal Alaska). I think the denudation is partly due to the last glaciation and partly to early agricultural clearance and land overuse in a high-rainfall area.

On another topic, all of my e-books except Storyteller Songs (now undergoing reformating) are now available through Barnes & Noble.

(In an exceptional case of touchstone weirdness, the first suggestion for Storyteller Songs was "Walt Disney's Story of Peter Pan (with songs from the film)"...)

Oct 5, 2010, 2:52pm Top

I think it's self-evident that Tinkerbell displays a brand of magic that overtly intervenes in external events, not really in keeping with Gwernin's brand of the supernatural.

But perhaps she could provide two-part harmony for Gwernin's songs with the harp.

Oct 5, 2010, 5:42pm Top

I have now finished Storyteller and greatly enjoyed it. I have visited many of the places mentioned, and felt a wonderfully strong sense of place as I was reading. It was almost hard not to assume that Gwernin would have stopped for an ice-cream at Glaslyn ices in Beddgelert, and caught the narrow-gauge railways at Portmadoc and Bala...

Now on to the North, and probably passing through my home-grounds on the way

Edited: Oct 13, 2010, 4:34pm Top

173: Thanks, Tim, glad you are enjoying it. Myself, I missed the ice cream shop when we stayed in Beddgelert, but I did ride the Festiniog narrow-gauge at Portmadog. Can't remember if the engine was Merddin Emrys or Taliesin, although I think I have pictures of both somewhere.

Regarding sense of place, elenchus' recent review of Wisdom Sits in Places is very interesting, and touches on a lot of things I was doing, consciously or unconsciously, in Storyteller. In the first part of Storyteller, a lot of the interior stories and indeed the action is generated by places Gwernin passes through on his travels. In the second half, and especially once he and Talhaearn reach Llys-tyn-wynnan and stop moving, the story becomes more about Gwernin himself. This is the point where his personality gets fleshed out, and we start to see him develop. Flight of the Hawk, which was originally the third section of Storyteller, is a mixture of the two styles, with the interior stories again being largely drawn from the places visited. The Ash Spear is something different yet, but I'll reserve that discussion for the moment.

eta: The discussion of Wisdom Sits in Places also gives me a clue as to the answer to a question I'm sometimes asked: why I write about Britain (and now Ireland) instead of the U.S. Like many Americans, I've spent my life in a number of places, in none of which have I had deep roots. But the stories and mythologies I grew up with were those of Britain, and especially western Britain; those are the places to which I feel a deep connection. Hence Gwernin.

Oct 13, 2010, 6:19pm Top

174: I am indeed :)

this evening we went out, just a few kilometers from the King in the Ground, and as we crossed a little river the fog was rolling over the hedges I shivered....

Oct 13, 2010, 10:29pm Top

175: Great image! He's still there, I think, at least in spirit... and of course Alderley Edge is undoubtedly haunted.

The location I'm assuming for Llys-tyn-wynnan, btw, is grid reference SH992120: to see the location, go to http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/oswebsite/getamap/ , pick get-a-map, and plug it in.

Oct 14, 2010, 4:19am Top

175: I don't think I have been through Llys-tyn-wynnan - we tended to drive via Corwen and Bala.

I have been wondering about all the places and Google Earth.... Things have changed, of course, but most of the hills themselves are still there, if less wooded!

Oct 14, 2010, 9:30am Top

>174 gwernin:

Though I didn't state explicitly in my review, I also saw strong parallels between Wisdom Sits in Places and the Storyteller series, and made a Member Recommendation between the two because of it.

Another specific instance is Basso's reference to what I took to be the Apache version of the bardic voice. By Basso's description, it does not sound like the Celtic (nor would I expect it to), but apparently there is something about telling tales with an importance beyond mere entertainment that calls for a distinct tone and pitch and meter. I found it very interesting that the Apache have a 'functional equivalent', and that Basso was motivated to remark upon it.

I do love the synchronicity that sometimes arises out of book choices, when books seemingly unrelated almost comment on each other. If not read around the same time, I could easily miss the link, so I savour the chance encounters brought on by what I thought was a random reading sequence.

Oct 15, 2010, 10:56pm Top

178: Two I have read lately have dovetailed very well: Terry Jones' Barbarians and God Against the Gods. The combination sheds some interesting light on the transition from paganism to Christianity in Britain and Ireland.

Oct 20, 2010, 6:31pm Top

Something new I've started: Alder Tree Books.

Oct 21, 2010, 9:49am Top

good luck with it!

and more interesting snippets, connecting the dots - I had missed "The Shining Company" reference - though Cattraeth as a place-name leapt out as Gwernin rode past. I have read Men Went to Cattraeth more recently.

Edited: Oct 21, 2010, 12:17pm Top

181: Thanks, Tim. I'm not familiar with Men went to Cattraeth, and probably won't read it now so that I don't do any unconscious borrowing. There are lots of different opinions about that battle, of which I think Koch's The Gododdin of Aneirin is one of the more interesting. A lot of things in Flight of the Hawk are there to establish background for future books, and of course that milestone is one of them.

Nov 3, 2010, 1:27pm Top

Apologies to any /all for wrongful misdoings within a post here as I didn't intend to spam it anywhere. I mainly inteneded to put it where I thought it would be of use to authors, apparently I was incorrect in my thoughts and location of posting. I really would like to state however, that those that are avid communal contirbutors need not be so hastily rude and disrespectful towards those that may err as I did. There is nothing worse than being judged by another in a demeaning manner. Constructive criticism and advice is welcomed and adhered to with more ease and allows for better efficiency. I have a hard enough time reintegrating into society as permanently disabled/handicapped. What is the key concern for such offenses, quantity or quality? Once again apologies for offenses, I'll return to being a more reserved "lurker."

Edited: Nov 8, 2010, 4:09pm Top

Hi all - since I haven't been posting on LT, I've been blogging regularly (3+ times per week, usually with photos) at Tre Gwernin. I've also added a lot more content on Aldertree Books, and linked both to my Gwernin Storyteller site, which has been reformatted. I encourage everyone to stop by.

I do still check this thread regularly and will answer questions here, but I won't post on other LT threads. (Although if Tim does finally implement dedicated book forums/threads, that could change.)

Nov 9, 2010, 10:22am Top

gwernin - "Although if Tim does finally implement dedicated book forums/threads, that could change. "

If you haven't before, you should mention your interest Tim. We are discussing related ideas with apparent seriousness in this thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/101776

Nov 9, 2010, 10:28am Top

I've been following the thread (and voting in polls), but I won't post. Feel free to convey my sentiments ;-)

Nov 11, 2010, 8:27pm Top

Starting tomorrow I will be doing a member giveaway of e-book versions of my poetry. Anyone following this thread is also welcome to one - just speak up.

Nov 18, 2010, 12:06am Top

I've published my review of The Ash Spear, which officially freed me to read reviews by other LTers. Another strong story in a very satisfying series, and it appears most other reviewers agree with me.


Nov 18, 2010, 11:48am Top

Thanks, elenchus, for another insightful review. I hope the idea of comment threads linked to individual works does come to pass one of these days - that would be a great place for this discussion.

One thing I plan to be exploring in more detail in the next three books is the interactions between Pagans and Christians in Ireland and Britain - what you might call the borderlands of belief. Conventional histories (written from the Christian perspective) present the Conversion as inevitable and good, so there's little or no investigation of *why* it happened. What was in it, for example, for the various Irish kings, who I think were generally more interested in power than in paradise? And why were there so few martyrs - why didn't the Pagans fight back? An interesting book in this respect is Barbara Yorke's The Conversion of Britain. It mostly discusses the Anglo-Saxon conversion in 600-800, but has some interesting details.

Regarding Gwernin's sojourn among the Saxons, one of my sources was Britons in Anglo-Saxon England (touchstone doesn't work), a collection of papers from a conference held in 2004 which discusses the archaeological, historical and linguistic questions associated with the English settlements from a variety of viewpoints.

Nov 18, 2010, 12:48pm Top

Very good questions: the "why" of the conversion, and the paucity of martyrs. I suspect there were plenty, but as you imply, Christian histories have little incentive to discuss them except perhaps to mention them when vanquished, in whatever sense. I seem to recall versions of that among Augustinian and Thomist writings, from which is gleaned much scholarship on gnostic and other sectarian theology. Yet another reason to await the next volume!

Love that phrase, by the way: borderlands of belief.

Nov 18, 2010, 3:11pm Top

Regarding martyrs, their lack or otherwise: well, I don't know. It's my impression that the lack of resistance may have been due mostly to the profound difference in world view between classical Paganism (to paint with a very broad brush) and the Abrahamic monotheisms (followers of "the One True God," as Kirsch puts it in God Against the Gods). The polytheistic point of view is generally, "well, what's one more new god, no big deal." Early Christians in the Roman Empire appear to have been martyred chiefly for a refusal to follow the existing laws (as in making prescribed civic offerings) rather than for their beliefs, which in the vast variety of religions present in the Empire were not particularly notable. (And once Christianity became, first legal and then official, in the 4th century Empire, most of the martyrdoms appear to have been at the hands of competing Christian sects.) This probably wouldn't have happened in Ireland, at least in the early stages. Most of Patrick's converts seem to have been either slaves (who could believe what they liked as long as they followed orders) or high-status individuals, whose very status would have protected them. It was only when he moved on from preaching to actual assaults (according to the legends) on Pagan holy sites, that one wonders at his survival. I haven't sorted that one out yet - maybe I will find *an* answer during the course of the next book.

Nov 20, 2010, 2:01pm Top

I'm curious about Taliesin's song in Chapter III: is it historical, or your invention? Whether scholarship attributes that song to him or not, it seemed it might be historical.

Nov 20, 2010, 4:32pm Top

I love it when people ask this kind of question!

Like all the poetry in the books, it's mine, but based on or influenced by historical models. In this particular case, the idea of the different lives and transformations is based on a number of (probably 12th century) poems in the Book of Taliesin, in particular "Kat Godeu," which begins "I was in many forms...". These are translated and discussed most exhaustively by Marged Haycock in Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin. The exception is stanza 5, "Kings...under oaks all sleep the same", based on an 8th century Irish poem: "The fort above the oak grove, it was Bridgi's, it was Cathal's... the fort remains after each in his turn, and the kings sleep in the ground." This I first encountered many years ago in The Shining Company, where Rosemary Sutcliff puts it into the mouth of Aneirin.

The language of the eleven or twelve poems in the Book of Taliesin still attributed to the historical 6th century bard is closer to that of Taliesin's prophecy to Rhun on page 82; indeed several phrases in those lines are taken directly from the historical poems (see for example Welsh Verse and The Triumph Tree for translations).

Nov 23, 2010, 11:05pm Top

So why I noted Taliesin's poem in Chapter III but not the prophecy, I'm not sure (and the book is in the basement so I can't easily look up your reference at the moment, natch).

Sirfurboy's review mentioned the allusion to the Gododdin, which I know only by name (and only from following this thread). But I suspected you would incorporate historical verse, if only for your own amusement.

I really need to look up Sutcliff, perhaps something to borrow from my public library.

Edited: Nov 24, 2010, 12:02am Top

"Taliesin's prophecy" is what I call it in Storyteller Songs. It's basically this:

“Fire in the thatch, and the corn-fields burning.
Wine-red the ford, as at Camlann field.
Dark ruin and death, and the meat-crows gorging
On torn man-flesh after morning fight.
And many a woman wantonly weeping…”

If you want to follow up on the sources, I recommend The Triumph Tree. It has translations of all of the Gododdin and eleven of the historical Taliesin poems, plus a great deal of other interesting material. It's also in print, not expensive, and easily available. It won't give you the original texts, but you can't have everything.

Edited: Nov 26, 2010, 4:47pm Top

I think I am going to start a new thread for this topic when we reach 200 posts, which should be fairly soon now. Sound like a good idea?

Should we break this thread at 200 posts and start a new one?

It would be "Storyteller Series: General chat thread #2".

Also, the member giveaway for King Arthur's Raid on Hell ended this morning - if anyone reading this would like a copy of the e-book and didn't get one, speak up and I'll give you the coupon code.

eta: apologies for the double post - I was having problems w/ the poll.

Nov 26, 2010, 12:34pm Top

I think I am going to start a new thread for this topic when we reach 200 posts, which should be fairly soon now. Sound like a good idea?

Vote: Should we break this thread at 200 posts and start a new one?

Current tally: Yes 4, No 0
It would be "Storyteller Series: General chat thread #2".

Also, the member giveaway for King Arthur's Raid on Hell ended this morning - if anyone reading this would like a copy of the e-book and didn't get one, speak up and I'll give you the coupon code.

Edited: Nov 26, 2010, 3:31pm Top

> 196

A generous offer! I've been toying with the idea, but have decided that at present, eBooks don't serve me well. I plan to purchase the paperback eventually, though.

Nov 28, 2010, 12:09pm Top

I've started a new thread here.

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