Monday, 31 October 2011

Daily Postcard From The Lake District #15

Today's walk was a circular from Tarn Hows via Hawkshead.  A mostly gentle walk, this was needed after yesterday's marathon hike!

Weather: light rain with some persistent showers, improving as the day progressed.

Distance: six miles/ten kilometres, plus walk in.

Terrain: almost all on good paths or quiet lanes, some muddy sections

I picked this walk because it was short after yesterday and also because the weather left a great deal to be desired.  Fingers are crossed for better weather tomorrow.  Pictures below:

Along the Cumbria Way towards Knipe Fold.

Looking towards the Yewdale Fells.  This was about as high as could be seen this morning.

A glimpse of Tarn Hows.

Esthwaite Water, with Hawkshead between it and me.

A distant glimpse of the northern end of Windermere.

Pleasant walking above Hawkshead.

Tarn Hows near the end of the walk.  Not much improvement in the weather here (I was about to get rained on again), but it had cleared from the northern Lake District.  Trust me to pick a walk at the wrong end! lol

Another link of interest:

Hawkshead village

Hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Until then, be well all.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Daily Postcard From The Lake District #14

Today's walk took me from Keswick to Seatoller via Watendlath; returning to Keswick via Portinscale.

Weather: light rain first thing, sunshine at the end

Distance: more than yesterday. Forgot to bring my scaled wee wheely thingy and I'm *not* sticking pins in my waterproof maps!  It's eight miles if you follow the lakeshore path and I did more than that.  So more than eight miles.

Pictures below:

Derwent Isle wearing its autumn colours.

 The Jaws of Borrowdale, from Friar's Crag.

 The lane leading eventually to Watendlath.

Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite Lake from Ashness Bridge.

Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake from Surprise View.

Keswick Launch at Lodore.

Watendlath Beck, following the pleasant path.

View along the valley, taken (nearly) from Watendlath.

Bridge over Watendlath Beck.

Watendlath Tarn.

Looking into Borrowdale.

And down at Rosthwaite.

Looking across the valley to Glaramara.  Windy up there today.

Cat Bells in sunshine.  Was not expecting to see blue skies today!

Walla Crag, with Blencathra in cloud to the left.

Skiddaw, in cloud, from Otterbield Bay.

Looking up Derwentwater from Derwent Foot.

After a long walk, a relaxing pint...

... Cheers!

Until tomorrow's walk, be well all.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Daily Postcard from the Lake District #13

Yes, back in the Lake District for another week.  Weather today didn't look too promising, so made today's walk a short one.  The route took me from Pelter Bridge to Grasmere via Loughrigg Terrace (low clouds made going higher pointless) and returning along the Coffin Route.

Weather: showers followed by persistent rain

Distance: about six miles/10 kilometres

Route: along well-trodden and mostly good footpaths and bridleways.

Pictures below:

 Looking along the bridleway leading onto Loughrigg Terrace.

An autumnal Little Isle on Rydal Water.

Autumn colours beside Grasmere.

The bridleway leading onto the road before the descent into Grasmere village.

Loughrigg Fell from the outskirts of Grasmere.

Looking back along the Coffin Route, a popular route with (live) walkers between Grasmere and Rydal.

Well, the first walk of the holiday, a short and gentle introduction.  Fingers crossed for an improvement in the weather!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Weekly Writing Update

Well, the past week has certainly been eventful!  As so often happens with writing, ideas suddenly cram into your head and the hardest part is getting them all down on paper!  I've been back tugging the early plotlines in Markan Sword, giving all four a tweaking.

This often happens when writing, one reason why my plotting is initially very loose.  It's a very edit-heavy way of working, as any thriller writer will tell you (thrillers need to be tightly plotted from the outset), but it's the way that works for me.

Markan Sword now has six complete chapters; while progress is a little slower than anticipated, the book is shaping up at a steady pace.

No doubt you remember that I was struggling for a replacement name for Bounty Hunter; because it's a follow-on from Gifted Apprentice, I've renamed it Gifted Hunter.  This is also coming along nicely and a couple of sample chapters were posted earlier in the month.  However, the date I'd set for publication was a little hopeful, so expect some slippage to the right... sorry.

And that's about it for this week.  Carry on writing!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Gifted Hunter, Chapter 2 (First draft)

Following on from Chapter 1, here's Chapter 2.  Also the first draft, so subject to modification and there may be the odd error, or repeated word here and there.  Read and enjoy...


Chapter 2

Calcan's harbor was a good five milas from the city.  Sallis was surprised a city could stand on the sea, could even develop as a city, and not have its own harbor.  Instead, Calcan had two satellite towns that were harbors.

Sallis stayed in Calcan long enough to buy a horse and learn directions for Marka.  After a week's riding, and not having seen the sea for four of those days, that Sallis fully realized how a continent felt so different from an island.  Only now did he understand that the sea-smell pervaded everything on Re Annan and now, with that smell absent, he missed it.

He expected to pine for it, perhaps a form of homesickness, and was surprised that he did not.  Instead, he was looking forward to the adventure that lay ahead.

His horse was surprisingly gentle for an animal he knew boasted speed and stamina.  The horse was called Glyder and, for someone well out of practice, was a delight to ride.

In addition to his sword, Sallis rode with a quarterstaff strapped beside him.  Although the lands controlled by Calcan were stable and safe, he wanted to take no chances.  He was a stranger here and people were not always friendly towards outsiders.

It was as he rode further west that things began to change.

The road was still paved and it was even still called the Marka Road.  Trading caravans were very much in evidence, moving goods from one place to another.  There were few travelers like Sallis, but nobody bothered him.

Passing from Iko Prefecture, Sallis knew he had now entered lands that belonged to Marka.  This was when he noticed changes.

Alderra, the land he now passed through, was a huge prefecture, one almost completely independent of Marka, yet ruled by a Prefect who did not want to break away fully.

The road was still in evidence, though not paved for its full length, but people here were more watchful than in Calcan.  There were no patrols of soldiers here.

Merchant guards looked at him carefully, sometimes aggressively and sometimes neutrally.  But nobody was openly friendly.  Farmers took one look at his sword and staff before closing their doors against him.  Sallis spent more and more days sleeping under the stars or in a hedge.

He passed from Alderra, the road hugging the border between Selim and Eman until he finally passed into Outer Marka.  It was here that he met his first patrol of soldiers since leaving Iko.

And these were a lot less polite.

The patrol had five men, with some sort of junior officer in charge.  They were dusty from their ride, though the road was still paved in places.  They forced Sallis to stop, surrounding him, eyeing sword and quarterstaff in suspicion.

The men all boasted two day's stubble, while Sallis managed some fluff on his chin and upper lip.

"Where you headed, boy?"  demanded the rider with a thin line of cloth around the rim of his helmet.

"Marka," replied Sallis.  He eyed the cloth, knowing it denoted rank, but not what rank.  "Er, Captain."

"Squadman," replied the other man, his dark-blue eyes showing no hint of humor.

"Sorry."  Sallis took a breath.  "I'm going to Marka, Squadman."

"A good ten days yet," said the squadman.  "Not much between there and here.  What are you doing for food?"

Sallis blinked.  Insinuation was hidden within the soldier's words.  And out here it was his word against theirs.

"I forage," he replied.

"Poach and steal you mean."

Sallis's dark-brown eyes hardened.

"No," he replied, "I mean forage.  Coming from a farm, I know the difference."

"With that accent, a farm from far away."  The squadman's gaze flickered quickly to Sallis's sword.  "Much call for farmers with swords there?"

"It might be needed where I'm going."

"Coming to join the Guard?"

Sallis shook his head.  "I want to be a bounty hunter."

The men laughed.  Sallis did his best to ignore them, but he was at an age when such insults are personal.  He gritted his teeth and said nothing, despite an urge to teach these men a lesson.

"What's your name, boy?"

"Sallis ti Ath."

The squadman shook his head.  "From one of the islands then.  Never knew things were so bad that way."  He leaned forward and lowered his voice.  "A bit of advice for you, Sallis ti Ath.  If you can use that sword, join the Guard."

Abruptly, he straightened and raised his voice again.  "Nothing for us here, lads," he announced.  His blue eyes were cold again.  "On your way, Sallis ti Ath."  He touched a hand to his helmet, then led his men onwards.

Sallis watched them go before he decided to press on.  He prayed Marka was as he hoped.  This was the first inkling that Marka might not be such a good idea after all.

Was he doing the right thing?

Again, feel free to comment.  This novella is coming along nicely now, even if the plot has been modified slightly from the original plan.  I hope you enjoyed the read!

Gifted Hunter Chapter 1 (first draft)

Chapter One from my current WIP (well, one of my WIPs!).  As Gifted Hunter is a novella, the chapters are much shorter than for my full-length novels.


Chapter 1
Journey to the Mainland

Sallis ti Ath found a quiet corner of the deck, well out of the way of the oarsmen.  He had spent two days enjoying and ogling the sights of Re Taura's capital city, waiting for his ferry to the main mainland.  Two days to Calcan, then overland to Marka.

To the city everybody called the "Jewel of the World."

Despite appearances, the channel was narrow here and a castle loomed far above, its turrets dominating the passage leading to the harbor.  The sound of a bell drifted down, an urgent sound of emergency.

There must have been something in his stance, because one of the other passengers smiled at him.

"The Mametain's son likes to experiment.  Inventive sort, you might say.  Nobody knows exactly what he's up to, but they test those bells every week."

"I see."  The wind freshened as they left the shelter of the land and Sallis pulled his brown cloak tighter around his shoulders.  They were broader now, as Sallis the boy matured into Sallis the man.  He had grown tall too, and not just "for his age."

"Just going as far as Calcan?"  asked the stranger.

Sallis had been warned to guard his tongue.  "For now, yes."

"Me too.  My family's in Calcan, so suppose I ought to spend some time there.  Sounds like you're from one of the outer islands."

Sallis blinked at the man and ignored the sudden bustle as sailors readied the sails.  The wind freshened further, the sails filled and the oars were no longer needed.  As cream-colored canvas filled the gaps between the masts, the ferry heeled as she gathered speed.

"From Re Annan," he replied.

"Not enough work?  Or just want to see the world?"

Sallis smiled.  "Both," he replied.

After his rejection, Sallis had spent the past four years on his father's farm.  Elvallon still visited and remained friendly, but there was a definite edge.  A certain something not quite tension, but close.  Sallis's visits to Leynx grew less and less frequent.

Lyssan always welcomed him warmly enough; Elvallon was the wary one.

Sallis had worked for people using his skills, especially the Guard who were sometimes careless with prisoners, but Hayland had always said the best work would be found on the mainland.  Not to mention the most rewarding.

"But who will help on the farm?"  demanded Sallis.

Hayland smiled.  Now their daughters were all married, he and Cellin were alone on the farm.

"We'll cope as we always have," replied Sallis's father.  "Neighbors and friends.  And we can still call on Barten and his family at need."

Sallis thinned his lips.  "When I can afford it, I'll send you some sylphs," he promised.  "You need more than neighbors to help."

Hayland waved a dismissive hand.  "We can make the farm smaller," he announced.  "Fewer mouths means less money needed to spend."

Sallis smiled.  "I'll send you sylphs," he promised.  "They're probably cheaper on the mainland than here."

"More common, certainly," replied Hayland.


There were certainly plenty of sylphs on Re Taura, though Sallis had not bothered to learn their cost.  He had money for the ferry and for a horse once he arrived in Calcan.  Get established first, buy sylphs for his father's farm later.

Sallis stared at the sylph hovering beside the steersman.  He wasn't sure exactly what a ship's sylph was, or precisely what she was for, but it was obvious that she was popular with the crew.  She even wore the same they did: canvas trousers, white shirt and a blue serge jacket with wooden buttons.

The only sylph Sallis knew well was Lyssan.  As she termed it, she was a "proper" sylph and vaguely contemptuous of infertiles, shaking her head whenever one was referred to as "she".

"Not proper females," she always said.  "Neuters who cannot breed.  What use are they?"

Lots of use, from what Sallis had seen in the past two days.  They were certainly plentiful.  Most servants he had seen were infertiles, and here was a ship's sylph, also an infertile.  More sylphs stood with their owners here, strangely all with wilted earpoints.

"Bring much food with you?"  asked Sallis's new friend, looking hopeful.

"No," replied Sallis.  "I paid for my meals with my ferry fare."

"Ah."  The other man nodded and looked disappointed at the same time.  "Probably sensible."

Sallis thought so too, and his attention returned to the ship's sylph.

There was little difference between her and any other sylph.  Skin and hair color the same, earpoints and vertically slit pupils...  She was shorter than Lyssan and certainly not as developed, but she was clearly a sylph.

Then Sallis noticed the other sylphs had begun to vanish, disappearing below.  Before long, only the ship's sylph was left on the upper deck.

"Why have they gone?"  he wondered aloud.

"That's sylphs for you," said his friend, who had overheard.  "They don't like being at sea."

Sallis nodded towards the infertile.  "Doesn't bother her."

"She's probably used to it."

Pushing the strangeness of sylphs out of his thoughts, Sallis leaned on the rail, stared into the water and dreamed of Calcan.


Feel free to comment.  This is a first draft, so it's still pretty raw.  Sorry for any typos!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Circular from Betws-Y-Coed to Cwm Wybrnant

Today's gently undulating walk, mostly in sunshine, took me from Betws-y-Coed to Cwm Wybrnant and then along a high level forestry road.  Though comparatively short, this is a varied walk, if having a drawback of mostly following (quiet) backroads and forestry trails.

Maps: OL18 East Sheet & OL17 East Sheet

Pictures below:

 Autumn closing in on the back road from Betws-y-Coed to the A470.

Pont-Yr-Afanc (Beaver Bridge), carrying the busy A470 over the River Conwy.

Hills in sunshine, though it's still pretty cold where I'm standing!

Moss-covered wall, showing how rarely the sun reaches this spot.

The road leading to Cwm Wybrnant (Valley of the Viper).

Looking down the Lledr Valley.  The ruin in the foreground was probably once an outside toilet.  A place of easement with a spectacular view!

 An outcropping in Cwm Wybrnant, now the short uphill section is over.

Once up, the valley opens into a pleasant amphitheatre, ringed by wooded hillsides.  Believe it or not, that is actually a public road you can see.  I don't think it's been resurfaced in the 20-odd years I've been coming here.

Looking across  Cwm Wybrnant from the far side.

A track (leading to a very wet moor, almost a shallow lake) leads across to Dolwyddelan from the valley, following the line of the wall in the centre of the picture.

 Once on the forestry track, a pleasant walk follows.  There has been some forestry work recently, allowing a quick glimpse of Tryfan in the far distance (you'll probably need to zoom in to see it).

A timber stack on the way back towards Betws.

Confluence of the Rivers Conwy and Machno.  Afon Machno is a mountain stream and its clear waters come in from the right.  Afon Conwy is born on moorland above Ysbyty Ifan and its waters are peat stained.

Shot of the River Conwy pounding through its gorge.

Dinas Mawr rising on the far side of the valley.  Despite looking quite intimidating from this side, the way up it is surprisingly easy.  Another walk, another day.

Other links of interest:
Ty Mawr

Next week, I'll be returning to the English Lake District, for the final set of daily postcards for 2011.  Well, I'm actually going for the walking, but the daily postcards are my way of sharing it with you!

Until the next walk, be well all.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Writing Update

I know everything has been pretty quiet on the writing front here, but this does not mean I've not been busy.

First off, much of last week was spent tweaking the new website (link to the right).  There are still one or two things that need sorting, but I'll get it all running the way I want it to soon.  I'm not far off putting up sample chapters for (still-to-be-renamed) Bounty Hunter and Markan Sword.

The first three chapters of Bounty Hunter are down now and the book seems to be clicking along quite nicely.  I'm envisioning a novella of roughly 25-30 thousand words and about 20 chapters.  A direct sequel of Gifted Apprentice, Bounty Hunter follows Sallis ti Ath as he travels from his island home to Marka.

Being a naughty author and not concentrating on one project at a time, I'm also getting the first draft of Markan Sword down.  Five chapters are done and I'm part-way through Chapter 6.  This book completes the Markan Empire Trilogy, will be roughy 175 thousand words long and about 30 chapters.  Chapters in the full-length novels are a lot longer than in my novellas.

On a bright note, Gifted Apprentice has been reviewed by fellow-author Darryl S. Ellrott.  His review can be found here, at his blog.

Now you're all as up to date with my writing as I am!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Today's Walk: In the Glyders

What a day!  Today's walk took me from Ogwen Cottage, up Devil's Kitchen, then onto Glyder Fawr and Glyder Fach.  My return was down Braich y Ddeugwm and along the old coach road.  The weather today was superb with brilliant sunshine and, thanks to being October, not too warm with it.

Pictures below:

Pre-sunrise as I'm leaving the car at roughly 7am.  The lights in the distance along the road belong to Ogwen Cottage, where my walk proper begins.

Daylight has strengthened. This is one of the many mountain streams around here, coming from Llyn Idwal. Y Garn ("The Cairn") is the hill in the background.

Now the sun's coming up! Still chilly and shady where I'm walking, thankfully.  Yes, that's the moon at the top of the picture.

Looking across to Pen yr Ole Wen (Head of the White Slope), also in early sunshine.
 Idwal Slabs reflected in Llyn Idwal.

 Idwal Slabs are a favourite with climbers.  Seniors Ridge, another route onto Glyder Fawr, follows the crest of the Slabs.

Looking down onto Llyn Idwal during a breather while ascending Devil's Kitchen.  Llyn Ogwen is in the valley in the middle distance, and the South Ridge of Pen yr Ole Wen (best avoided on hot days!) is picked out by the morning sun.

Looking across to Foel Goch (Red Hill), again during my ascent (I know, another breather, but I'm worth it).

Looking across to Y Garn, now Devil's Kitchen is behind me.  I'm not going that way...

 ...but this way. The best that can be said for this scree ascent is that it's in shade still.

Looking down on Llyn y Cwn (Dogs' Lake) from the steep, unpleasant but thankfully sun-free scree slope.

Looking across to Tryfan, which is in the centre of the picture.

 Looking south from Glyder Fawr.  This view alone makes the struggle up the scree energy well spent.

Snowdon group from Glyder Fawr.  They don't look much different from the picture I took in April!

Nant Ffrancon in sunshine!

Looking east from Glyder Fach.  The hill in the far distance, centre picture, is Moel Famau.  Glyder Fawr and Fach translate as "Large Lump" and "Small Lump", surprisingly unpoetic names!  Maybe "Small Lump" should really translate as "Lesser Big Lump".

East face of Tryfan (three peaks/tops).  The photo was taken from Braich y Ddeugwm (Arm/Ridge between valleys) during my descent.

Zoomed in on Adam and Eve, stone pillars (natural) on the Central Summit of Tryfan.  For those who don't already know, the controversy over its height was ended last year when Tryfan was confirmed as 3,010 feet.

Looking back to Bristly Ridge, a scramber's route onto Glyder Fach.

Now on the old coach road and on my way back to the car.  This was the main road between London and Holyhead until Telford's new road (now the A5) was built in the early eighteenth century.
Nearly back.  I scorned the bridge and enjoyed the wade instead to wash the mud off my boots!

This was a superb walk.  It's good in almost any weather, but today's sunshine really added something.

Until the next walk, be well all.