Hello everyone,

Research is a constant, ongoing process while writing historical fiction. Sometimes a fascinating tidbit surfaces that might be of particular interest beyond its use in a novel. As I continue to work in the historical fiction field, I will post those occasional points of interest here. Occasionally I muse on the writing process as well along with news to keep readers informed of what's going on with my books and other writings.

Please feel free to post comments--I'd love to hear from you.

The photo above is of Snowdonia in North Wales, which plays a large part in the setting of the Macsen's Treasure Series.


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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Book #4 finally has a title

After two years of working on the fourth book in the Macsen's Treasure series, I've finally settled on a title: A Land Beyond Ravens.

All of the book titles in the series come from dialogue spoken by Myrddin Emrys (Merlin). I knew long ago it would mention something about ravens, but that was all.

The book is expected to be released sometime in 2009. No specific date has been set yet. Will know more soon.

What was that fellow’s name?

A fictional character’s name is as important as the story to which the character belongs. The name not only needs to be appropriate to its owner’s personality and actions, but appropriate to the time as well. Little credence would be given to a story about one of King Arthur’s knights if he were called something like Joe Smith.

In the final book of the Macsen’s Treasure series, A Land Beyond Ravens, I needed a name for a man who turns out to be the son of another character who died a long time prior to the story’s setting. This character also, in time, becomes one of Arthur’s warriors.

So where to look for a name?

From the vast body of medieval Arthurian literature, many lists have been compiled that name Arthur’s knights. They range from short groups of twelve to twenty-four men, presumably the original Knights of the Round Table (think of Gawain, Lancelot, Dagonet, Bors, Gaheris, et al.), to far longer lists of 150 people. The lists are compiled from various sources: the tales of Culhwch, The Dream of Rhonabwy, the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein) and Welsh genealogical tracts. Some of the listed are actual historical personages, some are fictional, others may be historical but their existence not proven.

Not to give away one of the book’s plot twists, but the dead character was called Taran, his name based on Taranis, the Celtic god of thunder. (He was a noisy pain in the …) When he appeared back in the first book, I had no idea that he would ever have a son. Now, years later, in search of that son, I spent an untold amount of time perusing the name lists, looking for one that was appropriate as well as reasonably simple to spell and pronounce. Many of the names, in early Welsh, are incredible tongue twisters and not necessarily good for an English-speaking readership. After not finding anything I was really happy with and barely able to get my eyes to focus any longer, I pulled out another book, The Arthurian Name Dictionary. This book, invested in a long time ago and nearly forgotten on a back shelf, contains practically all the names known to have been associated with Arthurian legend. Gads, five hundred pages to search!

Where to start? On a whim, I looked for the name Taran. Can you imagine the amazement and delight when I came across that very name in this book? And underneath, the entry says, “Father of Arthur’s warrior, Glinyeu.” It came from the Welsh story of Culhwch. Hot dog! I then raced to the entry of Glinyeu and found he fought in the army of a warrior named Gwythyr, one of Arthur’s men and father of Gwenhwyfar. The stories noted in these entries are mythological and probably existed before Arthur’s alleged historical period of the late fifth and early sixth centuries. Arthur and his companions were likely absorbed into them over time as the stories were told and re-told orally. When they were written down in much later times, the absorption became permanent.

While the mythological aspect of Glinyeu ap (son of) Taran is not pertinent to my story, the name is perfect and that he became one of Arthur’s warriors fits better than I had hoped when I started the search. Who knows, perhaps he is one of those legendary figures who may have actually been historical but can’t be proven to have lived.