Neverwas now on B&N, diesel, Sony and Smashwords!

Just a quick announcement. Neverwas is propagating. The book is now available on the following sites and I’m told it will be on Kobo and Apple soon. If you see it there then please, bay all means forward me a note, wall-mark or PM. Hey even something as radical as commenting on the blog would be nice!

 

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion – eBooks Search – Barnes & Noble.com.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion eBook – diesel-ebooks.com.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion by Fred Grenvile :: Sony Reader Store.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion eBook: Richard Fredrick Grenvile – Amazon.com: Kindle Store.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion – A book by Richard Fredrick GrenvileSmashwords.

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Neverwas now on B&N, diesel, Sony and Smashwords!

Just a quick announcement. Neverwas is propagating. The book is now available on the following sites and I’m told it will be on Kobo and Apple soon. If you see it there then please, bay all means forward me a note, wall-mark or PM. Hey even something as radical as commenting on the blog would be nice!

 

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion – eBooks Search – Barnes & Noble.com.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion eBook – diesel-ebooks.com.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion by Fred Grenvile :: Sony Reader Store.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion eBook: Richard Fredrick Grenvile – Amazon.com: Kindle Store.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion – A book by Richard Fredrick GrenvileSmashwords.

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Pasty Victual

Just got a myspace account set up and installed to accept these posts. That was a ridiculously difficult process. Apparently someone decided that Musicians can link to their work, Filmmakers can link to their work and comedians can link to their work. Writers however are in violation of the TOS and spamming if they link to their own books on Amazon.

Apparently someone failed to read the TOS he was enforcing. But I think we finally got that cleared up.

Meanwhile both I and a dear friend are suffering from gastritis (not pretty). While we are separated by thousands of miles it almost seems contagious. 😛

Now she tells me she’s eaten pasta and may soon regregitate it. One hopes not. It’s bean one of those days. Happy confused on the wrong day mothers day for you commonwealth types.

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John and Maggie

or The Path of Dead Sparrows
© 2011

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion
Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion

Once upon a time there was a happy forester, named Will, who lived in the edge of the dark wildwood with his wife, Gwen, and two dear children; the boy called John and the girl called Maggie. They lived in modest comfort in a cozy little cottage made of stone with a cheery iron stove and real glass window! John made a living from cutting wood and, though this is very poor work, he loved the forest and found hidden treasure in gathering nuts and fruit, which he would sell at the market in the village. In this way he made enough to buy a steel bill to cut deadwood and brush and to prune the wild trees till he had made for himself a fine orchard hidden in the forest deeps. He even made enough to give his children each a silver penny on their birthdays and another on feast of Christmas.

His children knew how strong and brave their father was, for hidden dangers lurk within the wildwood, outlaws and gnomes and every horrid wight! Because they loved their father, the children saved their pennies and bought for him a silver watch with springs and gears and when the watch was opened it played Will’s favorite song, which (though you might not guess of such a sober and righteous man) was “Mother Watkins Ale”. Next to his own dear family, Will loved nothing more than his stout bill and his silver watch.

But to pay for such a fine life, Will was a very busy man. Five days a week he must hie to the wood with his bill and his barrow to gather wood or harvest the nuts and fruits which he sold. On the sixth day he was off to the village before the crack of dawn to sell his gleanings and to pay the piper for the feast.

Now, Gwen knew the value of a goodman who treated her well and gave her such a fine house and babes. But such hard work and long hours left Will so tired that most days he would come home and, after a fine meal and a pipe of Merkian Tabac, he would sit in his fine chair by the fire and fall fast asleep listening to the children learning their letters and their maths by the light of the hearth. Poor Gwen met this with good enough cheer, but no matter how she scolded herself, she felt lonely and missed the days when she and Will were young and had no babes underfoot. But she never spoke a word to trouble good Will or the babes, and suffered her lot in silence, till the babes were mucking the barn or away in the meadow chasing the goat.

Then she would stand as she beat the rugs or hung the wash to dry, and bemoan her lot. She cursed the forest and the silence. She wished for other women to talk to and she cursed Will for a fool to work so hard and mind her so little.

One day while Will was away to market and Gwen stood hanging the linens to dry, a man approached who was fair of face and brow. He was a strapping man with a well turned calf who looked for all the world like her Will, till looking a second time she spied the flaw. He bowed with courtly grace and begged a crust of bread and a cup of tea. Being good folk and generous as well, Gwen invited the stranger to stay for tea. While they sat, the stranger asked if Gwen had heard of a man called Will.

“Why my own dear husband is named Will!” Gwen exclaimed. “Perhaps he is the one you seek.”

They spoke further and it was soon established that he was Robert, Will’s own dear brother. They talked and talked and the time fled by, for Gwen had missed the converse of strangers these many years. Soon they fell to laughing and embraced like old friends, though there was something more to that embrace then was proper for a brother and sister in law. And as he left, he asked that Gwen say nothing of his visit, for he wished to surprise his brother whom he had not seen in many years. She was inclined to cast him out and tell her husband all, but Robert plead and importuned so sweetly that she forgave him and agreed to hold her tongue.

Robert continued to return each day while the children were in the fields doing their chores and regailed Gwen with tales of travels to foreign lands and adventures the likes of which few ever dare. The talk was so exciting and the company so sweet that Gwen grew quite fond of Robert, and in no time the brotherly kiss upon the cheek grew into something rather more intimate and not the sort of thing a good wife should ever do! If a woman yields once she’s done for, and so, because she had given in the first time, she was hard pressed to avoid so the second., till nothing was left to withhold.

One day when Will was once again at market, the children returned home for tea and found Robert comfortably seated in Will’s chair by the fire. John was quite perplexed and stood examining the stranger who had invaded their cozy home. Maggie, who was younger, marched straight to the chair and stood with her arms akimbo and her face screwed into a frown. She stared deeply into Robert’s eyes and demanded, “Why are you sitting in my father’s chair!”

“Why because it suits me, don’t you think?” Robert replied with narrowed eyes.

Gwen swept in to gather her babes and, holding them tightly, told them Robert was their father’s brother who had come a great distance to plan a surprise for them all. At that, Robert gave her a wicked smile and Gwen giggled so sweetly that the children were quite surprised, for they had seldom seen Gwen with so light a heart, short of a glass of Christmas cheer.

Gwen announced tea and the children were astonished at the table that was set for them. There were cakes and cheese, even tiny tarts made with strawberries preserved with honey. When they had eaten their fill, the babes cleared while Robert returned to the fire, and (wouldn’t you know) he began to smoke Will’s very own pipe. He sat in the chair and Gwen lit next to him, perched on the arm of the chair. The babes looked on with eyes like saucers as Gwen explained that uncle Robert would be coming to visit whenever Will was away. He would help Gwen in the cottage, John and Maggie would continue to tend the animals and the garden. There were two rules that they must strictly observe, they must not enter the cottage while Robert was there and they must never speak of Robert to Will (for that would spoil the surprise).

“And I’ll have your oath on it, my dears,” Gwen said sternly. “You must swear by thy father’s own head never to tell him what you know, until Robert and I have sprung the surprise.”

* * * *

That night after Will had come home and the babes were abed, they lay whispering of all that had transpired. They worried what Robert’s true intentions might be, yet they had given a solem oath, on their own dear father’s life, to keep silent, so they tossed and turned till sleep finally caught them and resolved to do as they’d been told. For adult affairs are no business of children.

The next day and the next Robert came to the cottage soon after Will had left, and he left again just before tea. This habit continued as the days wore on into weeks and the weeks into months. Yet the children were faithful to their promise and never entered the cottage until Robert had left. They carried pails to work filled with bread and cheese for luncheon and they wanted for nothing. Still they worried. Soon the leaves began to fall and the shadows grew longer. The cold of winter seemed to nip at them though he was still a ways off.

One sunny day the air was warm and butterflies flitted about the meadow, when a wave of clouuds swept accross the sky like a curtain and it grew quite chilly indeed. Poor Jon and Maggie were soon chilled to the bone and sat with chattering teeth, huddled together for warmth.

“We must return home for our cloaks, lest we catch a chill and die,” Maggie said.

“Nay, Maggie, for we have give our oath on the life of our own dear father. Should we break our promise we risk the life of the one who is dearest to us both!” John cried.

Our story continues:

If you like this story and want to read more check out the eBook Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion on Smashwords.

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Critical Reason

As most authors must at some point or another, I have involved myself with reading circles. You can probably imagine, if you haven’t been through this personally, it is a best a mixed bag. Authors are artists first and craftsmen second and that means egoism is unavoidable. The obvious form of ego is defensiveness toward the work, though some authors scruple so stridently that they seem nearly masochistic in their desire to find negative criticism. This is partly because no one wants to be made a fool of. In other words, when your hair is mussed, you expect a concerned friend to tell you before letting you go out in public.

If you want to help, there is nothing more helpful than honestly pointing out poor habits and writing flaws, and explaining them clearly. Vague statements like, “you need to tighten it up,” are not only unhelpful, they generally disguise one of the following failures in critique. If you’ve been honest and found a real issue that is not actually a failure in your own critique, you’ll be ready to give concise examples of specific errors and suggestions on how to improve them.

Similarly, one would hope that a writer you’ve built a relationship with would have the compassion to honestly tell you when and how you have blundered in your own work. But the bugs-in-your-teeth, stoicist nightmare where all you hear are attacks and negative comments, is just as bad. If you allow yourself to be drawn in, the predatory instincts of those negative writers will distort your vision and your voice. Give them enough opportunity and they will try to make you and your work conform to their own images. When there are several, this can make for a very bad mess.

The answer is to make yourself a good critic and surround yourself with good critics. I know. The “C” word. It’s the filthiest word in the writer’s vocabulary. How much worse can you insult a fellow author than to call him or her a critic? But it remains the only salvation of the Writer’s Circle. The only way you can be sure to avoid the opportunity to harm or be harmed by the “writer’s circle” is to learn some basic rules of good criticism.

Now. I don’t propose teaching a course in Philology and Hermeneutics, but here are some critical don’ts to establish in your circle:

  • Poor Reading

It might not be intuitive, but not everyone who appreciates great books is observant or patient enough to comprehend what they read. I don’t know at the times I’ve shared a piece with a fellow writer in hopes of getting some insight or tip on how to improve it, only to find that I can’t recognize any part of the critique. For all intents and purposes they have read a piece that I never provided to them.

Such critiques, even if favorable, are insulting. As a caveat I’ll concede that agents and acquisitions editors do break a lot of the reading rules. That’s because most are inundated with a stream of hopeful writers, all of whom want to be the one chosen. They have to trim the stack so that they are only seriously considering a limited number of final choices. At that point, failing to read well would be dereliction and would cost them money and probably leave them jobless.

In a speech course in college I had a professor who suggested that you thank the audience for coming before hand. After you’ve spoken you wait for applause (or rotten eggs) but you never thank the audience because you have just provided them with a service. You’ve spoken for them and, whether they enjoy and appreciate it or not, you’ve given them something, it’s improper to thank them for listening. When you provide a work to a peer to read, you thank them for agreeing to read it before hand. After the fact you’ve done them the honor of allowing them to read it, if they can’t be bothered to actually do the reading, and do it well, then they’ve failed you and themselves.

  • Blinding forestructure

We all come with baggage. For a writer this is gold. You can draw on your own experiences and perspectives to flesh out your characters. Only a little bit of synthesis can turn that childhood haircutting faux pas into an insight into the tortured psyche of a werewolf with a heart of gold.

When reading for pleasure, that forestructure of memories and ideas helps to shape our choices and helps us to identify with characters and situations. But that is a double edged sword. The same baggage that makes reading and writing a rich experience, colors our perspective and prejudices our analysis. The good critic has to be able to set aside personal forestructure and read objectively. This is tricky because too much objectivity makes Joan a dull girl. There is a balance to be maintained. Allowing our forestructure to inform our reading, while recognizing our own preconceptions, is central to good critique.

  • Skimming

One of the most common types of bad reading is skimming. Students learn to do this, some even call it speed reading. Realistically it’s nothing more than laziness. Some claim “comprehension levels” with high percentages and justify it as a superior method of reading. However the speedy delivery does little for most readers and while they may retain an impression of the content, the details will be blurred at best and, in most readers, they’re just wrong. Real learning and effective critique is completely dependent on a steady, careful digestion of the material. If fact, I recommend rereading several times. Now if you initially skim, that may work, so long as you don’t rely on that for critique.

  • Quitting

Finish the work. I don’t care if it is the most trite and boring drivel, or if it offends you to the core. There is no good excuse for critiquing a work that you haven’t carefully read all way through. There may be some material that so boring, offensive or poorly written to your sensibilities that you simply cannot read it. That’s fair, if your certain you’ve given it a fair shake considering the previous issues. Your only option to finishing is to quit and explain that fact to your fellow author. Another reason you may not finish is distraction or overwork. Maybe you feel you have too little time. Whatever your reason for not finishing the work, DO NOT CRITIQUE. It’s fair to explain the content that offended you and why. Be honest. But don’t assume that your partial reading gives you any room to critique the work as a whole. For all you know the plot turns and the elements you found distasteful become the core for a very strong and appealing argument of your own view of the material.

  • Anachronism

After poor reading the next most common problem is anachronism. This is a variation of the basic theme of blinding forestructure, but it qualifies as a discrete issue because even otherwise careful and conscientious readers fall prey to it. We start to learn about what is real and observable by the age of three. Between three and nine most people learn the fundamental perspective that will shape the remainder of their lives. The whole nature versus nurture and early socialization bug-aboo comes back to bite in the most awkward times. It’s only to be expected that it would affect the reader by causing them to interpret the believability of a story element in terms of one’s “real life” experience. This is death to the critic. A part of fiction is the need to seduce the reader into accepting the character’s preconceptions in place of their own.

For a medieval fantasy character, it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that the supernatural is all around. A devout religious person in Europe, would still leave a saucer of milk on the back porch, “for the fae folk.” The large number of fat stray cats was entirely unrelated to the fact that the fairies drained every drop during the night.

If a reader can’t get past her own culturally bound view that belief in fairies is silly, that reader is useless to you. This principal usually crops up in less obvious places: clothing styles, sexual moires, religious experiences, common household tasks, political correctness, etc. A great example is the banning and revision of Samuel Clemmons’ (Mark Twain’s) Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Two works whose entire purpose was to enlighten and teach racial tolerance and progressive ideals, have been butchered and history has been perverted to serve the purposes of extremists.

  • Narcisism

By far the worst negative feedback error, is being so self absorbed that you spend a large chunk of your critique allowing your own voice or person to be the focus. You’ve agreed to help someone else to perfect themselves, to improve as a writer and critic. That never means making them over in your own image. That never means being derogatory or snide.

  • Mistaking your personal preferences for quality standards

Every author has his or her own voice. Perhaps you dislike the flow and play of a given author’s work. You probably aren’t the best critic if every time an author you are reviewing says something, you feel the need to change the word order and rewrite. Now that rule could be taken to extreme. I’m not saying you shouldn’t point out bad writing. There are commonly accepted standards for bad writing, these include but aren’t limited to: excessive use of passive voice (the gun doesn’t get picked up, the villain picks up the gun), bad grammar, excessive misspelling and typos, lack of punctuation, run-ons, inappropriately florid prose (where it doesn’t fit the tone of the subject or setting), unrealistic dialog, and too many more to fit here. Really, covering them all would require an undergrad program in lit. 😛 But we know them or learn them quickly enough. But when you go beyond the common standards by applying personal preference, pet peeves or trendy conventions as a standard of quality, you’re too narrow minded and incompetent to be an effective critic. It’s a fine balance and one that has to be learned by experience. It can’t be taught wholesale.

The other main way personal taste can adversely affect the quality of criticism is by comparing this author’s vision to another author who dealt with the same subject. The temptation to do so is palpable. But just don’t do it. Using other authors as exemplar models is fine and it’s probably the best way to teach. But it’s one thing to find an author with a similar concept and style and use that  to demonstrate ways of improving. It’s quite another to compare to an author’s work with that of a completely dissimilar author who happens to have written your favorite treatment of the same subject. The second is just sniping. Never tell your subject that he or she has failed to handle the subject well simply because of a different approach to the same subject. Morte’ d’Artur is often held as the standard of Arthurian Romance. This doesn’t entitle you to tell the author of an YA about Arthur that she’s done poorly simply because she doesn’t focus on the sexual tension and murderous jealousies that tore Camelot in shreds, and doesn’t use Hoc Seil Latin of the French court as her chosen dialect. Understand that a new perspective on a work is not the same as the tawdry “revisioning” so rampant in Hollywood film.

Again, there are cases where the new perspective is tawdry or just bad. It’s a matter of practice and judgment to discover where that line falls and to identify where personal prejudice lies. You’ll have a much harder time seeing narcissism in your critique than other readers. The only other reader to that is likely to be as blind to your failure as a critic is your subject author. If that author lacks criticism as a skill, he or she may be so crushed and discouraged as to quit. You may have eliminated competition but you’ve helped no one, especially not yourself.

  • Talking about yourself rather than the piece.

By far the worst error, is being so self absorbed that you spend a large chunk of text talking about yourself, and your own experiences rather than the work you are critiquing. The author who has entrusted his work with you doesn’t need to hear about the other books you’ve read and loved. He doesn’t need to hear about your skill levels. He doesn’t need to hear how you are more honest, responsible and knowledgeable at critique. Get yourself out of the picture so you can see objectively enough to help the other author improve his work. That’s the only way you’ll deserve the same from him.

  • Ethnocentrism

You and the family, community, nation, federation, even continent you live on are not the center of the universe or the literary world. You must be capable of allowing alien environments in novels to be alien. That means your cultural and moral standards do not apply to the characters. You are allowed to disapprove of the characters, of their choices, even their society. That’s part of what novels, and speculative fiction even more so, are intended for. They let you explore your feelings and reactions to things you are not likely to see in your own environment, or consider feelings about elements of your environment in an objective manner. Granted, sometimes an author is using a scoop shovel where a teaspoon is needed and that “over the top” style needs, in many cases, to be reigned in to make a story work. But sometimes splashy, in your face, confrontation is needed to make the point and build a thought provoking and entertaining story. Ask yourself if your reaction is really in proportion to the elements that offend your sensibilities.

  • Personal Offense

At some point you will be offended. An author will write something that is just so offensive you cannot avoid reacting negatively. For some, a novel portraying US soldiers conducting a pogrom against Native Americans, or National Socialists running a concentration camp would be difficult. If the men acting in this way were then portrayed in a positive light, it would be offensive. There are other hot button topics that many others would react to as violently.

What’s the answer? Give a review explaining how unrealistic and stupid the novel is? Hardly. Nazis and 19’th century US Army personnel were family men and had private lives filled with loved ones and sentimental, even sympathetic themes. You may know that intellectually, but may still be deeply offended, because history shows they were also monsters. The answer is to inform the subject that those elements are offensive in a deeply personal way and you are not capable of reviewing the work. That’s the end of it. Even if the subject begs, you should never do more than explain why you took offense and how the tone would have to change for you to be able to accept it. This must never be couched in terms of “the story is bad because” and “you must do this to make it better”. Offense distorts reason. You can’t honestly know if the novel is bad, you aren’t qualified to review it.

  • Spare Feelings

I’ve dealt the major negative reactions that kill a critique, but the worst overall flaw is the false positive. As I said initially, an honest critique with negative responses is like saving a friend from humiliation. You don’t let a friend leave the house with bed-head or mismatched shoes. You also mustn’t set someone up for failure by looking for all the nice things you can say. If there really is nothing good you can say you should say so, and explain why. If you actually can find nothing that needs improvement you should say that too, but the likelihood is that you aren’t being honest with yourself or your subject. Honesty is the greatest kindness. Honesty in reading, honesty in analysis, honesty in personal preference and reactions — these are important to keep you from discouraging the subject unfairly. But it is just as bad to unfairly encourage them, while setting them up for failure and embarrassment. If you are positively impressed by the work, and you have been honest in critique, you’ll be able to offer concise examples and encouragement.

As most authors must at some point or another, I have involved myself with reading circles. You can probably imagine, if you haven’t been through this personally, it is a best a mixed bag. Authors are artists first and craftsmen second and that means egoism is unavoidable. The obvious form of ego is defensiveness toward the work, though some authors scruple so stridently that they seem nearly masochistic in their desire to find negative criticism. This is partly because no one wants to be made a fool of. In other words, when your hair is mussed, you expect a concerned friend to tell you before letting you go out in public.

If you want to help, there is nothing more helpful than honestly pointing out poor habits and writing flaws, and explaining them clearly. Vague statements like, “you need to tighten it up,” are not only unhelpful, they generally disguise one of the following failures in critique. If you’ve been honest and found a real issue that is not actually a failure in your own critique, you’ll be ready to give concise examples of specific errors and suggestions on how to improve them.

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The Bullfinch and the General

© 2010

Another quick fairy tale for the characters in Redmantle to tell. Feedback is appreciated.

Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion
Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion

There was to be a war between the Kingdom of Albs and the Ogres of the Winilli Empire. The Ogres were ruled by a great and mighty wizard named Hunding, and he had gathered the goodly fae of Englemark, ogres of Thanreach and men of Alemann and joined them with the gnomes of Finnland to make a mighty empire. But Hunding was not satisfied and sought to join the Albar of Albion and the Elsar of Kumria and Gealland to his great Empire, and thus the lots were cast and Hunding sailed against the white walls of Kumberland to conquer.

Now King Aellir of Kumberland was a most puissant warrior and, although a son of man, he was persuasive uniting the Albar and Elsar fae with the men of Kumberland and the Fichtas of Caledon. Faced with so great an army of mortal foes, the giants were pushed back into the sea, though they continued to raid and torment the poor folk of the isle of Albion. The piracy took a great toll and soon there were no merchants to carry goods from Far Lugada, nor spices from the mythical east. The people were worn and bedraggled and the army of Albion began to shrink.

But just as the war demanded a heavy cost of the poor Albinos, the giants paid a heavy tariff as well. Ships were lost to storm and fire. Some were sunk by great stones thrown by massive engines of war. And to make a hard situation yet more fell, men at sea cannot gather nor mill, neither can they sow. The faithful ogre wives and children planted and harvested, milled and stored as best they could, but a farm suffers without the hand of the farmer. Crops rotted in the field, grain soured in the barn and sickness claimed many ogre babes in their cribs. The giant was an ogre of the fiercest cast, yet his heart went out to the families left fatherless and hungry. He was wont to release those with brothers or fathers lost in battle or at sea, and send them home to care for their families and those of their brothers and fathers.

Twixt hardship and loss, in time, the armies of man and ogre were used up entirely and with none left to fight for them, the two great rulers faced one-another in single combat. Though they traded powerful blows that shook the earth and caused the stones to tremble, neither could gain victory over the other. The giant was amazed for no sooner had he wounded the king, than the wound would dry up and the scabs flake away revealing new flesh as clear as if the man were never wounded. This was a truly strange thing, but the king had a secret, for in his dealings with the Alsar, he had been given a magical talisman embrued with the darkest and most arcane powers known to fae or man.

Aellir was the child of an Allemann walkyr and an Elsar maid from Englemark. And he had carved a home for the men of Kumberland from the wild Andred Forest. He was a mighty warrior and acquitted himself handily with the seax and the spear. Yet every wound he delivered to the great ogre, sealed itself as soon as it was made for the giants and gnomes are creatures of the earth and it sustains them.

Yet such mighty wounds cannot be dismissed so easily, and where the giant was healed the earth was sickened, and for every death blow that threatened to whelm the man-king the sea was poisoned to restore him. The mighty fury that moved these princes was a force to be reckoned with, yet even anger and rage must eventually run their course and be drained. In time the mighty foes began to take note of the horror their feud had wrought and they were ashamed, though neither could gain the advantage to kill his opponent and be done with the destruction. With each blow it became apparent that their war would poison the land and sea till neither had a kingdom left to rule.

Aellir spoke first, as he thrust up under the breastplate of his opponent and pierced the ogre’s beating heart. “Hunding you are named, and a dog you are to kill the earth to sate your greed.”

“And you Halfling are a shame on the head of your dread mother, enslaving your brother Elsar and leading men to conquer,” the giant Hunding. growled as he clove through Aellir’s shoulder.

“It seems we shall never agree,” Aellir said. “Yet for the peace of our people and the health of the land, we must cease this war.”

With that, he thrust his spear till the tip brushed the nose of the giant, yet he did not push the attack instead parrying the giant’s great axe. “Desist I say,” Aellir said. “We must parley and find a peace for the sake of those we cherish, if not our own.”

“Aye,” answered Hunding, “put up thy sword and spear and we shall forge a peace, together.”

With that they called for a tent and sat down to bargain, and if ever a negotiation could be called a battle, such was the exchange between those princes. Day and night they brangled and cursed, taunted and cajoled, plead and wept till the servants who fed them began to collapse from exhaustion. Yet, new servants were summoned, and on they went till a year had passed, and with first flower of spring their compact was at last forged.

The bargain was elegant in it’s simplicity. Neither prince would give ground nor cease to pursue his own ends within the lands of their own domain. Hunding would seize what he could wrest from Lugada, and Aellir would take what he could grasp of the isles. Yet, the sea would be sacred, a no-man’s land free from war and bound only by the Law of the Sea and the rule of the great captains. But, to seal their bargain and prevent further conflict, there would be a price. Each man loved his own child better than himself. Aellir had three daughters named Redbury, Elspeth, and Adyith. They were each very different having certain qualities unique and precious among women. Hunding had not been blessed with so many and had only his dear ogre bairn, Goeener. Aellir, who had plenty, would give up his least daughter to marry Hunding’s only son, and their lands would thus be joined by the blood of matrimony and the joy of grandchildren.

Now, while the twain had fought, the fae of Albion and Russia had been left to their own devices. War between the two had depleted the walkyr and ogres till there were scarce enough to hold the land they had, and the fae had been left to grow strong in arms and numbers. The gnomes had been driven from the earth and huddled in the highest mountains till the sickness caused by the dueling princes was past. But the green forest of the fae, protected from the sickened earth and the battle, had given them hope of pushing mankind back into the scrub where he’d been born.

Being a halfling, half Elsar and half man, Aellir believed that the Elsar he conquered served him faithfully and cheerfully. But such was not the case. For, unbeknownst to the king, his closest adviser was a wicked fae, a spy for the queen of Els, Mav herself. She who would would feign see war continue, for, while the war continued, fae were hunted by neither man nor giant. To this end, she had secretly made a pact with Brahm Oberon, King of the Albar to drive the walkyr of Kumberland back into the sea.

When Aellir returned to his palace to prepare for the betrothal, his adviser came to him and convinced him not to give his least daughter, who was a most fair and thoughtful young woman, but instead to send his oldest daughter who had been widowed during the war and who had born a son fit to be heir to the throne of Kumberland. Thus would Hunding be cheated, for while they had agreed upon his least daughter, the written compact was vague and could be fulfilled thus.

So when Hunding sent his seneschal to collect the maiden bride, King Aellir sent his Eldest, Redbury, a plain woman of considerable grace and devoted to her father. The seneshal stayed that night and dined as a guest of the court, but only the eldest daughter was present at the high table and in the morning he left, taking the young widow with him, believing her to be Adyith. As they left, king Aellir stood on the battlements and waved to his daughter, but standing beside him was the Elsar counselor grinning wickedly at the deception.

Now giants, as you well know, have the keenest of vision for things far distant, though they may be fooled by that which is under their noses. So as the carriage moved off, the seneshal looked sharply at the fae standing with the King and recognized him for the trickster Pukt of Mav’s own court! This same fae had accosted him on the road, to warn him of treachery at the hand of King Aellir. Thinking that some mischief must be afoot, the seneshal began to coax the young widow to speak, and soon they were chatting quite comfortably about the wonders to be found in Thanreach.

Finally, he began to ask after the princess’ preferences. How would she like her rooms to be, what sort of maids would she require, questions such as these lulled the woman into a sense of safety and she was unprepared when the seneshal began in earnest. First he told her of the wondrous beasts that we herded and the many treats that could be found at table. Then he asked casually, who would you most like to present with a gift of thirty young oxen not yet broken to the plow. “Why to my father,” she exclaimed, “for he deserves a bride price fit for a king.”

Nodding, the seneshal continued. “And who should receive a tiara of the finest emeralds?” Now the widow was sly, and knew not to mention her sisters. So she thought a moment and replied, “Why, to my dear nurse who taught me my letters and read to me fine tales of Deacons in Shining Armor, and damosels in distress.”

“And who shall get the sugar plums my master serves each night?” he asked while her heart was full of fancy.

“Why, my own dear son should have his fill of them, my Lord. He is a sweet boy and sweets to the sweet!” she cried.

The seneshal was angered, but the poor widow was so distraught he sent her home saying, “Return to your son madame. The fault is thy father’s, but he shall soon regret having tricked my master.”

When the seneshal arrived home, he announced to the king and the court the result of his long journey. He was wroth to return empty handed and demanded that the Emperor once more prosecute war against Albion for the honor of giants and Emperor Hunding. Instead, Hunding merely smiled and sent again for the daughter of King Aellir. This time he sent his own brother to gather the girl and bring her to him. But, when the brother went to Albion, Aellir once again followed the advice of Pukt, his fae counselor, and sent instead his middle daughter, Elspeth, who was devious in mind and outspoken, though beautiful as any woman might wish and capable of grace and dignity, when it suited her purpose.

But Pukt appeared to the ogre princeling at an inn, where they stopped for the night, and told him that the king had once again treated falsely with the giants. The next day as the Hunding’s brother was bringing the girl to him he regaled her with the wonders she would see in Thanreach. When he had lulled Elspeth with sweet tales, he inquired of her, “In all the world there are no finer craftsmen than the gnomes and giants of my brother’s kingdom. If you found a fine swordsmith, and he offered you his finest blade for the mere sight of your beauty, what would you do?”

“Why, I should fly home and present the blade to my father as a gift!”

“And should you find a fine jeweler who offered you his finest ring, fit only for a maiden of chaste virtue, for nothing more than a lock of thy fair hair?”

“Why, I should fly home and present it to my older sister, for she is a lovely maiden and I shall soon be wed.”

“And should you discover a fine toymaker who offered you his finest doll should you but allow him the honor of a single dance?”

“Why, I should fly home to present it to my least sister, for she still plays with dolls and has tea with the fae who lives in the inglenook of her hearth.”

At this, Hunding’s brother realized he’d been tricked and sent her home to her mother, returning home himself to demand that his brother make war for the honor of giantkind, and of his kingdom.

Finally, Hunding sent his own son, Goeener who had only just become a man and must be accompanied by twenty armsmen and a nurse. He gave his son the charge to collect fair Adyith, and none other, before he returned. However, Hunding was advanced in years and though giants are long lived, his creaky bones betrayed him as he hunted a great daw, with wings as broad as the beam of a galleon, and he fell from a great height and died on the rocky shore below.

Word was sent by Eastmark fae, who rode the winds at the root of a giant osprey’s wings.

The message arrived just as Goeener mounted the steps to enter Aellir’s palace, while the least princess watched from the window of her tower suit. When Goeener heard of his father’s death, he took up his father’s sword that had been brought to him by the fae messenger, and in that moment was transformed from a handsome young princeling to a great ogre, every bit as huge and fearsome as his father.

Since Goeener stood on the very steps of the palace when he heard the news and was transformed, the King’s least daughter saw all this transpire, though she could not see the face of the prince. She was frightened to see the fearsome monster she would soon be wed to, and ran to her father and pleaded with him to release her from his vow, for she felt like a prize sow to be won by the yeoman who shot the keenest yard. Her father had run out of daughters, but he had yet another plan to rid them of their obligation. He was certain he could discourage the new emperor from ever troubling them again. So he told his daughter to bide in patience and wait his decision. But she was frightened and, though she loved her father, she mistrusted his counselors and she fled to her tower to weep.

While she was there, a beautiful fae princess appeared to Adyith and offered to help her escape. Doubting the fairy’s intentions, she asked what the fae would require in return for her aid. The fairy explained that she was the girl’s own fae godmother, and that she sought to protect the princess from the new emperor’s cruel dominion.

Finally relenting, princess Adyith followed the fairy’s instructions and stood upon the sill of her window. There she threw a magical red riding mantel, given to her by the fairy, about her shoulders and was immediately transformed into a beautiful Bullfinch. Her silver dress became the finch’s wings and tail, while her raven hair became the finch’s black hood. Everything she wore was transformed with her, save her silver slippers beaded with pearls, for a bird has no use for slippers.

She flew from the window and soon was lost in the shear joy of flight. She flew for hours till she grew hungry and cold and began to wonder what a bullfinch might eat. As she hunted and devoured several juicy flies, she found a beautiful young minstrel singing and playing his harp, beneath a spreading chestnut tree. The young man’s song captured her heart and she landed in the branches above his head to listen as he sang of great battles and lands long lost to the forest. He sang of lost love and dead heroes and finally his song turned to regret for the wrongs great men do.

His song was so touching and his voice so sweet that poor Adyith began to weep, but as she was a bird, her wails came forth as the song of the Bullfinch. The young man was in his own turn enraptured and sat quietly listening to the heart-breaking song of the princess for she too knew sorrow. In a single day, she had lost her father and her home as she fled marriage to young ogre. And, though it seemed hardly possible, she wished for the love of a fine and comely man like the minstrel.

The minstrel wished to keep such a beautiful song bird for his own, and he coaxed Adyith from her perch as she gladly flew to light on his shoulder. The minstrel took her with him to the nearby village and had made for her a beautiful golden cage. The cage was a wondrous construction with mirrors and perches of the finest silver, but it had no door. Instead, the entrance was open with a perch set before it like a porch, and the princess was free to fly about at her whim. This was strange and welcome, as Adyith had no wish to be trapped in a cage to live out her life as a songbird. Yet she didn’t wish to leave the beautiful young man and his sweet voice. She might have transformed and met him as herself, but she feared to reveal herself to minstrel lest the goodman be frightened by the magic of her transformation, or that her father or her fiancee might hear tales and come to take her away. . . .

Our story continues:

If you like this story and want to read more check out the eBook Neverwas: Forgotten Tales of Albion on Smashwords.

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Period or Coma?

I wonder if the following really reads right. Is it too pedantic and does it really hint at what it’s like traveling by horse through Essex in the 17th century. Comments would be welcome.

The Ladies were soon packed into the coach and the last of the luggage bound in place before the sun had begun to peak over the roofs and gables on the town. They moved out at a brisk pace, letting the horses burn some of the restlessness that had them whickering and stamping while loading. Even the normally placid team of four pulling the wagon were frisking a bit and nipping the air. As the day wore on they cleared the outskirt of the Tilbury and were soon wending their way through the cots and pastures. Once out of the village they made good time and before the hour they were just pulling into Laindon.

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To Blog . . . (Or not!)

Real people tell foolish, simple and fantastic tales. It’s part of the condition,

I’ve another little faerie tale to post. It is told in the voice and tenor of my characters from Redmantle. One of the strangeties of Speculative fiction is that the characters never have any sort of fantasy life. With the exception of the adventure books mentioned in Rigney’s Wheel of Time (WoT), it seems that people in fantasy and scifi aren’t people at all. It’s as if the writer, having stretched himself to create a fantasy world where his magic/tech/alien is real, he’s overtaxed and can’t let his character’s be real enough to have a fantasy life of their own.

There is the obvious bugaboo about not wanting to break the forth window or remind the reader that they are in fact reading speculative fiction. But I say that failing to allow characters to further fantasize about things and realities that are NOT possible in your world of fiction does exactly that. It makes the characters less than fully fleshed. They become hyper literal automatons with no imagination of their own. Thus when they arrive at creative and ingenious solutions it just smells of magic bullets and cheating!

Real people tell foolish, simple and fantastic tales. It’s part of the condition, like religion or philosophy. That’s why I have faerie tales. The tales in these stories are no more real to the characters that tell them than they are to you. No less so I’d wager either. But they reveal the rich fantasy life and imagination my characters possess in their own right and make those characters somehow more human.

But now I have a dilemma. I have another called The Bullfinch and the General , but I realize it may be too soon since the last tale to post another. Well having taken the time to rant I guess I know what to do. I’ll simply wait until after new years and post it as the first blog of 2011. Thanks for your patience and I hope you like it.

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To Blog . . . (Or not!)

Real people tell foolish, simple and fantastic tales. It’s part of the condition,

I’ve another little faerie tale to post. It is told in the voice and tenor of my characters from Redmantle. One of the strangeties of Speculative fiction is that the characters never have any sort of fantasy life. With the exception of the adventure books mentioned in Rigney’s Wheel of Time (WoT), it seems that people in fantasy and scifi aren’t people at all. It’s as if the writer, having stretched himself to create a fantasy world where his magic/tech/alien is real, he’s overtaxed and can’t let his character’s be real enough to have a fantasy life of their own.

There is the obvious bugaboo about not wanting to break the forth window or remind the reader that they are in fact reading speculative fiction. But I say that failing to allow characters to further fantasize about things and realities that are NOT possible in your world of fiction does exactly that. It makes the characters less than fully fleshed. They become hyper literal automatons with no imagination of their own. Thus when they arrive at creative and ingenious solutions it just smells of magic bullets and cheating!

Real people tell foolish, simple and fantastic tales. It’s part of the condition, like religion or philosophy. That’s why I have faerie tales. The tales in these stories are no more real to the characters that tell them than they are to you. No less so I’d wager either. But they reveal the rich fantasy life and imagination my characters possess in their own right and make those characters somehow more human.

But now I have a dilemma. I have another called The Bullfinch and the General , but I realize it may be too soon since the last tale to post another. Well having taken the time to rant I guess I know what to do. I’ll simply wait until after new years and post it as the first blog of 2011. Thanks for your patience and I hope you like it.

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