Monday, September 24, 2007

Seven more days...

Seven more days until October, and my October Promotion. "What's so special about October?" you may ask, if you haven't been reading this blog. "Not hard," I reply. "During October the e-book version of Storyteller, the first book in my developing series, will be free for download. This is to encourage more people to read it before Flight of the Hawk is released in November."

Yes, during the month of October you can download Storyteller for free from, and if that's too hard -- if you don't want to go to the trouble of creating a (free) Lulu account in order to get a free e-book -- you can email me at the address on the sidebar, and I'll personally send you your very own copy. Not only that, but the e-version of Storyteller now comes under a Creative Commons license, to encourage everyone interested to not only get it free and read it, but share it freely with any interested (or uninterested) friends.

Why am I giving the e-book version of Storyteller away? Well, first of all, I didn't write these stories to make money (the fact that I'm publishing them with tells you that). I wrote them for fun and sharing. Secondly, I think if you read Storyteller, you'll want more of Gwernin's adventures. That takes us to Flight of the Hawk and its several planned sequels. I expect to be writing these stories of a long time, and the more readers who want to come along with me on that journey, the better. And thirdly, I think the more people who are aware of Storyteller's existence, the better my chances of selling physical books -- for more on that idea, look here.

As to what comes after Flight of the Hawk -- well, that's a post for another day.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Reference Book of the Week

This week's pick: Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain, edited by Rachel Bromwich. This is the long-awaited 3rd and final edition, published by the University of Wales Press in February 2006. At 768 pages and $145, this is neither light nor inexpensive reading, but for those interested in Welsh history and literature - and especially the bardic arts of poetry and storytelling - it is a treasure-trove, not only for the material in the triads themselves but for the extensive footnotes and commentary that goes with them.

The contents: Introduction (Manuscripts and Versions; Origin and Development of Trioedd Ynys Prydein) (99 pages); the Appendices (16 pages); Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Text and four appendices (The Names of the Island of Britain; The Descent of the Men of the North; The Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain; The Twenty-Four Knights of Arthur's Court) (270 pages); Notes to Personal Names (46 pages); Abbreviations, Select Bibliography, and Index.

Triads were groupings of three similar things to serve as a memory aid, and the Welsh triads may have originally been a sort of file-card index for the bards and storytellers in the days of primarily oral transmission of their material. A couple of examples:

"2. Three Generous (Noble/Victorious) Men of the Island of Britain: Nudd the Generous, son of Senyllt; Mordaf the Generous, son of Serwan; Rhydderch the Generous, son of Tudwal Tudglyd. (And Arthur himself was more generous than the three.)"

"21. Three Diademed Battle-leaders of the Island of Britain: Drystan son of Tallwch, and Hueil son of Caw, and Cai son of Cynyr of the Fine Beard. And one was diademed above the three of them: that was Bedwyr son of Bedrawc."

Trioedd Ynys Prydein is a book for browsing, not for reading straight through. For those interested in Welsh sources, it will provide many happy hours. Highly recommended.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autumn Equinox

The autumn equinox falls on September 23rd this year. Some years it is on the 22nd. Theoretically the day and night are of equal length that day, although I find it tends to vary a bit depending on where you live, like the solstices.

The equinoxes are also the time in the year when the length of the days and nights is changing fastest. Here in Denver that amounts to about two and a half minutes per day, but in northern Europe it's faster - almost four minutes per day in London, four and a half minutes in Edinburgh, close to five in Inverness, and over five in the Orkneys. I saw this when I lived in Juneau (5 minutes per day) where it really made an impression on me - the day/night cycle there is like a great tide of light, rising and falling with the seasons, all of life borne along on it.

Tomorrow I should have another reference book review. In the meantime, may you have a good autumn (or spring in the Southern Hemisphere) day.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Poetry selection

Today, for lack of any other inspiration, I'm posting a poem I wrote a few years ago. The form is the sestina, and the story is from the First Branch of the Mabinogion. The poem is from my collection Pryderi's Pigs and Other Poems.

Pwll Remembers

When night lies slow and heavy on the land
sometimes I wake, and memory brings back
like sound of voices raised in sudden song
the cry of hounds upon their quarry’s track,
a well-built hall, so high and wide and long,
the taste of mead, the touch of your white hand.

Indeed it was the work of my own hand
that sent me to that land beneath the land
disguised and held in idleness year-long.
Knowing no way by which I could win back –
the road he led me left no trace or track –
I spent my days and nights in play and song.

Sweet as high king within a minstrel’s song
I lived, and dined each day at your right hand,
the while along that strange dark year’s slow track
approached my bloody battle for this land –
for only through that fight could I win back
into the world for which I now did long.

But every night that year was hard and long.
I lay awake and listened to the song
of your sweet breath behind my rigid back,
the while I dared not even kiss your hand –
for wife you were to him who ruled this land,
whose magic set me on this secret track.

At last the year was gone – along the track
I rode to face that fight I’d wanted long
against the other claimant for this land.
And I rode gladly, singing some bright song,
gladly I took my lance into my hand,
and in the ford I flung him dying back.

Then I was free, and all my journey back
was easy. Sunlight shone upon my track.
I met King Arawn, smiled, and clasped his hand,
and he did vow to be my friend life-long.
My heart was high, and all the birds in song
rejoiced at my returning to my land.

Yet sometimes I look back when night is long.
The track I went’s now but a winter’s song.
I lost your hand to win again my land.


Friday, September 14, 2007

Reference Book of the Week

This week's pick: Life of St Columba by Adomnan of Iona, translated by Richard Sharpe. Retail price $16.00, currently $12.00 on Amazon. Running to 432 pages, including 10 pages of maps and geneologcial tables, an introduction (100 pages), the translated Life (134 pages), scholarly footnotes (144 pages), bibliography and index, this is almost two books in one, and good value for the modest price.

I began reading this book reluctantly as part of the research for my Storyteller series, because Columba's life (521?-597) spans the period of my stories. I expected a dry, boring read: I was wrong. The introduction is interesting and well-written, with a large amount of helpful historical detail about the people and customs of this period, and the Life itself is lively and entertaining. Columba and his monastic family were important figures in 6th-8th century Scotland and Ireland, and anyone interested in this period should know their acts and history. If you fall in this category, buy this book now and read it: at only $12, you have no excuse. Highly recommended.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

About that October promotion...

Starting October 1, I am making the e-book format of Storyteller available as a free download on And for people who don't want to open a (free) Lulu account just to get a free e-book -- email me at the address on the sidebar and I'll send you one directly. Can't beat that, can you?

Remember: this offer starts October 1, and will continue at least until November when Flight of the Hawk is released, and possibly longer. So be prepared!


Monday, September 10, 2007


I'm back from a long weekend traveling to Wisconsin to see a good friend get an important SCA award - and my proof copies have arrived! So far I've seen one or two details I need to clean up, but on the whole I think it looks great. It's a thrill to finally have the physical item in my hands!

It will be a couple of days before I get another reference book review up, but now that I'm done traveling for a while normal service should resume shortly.


Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Reference Book of the Week

I haven't been as regular as I'd have liked with the review feature, partly due to a lot of travel in August and partly due to the amount of work involved in readying Flight of the Hawk for publication. In an effort to get back on schedule, here is another recent acquisition from my bookshelf.

This week's choice: The Roman Cavalry by Karen R. Dixon. 272 pages. At $39.01 on ($40.05 retail) the book is reasonable value for money. The author is a professional archaeological illustrator.

Contents: Sources; Origins, unit strength, organization and titulature; Equipment and unit armament styles; Recruitment; Conditions of service; Training; The hippika gymnasia; The employment of cavalry in peacetime and wartime; Military records and the supply of horses; Roman cavalry mounts; Stables and grooming; Water and food supply; Welfare; Baggage animals. Well illustrated with line drawings and black and white photographs.

The author uses information from classical sources combined with archaeological findings and data from 19th and early 20th century European records to give a fairly detailed picture of the Roman cavalry over a period of several centuries. We learn about the recruitment, training, and equipment of both men and horses and their shared life together. Although I would have liked to see a little more detail in certain sections, this is a good overview. I notice that Dixon has also co-authored a study of Roman cavalry equipment, which may have the color plates this volume lacks.

The Roman Cavalry by Karen R. Dixon: recommended.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Success at last...

Finally got the cover to display correctly on the sidebar!

Tomorrow I will be back to medieval blogging, but in the meantime, here's the back cover blurb for Hawk:

Britain in the summer of 551 AD: The North is a tinderbox about to burst into flame, the Saxons are stirring again in the east, and Cynan Garwyn, Prince of Powys, is doing his best to foment war in the South. In the midst of this simmering chaos, two young bards - Gwernin Storyteller and his friend Neirin mab Dwywei, the Poet-Prince that some call "Taliesin's Hawk" - are sent to the North by their master to investigate the rumors and do what they can to prevent a war. At least, that was their mission - but the two young men find plenty of other adventures along the way. Girls and beer, bloodshed and magic - will they survive the summer and make it home alive?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The new cover for Flight of the Hawk

I'm still having trouble with the sidebar, but here's the cover for Hawk. I'm really excited about the way it's all coming together. At this point I'm looking for pre-release reviews - the scheduled release date is still November 1.