Storyteller Series: General chat thread #2

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Storyteller Series: General chat thread #2

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Edited: Nov 28, 2010, 11:48 am

I'm starting a new thread, since the first one has almost reached 200 posts. To repeat the introduction from that thread: this is about the Storyteller 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."

While these threads are not entirely "spoiler-free" (according to some definitions), the discussions have usually been more general and philosophical, including questions about my historical sources. So feel free to chat, ask questions, and post links to your reviews of the Storyteller books here!

Nov 28, 2010, 11:55 am

And for a set of maps of Gwernin's travels, check out this page on my blog.

Edited: Nov 29, 2010, 10:36 am

And to start participation, a poll:

Vote: I've won at least one of the Storyteller books through Member Giveaways.

Current tally: Yes 3, No 9

Nov 28, 2010, 1:07 pm

#3 - no, but I have not tried :) I have bought, read, and enjoyed all three as ebooks

Edited: Nov 29, 2010, 1:02 am

I've enjoyed immensely the discussion thus far: one of the most substantive threads I've found here on LT or anywhere, dedicated to a given set of stories.

Given that you're writing the fourth installment now, I'm curious about plotting and locations. Do you follow a plan, more or less, outlined before writing? Or do you start writing, and fit in the various destinations as they occur to you during the writing process? I have in mind here primarily the various locales enroute to the main destination (i.e. circuit around Wales in the first book, Pictish lands in the second), as I assume these are established early.

Similarly, do you ever write lines of verse before the scene in which they appear is conceived, and then write the tale to fit it / include it ... or more typically do you "write verse to order" as required by the story setting?

Nov 29, 2010, 9:45 am


What if we've won one through your Hobnob giveaways?

Edited: Nov 29, 2010, 11:09 am

6: Good question - I'll add a second poll.

5: Plotting and locations: yes, I usually have a (sometimes rather vague) itinerary in mind, and an equally vague objective. In the second book it was merely to take the story up to Scotland, and see what I found there. For the third book I started with the idea of Elidyr's fatal visit to Gwynedd, based on a historical snippet from the Black Book of Chirk which I found in Trioedd Ynys Prydein. Neirin's initiatory experience was a surprise - he showed up and said, "I'm going to Ynys Mon", and I nodded, "and I'm going to walk the Dark Path," and I said "huh? what's that?" I had already planned for Gwernin to visit the Saxons (so to speak) at the end of the book, but Neirin's contribution definitely affected the way that end developed.

Planning the current book so far is rather like planning a vacation - my preferred vacation being to go to some part of Britain or Ireland, hire a car for two weeks, and wander around stopping at B&B's. I know some things I want to see; I have a general itinerary, but with room for substitutions and additions. And that's pretty much the way the books develop - the journey, and the places involved, are a large part of the story.

Poetry: I write it as required by the story, although I sometimes go back and tinker with it when I feel it's not quite up to standard. There's a piece in the beginning of the current book which will probably get that treatment.

Nov 29, 2010, 10:39 am

Second poll, to clear up confusion:

Vote: I've won at least one of the Storyteller series through Hobnob giveaways, or otherwise received one from the author.

Current tally: Yes 5, No 6
I think that covers the ground...

Nov 29, 2010, 9:44 pm

>6 lorax:, 8

Ah, I initially answered the first poll "Yes" but that's incorrect, so I've changed it (which accounts for the missing answer) and responded "Yes" to the second poll. All's square now, I think.

Nov 29, 2010, 11:00 pm

I have received one book from the author (Volume 1), and won the second one through the giveaway (Volume 2). I did not get lucky with the giveaway on book 3 and on poetry. I will need to wait the next giveaway... Thanks to the author!
Currently reading Volume 2 and struggling to write the review for Volume 1 (I always struggle a bit with reviews in English...). I will post here when the review is up.

Nov 30, 2010, 12:51 am

> 10

Mlle Raccoon, a review in French would only add lustre to the series! But your reviews in English are quite good, better than I could muster in my only other language (German). I look forward to it, however you choose to express yourself.

Edited: Dec 2, 2010, 10:30 am

10, 11: A review in either English or French or (my preference) a bilingual one would be good, especially as language is an important if minor thread in the stories. Indeed, my fascination with Welsh was one of the factors that led me to write them. I've enjoyed using Welsh grammatical constructions as part of the flavor of Gwernin's "voice", and also incorporating a gradually expanding list of Welsh words. The bits of Anglo-Saxon/Old English in books 2 and 3 were also fun to work up, and I hope to spend more time studying that language one of these days. I'm currently grappling with Old Irish, using Stifter's Sengoidelc. I don't expect to reach any advanced state of fluency, but hope to at least collect some words and phrases to use in the current book. It strikes me that Old Irish might have sounded rather like the "Old Tongue" to Gwernin - British before it evolved into the Primitive Welsh which is his language. Musing farther, that might also explain the difference between his language and Pictish...

I'm curious now: how many people on this thread are fluent in two or more languages (fluent being defined for my purpose as being able to hold an extended conversation or write a short review in the second language)? I can just about do that in Welsh, although I've studied half a dozen other languages to various degrees.

Let's make it a poll:

Vote: I am fluent in two or more languages.

Current tally: Yes 6, No 6
And please follow up with which languages and why.

Edited: Dec 2, 2010, 12:43 pm

By your criteria, I'm fluent in German but "out in the world" I don't consider myself fluent. I've listed "conversant" on resumes when I'm fluffing my feathers. Primarily that's psychological / social anxiety: I certainly have enough exposure and study to have the necessary tools, but not the personality to speak it aloud and get the requisite practise.

But I read / hear it well enough to follow the basics, and could muster a review if forced. Instead I try to read a couple titles auf Deutsch each year. More than anything, my very basic understanding widens my appreciation for English specifically, and grammar & language generally.

I'm intrigued that putting English into Welsh construction helps define Gwernin's voice. To a lesser extent, I seem to recall that Philip Kerr did something similar with German in his Berlin Noir trilogy, even translating literally some German idiomatic expressions. It had a nice effect, as does your use of Welsh grammar.

Dec 2, 2010, 4:37 pm

13: I take your point about "out in the world" - the definition was just for the poll.

I don't consider myself fluent in Welsh in any real sense, although I think I could be with a few weeks immersion. But the exercise (when I can get it) and the drive toward greater fluency is enjoyable, and as you say enlightening about language in general.

A lot of Gwernin's idiomatic constructions are Welsh - examples:

Roedd ofn arnaf i = I was afraid (literally, there was a fear on me)

Gafodd e ei ladd e = He was killed (lit.: he got his killing)

Rydw i am fynd = I want to go (lit.: I am for going)

Bardd ydw i = I'm a bard (lit: A bard am I; it's a bard that I am (as opposed to something else))

The role of the Welsh language in the modern Welsh consciousness is both central and ambiguous (disclaimer: I am not Welsh, merely a very interested observer). About 20% of the population speaks it to some extent, and it has many passionate defenders (as well as opponents). I like to think I am doing my small bit to preserve it, if only by buying Welsh books.

Dec 17, 2010, 2:49 pm

Just wanted to point out that I've started a Member Giveaway for Storyteller Songs.

Dec 22, 2010, 11:07 am

Dec 22, 2010, 11:57 am

>16 gwernin:

I hadn't put together that the repeated story (last of Storyteller, first of Hawk) was the same except told by Gwernin at different times. A nice detail fitting the interval between the events of the two books, kudos to 1dragones for noticing it.

Edited: Dec 30, 2010, 10:21 pm

Maybe because of elenchus putting too much pressure on my shoulders (#11) (just joking...), it has taken me some time to write and post my reviews. At last, here they are...
For Storyteller, the review is here.
For Flight of the Hawk, it is here.

I have written them in English, as I usually do for books sent directly to me by authors, but a translation in French is available soon on my reading threat, Lectures de 2010.
For Storyteller, the review is here.
For Flight of the Hawk, it is here.

Dec 29, 2010, 11:16 am

>18 raton-liseur:

I enjoyed your reviews, esp for Storyteller. You wrote that you recognise some of the Welsh words. How many languages do you speak / read?! (I am jealous.)

Dec 30, 2010, 10:24 pm

# 19 – Hello Elenchus.
Thanks for the kind word on the review! (By the way, links to the translations in French are now available in #18 - I’m not very proud of the translation, it is so difficult to translate even your own prose…)
No, I don’t speak Welsh, and I have never been to Wales… But I am from Brittany, the Western tip of France, and we share many cultural aspects with all the western tips of Europe: Irland, Wales, Brittany, Galicia…
I only know a few words of Breton (the French government in the XIXth and early XXth has been very efficient in suppressing local languages…), and I found them in Gwernin’s words.

A remark on language, it is mentioned somewhere that in Welsh “blue” and “green” are the same word, “glaz”.
It is the same in Breton, and I always wondered what it was like to describe the world with only one word for such a pallet of colours, especially in an area where “glaz” is the single most important colour, from the sea to the land, and sometimes the sky. I would have liked to see Gwernin never using the words “blue” and “green”, always “glaz”, and maybe seeing how an author would have to resort to adjectives, maybe to devise her own to define the many nuances of this pallet.
But well, that’s only my fantasy. Maybe something to do if one day I decide to write my own fantasies!

Feb 2, 2011, 12:18 pm

I've finished and reviewed Flight of the Hawk. It was difficult to review; mostly I found myself discussing how it differs from Storyteller.

I would have liked to see Gwernin never using the words “blue” and “green”, always “glaz”, and maybe seeing how an author would have to resort to adjectives, maybe to devise her own to define the many nuances of this pallet.

Me too! Though since he wasn't speaking English anyway, maybe "sky-glas" (though is that blue or grey in such a cloudy environment? :-) ) and "grass-glas" are helpfully being translated for us as "blue" and "green".

Jul 10, 2011, 9:57 pm

OK, several months on... I've made some progress on the new book (and been to Ireland again for two weeks to research more sites). I'll try and stop by and post here from time to time if there's interest... In the meantime, new Irish photos...

Jul 10, 2011, 11:49 pm

Always interested. I'll try to come up with a new question for all of us to consider, we've had such interesting discussions in the past.

Edited: Jul 14, 2011, 12:05 pm

I'll probably start another series of e-book giveways soon, since it's been over 6 months since the last one, which is a long time on the internet ;-) In the meantime, a couple of polls...

Vote: I've read at least one of the Storyteller series books Storyteller, Flight of the Hawk, and The Ash Spear).

Current tally: Yes 7, No 0

Edited: Jul 14, 2011, 12:05 pm

Vote: I've read at least one of the poetry books (King Arthur's Raid on Hell, Pryderi's Pigs, and Storyteller Songs.

Current tally: Yes 1, No 7

Edited: Jul 14, 2011, 12:17 pm

And one more:

Vote: I'd like to hear about some of the Irish research you've done for the new book (The Druid's Son).

Current tally: Yes 8, No 0

Edited: Jul 14, 2011, 5:43 pm

Also, for people coming late to the topic, there is a *lot* of interesting discussion on various themes (not restricted to my books) in the first part of this thread.

Jul 15, 2011, 1:23 pm

I've started two new giveaways for Storyteller: one a two-parter in Hobnob and one in MG.

Jul 15, 2011, 8:05 pm

Well, then... Irish research. I'll first point out this collection, which lists my background references (so far) for The Druid's Son. I've also made two trips to Ireland for a total of four weeks - certainly not enough to claim any great understanding of Ireland or the Irish in general, but at least enough to have been "on the ground" in most of the story locations I'm planning to use ("most", because there's always something that gets missed...). In evidence of this I offer my photo collections on Flickr (start here).

Jul 15, 2011, 9:20 pm

Before I peruse the collection and Flickr collection, I must ask: were you able to arrange your two visits to coincide with the seasons to be featured in the book? And could you manage an itinerary that more-or-less followed that of Gwernin and the travelers, or will you rely upon imagination and research to put the proper foliage on your memories & photos?!

Jul 16, 2011, 12:02 am

30: Short answers: somewhat and partly. ;-) Gwernin's visit runs (as usual) from late April through late October; I was there in early April and early October. Also I was in Wales and England in early August last year, which fills things in somewhat. Itineraries were a bit different on the two trips; I think I've covered most of the ground, but I won't know for sure until the book is finished, as Gwernin sometimes wanders off in unforeseen directions. And there are the usual uncertainties about weather and forest coverage vs. agricultural clearance in a given year... At which point I have to remind myself that this is fiction after all, and plunge ahead regardless!

Jul 20, 2011, 2:12 pm

I spent parts of last weekend at the Elizabeth Celtic Festival as a storyteller with the Colorado Welsh Society, and it was suggested that it would be good to have some sort of display poster for my books at the next festival we go to. So yesterday I got creative...

The picture at the top is one I took last summer in the Black Mountains of Wales.

Jul 21, 2011, 9:08 am

Very sharp, hope it drums up further interest.

Copyediting question: is after-math hyphenated, or is that a hold-over from a line break in the book's paragraph? (For that matter: is hold-over hyphenated?!)

Jul 21, 2011, 9:42 am

33: Sigh. You're right, I saw it yesterday. I copied it from the book to the Aldertree site, then from there to the poster. Spell checkers unfortunately can't help if the two hyphenated halves of a word are also words.

There's always one more typo...

Jul 25, 2011, 1:00 pm

Back on the topic of Irish research, one thing I've become more aware of is the extent to which the 6th century in the British Isles was an age of saints. In previous books I've mostly skirted around this except for a brief distant sighting of St Kentigern in Flight of the Hawk, but in Ireland it isn't possible (or even desirable) to avoid them all. St. Columba, in particular, is hugely important in the period of Gwernin's visit to Ireland (and for that matter still has quite a presence in northern Donegal today). He appears as a character in the Druid's Son and will show up again in the 6th book (set a few years after his foundation of Iona). Druids and saints make an interesting combination...

Here's a couple of interior shots I took of a ruined chapel associated with St. Columba where offerings are still being left to him today:

Jul 25, 2011, 8:50 pm

The overlap of druids and saints is indeed intriguing. Without arguing whether the eventual expansion and domination of Christian thought was inevitable or happenstance, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that at one point, Christians were merely another perspective. Too many fantasy novels I've read serve up the easy irony of a Christian in a historical setting whose behavior is freighted with the role and significance of Christians not yet born. A favourite idea of mine is exploring the perspective of Christians when a minority, and as a minority sect.

Elaine Pagels is an author I enjoy reading in this respect. Her popular essays on Gnostics and other faiths are interesting to me precisely because she seems interested in much the same question as I am. (In fact, I may have borrowed the idea from her, in the first place!)

Jul 27, 2011, 7:25 pm

A thing which annoys me in historical fiction is the good pagan narrator who gets a glimmering of a revelation of the One God (implicitly the Christian God). An example is Mary Stewart's Merlin, who comes to a belief that "all the gods are one God" (can't quote exactly and can't be bothered to go look it up - it's too hot here today). I started the Storyteller series as a sort of undifferentiated pagan, but the research for The Druid's Son has been very educational indeed, and I would now describe myself as a hard polytheist. This perspective, of course, like that of the ancient Romans, doesn't deny the existence of the Christian God - it just says that He's not the Only One!

Regarding saints and druids, one of the interior stories in the current book looks at one of the legends about St Patrick from the other side...

Jul 27, 2011, 7:40 pm

I'm looking forward to that interior story.

I agree about that annoyance, and you make me realise: for me, it's not that either your scenario or mine is annoying because it's wrong. Rather, because it seems to follow a preference of the author more than the character. Clearly, it's plausible for someone to come to Deism or Monotheism, or for a Christian prior to the Church to have a sense of destiny beyond what they could have known at the time. But too often I sense the author speaking more than the character.

Jul 27, 2011, 10:58 pm

Exactly: the author feels that the character with which s/he identifies really *should* share his/her belief, and therefore forces the issue. Merlin, again, is a good case in point.

One of my challenges in the current book is to present one or more sympathetic Christian characters for a change. Hence, among other things, my interest in St Columba.

Aug 22, 2011, 3:02 pm

In the last month I've had a couple of chances to do some storytelling at local Celtic festivals, which has motivated me to add to my repertoire. I spent a good bit of last week working with a traditional Irish story, and thought people might be interested in seeing, first the original text, and then the worked-up-for-performance version. This ties in a bit with discussions we've had in the past regarding the influence of my storytelling experience on Gwernin's narrative voice. The original text is here, and my version here; there's also a bit more discussion on my blog here (scroll down below the second bean photo).

Aug 23, 2011, 2:40 pm

Each is an interesting story, thanks for posting, gwernin. And I am one of those intrigued by the initial discussion about how your storytelling informs Gwernin's narrative voice. I'm also curious how the experience of telling this story at the local festival might change your decisions about what to leave in / omit / alter, as compared to your decisions when working up the story for an initial telling.

Can you tell us yet whether this particular story will find it's way into Druid's Son?

Edited: Aug 23, 2011, 3:55 pm

Regarding the narrative voice: you can see some of the same processes at work here that I use when editing and polishing my second draft: simplify and clarify, and don't use long words if shorter ones will do. This doesn't mean I don't describe things, but I try to do so if possible with bright clear images, rather than masses of detail.

Regarding telling the story: yes, it will certainly continue to evolve as I perform it; indeed this is already happening as I practice it off-book. Moreover most of my stories vary somewhat from performance to performance, depending on the audience, the venue, time constraints, etc. I think this is true of most storytellers: there are certain elements of the story which have to be there to make it work, in this case the set-up (the King of Leinster's bargain with Mongan and Dubh-Lacha's bargain with the King for a year's grace) and the conclusion (Mongan's tricking of the King of Leinster in return), but the rest of it - what I believe the Irish call the "raiment of the tale", is more flexible, and as you can see I've altered and rearranged the middle bits to suit my purpose.

As to whether this story will find it's way into The Druid's Son - well, I've been wondering that myself... But that's a story for another day.

Edited: Aug 23, 2011, 4:41 pm

Thinking of storytelling made me pause to take inventory of how many stories I can tell. This is a good exercise, because it reminded me of some I hadn't done recently, and therefore tend to forget about. I thought people might like to see the list:

Stories I've told at festivals this summer:

- The Tale of Gwion Bach (Welsh traditional)

* Arthur and the Three Truths (Welsh traditional)

- The Man Whose House Was Too Small (International folktale)

- How Cuchulainn Got His Name (Irish)

- Cuchulainn's Weapon-Taking (Irish)

** Mac Crimthainn and the Three Treasures (original)

- Moonlight (Welsh traditional)

Stories I've told in the past, but not recently:

- Geraint and the Three Knots (original)

* Arthur's Gold (original)

* The Miser's Feast (part of The Making of Arthur's Crown) (original)

* Tristfardd (Welsh Medieval)

- Manawyddan and the Mice (Welsh Medieval)

- Gwydion and Pryderi (Welsh Medieval)

* How the Druids Left Mona (aka The Black Lake) (original)

- Shaman Island (original / personal)

Stories under development, which I could tell soon:

- Mongan and the Herd of White Cattle (Irish)

* The Conception of Lleu (Welsh Medieval with additions)

- Midir and Etain (Irish)

Stories marked with * are in my books (the one with ** will be in The Druid's Son).

Aug 25, 2011, 10:47 am

Please excuse a stupid question, but do they still have storytelling festivals these days like in the book. That must be a treat if they do.

Aug 25, 2011, 12:15 pm

Yes, they do, although not exactly as Gwernin describes them. Here's a list of some. Some of what he describes is actually closer to an modern Welsh eisteddfod, where poetry competitions are still important (although as written submissions, not bardic performances).

Edited: Sep 5, 2011, 12:31 pm

I've been more involved with storytelling than with writing for the last couple of weeks. You can see more about this on my blog and on our new site, Dwygelli. The later name, by the way, is a bilingual pun.

Sep 7, 2011, 3:53 pm

An interesting thing is happening: I now seem to be writing two books simultaneously: The Druid's Son (i.e. Gwernin's search for the Druid's son's story) and the actual story itself... not sure where this is leading me, but it's - er - interesting!

Edited: Sep 7, 2011, 4:14 pm

If you find yourself considering time travel as a device in order to juggle the two plot lines, you may have wandered into a different genre. I like time travel, don't misunderstand me -- but in this instance I'd caution you to stay true to the narrative of the first trilogy!

Sep 7, 2011, 4:25 pm

Oh, I don't think time travel will be involved. I literally meant that I may end up with two separate but different books. I've previously contemplated spin-offs from Gwernin's story, and this is just another one which is being more than usually insistent. I've long intended that the 10th book in the series will be a prequel to explore Taliesin's youth, for example, and I'm quite curious about what Neirin's been up to while he's been off-stage.

Sep 7, 2011, 5:27 pm

And with that thought, a poll:

Vote: Would you be interested in reading Storyteller spin-offs not narrated by Gwernin?

Current tally: Yes 7, No 0, Undecided 3

Sep 7, 2011, 9:34 pm

I have a completed manscript still laying around somewhere, guess I wil try and get it\them published. I need to get this trilogy finished, I have been motivated by this wonderful site.

Sep 7, 2011, 10:03 pm

51: I think you've posted on the wrong thread. This thread is to discuss G. R. Grove's Storyteller Series. Glad you're enjoying LibraryThing, though.

Sep 8, 2011, 9:57 am

I voted undecided because I'm only in the middle of the book, but actually we've met a lot of characters on the road that probably have interesting stories of their own, so make that yes.

Sep 11, 2011, 11:51 pm

Just found this thread and posting so I can keep up. Not much to say yet, but i'm very interested in the comparison in post 40.

Could you elaborate on your comment in post 35, that the 6th century is the age of saints in the British Isles?

Sep 12, 2011, 5:22 pm

Hi, Dan, good to see you posting here again. In the 6th century the Conversion was still an on-going process in the British Isles. In Wales David was active, along with Illtud, Padarn, and several others I haven't yet researched in enough detail to remember; in Ireland, although Patrick was 4th-5th century, they had Columba (who presently moved to Scotland, possibly for political reasons), Columbanus, Ciaran, Brendan, and at least 4 or 5 other fairly major ones who I can't name off the top of my head - it sometimes seems that in Ireland you couldn't throw a rock without hitting one! In Scotland, as well as Columba, there was Kentigern (who we saw briefly in Flight of the Hawk), and a scattering of other Irishmen in the Hebrides. The Anglo-Saxons were still mostly pagan at that point. Gwernin really should have run across Illtud and possibly David in the first book, but I hadn't done enough research at that point, and anyway was more interested in the Mabinogion (grin).

Sep 15, 2011, 11:43 am

So here's my problem. I now seem to have switched over to writing the non-Gwernin book (i.e. the actual story of the Druid's son) first. This is sort of logical, because I need to know the DS's story in order for Gwernin to hear bits of it later, and I might as well get another book out of it while I'm at it (grin). But what to call that book has me puzzled at the moment. I could, of course, shift the first title over and find another title for the Gwernin book (although that might affect the balance of the Gwernin book). Or I could find a different title for the new one...

Isn't this fun?

Sep 15, 2011, 12:30 pm

It is fun! Maybe the old tag is true about not wanting to know how sausage or laws are made, but I love knowing how the creative process pans out.

I've always been intrigued when reading a novel and hints about a character's backstory emerge, or parts of another story are revealed through a character -- I've been intrigued as to whether the author knows more than is revealed in the story, or if the author made up just enough to pretend there's a bigger story, etc. Obviously, in this case, you'll have the full thing.

Do you have ideas as to which you'd publish first?!

Sep 15, 2011, 2:03 pm

#55 - thanks. I'm wondering if there a simple list online somewhere with dates and locations.

#57 - I'm curious as to whose voice you are using to tell the story of the Druid's son. Up there in post 50 you asked if we would read a Gwernin. (I answered yes, by the way). This has led me to wonder about what role his voice plays in these books and now I'm wondering how that might need to change, or how you might want it to change, for this story.

Sep 15, 2011, 3:12 pm

57: Well, I started in the position of making up bits as I needed them, but the emerging character fascinated me, and I decided that to be consistent I needed to know all of his story first. As to which I'll publish first - I was dithering a bit about that for reasons I won't go into, but I suspect I'll end up publishing his book first as a (more-or-less) stand-alone, and then go on with the second Gwernin trilogy. These things sometimes have a mind of their own!

58: There probably is a list of saints somewhere, but as I haven't looked for it, I don't know where. Let me know when you find it!

Regarding voice, I'm writing the DS book in third person subjective, with the viewpoint mostly but not entirely restricted to the main character. Otherwise the flavor - in particular the importance of the sense of place - should be similar, or so I hope. There will be more of the mystical, since after all we're talking about Druids.

Sep 15, 2011, 10:21 pm

>58 dchaikin:/59

There's a list of medieval Irish Saints at wikipedia here. But that's only the ones that have a wiki page. There's probably something similar for the British Medieval saints.

Another reason that Ireland, in particular, is regarded as the "Land of Saints and Scholars" is that there were a lot of missionaries from there in the early medieval period. There were a large number of monastaries founded over Europe by Irish missionaries, e.g. St Gallen in Switzerland, Bobbio in Italy.

>59 gwernin:

The Druid's Son story sounds fascinating. Does it take place in an earlier timeperiod, or more of a mystical neverwhen?

Sep 15, 2011, 10:54 pm

60: Thanks for the list of Saints. I figured it was out there somewhere. And yes, the Irish went all over the place -- pretty amazing. Not to mention running a lot of schools for scholars from other countries.

The actual story of the Druid's son starts in 60 CE, with the Roman conquest of Anglesey. Gwernin's adventures, on the other hand, start in 550 CE, and the 4th book, which I'm working on now, is set in 559 CE. So both are very specifically located in time and place. As for how much we actually know about the time and place in question -- well, that's another story!

Sep 15, 2011, 11:32 pm

>61 gwernin:

The Irish are still going all over the place. (Says the Irish person now living in Shanghai :-)

I really like the Storyteller Series so far, and am looking forward to reading Gwernin's adventures in Ireland.

Sep 16, 2011, 1:48 pm

62: That would certainly qualify as "all over the place"!

Where are you from in Ireland originally?

Sep 16, 2011, 2:36 pm

Well, at this point it looks like the new book has captured the title (and probably the cover) from Gwernin, so I've stripped out the Common Knowledge entries. You can see the new series outline here.

Sep 21, 2011, 3:31 pm

A few more thoughts about the new book on which I'd like some feedback. (I'm including polls, because I've noticed that more people vote than post, but I'd like ideas too.)

Because the protagonist isn't a storyteller, there are unlikely to be many internal stories such as Gwernin tells in this book. How important is that to the "voice", and how important is it to people who like the Gwernin books? (It's notable, btw, that there were less of them in The Ash Spear, in part because that book was more about Gwernin himself.)

Vote: The internal stories are important to me.

Current tally: Yes 2, No 1

Sep 21, 2011, 3:36 pm

Because of the subject matter (druids), the new book is likely to contain more "magical" or "mystical" elements which many people would consider fantasy, although still in a historical context. How important is the distinction?

Vote: I would like to see more magical elements.

Current tally: Yes 1, No 1, Undecided 1

Sep 21, 2011, 3:42 pm

Because the new book isn't based around Gwernin's internal stories, the chapter structure will probably be different (e.g., longer chapters). Is this important?

Vote: I wouldn't mind seeing a different chapter structure.

Current tally: Yes 2, No 1

Sep 21, 2011, 3:44 pm

I have some other thoughts, but I think I'll wait a while and see what feedback I get on these questions.

Edited: Sep 21, 2011, 9:54 pm

I am particularly keen to read the mystical / magical aspects of the story of the Druid's Son. Beyond that, you've demonstrated up to now that you fit narrative voice, plot, and structure to the story being told. The three books in the Young Gwernin trilogy differed, but these differences fit both the different stories being told, as well as differences in Gwernin himself (as a person, and as a character). I'm not particularly concerned about which choice you make, I'm confident you'll marry it to the story.

And while I like all sorts of magical stories, told well, I'm also particularly interested in fitting magic into a historically accurate and believable setting. There are many precedents, but I'll name two of my favourites: myth, in the sense of cultural stories with supernatural aspects to them; and the Romantic Tradition, in which magic is used (in part) as a counterpoint to one-dimensional rationalism (as Blake put it: Newton's Sleep).

Sep 21, 2011, 10:15 pm

I love the internal stories, but they are not essential.

Regarding the magical elements - this is really a matter of taste. I don't mind them in certain types of stories. But, for me personally, any magical aspects immediately remove any sense of historical realism. What I've appreciated about the Storyteller series is that there is room to fit the magical elements into a nonfictional story...there is some slack where I can accept that Gwernin says or believes he experienced something in the supernatural, but still find a way to convince myself that it really wasn't like that. At least that's they way I've interpreted them so far, even though that may be wrong. Other King Arthur tales are fully magical. That's fine, but I don't look for historical realism in those stories, instead I just hope they are consistent within themselves.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I would have some difficulty getting comfortable if I were forced to accept the supernatural as absolutely true within the world around Gwernin. I would prefer some ambiguity.

Sep 21, 2011, 10:52 pm

69, 70: Thanks for the response. I think we're back discussing those slippery words magical / mystical / supernatural etc. I have a little trouble with them myself, and wasn't quite sure which one to use in that question.

I think I can promise we won't have any Harry-Potter-style magic (recite the magical formula and something happens), at least not in direct narrative. On the other hand, the sort of things Gwernin experiences, which he explains according to his world view, and you are free to explain according to yours (and I, of course, explain according to mine!) are highly likely. The physical / historical reality of the depicted world is absolutely non-negotiable.

Having said that, I'm looking forward to exploring (as well as we can with an almost total lack of data!) what the Druids did and believed in their reality.

Sep 21, 2011, 11:47 pm

Yes, that scanty historical record pretty much demands that you make things up, and when you're trying to make up a historically believable world as inhabited by (and understood in terms of) druids ... who's to say what's naturalistic, what mystical, and what fanciful.

Sep 22, 2011, 11:51 am

Elenchus, i'm exposing my discomfort with all things relgious by my need to disagree with your last comment. We can absolutely say what's naturalistic and what isn't. The natural world hasn't changed. Human perception has. I can follow, am fascinated by, the idea of presenting the Druids in their reality. (And I love the efforts at mixing fact and fiction.)

Sep 22, 2011, 3:15 pm

I may have expressed myself poorly: I wrote "who's to say" not to claim the natural world has changed (I won't argue that here), but to point out we don't know too much about the social world of the druids nor their contemporaries, and also don't know a great deal of what counts as natural (capacity for metalsmithing, what clothes were made, or how food was prepared) -- so that's where the fanciful comes in, because currently we don't know much about such things and in a novel, have to make it up.

In addition, there's the idea (which I understand gwernin to use quite deliberately in this series) that druids had mystical conceptions and applied them to their natural and social world, and a novel can use that even if the author doesn't agree personally. Another layer of the fanciful, since we're speculating about druid's perspectives, though grounded in as much evidence as we have of their views, and then setting them loose in the novel. (Almost a double-layer of fanciful: the first our speculation about mysticism, and then the mystical ideas themselves in the novel ... if you equate mysticism and fancy.)

All of that I meant to summarise with "who's to say" -- there's a blending of natural, mystical, and fanciful in the novel, and it's not always clear which is which. But I don't think I did a good job of saying that in >72 elenchus:, and perhaps haven't even improved upon it here!

Edited: Sep 22, 2011, 6:32 pm

(ETA elenchus types faster than I do ;)

Regarding making things up, I start this book with the following introduction:

We know very little about the Druids in general, and virtually nothing about their beliefs and practices in first century C.E. Britain and Ireland. I can claim no special knowledge; I merely offer one possible reconstruction based on hints and scraps, and on my own awen. Therefore, dear reader, remember that this is fiction, if fiction with the best gloss of historical verisimilitude I can give it: for I am a storyteller, not a historian, and my primary purpose is to entertain. For those who are curious about my sources, there is more information in the back of this book; for the rest, sit and listen as I unfold my tale.

I put this in partly because I'm told that various authors' fictional efforts in this direction are now accepted as fact by some elements of the Pagan community...

Regarding reality, objective and subjective: no, the natural world has (probably) not changed. But we all filter our perceptions of whatever is out there (if anything) through our own ideas of the possible. I am not convinced that current western society (or any subset of it!) has arrived at the ultimate definition of reality; I think it quite likely that in 100 years, or 1000, our idea of reality will seem as strange and dated as the early medieval version seems to us. (This is in no way an attack on anyone else's ideas on the subject, btw, just a statement of mine.)

Also btw, feel free to mention this thread to anyone else who might be interested in the general discussion; I get the feeling that being in Hobnob it gets overlooked by a lot of people.

Sep 23, 2011, 1:35 pm

Elenchus - I follow now. My comment in #73 doesn't apply.

Gwernin - i'm interested in hearing more about your thoughts on what we have right and wrong about reality...althogh it does feel a bit off topic here. Anyway, it's not a request, just a statement of interest...maybe a nudge of encouragement. Also, I'll try to think of who I can invite to this thread.

Sep 23, 2011, 7:44 pm

Dan - I don't have particular thoughts about what we have right and wrong - more a deep history-based conviction that the categories will change over time (wasn't there a report yesterday of a possible faster-than-light particle?!).

Elenchus re #74: actually evidence for material culture isn't much scantier than it is for Gwernin's period. It's the social culture, as you point out, that we don't know and can't recover (short of a time machine powered by that possible faster-than-light particle). But creative speculation is fun!

Sep 26, 2011, 10:59 am


(wasn't there a report yesterday of a possible faster-than-light particle?!).

A single, unsubstantiated report that relies on you being more likely to believe that special relativity -- which has been exquisitely tested -- is wrong than that somebody's clock is off by 16 nanoseconds. Personally I know where I come down.

Sep 26, 2011, 11:29 am

78: Well, yes, and since you know vastly more about this than I do, you're probably right. But in *my* reality, this falls under Clarke's third law (grin). (I once managed to stretch my reality far enough to get through four quarters of Physical Chemistry with a "B", but that was a long time ago...)

btw, the new book will probably straddle the indistinct line between historical fiction and fantasy to an even greater degree than the Gwernin books, and I've been remembering your comment that the fantasy market is bigger.

Edited: Sep 30, 2011, 9:09 pm

I've added a new page to my blog and have started putting bits on information about the next book there. There's not much so far other than what will be a indication of words to date. (Can't give percentages this time, as I really have no idea how long this book will be, although 100,000 words is probably a good minimum guess (i.e. about the length of Flight of the Hawk.)) Any suggestions as to what sort of information people would like to see there?

Also, I'll be starting a new segment of this thread soon with a different title, something like "Storyteller Series: Druids and Bards", since the discussion has drifted a good way from where it started.

Oct 1, 2011, 12:07 am

Your provisional title put me in mind of that other fox and trickster, Reynard:

I assume it's coincidental but I like the synchronicity in that both are tales I'm looking forward to reading.

Oct 2, 2011, 4:25 pm

An interesting coincidence, certainly. New thread starting here.

Nov 10, 2011, 8:09 am

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