Other books by Dave Whitaker:

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Legend of Stonehenge

image from commons.wikipedia.org

Stonehenge, the massive rock-circle monument on Salisbury Plain in the south of England, has been a source of intrigue for centuries. Eighty-five stones reach higher than 20 feet and some weighing more than 40 tons. Some appear to have been hauled from as much as 240 miles away. The structure is estimated to date back to as far as 3100 B.C., a time pre-dating writing, the use of cranes, and even the invention of the wheel.

Almost as puzzling as how it was created is why it was created. Among the theories are that it was created as a burial ground, served as a sort of farmer’s almanac, or was constructed as an observatory for tracking the movements of the stars and planets.

The astonishing structure and its mysteries have, not surprisingly, found their way into Arthurian legend. When Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, took the throne he wanted to build a monument to memorialize his brother, Aurelius Ambrosius, and those who had fallen in fighting off the Saxons. He enlisted Merlin to travel to Ireland and magically move the giant stones, known as the Giant’s Dance, to Wiltshire, England, where Stonehenge now stands. See “The Legend of the Red and White Dragons” and “Character Study: Merlin” for more details.

In Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, Stonehenge is pivotal to Arthur’s understanding of his heritage and his future. Merlin takes the young, doubting king to visit it. Where Uther Pendragon saw the massive structure as a symbol of power and strength, Arthur focuses on the circular structure as symbolic of unity and equality. His idea of building his kingdom around those principles – and an actual Round Table to represent those ideals – is born.


Resources:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

National Novel Writing Month

image from laughingsquid.com

In November 2012, I participated in National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo for short. The objective is to write the rough draft of a novel (50,000 words)in the month of November.

I've never been a steady, disciplined writer. The idea of writing a consistent 1500+ words a day was daunting. I hoped, though, that I could write in enough big spurts to pull it off.

My other challenge was hitting 50,000 words with one project. It just couldn't be done. My primary goal was to write the first draft of Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, which will be the sequel to Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.

However, that posed a problem. The first book runs about 26,500 words. I wasn't looking to change the word count for the second so doubling the size of the book wasn't a real option.

That meant cobbling together a couple projects. I also write non-fiction books about music history and was in the early stages of an intended book called The Top 100 Albums of All Time. Learn more about that project at www.thetop100albumsofalltime.com.

By tag-teaming the two books with some other smaller writing projects, I pulled it off! 52,045 words in 30 days. Woo hoo! I did it!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Otter and Arthur on TV!

On November 28, 2012, I appeared on the KCTV5 television show Better Kansas City (airing from 9:00am to 10:00am CST). I was interviewed about my book, Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone and discussed the writing and publishing process.

Here's a detailed version of the interview with links included:

How did the book come about?
I’ve been a fan of King Arthur since I was a teenager. I wanted to share the stories with my kids, who are 10 and 7. However, books about King Arthur tend to be the equivalent of R-rated movies so I decided to write my own age-appropriate version. I focused on the young Arthur and how he is befriend by a mouse nicknamed Otter. This mouse is responsible for Arthur fulfilling the legend of pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king.

Where can people find the book?
The book is available through OtterandArthur.com and at Shawnee Books & Toys.

What advice do you have for wannabe writers?
Write, write, write. Don’t worry about whether it is good. Don’t worry about how many words you write each day. Don’t worry about whether you have your idea fleshed out. Don’t worry about editing. Just write. Get your ideas down on paper. The rest will come later.

So how you stick it out and finish a book?
I recommend finding a writers’ group. I joined one I found through Meetup.com (The Kansas City Writers Meetup Group) by just searching for writers’ groups in the Kansas City area. The advantage of such a group is having a support system. They keep you focused and give valuable feedback to help you fine-tune and finish.

Your book is self-published. Why did you go that route instead of a traditional publisher?
The traditional route is a long and hard journey. One must write query letters to try to get agents, expect to get rejected many times over, and – even in the best case scenario, be prepared for a couple years to go by before the book is published. Even then, there’s no guarantee how much marketing power a publishing company will put behind the book.

What are the advantages of self-publishing?
I can get the book out there as fast as I want and I make all the decisions. For this book, I hired professionals to edit it and do the book design, but someone could even do that themselves.

So how does one get self-published?
I use CreateSpace.com. It costs nothing, is easy to use, and is affiliated with Amazon. You upload a jpeg cover and a pdf file of the book’s content. The book lists on Amazon as a print-on-demand title which means the author can order one copy or a hundred. You can also create an ebook version for Kindle.

Click on any of the above icons (CreateSpace, Amazon, Kindle) to go to those sites and purchase Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. You can also click on the "Buy the Book" tab on this site.


Follow Writ by Whit or Otter and Arthur on Facebook for more about writing and this book in particular.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Latest News on Otter and Arthur

I haven't blogged in awhile, but it isn't for lack of news. Exciting things are happening with Otter and Arthur. I have done readings and appearances at schools, sold my book in conjunction with my sons' school book fair, and have an upcoming television appearance!

The chance to share the book at schools has been especially rewarding. Not only do I read selections of the book, but I talk to the kids about the process of writing a book and getting it published. At one appearance, I spoke to somewhere between 80-100 kids. The discussion started with me asking what kinds of stories they have written. Then I asked them what they thought my book was about just from looking at the cover. I love these discussions more than reading the book!

I'm looking forward to my first television appearance (11/28/12, 9:00am, KCTV5). I will be on the show Better Kansas City. I will be interviewed about the book and the process of becoming an author and getting self-published. In conjunction with the interview, the book will also be avaiable at Shawnee Books & Toys.

You can check the Events tab on this site for details on all of the aforementioned activities.

The book is now also available for Kindle. Click here for details.

I also got one of the best possible reviews I could ask for. A friend bought the book and as soon as she got home, her bookworm daughter disappeared to her bedroom with it. She didn't emerge until she'd finished the entire book. Her assessment? She loved it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Journal of Sir Gawain

image of Sir Gawain from webring.org

My interest in King Arthur dates to 1981 when I read John Steinbeck’s The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights in my 8th grade reading class. As an individual project, I opted to write a journal following the life of Sir Gawain for one month. The journal leads up to the quest of Gawain, Ewain, and Marhalt – a story told in Steinbeck’s Acts.

I have done minimal editing to the text, opting to preserve it as closely as possible to the original writing as done by my fourteen-year-old self.


King Arthur project: The Journal of Sir Gwain
By David Whitaker
May 11, 1981
Reading, 4th Hour

Through writing this journal I have used literary skills, done research, spent a lot of time reading and writing, and have made good use of my imagination.

Through my research and reading, I have learned much more history of the Dark Ages. Some subtopics I have done a little or a lot of research include castles, clothing, religion, food, knighthood, armor, weapons, special celebration, and activities, illness, and technology.

My journal has allowed me to take a character from the text of The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights and give my opinions through that character. I have chosen to write about Sir Gawain because of his adventurousness as well as his boastful but courageous attitude.

Sir Gawain seems to be and is a sort of a rascal. I feel that he has a warm, sensitive, emotional side also. Most have rarely seen this side though.

The journal begins with Gawain coming to Camelot to become a knight. After being knighted, he soon meets foes and friends and speeds into adventure. It doesn’t take long for Gawain to realize what being a knight is all about. Through his activities Gawain shows us the meaningfulness of being a knight.

Here begins the journal of the activities and travels of Sir Gawain, son of King Lot of Orkney and nephew of King Arthur, throughout the merry month of May in the year 510 A.D.


May 1:
I, Gawain, son of King Lot of Orkney, became a knight on the first of May, year 510 A.D. I was one of two knighted upon this day. I set out on horseback at dawn yesterday. I rode to Camelot to ask King Arthur for the gift of knighthood.

Camelot was beautiful. The castle set high upon a hill with a moat around it. The castle had one main keep and four others. Built inside the walls were stables, peasant’s homes, the Lord and Lady’s quarters, cells, halls, a chapel, buttery, pantry, storage chambers, and many other rooms.

After my arrival, I requested my knighthood to Arthur. After his consent, I went through a night of vigil and then received Holy Communion.

That afternoon I became enraged and envious when Sir Pellinore, my father’s murderer, was recognized as a most honorable knight. I wished to take vengeance on him immediately, but held myself back.

image of Camelot from uiweb.uidaho.edu


May 2:
Waking early, I dressed and then left the guest chambers of Camelot. I went to the Great Hall for breakfast of grain, cheese, and cider. Gaheris, my brother and squire, and I then left Camelot to go hunting.

We each brought a steed. I also brought a falcon and a hound. We also brought spears, crossbows, and hunting knives for each of us. We succeeded in catching a hare and goshawk soon into the hunt. We caught a stag later on.

As we headed home, we came across Sir Torre, who was shooting with a crossbow. Noticing his poor shooting, I attempted to give advice to him. However, he refused it, saying I insulted him. He then challenged me to a contest. I promptly beat him and he became enraged. He pulled his sword and leapt at me. I defended myself with parries and jabs. Soon Sir Brastias rode to us, broke up the joust, and sent us home.

Back at Camelot, Gaheris and I supped and retired to our quarters.

image of Gawain and his brothers Agravain, Gaheris, and Mordred; from tumblr.com


May 3:
On the third of May, the Round Table held council. I went to Arthur and asked to be permitted in, but he refused me. I left cursing him under my breath. A knight stopped me and said, “Sir Knight, it is not wise to curse thy king. Watch thy tongue or it may be slit!”

I left and found interest in talk of Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding. I heard a peasant say, “Arthur is a bastard son and believer of the Christian faith. He is not fit to be Guinevere’s husband for she is fair and beautiful.”

I said, “Do not speak such words of thy king! Thee commits treason and deserves to be hanged for your king is mighty, courageous, and honorable!”

With that, I left the peasants. The rest of the day was slow and gloomy. That night I went to rest uneasily, for showers had set in.


May 4:
The day went slowly. Gaheris and I had planned to go to West Camel, the market place, but the weather was not pleasant.

Most everyone stayed inside the castle and entertained themselves with singing and dancing or small tasks. I participated in some of the merriment, but couldn’t enjoy it. I felt somewhat better mid-afternoon when the weather conditions improved, but I still could not shake the feeling of despair.

Talk of the wedding circulated as it was only two days off. I listened to some of the conversation, but remained uninterested. I perked up a little at supper, but still felt gloomy and went to bed early.


May 5:
The morning was sunny and warm. I felt tired, but cheerful of the weather.

Gaheris and I left mid-morning to West Camel where I hoped to find a cobbler to make new sandals for me.

We found a cobbler soon after our arrival. I gave him designs and instructions and then set about to do more tasks.

Gaheris and I dined with a few friends and I shortly met a damsel to my liking. Before we took leave, a knight approached and asked my damsel for her love. I told the knight that the maiden Guyvene was mine asked him to leave. He angered and drew his sword and slain her in his jealousy.

I asked of his name. “I am Sir Anthony de Thornborough of King Arthur’s court.”

“I shall have vengeance on thee,” I replied. “Thee will one day fall to thy knees and beg for mercy and thee will one day be destroyed.” And with that, Gaheris and I returned to Camelot.


May 6:
King Arthur and Guinevere’s wedding was beautiful and exciting. After the marriage ceremony, there was a large three-course dinner followed by entertainment from jesters, jugglers, and harpists. Chess, singing, and dancing was also present.

image of the marriage of Arthur and Guinevere from medieval-bride.blogspot.com

Then, as predicted by Merlin, a pack of black hounds and a white brachet ran into the hall pursuing a stag. A knight took the brachet and rode off. A lady then rode into the court and demanded her brachet. She was taken by a knight who galloped off as fast as he had come.

I was instructed to go in quest of the stag. Gaheris and I came across two quarreling brothers and sent them to King Arthur. We then came across a knight whom I had to joust with and I killed him.

We caught the stag and killed it at a castle. A knight came from the castle and fought me because I’d killed his stag. I promptly defeated him and prepared to kill him.

It so happened a damsel ran and tripped over the knight just as I prepared to swing the sword towards his neck. I accidentally struck and killed the fair maiden. I then sent the knight to King Arthur.

Next Gaheris and I were unfortunately captured by four knights. Then we were saved by four young maidens who pleased for our lives.


May 7:
The next morning the maidens pleaded for our release after learning my relationship to the king. We rode back to Camelot and reported the adventures of our quest to Arthur and Guinevere.

After hearing my tale, Queen Guinevere commanded I would serve and protect all ladies. She then proclaimed I must swear to be merciful and courteous.


May 8:
Upon this day I was in my first tournament. The tourney began with the presentation of the knights’ banners in a glorious parade. We knights were then dressed in our full armor by our esquires.

I fenced with one opponent upon this day – Sir Anthony of Thornborough. This came about after I had told Arthur of Sir Anthony. Arthur proclaimed trial by combat and that the winner would receive all of the loser’s property. So it was.

I charged at Sir Anthony on my steed with lance and shield ready. We clashed and both lances shattered. Our esquires provided us with new ones and we charged once more. This time only Sir Anthony’s lance shattered. I dismounted to face him. We parried and jabbed until we both had lost much blood. He finally fell to his knees for mercy. I was declared the winner and Sir Anthony had to give up his property and was banned from Camelot.


May 9:
Gaheris and I went to Sir Anthony’s lands on the 9th of May. The lands were of great beauty, yet less than the land of Camelot. Upon the lands was a small castle located at the fork of the Yeo and Cam rivers. It was fairly new, small, fancy, and well defended. We slept in the castle that night and I found it very restful. I named the castle and lands around it Cuchullin. We now live there.
May 10:
Gaheris and I rode back to our original home and gathered our belongings. We loaded our things in carts and rode back towards Cuchullin.

As it was already afternoon, we stopped and ate of stewed pork, nuts, and grain and drank ale. After our dinner we rode on and soon arrived back at Cuchullin. It already began to seem like home.

I had a servant clean my mail as I went out hunting. I caught a stag and two birds and brought them back to be prepared for supper. After a small supper, I turned in at dusk.

image of Medieval hunt from goodreads.com


May 11:
I took up friendship with a man at Cuchullin by the name of Dackery. Dack, as I called him, was previously esquire to Sir Anthony, who he hated very much. In the afternoon of this fine day, Dack and I set out to the forests to test our skills. He proved competitive and I said he should become a knight. On that very afternoon we rode to Camelot and Dack asked Arthur for knighthood. Arthur refused Dack after learning he had been esquire to Sir Anthony. Dack explained his hate for his master and Arthur forgave him and made him a knight.
May 12:
Dack, Gaheris, and I set out for a trip to Stonehenge. We packed lightly and set out towards Salisbury.

There were few good paths, if even a path. However, because of the warm weather, the shade from the overhead trees felt good to us. After several hours of riding, we rested and ate. It was a light dinner followed by a good nap.

The afternoon seemed to pass by quickly and we soon found ourselves eating supper. After we had supped, we talked and sang. We then fell to sleep soon after the sun had set.


May 13:
We arose at dawn and began to prepare our breakfast. I set out alone to hunt for food.

The light was just appearing and I had to be careful. I glanced around me as I walked and then heard a faint noise. I listened carefully and identified the noise as howling wolves. I shivered and walked even more conscientiously.

The wolves were drawing closer. I moved even more cautiously – and then it happened. Before I knew it, several large gray wolves had pinned me down and their clamping jaws and clawing feet pained me even through my mail. I bled severely and yelped in pain.

My hand then touched my scabbard. In the blink of an eye, I pulled out my sword and slashed about wildly, killing each of the wolves. I lay in great pain hoping Gaheris or Dack would find me before a creature of the wild.

Dack eventually discovered me. “As the time had grown on,” he said, “and the hours passed, we began to worry. Our worries grew at the sound of yelling and I came in search of thee.”

Gaheris and Dack made a stretcher for me and brought me to the nearest home. We then asked to be permitted in and the friar of the shack agreed.


May 14:
We stayed at the peasant’s shack all day. I lay in bed, looking about me and talking and listening. The one-roomed hut was made up of a trestle table in the center of the earth-beaten floor, dishes of wood and pottery which sat on the table, several stools and benches around the table, a trunk, blankets, tools, and linen towels.

We talked of Christian and Pagan religions. All in the room spoke of being Christian, yet formerly of Pagan religion. I told of Arthur’s influence to Christianity in his court. We continued to talk all afternoon and then supped and fell to sleep.


May 15:
We set out once more. We travelled little on that day before arriving at Stonehenge. The large stones sat in circles and captivated us. We wondered why someone had gone to the trouble of erecting this. We discussed numerous possibilities. Gaheris and I felt it was kind of a temple while Sir Dack said it was an observatory.

Our attention remained on Stonehenge for a long while. We discussed it well into the night. We fell asleep several hours after dusk. As I dropped off to sleep, I thought of the captivating and mystifying Stonehenge.

image of Stonehenge from Time.com


May 16:
We packed up camp after we had eaten our breakfast. We left Stonehenge soon afterwards. We didn’t want to leave, but we also wanted to return to Cuchullin.

We ate a good but speedy meal when we sat down to dinner at noon. We then set out once more, hoping to reach Camelot by sun down and stay there for the night.

In the later afternoon we stopped and rested. We heard noises and hunted them down. We found the noises to be several wild boar. We killed one but the others escaped.

We did make our schedule and arrived at Camelot in time for supper. We gave our boar to the cooks and ate it for supper. We then turned in so we could get up early and head for Cuchullin.


May 17:
We finally returned home. It was only a couple hours worth of riding after leaving Camelot. The castle was no different than it was at our departure. The swift routine that came already bored me. So it was. We at the normal foods, enjoyed the regular entertainment, and followed the regular schedule. I guess part of living in a castle is the routine that comes with it. I realized I would rather live in the castle than not. I went to bed that night at the usual hour and soon dozed off.
May 18:
I returned to Camelot where many knights gathered for a small tourney to practice their martial skills. The tourney consisted of jousting, archery, and skills also of lance, knife, shield, spear, and stag. I won as many times as I was defeated.

We knights also took up charging at the target dummies. In this skill we rode on horse with lance in hand and charged at the target. If we hit with a blow off-center, the dummy swung and dealt us a swift blow. I was hit several times and once was knocked clean off my horse.

At the tourney, I gave invitation for a feast to several knights. I had planned for a feast at Cuchullin soon and decided now was as good a time as any.

I rode back to Cuchullin with Sir Dackery afterwards. I then supped and went to bed soon after.

image of a toy set with target dummies from plasticsoldierreview.com


May 19:
Sir Dackery left on a quest. Arthur had proposed that he set out and prove his honor. I knew not how long it would be before I saw Dack again so I rode with him for awhile. I saw him off and prayed for his luck before returning to Cuchullin.

The day moved slowly. I was lonely for I missed my friend. I could not find interest in anything. My food was tasteless and the entertainment was boring. I remained sad throughout the day. My spirits never rose.


May 20:
Gaheris and I went to West Camel to get my sandals. When we arrived at the market, the cobbler was just putting the finishing touches on my sandals. We waited until he was done and then I tried them on. They fit perfectly and I told him so.

The cobbler replied, “It hath taken me two weeks. I hope thee will pay me well.”

I opened my money bag and brought out two coins. Laying them in his palm, I said, “I hope thee will accept this and accept it well.”

“Yes! Yes!” he cried. “I accept this money from thee gracefully!”

Gaheris and I soon went back to Cuchullin and finished up the day.


May 21:
I began preparations for a feast. I planned who would be my guests, what food would be served, and what entertainment would be provided. Some of the work I had done days back, but a lot I’d just begun.

The servants spent the day preparing and cooking food. I inspected all the food and made sure everything ran accordingly. I also had to discuss various things with household members such as the steward, butler, pantler, baker, and cook. I sent messengers to give invitations to the guests.

I planned for usual entertainment such as singing, dancing, lute players, harpists, jugglers, and jesters. I had few problems planning the feast. I hoped the real thing would turn out well.


May 22:
On the morning of the feast guests arrived continuously. Entertainment was provided as I made last minute preparations.

After all the guests had arrived, we sat down to feast. The first course was comprised of brewet, beef marrow fritters, and saltwater fish. Freshwater fish, broth with bacon, and pastries comprised the second course. The third course was made up of frumenty, fritters, sturgeon, and jellies. Finally, to finish off the meal we had sweets, spiced wine, and wafers.

We then had entertainment once more and afterwards the guests began to leave. They seemed to have enjoyed it, as I had. I went to bed that night feeling cheerful and delighted with the success of the feast. It had been a hit.

image of a Medieval feast from photographersdirect.com


May 23:
Gaheris and I set out on our steeds with knives, spears, and crossbows. We headed north for a hunt. I soon saw a stag and sent my hound after it. I raced after my hound and caught up just as it pulled the stag down. I stabbed the stag as Gaheris rode up. He congratulated me on my catch and we set off again.

We looked towards a rider in the distance. As he grew nearer, I recognized him as Sir Anthony. I inquired where he was headed.

“West Camel,” he replied. He then told me news which made me burn with anger. “I have killed thy brined Sir Dackery,” he said and held up a head.

When I saw it, I leapt at Sir Anthony, knocking him off his horse. He pulled his sword and swung it. It cut deep into my left arm and there was much bloodshed. Gaheris took me back to Cuchullin and I was treated for the rest of the day.


May 24:
I stayed in my bed at the castle all day. Servants provided entertainment to keep me in a joyful mood. Singers, dancers, harpists, lute players, and jesters kept me smiling brightly. I also played some chess and was served large meals.

When I went to bed that night I reflected on the events of the last two days. The pain in my arm and my anger returned. I vowed to kill Sir Anthony.


May 25:
The day went much like the 24th except I was not nearly as happy. I lay in my bed ignoring the entertainment and dreaming of the day I would take vengeance on Sir Anthony of Thornborough. I ate large meals yet the food seemed as tasteless as the entertainment was joyless.

I went to sleep restlessly that night. My arm had improved and pained me little, but kept me up deep into the night.


May 26:
I was very restless and demanded to be let out of bed. When I got up, I walked around the castle and even strolled outside. I exercised my arm with bow and arrow and strengthened my dexterity. My left arm still felt weak, but I could feel it beginning to strengthen.

I announced that I would leave and find Sir Anthony the next day and take my vengeance upon him. I readied my horse and gear for the trip. I planned to head towards West Camel the next morning.

image of Sir Gawain from quickreaver.deviantart.com


May 27:
I set out early the next morning for West Camel. When there, I questioned people as to where I could find Sir Anthony. About ready to give up, I sat down to dinner. A man came up to me and inquired, “Art not thou Sir Gawain, the man on quest after Sir Anthony?”

“Yes! Yes!” I replied. “Doth thou knowest where he goes?”

“Ay! A lad who called himself Sir Anthony was here but two days ago. He said he was moving on down south to build himself a home.”

“Thank ye!” I said, already running to my horse.

I had to stop that night before finding Sir Anthony, but was determined to fin him the next morning.


May 28:
Next morning I rode south until I saw a half-built crude house. I looked around but found no one.

I soon heard a familiar voice. It was that of Sir Anthony. I hid in the hut and awaited him. When he walked in, I pounced on him and we began bloody combat. We jabbed, cut, and parried for more than an hour, wounding each other severely. Finally he fell in weakness. He begged for mercy and I gave him none.

I rode on to Camelot, delighted that I had killed my worst enemy. It happened that on that day Sir Ewain was asked to leave Camelot and prove his honor. I felt he was dishonored and vowed to go with him.

image of medieval combat from heritage-festival.org


May 29:
Ewain and I set out on quest after finishing preparations to make leave of Camelot. We became friends with Sir Marhalt after I fought him. I was getting the better of the knight at first. When we continued after a rest, my strength had waned and Marhalt defeated me. He then agreed to ride on quest with us. We stayed at his castle that night and planned to set out at sunrise.
May 30:
Upon the morning, we set out for the Forest of Array. At the forest, we found three women who sat at a fork in the road which split into three paths. The women volunteered to be our guides. We each chose one. I chose the youngest. We then promised to return to the fork at twelve months’ end.

I and my guide rode the northward path. As we rode, I modestly spoke of my courageousness to her. She said nothing. After a day of riding we stopped and stayed at a manor house for the night.


May 31:
The old knight of the house took us to a field in the morning. There we witnessed a knight who allowed himself taken captive after defeating ten knights. We did not understand it, but could not get an answer to our questions.

I later jousted with a knight. We fought at his challenge. As I tilted with the knight, my damsel left me for another knight. I asked the knight about the sight I’d seen earlier with the knight who’d fought ten knights.

“You speaketh of Sir Pelleas.”

When I told of my hope to find Sir Pelleas, the knight said I would not find him. Despite his lack of confidence, I vowed to set out and find Sir Pelleas, for I pitied him.

I knew not why Sir Pelleas had allowed his capture, nor did I know my chances of finding the knight yet I vowed to ride in search of Sir Pelleas on June the 1st.


And so, endeth the merry adventures of the boastful knight, Sir Gawain, in the merry month of May, 510 A.D.
Bibliography
  • Robert Delort. Life in the Middle Ages. New York; Universe Books. 1973.
  • Joseph and Frances Gies. Life in a Medieval Castle. New York; Harper and Row. 1979.
  • Christopher Hibbert. The Search for King Arthur. New York; Harper and Row. 1969.
  • Elizabeth Jerkins. The Mystery of King Arthur. New York; Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, Inc. 1975.
  • Sir Thomas Malory. Le Morte d’Arthur. New York; Bramhall House. 1962.
  • John Steinbeck. The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. Toronto; McGraw-Hill. 1977.
  • Reay Tannahill. Food in History. New York; Stein and Day. 1973.

Not referenced here, but definitely the most famous story involving Sir Gawain:


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Character Study: Morgan le Fay

In Arthurian legend, Morgan le Fay (also known as Morgan le Faye, Morgane, Morgaine, and Morgana) is typically characterized as King Arthur's half-sister and an evil sorceress. Her mother is Lady Igraine and her father is Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Her father is killed in battle with Uther Pendragon, who has a son, Arthur, with Igraine. Morgan has two older sisters, Elaine and Morgause.

She was first introduced to Arthurian legend by Geoffrey of Monmouth in Vita Merlini (c. 1150). She was portrayed as an enchantress, shape-shifter, and the oldest of nine sisters. However, her origin may date back to Celtic mythology and the Welsh goddess Modron. Chrétien de Troyes viewed her in Erec and Enide as a healer. In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, she steals King Arthur's sword, Excalibur, and plots to kill him.

image from andyzermanski.com

In Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, Morgan is portrayed as Arthur's half-sister and arch enemy. She is determined to kill Arthur in hopes of ascending the throne. When her plan fails, she disappears in anger at the end of the book, determined to get revenge.

The sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, will underscore her evil nature and determination to destroy her younger brother. She becomes a composite of several figures in Arthurian legend. In the Otter and Arthur books, she is the mother of Mordred, the traitor who destroys Camelot. His father is King Lot, who had another son, Sir Gawain, from a previous marriage. In Arthurian legend, Gawain and Mordred are both the biological sons of Morgause.

Otter and Arthur and the Round Table will also unfold how Morgan imprisons Merlin by tricking him into giving up his magic. In Arthurian legend, this is typically done by Nivaine, a young sorceress with whom Merlin falls in love.


Resources:

Monday, October 22, 2012

Character Study: Sir Kay

Sir Kay (aka Cai, Caius, Cei, Kai, Kei, Kes, Keu, Kex, or Queux) is one of the earliest figures to appear in Arthurian legend, having surfaced in the tenth century poem Pa Gur, classic early Welsh texts such as Culwch and Olwen, and the 12th century French poem Tristan and Iseult. The Vulgate Cycle and Le Morte d’Arthur established the story of Kay’s father, Sir Ector, adopting Arthur and raising him as Kay’s foster brother. When Arthur became king, Kay became the senseschal at Camelot, which meant he oversaw operations at the castle such as the supervision of the servants. He was one of the first Knights of the Round Table.

The works of Chrétien de Troyes depicted Kay as a troublemaker prone to incompetence, stubbornness, bragging, and a volatile temper. He is often depicted of manipulative of his brother, but ultimately as one of Arthur’s most loyal knights. Different accounts have Kay being killed by the Romans or in the war against Mordred, Arthur’s traitorous son. The 13th century French Arthurian romance Perlesvaus is one of the few sources which characterizes Kay as a traitor with him murdering Arthur’s son, Loholt.

image from tumblr.com/tagged/sir kay of Peter Mooney as Kay in the Starz TV series, Camelot

Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone follows Kay and Arthur as they are tutored by Merlin. The book unfolds the familiar tale of Arthur as a squire for Kay in a jousting tournament. Arthur searches frantically for a replacement when Kay’s sword turns up missing and ends up pulling the sword from the stone and becoming king.

In the sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, Kay has been made seneschal at Camelot, but is secretly plotting against his brother. He aligns himself with Arthur’s bitterest enemies – King Lot and Morgan, Lot’s wife and Arthur’s half-sister.


Resources:

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Character Study: Merlin

Geoffrey of Monmouth introduced the character of Merlin (known in Welsh as Myrddin) to Arthurian legend. He is typically portrayed as a sorcerer with the power to see the future. Some accounts, such as the Vulgate Cycle, suggest these are the result of Merlin's birth to a demon and a mortal woman. He is typically seen as King Arthur's protector, mentor, and the very reason for Arthur's legendary status. For example, it is Merlin who is typically portrayed as the one who thrust the sword in the stone which Arthur later pulls out to secure his place as the rightful heir to the throne.

In most tales, Merlin orchestrates Arthur's birth by using magic to let Uther Pendragon take the form of Gorlois, the Duke of Cornwall. Uther then sleeps with Lady Igraine and Arthur is conceived.

image from califa.us

Geoffrey adapts a story from Nennius in which Merlin is seen as a child telling the King Vortigern that a castle's walls collapse because of two fighting dragons in an underground pool (see more on that legend here). Geoffrey also tells a story of Merlin being responsible for the creation of Stonehenge.

The Vulgate Cycle says Merlin's death comes at the hands of the Lady of the Lake, also known as Nimue. Merlin falls in love with her and teachers her magic. She then turns on him and traps him for eternity in a crystal cave.

Merlin has been a model for other wizards in history, such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Gandalf in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and Professor Dumbledore in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

image from crystalinks.com

In the Otter and Arthur stories, Merlin is seen in a positive light as Arthur's tutor. The wizard does see the future and orchestrates events to ensure Arthur’s destiny, but is also ruled by a code of conduct which disallows him to alter what is meant to be - including his imprisonment for eternity at the hands of Morgan. See her character study here.

Otter, the mouse, who lives in Merlin’s cottage and observes the tutoring of the young Arthur, becomes a sort-of secondary wizard. There is an implication that Merlin has gifted Otter with powers that will allow the mouse to change the supposedly pre-determined downfall of Arthur and Camelot even after the wizard is gone. At the time of this writing, the intention is to have Merlin trapped in a cave by Morgan's evil doing at the conclusion of Otter and Arthur and the Round Table. While she is never romantically linked to Merlin, she embodies traits of Nimue in that it will be revealed that Morgan knows magic because the wizard taught her when she was a young child. The Lady of the Lake is treated as a completely separate character who is more powerful than Merlin, but is good.


Resources:
  • Ronan Coghlan (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends Barnes & Noble Books.
  • Robert de Boron Merlin (c. 1200)
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136)
  • Justin E. Griffin (2001). The Holy Grail: The Legend, the History, the Evidence. McFarland & Company, Inc.: Jefferson, NC, and London.
  • Sir Thomas Malory Le Morte d'Arthur (1485)
  • Nennius Historia Brittonum (c. 828)
  • Vulgate Cycle: The Estoire de Merlin (c. 1230-1240)
  • Wikipedia.org entry: Merlin

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Character Study: King Arthur

King Arthur is a legendary British leader from the late 5th and early 6th centuries. Arthurian literature gained widespread appeal in the Middle Ages, but waned until a major resurgence in the 19th century. Today Arthurian legend inspires not only literature, but film, television, theater, and other media.

While there is not one definitive source for King Arthur, some of the most popular characters generally included in the tales include the wizard Merlin who tutored him, his son Mordred who destroys Camelot, and his wife Guinevere who has an affair with the king’s best knight, Lancelot. Popular legends associated with Arthurian literature include him pulling the sword from the stone to become king, establishing a Round Table as his form of governing Britain, and the search for the Holy Grail.

image from screened.com

Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone focuses on Arthur before he becomes king. He is raised by Sir Ector with Kay as his brother. Unaware of his heritage, he longs for greatness. The friendship he develops with a mouse nicknamed Otter proves to be just what he needs to fulfill his destiny – pulling the sword from the stone and becoming King of all Britain.

In the sequel, Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, Arthur has been king several years and is continuously fighting against forces trying to usurp his authority. With Otter at his side again, he comes up with the idea of a Round Table as a means of bringing forces together from throughout Britain to govern peaceably.


A Brief History of Arthurian Literature:

Arthur’s actual existence has been argued by scholars, a debate confused by some of the earliest references to Arthur in texts purporting to be factual accounts. The 9th century Historia Brittonum, attributed to a Welsh cleric named Nennius, is considered the first source to mention Arthur. It details twelve battles Arthur fought, including his final battle at Mount Badon in which he is said to have killed 960 men single-handedly.
The 11th century Welsh tales “Culhwch and Olwen” and the “Dream of Rhonabwy” appear to be the first stories to concern Arthur. However, it was Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae which truly popularized King Arthur. The work attempted to place Arthur in the official lineage of British monarchy and establish him as the leader who deterred Saxon invaders and united Britain.
In the late 12th century, French poet Chrétien de Troyes added the character of Lancelot and the quest for the Holy Grail to Arthurian legend. Those tales were expanded in the Vulgate Cycle in the first half of the next century.
Perhaps the most popular of Arthurian literature is Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. While it keeps the Arthur story set in the Dark Ages, it framed the story in the more familiar medieval pageantry settings we know today, such as the fancy court of Camelot, jousting, and knights in shining armor.

Resources:

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some Fans at RenFest

With my stint at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival behind me, I wish to thank everyone who came out to visit me and/or buy a copy of Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. I also made some new friends and fans along the way. So, you may ask, just who is this book for? Well, this is a book perfect for

kings and queens, knights,

jesters, wizards,

princesses,

cooks, lords and ladies,

musicians, wenches,

dragons,

fencers, creatures of all sorts and sizes,

princes, pirates,

people who love horses,

mice...



and, most importantly, kids of all ages with a love of adventure. Pick up your copy today by clicking here!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Highlights of a Great RenFest Weekend

Nine days down, three to go. My fourth weekend at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival proved to be the best yet - in terms of sales, in terms of visitors, and in terms of overall memories.

I revamped my tent design a bit by adding a cardboard castle and table with toy knights and crowns for coloring. In addition, I fashioned a make-shift banner out of card stock and string. Neither lifted my tent to the level of my neighbors, but they did up the appeal factor.

Sunday looked to be a good day early on when I'd sold two books within 15 minutes of RenFest opening. Then I headed off to my first reading of the day where I had to contain myself mid-reading from expressing surprise at seeing a friend in the audience who I'm not sure I'd seen in more than 20 years.

The friends and family kept coming throughout the day, but with all due respect to everyone who visited, my favorite guest was my nephew's four-month-old son, Ross.

Other highlights including meeting four authors from a local writers' group. To my fellow compatriots in the Monday Night Writers group - we need to hook up with these people! They definitely know what they are doing!

Two of my favorite memories from all my days at RenFest snuck their way in toward the end of the day. Crowds for most of my readings are sparse (under 10), but its all about quality, not quantity, right? In any event, my last reading of the day didn't turn out to be a reading at all, but a... a "listening"? I talked to a four-year-old girl who was inspired by the book Library Mouse to make her own book about shapes which she then was determined to sell to friends and family. I told her she better contact RenFest to set up a booth next year!

Back at my tent, I had another four-year-old encounter. This time, I got to be the recipient of a story time. Here's pretty much the whole story: "There was a little volcano. There was a big volcano." Don't get any ideas, though. That story belongs to Hunter.

Thanks to everyone who came out to support me, buy books, or share their writing and storytelling experiences! It was a great weekend.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Legend of Excalibur

cropped version of image from sciencereflections.com

Excalibur is the legendary sword of King Arthur. In many Arthurian legends, such as in The Estoire de Merlin, it was given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake after he began his reign. However, it is sometimes considered the same sword Arthur draws from the stone which makes him the rightful king of all Britain. The Otter and Arthur stories treat them as the same sword, as do two of the most popular King Arthur movies, Excalibur (1981) and Disney's The Sword in the Stone (1963).

In Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, when the sword is used by others such as Sir Gawain. Some versions say the blade is unbreakable and other stories attribute magical powers to the scabbard of the sword, saying that whoever wears it cannot die from injury.

Arthurian legend often recounts a tale of Morgan Le Fay stealing the sword and throwing the scabbard in the lake, never to be recovered. He is subsequently mortally wounded at the battle of Camlaan and, in stories such as Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, instructs one of his knights to throw Excalibur in the lake. Some scholars say that this was a Celtic funeral tradition.

In Historia Regum Britanniae, Geoffrey of Monmouth chronicles a supposed history of the kings of Briton through the 7th century. It is widely credited as the work which introduced the non-Welsh-speaking world to King Arthur. He calls Arthur's sword "Caliburnus," which evolved into Excalibur in French versions. The sword was referred to as "Caledfwlch" in early Arthurian legends, such as the Welsh Culhwch and Olwen and the poem "Preiddeu Annwfn." The tale of Excalibur also bears similarities to the Norse legend of Sigurd and the story of an Irish hero, Cú Chulainn, who used a sword called Caladbolg.


Resources:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The reviews are in!

I've now had three reviews of Otter and Arthur posted on Amazon. You can read the original posts there or check them out here.

Full disclosure: Amazon does have problems with "fake reviews," but these are completely legitimate. However, in the name of full disclosure these are reviews from friends and family. Also, despite the picture atop this page, I confess that no kittens have read my book...as far as I know.


5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful adventure for your child August 26, 2012

"This is a wonderful take on the sword and the stone from the perspective of Otter, young Arthur's mouse friend. Not only will your children love this story of adventure, but as a parent you will love reading it. Fast-paced an action-packed (while being age-appropriate), this will be a cherished bed time story for years to come." - Christine L. Williams


5.0 out of 5 stars Great Perspective on a Classic Tale! September 17, 2012

"Whitaker takes this classic tale by the tail, adapting it for elementary school children through the eyes of Otter, an adventurous mouse. Otter's perspective is a fun and clever approach to meeting the soon-to-be King Arthur. This "chapter book" allows kids to travel with the young mouse into Camelot, above Dragon's Head, and on to the field for jousting. In addition to learning a few new vocabulary words, I (yes, the adult and parent!) enjoyed the good values of the great Otter and his side-kick, the adolescent Arthur." - ShotByGunn


5.0 out of 5 stars Let's Read It Again! September 18, 2012

"I just finished reading Otter and Arthur and I am really pleased with it. I figured if your son's friend insisted on reading it in one sitting, I should try that, too. This story will wear well with parents reading it multiple times. As a teacher, I used to read chapter books with my fourth grade classes; they would have loved this one. Otter has PERSONALITY with a capital P; from the outset, I was chuckling out loud. And as the book progressed, I saw expressions of Otter's other emotions along with engrossing adventures. Arthur is a believable character, nicely developed. I expected to like the book, but I wasn't sure just how you could pull off the combination of a mouse and the child who becomes King Arthur -- you really did it well!" - Beverly Whitaker


Don't forget - you can buy the book right here on the blog via the Buy the Book tab. While it is available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble, your best bet is to buy it directly from me. It is cheaper and I can autograph it if you wish. The "Add to Cart" button below will process credit cards through PayPal, but you do not need a PayPal account.

If you are interested in a signed copy, just send me a message and let me know. Thanks to everyone for the support!