Tag Archives: Bisclavret

New Cover Art Style – Bird Talk and Bisclavret

I have instituted a new cover style for my self-published short stories with Bird Talk and Bisclavret being the first examples. The main purposes was to make the author name (sounds horribly egotistical!) more prominent and also of a consistent style. My decision to do this was influenced by Dean Wesley Smith’s post about how self-published authors shoot themselves in the foot by not acting like a proper publisher – one example he gave was by not having a consistent author brand on covers, so this is a change I decided to make.

Hope you like the results!



And for reference here are the old covers – similar style as each other, but to my mind not as effective:

Bird Talk



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eBook Blurbs Experimentation

Yesterday I decided that the blurbs for my short stories might be, how shall we say, rather poor! And decidedly boring!

Well last night I decided to update a couple of them. See what you think of the changes:

Bird Talk: A Tale of Medieval Magic

Old Blurb:

Bird Talk is a short story about a young priest, Roger, living in a small medieval English town, who is trying to uncover what he believes are foul magical deeds. But instead he manages to implicate the women he loves in accusations of witchcraft. With only the town drunk to help him, Roger must work out a way of saving the woman he loves.

New Blurb:

What do you do when you have accused the woman you love of necromancy?

Roger Draper suspects that a necromancer is at work in a small medieval English town. But rather than uncovering foul magical deeds he manages to implicate the women he desires in accusations of witchcraft. With only the town drunk to help him, Roger must untangle the mess he has created.

Be prepared for a heady concoction of gritty medieval life, humour and magic.

Bird Talk: A Tale of Medieval Magic is an Historical Fantasy short story.

Bisclavret (The Werewolf)

Old Blurb:

“I am the last survivor of the noble family of Trigoff…This is my confession.”A tale of knights, castles, maidens and werewolves set in Medieval France. This short story is a retelling of Marie de France’s classic Medieval Romance.

New Blurb:

 “I am the last survivor of the noble family of Trigoff…This is my confession.” A tale of knights, castles, maidens and werewolves set in Medieval France at the height of the Hundred Years War.

What happens when the man you thought would protect you is more than a man? When another suitor comes calling would stand by your werewolf husband or be tempted to seek protection against the dangers of the wild forest elsewhere?

This historical fantasy short story is a retelling of Marie de France’s classic Medieval Romance Bisclavret.

What do you think are these better? Do you think they will help the short stories sell better?

With Bisclavret I wasn’t sure whether to keep the quotation in there or not?

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What I have been doing (and why no recent posts!)

Apologies for no recent posts, but I have been rather busy on the following:

  • On holiday!
  • Typesetting Alt Hist magazine
  • Editing the first two chapters of Hell has its Demons and trying to work out what happens next while overcoming writers block with my laptop on the train. I seemed to spend most of the time looking out of the window, before realising that chapter three should probably have a gory or violently sexual theme to it given the subject matter it was going to cover – a nightmare sequence where Jake relives finding his wife in bed with his father! I then thought I felt a bit perturbed about writing such things next to my fellow commuters! Silly I know, but it’s a bit odd to be writing things, with someone else sitting two centimetres away from you.
  • Found that my short story Bisclavret (The Werewolf) has sold its first copy on the Kindle!
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Review of Bisclavret (The Werewolf)

Steven Till, a fellow blogger and writer of historical fiction, has posted a very kind review of Bisclavret (The Werewolf) over at his blog.

Steven found the story “engaging and thrilling. As an eighteen page short story, it reads quickly: his pacing is good, the dialogue is tight, and the plot is absorbing. His style is clean and precise and executed extremely well.”

Although he “did feel that some of the characters could have used more fleshing out, Bertrand for one, and on some levels Edward.”

One of the pleasures of writing and getting published is to get a reaction from readers, and I am really pleased that I have been able to get this story out to a wider audience.

Steven has a wonderful website that is a must for anyone interested in history and historical fiction, particularly set in the Middle Ages. Steven also has some of his own stories posted on his site, all of which are well worth a read.

You can read a free preview of Bisclavret (The Werewolf) at Smashwords and then purchase a copy if you are interested in reading the whole thing for $0.99.

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Comparing Smashwords and Feedbooks

So far in my Smashwords and Feedbooks adventures I have published three stories on Feedbooks and two on Smaswords. I found it quite interesting to compare the two. Of the two stories on Smashwords, one I am charging for, Bisclavret (The Werewolf), and one, The Human Factor, I have made free. On Feedbooks I have three stories (all free as that is the nature of Feedbooks), which are: The Human Factor (again), The Honor of Rome and Tale of Tiel.

Here are the stats to date for Smashwords:

Bisclavret (The Werewolf): 21 downloads, 0 sales since 8th July

The Human Factor: 74 downloads since 16th July

And for Feedbooks:

The Human Factor: 961 since 28th June

The Honor of Rome: 353 since 28th June

Tale of Tiel: 250 since 28th June

You can’t compare these figures exactly, but what I think is clear is that Feedbooks gets a lot more downloads. I suspect that’s because people know it only has free material, whereas as you have to pay for a fair amount of the content on Smashwords. What’s great for me as far as Feedbooks is concerned is that the downloads for The Human Factor aren’t dying down – it seems to have some legs yet! And for Smashwords, I think it’s more of a platform for trying to sell novel length material rather than short stories.

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Chateaux Trogoff and Tonquedec: Sources for Bisclavret (The Werewolf)

This is another post about my short story Bisclavret (The Werewolf). The story is set in Brittany in the 1360s, a time when John, Duke of Brittany had gained his duchy with the help of English armies. The story is set in a remote and dilapidated castle in the midst of Brittany’s forests. As well as Marie de France‘s original Bisclavret, my other inspiration was a Breton legendary ballad called the Ward of Guesclin, a famous French general. Here’s the opening verse:

TROGOFF’S strong tower in English hands
Has been this many a year,
Rising above its subject-lands
And held in hate and fear.
That rosy gleam upon the sward
Is not the sun’s last kiss;
It is the blood of an English lord
Who ruled the land amiss.

The poem tells a tale of a Breton woman forced by the new English lord of the castle to accept his kiss as a toll for passage. In my story the castle has become Trigoff, and I based the actual appearance of the castle on Chateau Tonquedec. See the pretty image below – really a wonderful setting for a werewolf story, right in the middle of a forest.

Here’s how I mapped out the castle and it’s estate for the purposes of planning the story:

Castle and Estate of Trigoff
Castle and Estate of Trigoff

Please excuse the terrible drawing and handwriting!

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The Original Bisclavret

Marie de France, from an illuminated manuscript
Image via Wikipedia

I have recently published a short story called Bisclavret (The Werewolf) on Smashwords and at the Kindle Store. My story is a retelling of Marie de France‘s Bisclavret, one of her 12 lais (a French syllabic verse form used for narrative poems)  based on lais sung by Breton minstrels. Marie was writing in the late 12th and it is likely that her works were based on Breton/Celtic stories of an earlier origin.

My version of Bisclavret takes the story to the second half of the fourteenth century and makes the protagonists an English knight and his Breton wife, living in her ancestral castle in Brittany, surrounded by forests and decaying estates ravaged into poverty by the hundred years war.

I would encourage anyone interested in werewolves, fantasy and medieval literature to read all of Marie’s work. I personally find it very instructive to go back to the core myths and legends that act as the source material for today’s fantasy fiction.

If you want to read the original Bisclavret I would recommend the following sites:

A good verse translation at a University of Florida site

The Project Gutenberg version taken from a 1911 edition.

Or a cheap and good quality eBook version of the lais of Marie de France based on the 1911 edition.

You can get a sample of my short story Bisclavret (The Werewolf) at Smashwords, or at the Kindle Store.

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Bisclavert, Bisclavret, Garwaf, Werewolves: what’s in a name!

The french werewolf "voirloup"
Image via Wikipedia

I was planning on writing a post about the etymology of the name Bisclavert, which was the name of my recently published short story about a medieval werewolf, based on the story of the same name by Marie de France.

I was surprised to find that the spelling I had used was actually a variant, and a less common variant at that! So what I have done is actually to go and change the name of my story to Bisclavret (The Werewolf) just to make things a bit clearer! I thinks its pretty obvious the story is about werewolves so hopefully that won’t spoil anything for anyone!

Back to the main purpose of explaining the etymology of the word, I found that this is actually pretty unclear. Marie de France in her lai tells the reader that:

‘Bisclavret’ is the Breton name,
the Normans call it ‘garwaf’.

The usual old-French word for werewolf seems to be garou, and forms part of the more modern phrase used in France now of loup-garou. But, according to Widsith’s help blog post, it seems very unclear as to where you get the werewolf meaning from the Breton bisclavert. The closet word in Breton is “bleiz” for wolf, but even that is not very close.

Perhaps Marie used a bit of artistic licence herself and made the word up anyway?

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