Tag Archives: Arthurian

#amwriting: King Arthur: where history and fantasy merge

473px-Boys_King_Arthur_-_N._C._Wyeth_-_p214 Public Domain via WikimediaA few years ago I was challenged to write an Arthurian tale with a steampunk twist. I accepted the task, but immediately wished I hadn’t.

The first question I asked myself was: Where do Arthurian and steampunk connect well enough to make a story? The answer was–they don’t. I felt that block we all feel when the story will not reveal itself.

But, sitting on my back porch and letting my mind wander, I found myself wondering what Galahad and Gawain would have really been like. The people those characters were based on were men of the 5th or 6th century, ordinary men, and despite the heroic legends, they were made of flesh and blood.

And what if somehow Galahad got separated from Gawain through a door in time? How would Galahad get back to Gawain?  What if he was marooned in Edwardian England, with Merlin – can you say steampunk?

The title of that tale is Galahad HawkeThe original working title was I, Galahad. For every story, the title is a moot point for me, because any title I give it at the beginning will likely be changed when I rewrite it anyway.

The main character is Galahad Du Lac, son of Lancelot Du Lac, illegitimate, some have said, but is he really? If he is, it implies the fifth century was a lot less concerned about the proprieties than we give them credit for. His line of work–nobleman and hero. Thus, he goes on quests to find strange and magical objects such as Holy Grail.

The story was told from Galahad’s point of view. I opened the story just after the Grail was found.

What is the original story of Galahad that is bandied about most often?

Nowadays Galahad is a minor knight, but he figures prominently in Sir Thomas Malory’s 1485 work, Le Morte d’Arthura reworking of traditional tales that were hundreds of years old in his day.

480px-Schmalz_galahadTraditionally, Galahad finds the grail and immediately goes to heaven, raptured as a virgin – but was he? I mean raptured OR a virgin?  If he was not raptured, what could have happened to make medieval chroniclers think he was?

And why was this notion of a virgin knight and being taken to heaven before death so important to the medieval chroniclers that they would write it as though it was true history?

Well, they were writing some 300 to 400 years after the supposed event, during the final decades of the Crusades. Religion and belief in the Christian truths espoused by the Church was in the very air the people of the time breathed. All things of this world were bound up and explained in ways relating to the Christian traditions of the day.

Literature in those days was filled with religious allegories, the most popular of which were the virginity and holiness of the Saints–especially those Saints deemed holy enough to be raptured. These people did not have to experience death, but instead were raised while still alive to heaven where they spent eternity in Gods presence.

Death was to be feared–a constant companion, and if possible, one to be avoided.

The concept of a knight pure enough in God’s sight to be raised to heaven was a popular centerpiece of medieval tales.

According to the fount of all knowledge, Wikipedia: “Medieval literature is a broad subject…the literature of this time was composed of religious writings as well as secular works. Just as in modern literature, it is a complex and rich field of study, from the utterly sacred to the exuberantly profane, touching all points in-between.”

SO, lets talk about Geoffrey of Monmouth. He was a Welsh cleric whose work was the foundation for the development of British historiography and the popularity of tales of King Arthur. He is best known for his chronicle Historia Regum Britanniae (“History of the Kings of Britain”), which was wildly popular in its day and was uncritically accepted as true history well into the 16th century. It has been translated into various other languages from its original Latin, but is now considered historically unreliable.

220px-Sir_Galahad_(Watts)The High Middle Ages were a golden period for historical writing in England, but the craft of history was not an academic subject taught in school. It was something enjoyed by well-educated men of learning who were all men of the Church, but  was not subjected to the process of verification and research that we attempt to apply to academic subjects today. The gathering of historical tales was a hobby for educated men who had the time, social position, and the talents to pursue it.

As a result, the histories from this period are highly questionable–but are quite entertaining and are great fantasy reads. I always think that if J.R.R. Tolkien had been writing history in a monastery during the 7th and 8th century, The Lord of the Rings would have the same place in our historical narrative that the Arthurian Cycle has now, and Aragorn would have been the king who united all of Britain.

Galahad_grail_detailKnowing that history and fantasy merges in the Middle Ages, I approached my story by asking these questions:

  1. What does Galahad have to say about his story?
  2. How does he end up separated from Gawain
  3. How does he end up in Merlin’s company
  4. Why are they unable to get back to Gawain? What is the reason the magic no longer works?
  5. What do they do to resolve the situation?
  6. How does the tale end – does Galahad get Gawain back or is he permanently adrift in time? I wrote it two ways and picked the one that moved me the most.

This short-story appears in the novella, Tales From the Dreamtime.  However–for the last few days, the idea of what happened next has been percolating in my mind. I think Galahad may have another tale in his future.

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Filed under Fantasy, Literature, Publishing, writing

Cover reveal,Tales from the Dreamtime

Tales from the Dreamstime jpg 2013Great covers sell books! I love great covers, but haven’t always been that good at creating them.

This is the cover of my soon-to-be-released book, Tales from the Dreamtime, a collection of two short stories and one novella.

The image is The Lily Fairy by Falero Luis Ricardo. The image itself is in the public domain, because the original author or artist passed away over 100 years ago. Thus, instead of crediting the artist with a © symbol, we use a different  method:

 

Luis Ricardo Falero Lily Fairy 1888.

{{PD-Art|PD-old-100}}

The credit line is extremely important, as you must always clearly represent on the copyright page of your book each person with an interest in the work.  You must have on file a license clearly granting you permission to use the image in way you intend to use it.

In the case of public domain artwork, a good source of free artwork with clearly written  creative-commons licenses is Wikimedia Commons.  There is a limited number of works that are suitable for my purposes, and some of the best ones have restrictions clearly stated on them. This picture, however, has the following provenance clearly stated on the bottom half of the page beneath the picture:

Author
[show]Luis Ricardo Falero (1851–1896) Link back to Creator infobox template wikidata:Q2744493
Description
Lily Fairy
Date 1888
Medium oil on canvas
Source/Photographer [1]
Permission
(Reusing this file)
Author died more than 70 years ago – public domain
This is a faithful photographic reproduction of an original two-dimensional work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:
Public domain This work is in the public domain in the United States, and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 100 years or less.
This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.

The way you are to credit the artist is also clearly expressed in a link:

Courtesy credit lines[edit]

Public Domain media do not require credit line or any kind of attribution; however, reusers are encouraged to attribute author (if known) and inform users that the work was released into public domain. Below are suggested creditline formats for the reusers:

License Author Source Credit line
{{PD-self}}
{{PD-author}}
{{PD-heirs}}
John Doe Own work John Doe / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
{{PD-old}} John Doe publication / self-scanned John Doe / Public Domain
{{PD-self}} [[user:JohnDoe]] Own work user:JohnDoe / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
{{anonymous-EU}}
{{PD-anon-1923}}
{{anonymous work}}
anonymous publication Public Domain

582px-Il_Pordenone_001b_detail_sheet_music

I have found many old masters that I use on this blog on Wikimedia Commons.

“Public domain” means nobody claims any rights to the property, either because they gave them up or because time or some other factor ended copyright. Anyone can use it for any purpose. For instance, anyone can publish and sell a copy of “A Christmas Carol” because it is no longer copyright due to age.

“Royalty free” means “I own it, but I am allowing you to use it under specific conditions without paying me royalties for it” A Royalty free license does have qualifications. For instance it might allow you to use the work but not to sell copies. Many times you pay the artist a onetime fee and then you have the rights to use the work within the limits of your contract.

Bedermann dreamstime_14266940Affordable Royalty Free art can be found on Dreamstime.com, and the price ranges from $1.00 to $75.00. There are thousands of images on that website. iStock.com is another great royalty free website.  Their contracts are clear and printable and the credit lines are also clear. You always have a record of your purchases through them, on the website so your provenance is never in doubt.

Being an indie is a lot of work, and you really have to be your own art department. It is a lot of fun, I find. I have even tried making my own cover art, with mixed results, but I really learn a lot from these sorts of experiences.

Being an indie is a s much about the learning the ropes of the publishing business as it is anything else.  I have learned that just owning the rights to use the art is only the first step to a good cover. You must either be able to use Photoshop (mondo expensive) or Gimp (free), both of which are startlingly difficult to learn the ropes of.  Not only that, you must understand how a book cover is laid out. There are YouTube and Amazon walkthroughs, which is a free education but also which is complicated.

My advice? Hire a graphic designer with experience in designing book covers. It is well worth it. My own choice of artwork is dictated by my both my pocketbook and the image’s relevance to the story, but I find that good graphics can really make a great cover.

I have a graphic designer, Ceri Clark, who does the graphics on my book covers, because I don’t have the eye for them. My advice? Hire a graphic designer with experience in designing book covers. I know I already said that, but that is my advice, lol!

So here is the blurb for my new book, Tales from the Dreamtime

Three grownup Tales from the Dreamtime in one novella…

A conversation with Galahad
A prince on a quest and a goddess in mourning
A stolen kingdom and the Fractal Mirror 
Three tales of wonder and great deeds 
Three tales of heroes and villains 

Open the door and enter the Dreamtime, the world of fairytales, the flower of all that is delightful and mysterious, frightening and amazing.

It will be offered for sale as an ebook by Monday August 12,2013 if all goes as planned.It contains three tales:

TABLE    OF    CONTENTS

1     Galahad Hawke (a short story)

2    The Tale of Prince Darién (a short story)

3    Arrabelle and the Prince of Thieves (a novella)

Each tale is written with my own particular brand of let-the-chips-fall -where-they-may take on traditional fairytales.

I may yield to pressure and pick up the story at the end of  Galahad, turning him into a novel during NaNoWriMo this year–he is an Arthurian tale with a Steampunk twist. Nothing is certain yet!

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Filed under Adventure, Books, Dragons, Fairies, Fantasy, Literature, Steampunk, Uncategorized, writer, writing