Friday, 30 December 2011

Gifted Hunter Chapter 1 (second draft)

I'm now ploughing ahead with this novella, the sequel to Gifted Apprentice.  Below is the second draft of Chapter 1.  Read and enjoy...


 Chapter 1
Journey to the Mainland

The ferry had crossed the mila or so of choppy green-brown water between Taura's quayside and the narrow channel that led out to sea with surprising speed.  Sallis ti Ath found a quiet corner of the deck to stand and watch, well clear of the oarsmen.

He had spent two days enjoying and ogling the sights of Re Taura's capital city, waiting for the ferry to the mainland.  Two days to Calcan, unless they ran into any storms, then he must travel overland to Marka, the city everybody called the Jewel of the World.

The tide had begun to ebb and the expanse of water ahead gave the deceptive appearance of great width.  But the channel was narrow here, marked by brightly-colored floating bladders.  Rocky flats protruded far into the gap and lurked beneath the water at high tide, waiting to wreck the foolhardy or ignorant.  A castle atop its own small island loomed far above, its turrets dominating the passage leading to the harbor.

Bells rang out from within the castle, urgent sounds of emergency.  There must have been something in his stance, because another passenger smiled at him.

"They test those bells every week," said the man.  "The Mametain's son is an inventive sort and likes to experiment.  Nobody knows exactly what he's up to, but they say he had the bells installed, just in case."

"In case of what?"  asked Sallis.

"Precisely."  The man smiled again.  "That's what we'd like to know.  But at least Castle Beren's far enough from Taura for us to be safe."

"I see."  The wind freshened as the ferry left the shelter of the land and Sallis pulled his brown cloak tight around his shoulders.  Those shoulders had broadened as Sallis the boy matured into Sallis the man.  He had grown tall too, and not just for his age.

"Going to Calcan, or headed further abroad?"  asked the stranger.

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

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

Sallis blinked and watched the sudden bustle as sailors readied the sails.  As the ferry cleared the channel, the crew hauled on ropes and the sails filled.  The wind freshened further and oars were no longer needed.  As cream-colored canvas filled the gaps between the masts, the ferry heeled and gathered speed.

"From Re Annan," replied Sallis, eventually.

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

Sallis smiled.  "Both," he replied.


Sallis had spent most of the past four years working on his father's farm.  Elvallon still visited and remained friendly, but a definite edge had crept into their relationship.  It took Sallis a couple of years to realize that his old tutor was wary.  His return visits to Leynx grew less and less frequent.

That was a shame, because Lyssan always gave him a warm welcome, but it was rare for her to accompany Elvallon when he traveled north.

Sallis used his talents whenever possible, catching those who liked to steal other people's sheep, or those prisoners the Guard managed to lose.  He had never worked out if the Guard suffered from incompetence or carelessness.  He had certainly amassed gold of his own, but Hayland always said the best work would be found on the mainland.  And the most rewarding.

"But who will help on the farm?"  demanded Sallis.  Now his sisters were married, his parents would be alone on the farm once he left.

"We'll cope as we always have," replied Hayland.  "Neighbors and friends.  And we can still call on Barten and his family when needed."

Sallis thinned his lips.  "When I can afford it, I'll send you sylphs," he promised.  "They can help.  And if you have male and female sylphs, perhaps that'll be another way to make money."

Hayland waved a dismissive hand.  "We'll make the farm smaller," he announced.  "Fewer mouths means we need less money."

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

"More common, certainly," replied Hayland.


The number of sylphs on Re Taura opened Sallis's eyes.  He had always imagined sylphs to be the preserve of the wealthy, but seeing so many about their errands, he now realized most people here must have them as servants.  He had not bothered to learn their cost.  Once he'd paid his ferry fare, he had enough spare coin for a horse after he arrived in Calcan.  Get established first; buy sylphs for his father's farm later.

Sallis now stared at the sylph hovering beside the steersman.  He had no idea exactly what a ship's sylph was for, but she appeared to be a valued member of the crew.  She even wore the same: canvas trousers, white shirt and a blue serge jacket with wooden buttons.

Elvallon had left Sallis's education concerning sylphs to Lyssan, the only sylph Sallis knew well.  Lyssan claimed to be a proper sylph and never hid her vague contempt for infertiles, shaking her head whenever one was referred to as "she".

"Not she," she always said, shaking her head.  "I am a she.  They are neuters who cannot breed.  What use are they?"

From what Sallis had seen in the past two days, infertiles filled lots of uses, and dashed about their tasks with an efficient air.  Most servants he had seen running errands were infertiles, and that included the ship's sylph he now watched at her duty.

She stood with feet planted apart, earpoints slanted forward and twitching in excited curiosity, and her silvery eyes glowed with pleasure.  More sylphs stood beside their owners, all with wilted earpoints and all, Sallis suddenly noticed, looking landwards.

"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 other sylphs.  Skin and hair color the same, earpoints and vertically slit pupils...  Shorter than Lyssan and certainly not as developed, but she was clearly a sylph.

As Re Taura grew smaller and smaller, and the unbroken horizon ahead widened, Sallis noticed the other sylphs vanish below one by one.  An infertile began it, and before long the only sylph left on the upper deck belonged to the ship.

"Why have they gone?"  he wondered aloud.

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

Sallis nodded towards the ship sylph.  "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.


Gifted Hunter Chapter 2 (second draft)

Following on from the previous post, here is Chapter 2:


Chapter 2

Calcan's harbor was a good five milas from the city.  Sallis was surprised a city could stand on the sea, or even develop as a city, and not have its own harbor.  Instead, Calcan used the harbors of two satellite towns: one that was a glorified fishing village, the other a trading port.

Sallis had no spare money - as far as he knew - so he walked the five milas to the city, a paved road that rose gradually uphill.  He used his quarterstaff as a walking stick and strapped his sword to his back, so it could not tangle in his legs.  Calcan stood on a cliff, so was walled on only three sides.  The gates leading into the city were impressive enough, flanked by two round towers and easily wide enough for four carts to pass abreast.

The streets bustled with the same industry Sallis had come to expect after his visit to Taura.  Easily twice the size, Sallis hoped his awe of Calcan did not show too obviously.  From what he saw, anything and everything could be bought here, from cloth and clothes, to armor and weapons.

He found three places selling horses, wandered between them to compare prices, and found a horse he felt suited.

The animal watched him approach and tossed his head in greeting.  Brown all over, except for a white blaze on his nose, Sallis admired him from a distance.  He reached forward with a hand and patted the creature's nose.

"Has he got a name?"  asked Sallis, as the proprietor joined him.

"Glyder."  The proprietor sniffed.  "Second hand, six years old, just re-shoed."

Sallis let Glyder investigate his hand and took careful note of the animal's teeth as he peeled his lips back, expecting something edible.  Finding nothing, Glyder gave Sallis a reproachful look.

"Take a good look, young sir; you'll find this animal is a bargain."

"That depends how much he is."  Sallis smiled.  Strong legs.  Deep chest.  Good teeth.  Even temperament.  No sign of disease.

"One crown sir, that is his price."  The proprietor smiled.

"For one gold crown, I expect the tack to be included," replied Sallis.  "And directions for Marka."

The haggling eventually accounted for most of the time Sallis spent in Calcan.  One horse and his tack heavier, but one gold crown and fifteen coppers lighter, Sallis wasted no more time and left Calcan.

For the first time since leaving Re Annan, Sallis felt blessedly alone.

Everything went well for two days.  Nothing drastic went wrong on day three, but Sallis's riding skills had faded somewhat.  Glyder proved a delight to ride, but that did not protect Sallis from saddle sores.

Getting up on the third day and it felt as though he had been visited by a sadist with stinging nettles.  Sallis felt agony just standing upright.  Despite that, they must eat.  He looked after Glyder first, suspecting his soreness was more the fault of the saddle than the horse.

After that wasted day, Sallis forced himself to ride, though Glyder got his hooves checked for stones rather more regularly than normal, and grooming lasted twice as long for a couple of days.

By the end of the first week, Sallis had almost forgotten about saddle sores.  Four days since he turned inland, four days without seeing the sea.  Only now did he realize how a continent felt so different from an island.  Sea-smell pervaded everything on Re Annan and now, with that smell absent, he missed it.

Pining for that smell could be a form of homesickness, but he looked forward eagerly to the adventure lying ahead.

Sallis wanted to take no chances.  He rode with his quarterstaff strapped beside him and his sword hung from the pommel.  Calcan controlled lands allegedly safe and stable, but he knew people everywhere were not always friendly towards strangers.

As he rode further west, things began to change.

Seeing borderstones on both sides of the road, Sallis paused to consult his map.  Unless he had a really poor sense of direction, Calcan's lands were about to fall behind and everything in front of him belonged to Marka.  He had the road to himself, without even a trading caravan in sight.

He wondered if men gave this road another name once he passed the stones.  According to his map, Alderra was a huge prefecture, and according to the few he had spoken to along the way, almost completely independent of Marka, but ruled by a family who had no wish to break away.

About a mila after the borderstones, the paving ended.  Ruts and puddles marked the road's route, with shards of old paving scattered about, but Sallis saw more neglect than care.

No soldiers patrolled here.

People had a more watchful and suspicious air about them.  The few caravans he passed had merchant guards, who all looked at him carefully.  Aggressive looks outnumbered neutral looks, and no friendly faces were seen anywhere.  Most unlike the way people treated each other on Re Annan.

Farmers took one look at his sword and staff before closing their doors against him.  Sallis spent more and more nights sleeping under the stars or in a hedge.

He eventually passed from Alderra, his map informing him that the road hugged the border between Selim and Eman until he reached Outer Marka.  Here, Sallis met his first patrol of soldiers since leaving Calcan's lands.

And these were a lot less polite.

The patrol had five men, which included the junior officer in charge.  Paving had reappeared now Sallis neared Marka, but the soldiers were dusty from their ride.  They surrounded Sallis, forcing him to stop, and eyed his weapons suspiciously.

The men boasted two days' 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.  The soldier's words... insinuated, and out here their word outweighed his.

"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, from a farm 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."

"Joining the Guard?"

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

The men laughed.  Sallis tried to ignore them, but at his age all such insults were personal.  Despite the urge to teach these men a lesson, he gritted his teeth and said nothing.

"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.  "Some advice for you, Sallis ti Ath.  If you can use that sword, join the Guard."

Abruptly, he straightened and raised his voice.  "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.  What waited for him in Marka?  Perhaps the city might not be such a good idea after all.

Was he doing the right thing?


Favourite Pictures for 2011

It's that time of year when we look back over the past twelve months and reflect.  Below is a selection of my favourite photographs from this year (except one, taken from 2007).  For whatever reason, they turned out better than expected, or at least well.  They all come from good walks too!

 January was not a successful month from a pictures point of view.  The camera was on strike for half of the month and it rained the other half.  So my first picture is from February.  This is looking east, up the Mawddach Estuary.  A beautiful corner of Wales, and in the southern half of the Snowdonia National Park, it is neglected by many, which means it is quieter than the higher hills to the north.

My first independent walks as an adult came exploring the Gwydyr Forest, near Betws-y-Coed.  Despite quickly growing somewhat more ambitious in my walking goals, I still like to walk here.  For me it's a relaxing place and a good way to unwind.  A very popular place with walkers and cyclists, and justifiably so!  This is Llyn Parc, a reservoir built when mining was still the biggest activity in the area.

 The beginning of April saw glorious weather.  This picture of the Snowdon group was taken from Glyder Fawr.  Probably my favourite of the year, this photo is now used as the wallpaper on my laptop.

May and I was at the Mawddach Estuary.  There are plenty of walks to explore in this part of Snowdonia and this picture was taken from Barmouth Bridge.

I spent a week in the Lake District in June.  Taken from Skiddaw, one of four fells over 3000 feet, Derwentwater is nestled comfortably in its valley, surrounded by the Lakeland Fells.

July and good weather has returned.  Another Snowdonia walk, north of Harlech.  This picture was taken on the return and is looking towards the Lleyn Peninsula.  The River Dwyryd flows past Port Meirion and into Cardigan Bay.

 Another picture from July, this time in the Western Highlands.  More good weather (I think it only rained on one day while I was there) and a cracking view of Loch Leven, Ballachulish Bridge and the distant Ardgour Hills.  This was taken from Meall Mor.

August and a visit - again - to the Mawddach area.  This time, a short and easy assault on Foel Ispri.  This picture is taken from Foel Ispri summit and is looking out into Cardigan Bay.

 September marked the official opening of the Ardudwy Way.  This picture is of Pont Scethin, in one of the loneliest valleys in the area.  That adds to its attraction, to me at least.  This bridge once carried the Harlech to London road.  I hope the path does not reflect the condition of the road when it was used by carriages.

October and a revisit to the Glyderau in North Snowdonia.  Another cracking day, if a very chilly start.  This picture was taken from Glyder Fawr.

November and another visit to the Lake District.  This autumnal scene was snapped near Elterwater.

This is the only picture not from 2011.  Christmas Day this year was wet and windy.  This picture was taken on Christmas Day 2007, when a high pressure was very definitely in charge of the weather!  This shows the River Mawddach in one of its quieter moods.

I trust 2011 has been an enjoyable and productive year for you.  Here's wishing all my fellow-bloggers and browsers a very happy and prosperous New Year.  I hope to see you all in 2012.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Naming Characters

Naming characters in fantasy novels can cause headaches - if not for the author, then certainly for the reader! One of the first novels I wrote (1990-91), had a large number of ilven. Their names begin with Dj or P. There was Djader, Djaltern, Djanee and Djileil, Djaten, Djeer, Djenfer... Pella, Pelline, Peloris, Pelore...

Had it been published - oh, the poor readers!

Many authors favour certain initial letters - A and S feature heavily in fantasy genre names - but it is possible that this is instinctive. Vowel-rich names generally sound less threatening and a "soft" initial consonant, such as S, can help establish a friendlier character. Unlike initial letters that are stops, such as D or T.

Even so, too many characters sharing the same initial letter can lead to confusion. Before somebody shouts at me for underestimating readers' intelligence, I must add that fantasy writers often use exotic names unfamiliar to everybody except their creators.

Every writer, to one degree or another, has potentially caused confusion with character names and I include myself in that criticism. One can be forgiven for confusing Sauron with Saruman (Tolkein), or Reane with Reanna (Jordan). Note the similarity of the names: not just the initial letter, but all the letters.

Then again, some people have no problem with it whatsoever!

Unless the number of characters in a book are restricted to fewer than twenty, names with the first initial letter or sound are going to crop up. They certainly do in my books, with a lot more than twenty characters.

My human names are either familiar (Marcus, for example) or are rearrangements of existing names: Obert is based on Robert. The meaning of the fantasy name will be similar to the meaning of the original I based it on. I generally don't match personality traits to character names. Many authors do and that is entirely their prerogative. Some are very clever with character names and I applaud the fun these authors have using this technique.

But parents cannot possibly know how an adult personality will turn out when choosing a child's name. They must choose and hope for the best. It also means that, from a writer's point of view, the lack of name matching personality is a more naturalistic approach.

In my books, exceptions to this self-imposed rule are the infertile sylphs. These are usually named by their human owners rather than by their parents (for cultural and instinctive reasons, sylph parents rarely become too emotionally attached to infertile offspring, see the sylph page above for a more complete explanation). But even then, the sylph is probably still too young for her personality to have actually settled. And humans often choose names simply because "the way it sounds" is pleasing.

Many sylphs are given human names, but most have at least some origin in the sylph language. Often two or more words form the root of a name and these will have mutated over time. Sylphs tend not to change words, but humans do, and if humans decide a Jen is really a Jenn, Jan or Jenna, then that is what the name becomes. The modern sylph name Jenn bears little resemblance to the original, but all the changes were made by humans, not sylphs. (Except if a word is mistranslated back to the sylph from the human language.)

Many meanings given to sylph names often appear arbitrary. Jenn translates as "careful, hesitant", but the sylph words are "fatil" and "jekstin". To demonstrate how these two words ended up as "Jenn" would take a book in its own right!

But that is my method. Take one or two sylph words and play around with them, mutate letters and swop syllables about. If this sounds like cheating, well that's how many words in modern languages came into being in the first place. Truth truly is stranger than fiction.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Circular Walk from Conwy, via Sychnant Pass

I promised to return to Sychnant, and here it is.  A blustery but generally fine day.  Strong winds continue to keep the higher tops beyond my reach (I'm the world's biggest wimp when strong winds are blowing across ridges), so this neat six-miler filled a morning nicely.  And a good mug of coffee in Conwy after!

Pictures below:

 Conwy from the ridge of Conwy Mountain.  All three bridges crossing the river can be made out here: Telford's fine suspension bridge in the middle; Stephenson's tubular railway bridge on the far side, and the modern concrete bridge nearest to us.

Looking ahead to the summit.  Though not high, Conwy mountain certainly has an airy feel - even without the wind trying to blow me over.

 Deganwy on the far side of the river, with Little Orme in the distance (just left of centre).

Great Orme, taken from near the summit.  The Grand Hotel in Llandudno can just be seen where the Orme drops to sea level.

Inland from Conwy Mountain.  The Sychnant Pass is hidden by the trees in the middle distance, while the Carneddau range marches away into the far distance.

Sychnant Pass, with Penmaenmawr in the distance.  The land on the horizon is Anglesey.

Looking up at Alltwen.  Though none of the hills here are especially high, I'll be returning to take more of them in.  I didn't do this one today - the wind helped dissuade me!!

 A retrospective of Conwy Mountain.  And despite a break in the weather, the wind chill is still there to remind me it's winter.

Gwern Engan, something of an oversize puddle, but the wind is strong enough to make waves.  This is a popular spot in spring and summer.

My return route brought me to Conwy itself and a welcome mug of coffee.  Conwy is one of the finest examples of a mediaeval town to be found, certainly in Britain.  This is Porth Uchaf, or the Upper Gate.  While waiting to take this photo, there was an interesting meeting of cars travelling in opposite directions.  Those coming out of the town have right of way.

Conwy Castle, taken from the walls.

More information about Conwy can be found here.

Until the next walk, be well all.

A (Very) Quick Writing Update

Work on Markan Sword is progressing steadily, if a bit slower than expected.  This is (partly) because work on the read-through and second draft of Gifted Hunter is moving at some pace now.  I hope to have second draft samples up this Sunday; I know a few of you who've made suggestions are waiting to see what I've done!

All that remains is to wish all of you a Happy New Year and a Prosperous 2012.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Eve Walk - Bryn Cader Faner

All right, I know this is a repeat of the walk I did with Sue in early July (see blog post here ), but I enjoyed it so much, that I showed it off to another friend, Clive.  The weather forecast was not very friendly, but the rain held off during the walk, though the wind chill helped prevent overheating!

Pictures below:

 A trio of Mute Swans near the beginning of the walk.

Looking across the Dwyryd Estuary from above Eisingrug.

 Porth Meirion from the road above Eisingrug.

Despite feeling somewhat bleaker than it did in July, this part of the path was delightfully deserted.  No crowds here!  This is part of the last section of the Ardudwy Way (or first, if walking it north to south)

 Looking north from Bryn Cader Faner.  The views were better in July!

Looking out to sea, with the Lleyn Peninsula a smudge on the horizon.

I'm hoping to get a few more walks up over the festive season.  I was out today (Christmas Day), but so too was the rain!

Until the next walk, be well all.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

About Ilven

This concludes previous postings about exotic races and religion on the ilvenworld.  This posting looks at the mysterious race after which the world is named: ilven.

We know from the last posting that the two sephiroths are in permanent battle for supremacy.  Each sephiroth has its own heirarchy, with ilven somewhere near the bottom, ranked just above the legions of spirits.

Within the Benefic Sephiroth, Siranva (usually known as the Father) is responsible for the benefic ilvenworlds.  Some philosophers claim there are only two ilvenworlds, one for female and the other for male ilven.  But most theorise that not only have there been thousands of ilvenworlds, but that there are thousands of ilvenworlds.  Given the see-saw nature of power struggles between the sephiroths, it makes little sense for Siranva to have only two.

The ilvenworld is life-bearing: native inhabitants include plants, bacteria, insects, marine life and ilven.  Thanks to the arrival of humans, life on the ilvenworld is now far more diverse, but little of it is indigenous.  The reason for the lack of indigenous biological diversity is because most species have something of both sephiroths in their natural makeup, which cannot be created by one sephiroth alone.

Ilven are known as the Father's daughters, though it is unlikely that he fathers them himself.  Ilven claim they are created individually, spending their childhood on the ilvenworld, before returning to Siranva to train for their true purpose.  They apparently remember nothing of their existence before the ilvenworld, or the means of their arrival.

Physically, ilven are generally human in appearance, though no humans share their emerald-green eyes. [Some philosophers claim this proves how close to the godhead humans really are, while others wonder what appearance ilven might have if there were no humans] Ilven are shorter than humans - at least while on the ilvenworld - and are usually shy and retiring. This attitude is surprising, given their intended role.  Few leave their ilvenhome.

Humans are curious about ilven, probably because they are so shy, but leave them alone as far as possible.  A minority of ilven show great interest in humans, but fewer make the effort to learn more.  It is considered a great privilege for an ilven to form any sort of relationship with a human.

Very little is known for certain what happens to ilven after they are called back to Siranva, but philosophers can make educated guesses from what is already known of the sephiroths and the Father.

Benefic and malefic ilven are the warriors of their sephiroths. The two types of ilven differ in detail, but their roles are broadly the same. Ilven lead the legions of benefic spirits, oversee and guard life on life-bearing planets and struggle against their opposite numbers. Male and female ilven work together, and their numbers are exactly even.

Ilven also lead assaults on ilvenworlds: malefic ilven will try to subvert a benefic ilvenworld and vice versa. They also struggle for primacy over other life-bearing worlds and these actions are at the forefront of the battles between the sephiroths. Fully adult ilven (nobody on the ilvenworld has met a fully adult ilven; maturity comes after they are called) of either sephiroth are ferocious beings and unafraid to act ruthlessly to achieve their objectives. Malefic ilven delight in this behaviour, but not even benefic ilven shy away from it.

On the ilvenworld, the existence of ilven helps ensure continuity of religion. Humans support Siranva, or else have thrown in their lot with the Malefic Sephiroth. That a god's daughters really exist and are not merely rumour, means that the same religion, or its direct opposite, is followed everywhere on the ilvenworld.

This concludes my very short series on exotic species on the ilvenworld.  A lot less is known about ilven than sylphs (who have their own page, see above), not only because of the shyness and reticence they display towards humans, but also because they themselves do not (yet) know.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Mythology and Religion on the Ilvenworld

All cultures have a mythology, even if they have no religion and the ilvenworld is no different. Mythology and religion add depth and colour to any fantasy world, yet is often glossed over or pushed aside.

Of course, fantasy writers must be cautious: religion can be a deeply divisive issue and there are pitfalls. Unless they have something to say on the subject, writers need to take care to avoid offence, which will clearly alienate some readers. There is no point in basing your fantasy religion on one already established to accuse it of being the root of all evil, or that it is dangerous and eccentric. You will upset somebody and unnecessarily so; remember a fantasy writer's primary job is entertainment.

The ilvenworld's mythology and religion is introduced below, but please note that this posting does not necessarily represent my religious or philosophical beliefs.

Scholars on the ilvenworld mostly agree that everything in the universe was originally condensed into one stable egg. There was no light, movement or time. The Creator destroyed this stable pre-existence in a huge explosion that created the universe. Pieces of the egg flew outwards in an ever expanding circle of light and matter, parts of which later coelesced to form the stars and worlds. At the moment of creation, two equal and opposing forces also came into being: the Benefic and Malefic Sephiroths.

Most humans and sylphs believe this cosmogony to be true and their religion is founded upon it.

The two sephiroths are perfectly balanced. Neither is stronger, nor holds any inherent advantage, although the balance of power constantly shifts between them. The Benefic Sephiroth applauds the Creator's action and wishes to preserve it; the Malefic Sephiroth accepts the Creator's action - without it, there would be no Malefic Sephiroth - but wants to amend it to fit its own image.

It is a core belief on the ilvenworld that both sephiroths are involved in creating life and driving evolution, which is why most species display a mix of good and evil. Scholars have noted some species display a greater affinity towards one or other of the sephiroths; more advanced species, such as humans or sylphs, can choose which sephiroth they wish to serve.

Despite the balance of strength, both sephiroths constantly struggle for supremacy. Stealth is the key weapon, resulting in continuous swings from one sephiroth to the other. The universe is governed by neither sephiroth for most of the time, but one sometimes holds an advantage for a while. "A while" is subjective: the time that passes might be aeons for humans. This war will never be won and the universe will never cheer a victor.

The struggle uses humans and other species as surrogate warriors. Ranked gods do not fight each other directly; benefic and malefic spirits avoid each other where possible. The exceptions to this rule are the ilven (see below).

Life-bearing worlds rarely see any evidence of this permanent struggle. Centuries or even millennia of increased or decreased warfare are barely noticed because few civilisations last long enough to detect a cycle. Sentient species evolve out of existence or even wipe themselves out long before the pendulum's swing can be measured.

However, on worlds shared with ilven - benefic or malefic - this battle is very obvious. Contrary to popular belief, ilven are not pacific creatures and often invade the opposing sephiroth's ilvenworlds. Benefic and malefic ilven fight over all life-bearing worlds. Since the creation of the universe, thousands of worlds - including ilvenworlds - have fallen to the warring sephiroths.

Our ilvenworld [the one featured in my books] is a female benefic ilvenworld. The deity worshipped by most sentient creatures is Siranva. When humans and sylphs were refugees fleeing a dying world, Siranva allowed them to stay on the ilvenworld, provided his daughters were left in peace.

When the original civilisation collapsed, Siranva was sometimes forgotten, and the malefic sephiroth has been quick to exploit this new weakness.

Although worship is regarded as a private matter by the three main sentient species, humans have a heirarchy of priests and often gather in temples to worship together.  Civilised sylphs usually follow the human example.  For ilven, worship is a private matter and those sylphs who live with ilven, or who have founded colonies descended from sylphs who lived with ilven, follow the ilven way.

The continuity of the religion on the ilvenworld, as well as its universality, rare on life-bearing worlds, is thanks to the presence of the ilven themselves. I will deal with ilven in greater depth in the next posting.

Little Orme Walk/Cerdded Rhiwledyn

A quick Sunday walk.  This was barely a mile, but felt longer thanks to the half gale I was walking through!  This end of Llandudno Bay is nowhere near as developed as the Great Orme and I saw one other person (a shouted conversation to be heard in the wind).  Despite the wind, this morning was a fresher day than yesterday with much less rain.

Pictures below:

 Looking across Llandudno Bay to the Great Orme.  Sorry the picture is a little out of focus, but I was trying not to get blown over!

Looking inland to the northern Carneddau.  Glad I'm not up there today!

Another view across to the Great Orme, from the summit.  Although only 460 feet high, the views from up here are superb!

Anglesea in the distance, with Puffin  Island between that and the Great Orme, to the right.

The view east.

Link of interest:
Little Orme

Until the next walk, be well all.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

A Walk Above Llanrwst

Today's rather short walk was from Llanrwst, into the Gwydyr Forest, to Trefriw and back to Llanrwst.  Only a short one of six miles, which nicely filled the two hour window in the bad weather.  I was very tempted to go and play in the snow on higher ground, but the forecast was not very good for high up, and my last photograph shows it wasn't very pleasant low down either!

Pictures below:

A bitterly cold start to the walk, following the River Conwy.  Llanrwst's famous bridge is straight ahead.

Looking downstream.  My path from the car park is on the opposite bank.

Looking along the Conwy valley, probably one of the most fertile in North Wales.

Grey Mare's Tail waterfall.

A burst of sunshine between rain showers over Llanrwst.

The church was locked today, but this is believed to be the oldest church in Wales still in existence.  Llywelyn the Great worshipped here.  The church dates from the eleventh century, but the date carved into the lintel of the lych is dated 1469.

Windy on the tops, but also windy along the coast.  Here the sea tries to invade Colwyn Bay.

Other links of interest:
Llanrhychwyn Church
Llywelyn the Great

Until the next walk, be well all.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ilvenworld Races

One fantasy trope is the inclusion of exotic races. The level of exotics' participation varies, depending on the author, plot and sub-genre, but it's a rare fantasy book that has no exotic species at all.

Common exotics are fay folk, elves, orcs, dwarves, goblins, unicorns, dragons, or creatures based on these. Usually variants of known animals, exotics are predominantly variants of humans. Sci-fi cousins refer to these as "humans in funny suits".   But all add spice to fantasy novels.

Interactions between the species - usually referred to as Races in the fantasy genre - throw up interesting plotlines or subplots in most stories, with the potential for conflict deepening the texture of any novel.

My "humans in funny suits" - and which are openly acknowledged to be such - are called sylphs. The background to these creatures is sci-fi rather than fantasy and, although there are many hints in the book, I do not go into minute detail about their origins. [For those who enjoy such detail, sylphs have their own page on this blog; look under the masthead for the link "About Sylphs"]

In mythology, sylphs are air nymphs, and the sylphs in my books are descended from flying creatures. However, they are a hybrid and effectively a variant of humans. They serve their human masters, although there are tribes of free sylphs dotted about. They are domestic servants, menial workers, agriculturalists, nurses, army scouts...

Humans in my books have a very mediaeval world view, so I use the sylphs to show the characters from a more modern viewpoint. Originally intended to play a minor role, they rapidly evolved into major characters in their own right; the first person met in Markan Throne is a sylph.

As they are an exotic species, they must be different from humans. Blue-blooded, they have blue skins, silver-grey hair and eyes, and their irises are cat-slit. Their ears are their most striking feature, rising to graceful earpoints that, when fully erect are the highest part of a sylph's body. Those earpoints are fully manoeuvrable and help to express emotions. Their hearing range and sensitivity, as well as their eyesight, is far superior to anything humans manage.

There are free sylphs, who live apart from humans in their own tribes. The two groups - civilised and wild - tend to ignore each other as far as possible, but when they do meet, exchanges of ideas are inevitable.  The ensuing debate is an exciting additional thread that grows in tempo as the books progress.

Sylphs are not the only exotic in my books.  There are also ilven, after whom the world - the Ilvenworld - is named. These shy creatures are far more mysterious and I will deal with them in a future posting, Religion on the Ilvenworld.

[This is a reposting of a blog that originally appeared in March]

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Liebster Blog Award

This blog is the recipient of a Leibster Blog Award.  This recognises smaller, noteworthy blogs and their content.  My thanks to author P. H. C. Marchesi for picking my blog!

As with everything, there are rules:
1. Thanking the blogger who granted the award;
2. Linking back to the blogger who awarded you;
3. Posting the award on your blog;
4. Awarding five other bloggers (who each have fewer than 300 followers);
5. Letting those five bloggers know!

The five bloggers I've chosen are:

A. J. Barnett - Tell Me A Story
Author Jennifer Chase
Author Lori Gordon
Virginia Lee - Dagonsblood
John Betcher - Self Publishing Central

Monday, 5 December 2011

Writing Update on Gifted Hunter

Many of you know that Amazon have finally switched Gifted Apprentice to "free" which has bumped up the numbers getting shifted.  As a newly published writer, this is great news for getting my name out there and, more particularly, widening the readership of the ilvenworld novels and novellas.  Because of this, I've stepped up efforts on Gifted Hunter, the sequel to GA.

The first draft of Gifted Hunter is nearly complete.  The method I use is to put it to one side for a few days, then give it a read-through and begin the rework.  I've already done some rework on this novella (mostly plot tweaking), but the second draft will be a lot more polished than the first.  This novella should be out at the end of January.

Thank you to those who have made suggestions; when I post the 2nd draft sample chapters, you should see your suggestions incorporated into the text in one way or another!

Don't worry, Markan Sword is not being neglected! This book will complete the first trilogy and I expect it to be available late Spring 2012

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Today's Walk: Sychnant Pass

Only a very short walk today, dodging gales and squally rain showers!  There was one stiff climb, the views more than compensated for the effort.  Thanks to the shortness of the walk, there aren't many pictures, but those I did take are below:

 Great Orme in the far distance.

Looking down to Conwy and Llandudno Junction on the far side of the river.

Zoomed in on Conwy Castle.
Burst of sunshine to the south.

Looking south along the Conwy Valley.

Until the next walk be well all.