Other books by Dave Whitaker:

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Book: Otter and Arthur and the Round Table

The adventures of King Arthur and his best friend - a mouse nicknamed Otter - continue in this sequel to Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. Arthur’s sword, Excalibur, is stolen, and Otter must get it back. His journey involves a visit to Stonehenge, a confrontation with the evil sorceress Morgan, falling in love, and magically turning a pack of mice into a flock of invisible swallows. Otter also inspires Arthur’s vision of a new Britain, one ruled by peaceful discussions at a Round Table instead of with swords on the battlefield. However, it will never happen unless Otter can save Camelot from an impending dragon attack. 178 pages. Catalog number: RTBK1013; Price: $12.00

You can buy signed copies directly from me by clicking on the button below. Copies are $12.00 each with NO postage & handling charges or taxes.

The book is also available from Amazon, but is priced at $12.95 and will still having postage & handling and taxes added to the price.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Family Reading Night

On November 19, I had the wonderful privilege of talking to an audience of about 70 about my books. The focus was on my two works of fiction - Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone and the just-released sequel Otter and Arthur and the Round Table.

Of all the events I've done in support of my books, this has been my favorite. Why? Because it was at my kids' school.

I talked for about 45 minutes about the writing process, how I published my books, when I started writing, and what inspired me to write. I asked the kids what they knew about King Arthur (the basis for my Otter and Arthur books). Afterward, I sold and signed books.
My sons both got in on the act. In the photo at the left, my oldest son was helping collect money for books and distributing them. Meanwhile, at the end of the presentation my youngest son and his friends broke into an impromptu cheer for me!
It was also a special treat to have Gen Goering, the cover artist, there. She signed books as well. Since she is also a parent at the school, it was nice to be able to showcase her work - including the original paintings which became the book covers.
Thank you to everyone who came and made this a very memorable event for me!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My First Fan Mail!

As I prepare to launch Otter and Arthur and the Round Table (cover image below), I want to express my gratitude to all the family, friends, and fans who supported the first book, Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.

I received the proof for the Round Table book yesterday. That was exciting enough, but I also got this wonderful letter about the first book:

No matter how many books I write, I don't know if anything can top being told I am someone's favorite author!

The picture above is Kimi's own version of the cover of Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone. With apologies to Gen Goering who created the original artwork, I might have to replace it with Kimi's work in subsequent reprints!

As a self-published writer, I recognize I'll never sell a lot of books. It doesn't matter. It's about the joy of writing. However, writers don't just write so they can put a finished product in a drawer somewhere. They want their work to be appreciated. Kimi, you have no idea how much it means to me to have you take the time to write a letter and draw pictures for me! Thank you! You've made it all worthwhile! - Dave

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Otter and Arthur sequel coming soon!

image from Merlin BBC series as posted on wikia.com

The sequel to Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone is coming soon! Here's a sample from Otter and Arthur and the Round Table:

Chapter 8: Stonehenge (an excerpt)

Once we were a safe distance from Morgan’s castle, Ferdinand landed so we could reposition ourselves on his back. “That was incredible!” Dindra whooped. “Do you two live like this all the time?”

Ferdinand and I smiled at each other. “To be honest,” I confessed, “it has been awhile since we’ve had any big adventures.”

Dindra looked bewildered. “King Arthur? Camelot? Merlin? Flying on a falcon’s back?” She patted Ferdinand. “How could life ever be boring?”

“Well, it just got interesting again recently,” I answered over my shoulder. Dindra, who had her arms wrapped around my waist, squeezed a little tighter and smiled.

* * *

We arrived at Stonehenge just as the sun was rising. “That,” said Dindra breathlessly, “is the most amazing sight I’ve ever seen.”

“No people – and few animals – get a bird’s eye view of this,” Ferdinand replied. Dindra and I laughed.

The stones were as tall as four men standing on each other’s shoulders. An outer circle wrapped around five sets of larger stones. A vast empty field surrounded the massive monument. “How do you think humans moved those huge rocks?” Dindra wondered aloud.

I shook my head in amazement. “I don’t know. Just think, though. The same creatures who made this also invented war.”

“Sometimes it is hard to believe people think they’re smarter than us,” Ferdinand added.

He floated down and landed on one of the larger rocks in the center. I smiled upon seeing the two people who gave me hope for humanity: the sleeping figures of Arthur and Merlin. They had set up camp in the middle of the stone circle. A few glowing embers lingered from a campfire and two sleeping horses were tied to a smaller rock nearby.

As I pondered some clever way to wake Arthur, Merlin sat up and looked straight at us and smiled. He seemed pleased, but unsurprised to see us.

Ferdinand flapped down and Merlin patted him on the head. “Good morning,” the wizard said. “You two must have had quite the adventures.” Then he noticed Dindra. “Make that three.”

“Who are you talking to, Merlin?” Arthur sat up and rubbed his eyes. “Otter!”

I rushed to the king and gave him our traditional thumb-hug greeting. “What happened?” he asked. “What took you so long to get here? Are you okay?” Before I could answer, he raised an eyebrow and said, “I see you’ve got a friend with you.”

I introduced Dindra and told Arthur and Merlin how she saved my life. However, I was focused on the urgency of our situation.

“We have to get back!” I exclaimed. “Lot’s going to attack Dragon’s Head and take over Camelot!”

Merlin smiled, looking unalarmed. “Sometimes when the perceived need is to hurry the best solution is to slow down.”

I was annoyed with Merlin for staying so calm. He’s probably had a vision of what’s going to happen, I thought.

He offered no explanation. Instead he gazed up at the orange hue slowly conquering the grey nighttime sky. “I believe I shall go for a ride. I’d like to enjoy the onset of this glorious day. Arthur, perhaps you can share your new idea with Otter.”

Arthur stirred the coals of the campfire. Dindra and I settled down on a nearby rock.

“Pretty amazing, isn’t it?” Arthur asked as he took a seat and gazed up at the stones surrounding us. “I bet you’re wondering why Stonehenge was built.” Dindra and I shook our heads and Arthur continued. “Merlin told me people think it is a place for healing or studying the stars.” He paused and got a serious look on his face. “Otter, this is where my father is buried.”

”Is that why Merlin brought you here?” I asked.

Arthur nodded. “My father saw Stonehenge as a symbol of power and strength. That’s the kind of ruler he wanted to be. However, here’s my idea.” Arthur pulled his pack toward him. “Dindra, you’ll be interested to know it was Otter who made me think of this.” He pulled a loaf of bread out.

I scratched my head. “Bread? That was my idea? How’s that going to make you a better leader?”

“No,” Arthur laughed. “I thought you two might be hungry.” He tore off two chunks and handed them to us. “This was Otter’s idea,” he said, retrieving a piece of parchment. He laid it down and smoothed it out. It was a sketch of Stonehenge.

“Stonehenge was my idea?”

“Well, Stonehenge looks like a giant table to me. It reminded me of your first visit to Dragon’s Tail. Your uncle called a meeting of all the mouse village residents at a round stage. It’s how I’m going to lead Britain.”

“From a round stage in a mouse village?” I munched on my bread and stared at Arthur.

“No,” he chuckled. He waved his arm at the huge rocks surrounding us. “One person didn’t do this alone. If I want to unite Britain, I can’t do that alone. I’ll invite knights and leaders to Camelot to work together. We’ll sit at a round table. At a rectangular table, someone sits at the head and automatically seems more important. At a round table, everyone is equal.”

Hmm… can’t do it alone. An idea was brewing about how I could get Excalibur back.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur

The Fall of Arthur is an unfinished poem by J.R.R. Tolkien which was written in an Old English alliterative style. Think Beowulf. The poem comprises about only about a fourth of the book, which is mostly an in-depth analysis of the work, and the works which inspired it, as dissected by Tolkien’s son, Christopher. This is a book for fanatics, be they fanatics of anything Tolkien wrote and/or or anything related to the history of Arthurian literature.

Evidence suggests the poem was abandoned in 1937, the year The Hobbit was published. However, in a letter as late as 1955, he talked of his hope of finishing it someday, but alas, that time never came. Christopher Tolkien shows how his father’s work linked to Thomas Malory’s famous Le Morte d’Arthur, the alliterative Morte Arthure, and the French Mort Artu. Christopher also shows how this work related to Tolkien’s pre-Hobbit work, The Silmarillion.

As for the abandoned story and its influences, the primary concern here is the demise of King Arthur. As Arthur and Sir Gawain fight oversees, Arthur’s nephew, Mordred, swoops in and takes over Camelot. The kingdom is further undone by the affair between Arthur’s wife, Guinevere, and his best knight, Lancelot.

The poem, the manuscript notes, and Christopher Tolkien’s comments also reveal the intent of the poem to dissect how the ever-loyal Gawain confronted Lancelot and how Mordred and Arthur’s battle at Camlaan would lead the latter to Avalon to recover from mortal wounds.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Book Signing: Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone

Thanks to everyone who came out to my book signing at Shawnee Books & Toys! With more than 40 attendees and 18 book sales, it was a success. I did a couple of readings, signed books, and enjoyed mingling with friends, family, and brand new fans.

While the focus was on my first work of children's fiction, Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone, I also had a dozen other books with me.

Thanks to my wife for providing treats, including (of course) a cheese plate to go with the mouse theme.

I started out discussing the writing process and how the book came about. Then I did a couple of readings from Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.

There were also a few door prizes and then I signed books.

Then I got a chance to hand out with friends and family!

Special thanks go out to:

  • my wife, Becky Gunn, for providing the treats
  • my writing group peers who turned out to support me
  • Nicole Cunningham, who took the photographs
  • my sons' Campfire group for making this their event of the month
  • friends, family, and fans who showed up to support me
  • and, of course, Shawnee Books & Toys for sponsoring the event!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Upcoming Book Signing: May 18

Event: Author Dave Whitaker will be signing copies of Otter and Arthur and the Sword in the Stone.

Date: May 18, 2013
Time: 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Place: Shawnee Books & Toys
Address: 7311 Quivira Rd, Shawnee, Kansas 66216

You can sign up for the event on Facebook at Book Signing - Dave Whitaker - Otter and Arthur.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Culhwch and Olwen

Evidence has suggested that this Welsh prose tale dates to the 11th century, which could make it the earliest Arthurian tale. The work has been preserved in the manuscript, Red Book of Hergest, and in partial form in the White Book of Rhydderech. It has also been included as part of Lady Charlotte Guest’s collection of translations of eleven medieval Welsh prose stories, The Mabinogion. The story has been cited as an influence on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

Click to order.
The story focuses on Culhwch, the son of a king, and Olwen, the daughter of a giant named Ysbaddaden. Culhwch turns to his famous cousin, Arthur, for assistance in winning the beautiful Olwen away from her father. Ysbaddaden has given Culhwch a series of seemingly impossible tasks to complete before he will grant his daughter’s hand in marriage. Some of the challenges and quests with which Culhwch is tasked carved a blueprint for some of the more famous Arthurian legends, including the search for the Holy Grail.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Chrétien de Troyes

In the late 12th century, Frenchman Chrétien de Troyes was a poet in the court of Marie, countess of Champagne, suggesting he may have been a court poet. He wrote five major poems in eight-syllable rhyming couplets:
  • Érec et Énide (c. 1165-1170)
  • Cligès (c. 1176)
  • Yvain, the Knight of the Lion (c. 1171-1181)
  • Lancelot, le Chevalier de la Charrette (Lancelot, the King of the Cart) (c. 1177-1181)
  • Perceval, le Conte du Graal (Perceval, the Story of the Grail) (c. 1181-1190)
The first four were finished, but Perceval was not. He finished only 9000 lines, but 54,000 lines were added by four other writers. These works, especially the latter two, are significant for introducing 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.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: The Vulgate Cycle

The Vulgate Cycle consisted of five French prose volumes written in the early 13th century (c. 1225-1240) by an unknown author or authors, although they are sometimes attributed to Walter Map, a clerk for King Henry II. There is also speculation that one person may have outlined the cycles but several authors (possibly the Cistercian monks) wrote them.

The Vulgate Cycle, also known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, makes Lancelot and the story of the Holy Grail the main focuses. The stories expanded on ideas introduced by French poet Chrétien de Troyes and may have derived from other sources as well, including Geoffrey of Monmouth. They are a major influence on Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.

book cover from The History of the Holy Grail, image from Amazon.com

The five volumes are:
  • Estoire du Graal (History of the Grail), c. 1240. This is a reworking of French poet Robert de Boron’s Joseph of Arimathea (c. 1200), which keys in on the story of Joseph of Arimathea taking the Holy Grail to Britain.
  • Estoire de Merlin (History of Merlin), aka Vulgate Merlin or Prose Merlin, c. 1240. This is a prose adaptation of Boron’s Merlin. It tells stories of Arthur’s early years, such as the circumstances of his birth, how he was raised by Sir Ector, educated by Merlin, and how he becomes king via the sword in the stone. The book ends with the death of Merlin at the hands of Nimue, the Lady of the Lake.
  • Lancelot Propre (Lancelot Proper), c. 1225. The story focuses on Lancelot instead of King Arthur. Among the stories are the knight’s birth, how he was raised by the Lady of the Lake, how his befriending of the giant Galehaut, his rescue of Guinevere from abduction, and the birth of Lancelot’s son, Galahad.
  • Queste del Saint Graal (Quest of the Holy Grail), c. 1230. Sir Galahad is introduced as the one pure knight who can sit at the Siege Perilous, the designated seat at King Arthur’s Round Table for the one who will lead the Grail quest.
  • La Mort de roi Artu (The Death of King Arthur), c. 1235. This volume details the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere and how Mordred (introduced here as Arthur’s son for the first time) destroyed Camelot and killed Arthur.

Following the five volumes of the Vulgate Cycle were a collection which is known as the Post-Vulgate Cycle. Written between 1230-1250, these were essentially a reworking of the Vulgate Cycle with parts omitted (much of the love affair between Lancelot and Guinevere), other parts emphasized more (Holy Grail), and some additional stories added (Tristan).


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Legend of the Holy Grail

The story of the Holy Grail is one of the most prominent stories which features into Arthurian legend. Like many of the tales associated with King Arthur, it has a historical basis, but over generations of retelling the story, it has taken on different twists.

Historically, the grail is considered to be some sort of container - generally a goblet - although this varies. There may be a basis of a cauldron with special powers in Celtic myth. The grail also portrayed as the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and/or also may have been the chalice used to collect his blood after his crucifixion.

Joseph of Arimathea - who has been theorized to be Christ's great uncle - is, depending on the account, thought to be the person who brought the grail to England. It has specifically been tied to Glastonbury, which is generally considered the site of Avalon in Arthurian legend. It also considered to be the site of the first Christian church in England, built by Joseph of Arimathea.

image from messiah.edu

Chrétien de Troyes introduced the Holy Grail to Arthurian legend via his unfinished work, Le Conte du Graal (c. 1185), also known as Perceval le Gallois. The knight Perceval (later called Sir Galahad) encounters the Fisher King, who is stuck in limbo between life and death. Perceval is tasked with the quest of retrieving the Holy Grail, which will relieve the Fisher King of his suffering.

French poet Robert de Boron also took up the tale with three books, of which only Joseph d' Arimathea (c. 1200), has survived in tact. It has been retold as one of the Vulgate cycles in Estoire de Saint Graal (c. 1240). Fragments of the second, Merlin, exist and the third, Perceval, is lost. Didot Perceval (c. 1205) is considered a version of the latter, written anonymously in prose. In Joseph d' Arimathea, Boron extends the story of Perceval by introducing the idea that he is the pure knight who can sit at Siege Perilous, a special seat at the Round Table.

image from pantheon.org

In the context of the Otter and Arthur stories, the grail is shaping up to be the centerpiece of a possible third book, Otter and Arthur and the Holy Grail. While there is only a rough sketch at this time, the basic premise of the story may be that it is Sir Gawain who seeks the Holy Grail, an idea first put forth in Heinrich von dem Türlin's poem Diu Crône (c. 1220), which in English means "The Crown."

  • Robert de Boron (c. 1200). Joseph d' Arimathea
  • Robert de Boron (c. 1200). Merlin
  • Robert de Boron (c. 1200). Perceval
  • Chrétien de Troyes (c. 1185). Le Conte du Graal or Perceval le Gallois
  • Didot Perceval (c. 1205)
  • Justin E. Griffin (2001). The Holy Grail: The Legend, the History, the Evidence. McFarland & Company, Inc.: Jefferson, NC, and London.
  • TimelessMyths.com: Grail Legend: Perceval's Tradition
  • Heinrich von dem Türlin (c. 1220). Diu Crône
  • Vulgate Cycle Estoire de Saint Graal (c. 1240)
  • Wikipedia.org: The Holy Grail

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Character Study: King Lot

In Arthurian legend, King Lot is generally the king of Lothian and sometimes Orkney and Norway GM as well. There is historical basis as there appears to have been a king in the fifth century in the Lothian area who was headquartered near Edinburgh. RC

Lot is typically considered the father of Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table. Depending on the source, he is married either to King Arthur's half-sister Anna GM or Morgause. TM There is even an argument to be made that he was married to Morgan Le Fay. RL

Lot is sometimes portrayed as an ally of Arthur's GM and at other times the leader of a rebellion against him. Some accounts have Lot taking over the British armies after Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, became ill. However, when Uther died and Arthur was named king, Lot rebelled. EBK In some versions, Lot is defeated at Bedegraine and then becomes Arthur's ally. PV In other versions of the story, Lot remains a bitter enemy of Arthur until he is killed by King Pellinore. TM

King Lot as portrayed by James Perefoy in 2011's 'Camelot,'
image from violetjovovich.blogspot.com

In Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, Lot is King Arthur's primary enemy. Lot had a bitter rivalry with Uther Pendragon, Arthur's father, and maintained his desire to destroy the family after Arthur came to power. This hatred against Arthur is deepened when Lot marries Arthur's sister, Morgan (a composite of Anna, Morgause, and Morgan Le Fay). They bear a child, Mordred, who will maintain the hatred against Arthur.

Also see Morgan's character study.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Historia Regum Britanniae

Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote Historia Regum Britanniae (The History of the Kings of Britain) sometime between 1135 and 1139. It is, as Wikipedia says, a “pseudohistorical account of British history”beginning with the settlement of Britain and continuing until the Anglo-Saxons assumed control of Britain around the 7th century.

It is significant in Arthurian literature for placing King Arthur in the context of British monarch history. According to Geoffrey, Vortigern conspired with the Saxons to usurp the throne. Aurelius, the rightful heir, wrested back power and was succeeded by his brother, Uther Pendragon, who was the father of King Arthur.

Geoffrey introduced many of the ideas which would become benchmarks for many Arthurian stories to come. He created characters such as Merlin, Uther Pendragon, and Guinevere. He also told stories of Arthur's conception at Tintagel, Excalibur, and the king's final days.

According to Geoffrey, Arthur assumed the throne at age 15 when his father dies. The new king fought a series of twelve battles against the Saxon barbarians, creating an empire including Ireland, Iceland, and the Orkney Islands.

Following twelve years of peace, he conquered Norway, Denmark, and Gaul. As he prepared to march on Rome, Arthur learned that his nephew Mordred, whom he left in charge of Britain, married Guinevere and seized the throne. Arthur returned to Britain and killed Mordred, but was left mortally wounded. He handed the crown to his kinsman Constantine and was taken to the isle of Avalon to be healed, but was never seen again.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Le Morte d'Arthur

Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur was one of the earliest printed books in England and is probably the best-known work of English-language Arthurian literature today. It was originally written as eight books and then published as 21 books by William Caxton in 1485.

Malory likely started work on the project in the early 1450s while he was in prison and completed it by 1470. His aim was to create a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Arthurian stories. To that end, he largely translated the French Vulgate Cycle and compiled them with other Middle English sources.

The original eight books were:
  • Book I: From the Marriage of King Uther unto King Arthur that Reigned After Him and Did Many Battles (Caxton I–IV)
  • Book II: The Noble Tale Between King Arthur and Lucius the Emperor of Rome (Caxton V)
  • Book III: The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot Du Lac (Caxton VI)
  • Book IV: The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney (Caxton VII)
  • Book V: The First and the Second Book of Sir Tristrams de Lione (Caxton VIII–XII)
  • Book VI: The Noble Tale of the Sangreal (Caxton XIII–XVII)
  • Book VII: Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere (Caxton XVIII–XIX)
  • Book VIII: The Death of Arthur (Caxton XX–XXI)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Legend of the Red and White Dragons

In Welsh legend, the white dragon represents the enemy, the Saxons, while the red dragon represents Wales. In Arthurian legend, the red dragon is taken a step further to specifically represent the eventual triumph of Uther Pendragon and his son Arthur over the Saxon invasion of Britain.

Nennius introduced the story of Vortigern taking up with the Saxons to try to overthrow a Britain in turmoil after the departure of the Romans. He tries to build a castle, but the walls keep collapsing. His advisers tell him he must sacrifice a fatherless child to fix the problem.

image from reddit.com

Future renditions of the Arthurian legend make this child Merlin (see his character study here). The young wizard tells Vortigern that the castle collapses because there are two warring dragons in an underground pool beneath the castle.

In Otter and Arthur and the Round Table, the legend emerges when Merlin takes Arthur to visit Stonehenge. Arthur is eager to know more about his background and Merlin shares some of the details of how Arthur's father, Uther Pendragon, came to power. The idea of the battling dragons emerges by the end of the story when Morgan uses her shapeshifting power to turn herself into a dragon. Luckily her attack is thwarted by Otter, who has also learned the power of shapeshifting.

  • Bo's Dragon Lore (NotableInklings.blogspot.com)
  • Ronan Coghlan (1993). The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends Barnes & Noble Books. Page 176.
  • 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. Page 10.
  • Nennius Historia Brittonum (c. 828)
  • Wikipedia.org entry: Merlin
  • Wikipedia.org entry: White Dragon