Monday, December 6, 2021

Spin Offs

The four books (so far) of my Storyteller series relate the continuing adventures of one sixth-century first-person Welsh narrator, Gwernin Kyuarwyd. The series has however generated two stand-alone spin-offs, both in third person narration. 

The first of these, The Druid's Son, is set five hundred years before the Storyteller books, but derives from an interior story in the third of them, The Ash Spear. Recited in a king's court by Gwernin's teacher, the old bard Talhaearn, it tells the story of the destruction of the Druid sanctuaries on Ynys Mon (Anglesey) by the invading Roman army, and the fate of the last British Archdruid. The Druid's Son was my original title for the fourth Storyteller book, in which Gwernin goes to Ireland in search of the fate of that last Archdruid's son, but as I proceeded, I realized that I needed to go back and create his story before I painted myself into a corner, so to speak, by adding bits haphazardly. In the end, that book stole my title and a year or more of my writing time, so when I finally got back to Gwernin, I needed a new title -- The Fallen Stones.

My second spin-off also came from Gwernin's Irish adventures, and concerns another Druid. As I explained in the afterword to The King's Druid, Fráechán mac Tenusán, who appears as a major character in The Fallen Stones, was actually an historical person, albeit one minimally attested. He is mentioned in the Chronicles of Ireland as having made the “druidical fence” for Díarmait mac Cerbaill at the battle of Cul Dreimne, which Díarmait lost due to “the prayers of Colum Cille” and the opposing spell of Tuatán mac Dimmán. I reasoned that if he was acting as Díarmait’s Druid or magician then, he was probably also involved in Díarmait’s pagan “last feast of Tara”, which was held the previous year. I wondered what his life and training could have been like, to make him what he was when Gwernin met him. The King's Druid is the result.

I'm currently working on Gwernin's fifth book, provisionally titled The Old Gods Endure. Will there be more spin-offs in the future? I didn't plan the last two, but it seems possible. I go where the awen takes me!

Sunday, November 28, 2021


A book is finished, and I am about to publish it, either as a paperback on Lulu, or as an ebook on Smashwords. What is one of the last steps? The blurb - a brief description of the story, which will hopefully entice people to want to read it. 

In the case of the paperback, some form of the blurb is usually on the back cover of the book, as well as sometimes on the website where it appears. In the case of The Fallen Stones, it was a quote from the beginning of the story with an added descriptive sentence:

"Taliesin sang it, so it must be true. In all the years I knew him, I never heard him lie—though there are ways and ways of dealing with the truth, and a bard must know them all. But he was using none of these on the night when he sang Talhaearn Tad Awen’s death song in Prince Cyndrwyn’s high-roofed wooden hall, with the cold wolf-wind of a bitter winter snuffling round the doors and windows, and frightening the flickering torch-flames which cast his long black shadow, now here, now there, across the smoke-stained walls: across the faces of all of us who listened, and across our lives as well." So begins this fourth book of Gwernin Storyteller's adventures, which will take him and Taliesin to Ireland in a time of conflict between Kings, Christian Saints, and Druids. 

The shorter blurb, which is the one on Amazon and other sites, is more succinct: 

This fourth book in the Storyteller series takes Taliesin and Gwernin to Ireland to attend a wedding as representatives of their princes. In the process, they find themselves in a web of politics and magic, in a time of conflict between Kings, Christian saints, and Druids. Join them as they travel around Ireland in this turbulent period. 

 In the case of The King's Druid, however, things were a little more complicated. The back-cover blurb was again a quotation, although not an exact one:

"That is Tara of the Kings where the High King Muirchertach mac Ercae has his ráth,” said Coirpre, pointing at a hill on the southern skyline.

“I would like to see that someday,” said Fráechán.

"I think you will,” said Coirpre. “In the old days, before Priest Patrick came to Ériu, our kings had Druids among their court advisors. Perhaps one day some king will do so again.”

“That would be a thing to achieve,” said Fráechán slowly, his dark eyes shining. “To be a king’s Druid.”

“It would be indeed,” said Coirpre, and smiled, hearing the imbas in Fráechán’s words.

This works on the book cover, but I think not as well for a descriptive blurb. The long blurb I produced for Smashwords is this:

In the mid-sixth century, one hundred years after St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland, most of the Irish Kings were Christian – at least in name. But Díarmait mac Cerbaill, in his attempt to consolidate his position as High King, had recourse to an older magic. In about 560 A.D., he held the last “Feast of Tara” – the old Pagan sacred wedding of the King with the Goddess of Sovereignty. And at the subsequent battle of Cul Dreimne, the Chronicle of Ireland reports that Fráechán mac Tenusán cast the "druidical fence" over Díarmait’s army. In the event, Díarmait lost that battle due to "the prayers of Colum Cille" (Saint Columba).

But who was Fráechán mac Tenusán, and how did he come to be practicing Druid magic for Díarmait? “The King’s Druid” is his story.

And the shorter one, edited down to the allowable characters:

The Chronicle of Ireland reports that in the mid-sixth century Fráechán mac Tenusán cast the "druidical fence" over the army of High King Díarmait mac Cerbaill at the battle of Cul Dreimne, and that Díarmait lost that battle due to "the prayers of Colum Cille" (Saint Columba). But how could there have been a practicing Druid in the King of Tara's court in the Age of the Saints?

 It's a juggling act.


Thursday, November 25, 2021


 Writing about Gwernin Storyteller's travels requires detail. In the days before internet resources were available, I acquired topographic maps for approximately 80% of Britain, and still use them. Although I have visited most of the places I write about, some of those visits were over twenty years ago, and looking at the maps helps me remember them. Moreover, I have to image what those places would have been like in the 6th century! Nowadays, however, I do use Google maps to compute distances when figuring out how far Gwernin and his friends could ride (in a leisurely fashion) in a day.

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Chapter titles

 My Storyteller books are in some ways travelogues, following Gwernin Storyteller on a season's wanderings. The chapter titles reflect this, although not always in the way one would expect. The first book, with its short chapters and two-part organization, is somewhat of an exception. The first half - "A Circuit Around Wales" - follows the usual spring-to-fall pattern and reflects a journey I had just made myself. In the second half of the book - "Winter in the Hills" - Gwernin has settled down for the winter with his teacher, and character development had to take the place of travel descriptions. I did not know, by the way, that I was writing a novel at that point, never mind the first of a series of novels - I thought I was writing a connected series of short pieces for a local newsletter. As things went on, however, I learned differently.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Still here...

 A year and a half since I posted here, and almost a year since I finished my following book, "The King's Druid". Both books are available on Amazon and from Lulu and other sites (hint: I get substantially more money from Lulu purchases). The ebooks for "The Fallen Stones" and "The King's Druid" are now available from Smashwords and other distribution sites, but probably won't be on Amazon. And I've started work again on the next Storyteller book, tentatively titled "The Old Gods Endure".