Sunday, May 31, 2009
Not all R&R, however, as I'll be doing "research" for a travel guide I plan to write...
Monday, May 25, 2009
It was due to the mention of Hleidargard that excavations were begun at Lejre on the isle of Zealand in the 1940's, with the remains of an enormous Viking-era great hall discovered there in 1986. The largest hall found thus far in all of Scandinavia, it measured 142 feet in length by 38 feet wide, covering an area of roughly 5400 square feet - a mansion even by today's affluent standards.
More importantly, the saga provides corroboration and/or clarification of many details in Beowulf that might at best remain sketchy otherwise. For example, it is here we find the name of Yrsa, Onela's wife, and hear the story of her incestuous relationship with Halga, her own brother (on which I drew heavily for my own novel). In addition, the characters of Hrothgar, Halga, and Healfdene appear as members of the Skjöldung clan (the Danish Scyldings of Beowulf), along with the Heathobard king Froda (whose story we get much of here) and the young Eadgils as the king of Swedes. Their names appear here in their Icelandic form, so that one might not at first make the connection that Hrólf himself is the Hrothulf of Beowulf. Here their stories are as different as they are like those of Beowulf, bearing witness to the changes that take place in oral tradition over time, and much debate has since ensued as to their common thread, and how and where and when the stories came to be.
But Hrólf's Saga was written down in Iceland some three hundred years after Beowulf was committed to parchment around the year 1000. Scholars date the Icelandic variation from between 1230 to 1450, but their common roots go back much further. At present there are 44 existing manuscripts, with the earliest extant copy dating from the 17th century, although there are records of a copy housed at the monastery of Möðruvellir in Iceland as early as 1461.
Was the tale of Beowulf transmitted down the years from mouth to ear until three hundred years had passed and it was written down at last a thousand miles across the sea?
For a more detailed comparison see Origins for Beowulf and Hrólf Kraki at Wikipedia, or pick up a copy of the Penguin Classics edition, which has thorough notes.
DOWNLOAD "THE SAGA OF HROLF KRAKI" HERE FOR FREE!
And just what will that be? You'll just have to wait and see.
This past few days I've been relaxing, resting up and recuperating while finishing off a few books I've been reading lately. Unfortunately neither of them merit a full review in my opinion, although of the two, Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Book One: Prodigal Son was well written and intriguing. I just got bored before the end and can't imagine wading through two more books to find out how it all turns out. But I thoroughly enjoyed Koontz's writing style, and particularly his wit. However, it dragged on for way too long with nothing really happening in terms of plot or character development.
As for the other, Stephen Lawhead's Song of Albion, Book I: The Paradise War, I finally gave up three chapters from the end, as I no longer even cared what happened to the pathetic characters he populates this inane excuse for mythology with. Written in first person, I immediately disliked his whining protagonist from the start, and nothing he said or did throughout the remainder changed my mind. This book shows exactly why I despise contemporary fantasy fiction, which tends to ramble with little purpose to no end with characters who rarely change in any meaningful way.
Still, I keep hoping to find that rare gem among the shale and detrius. But there's a reason why the classics have achieved their revered status, and Lawhead's mess is proof of it.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Along with the manuscript transcription I've uploaded a useful resource for further study of the history of Beowulf scholarship and criticism, which is C. B. Tinker's 1902 Yale dissertation on the translations that had been done up to that time. As this covers most of those now in the public domain, and a great many of the more important works, this is a highly worthwhile reference on the subject.
Reading it will tell you almost all you want to know about how Beowulf came to be in its present form - from its obscure place on the shelves of Robert Cotton's library to the honored place it now holds in the British Museum. It will also get you well on your way to understanding the content of the poem, and the many difficulties it presents due to its damaged state. However, a study of the actual manuscript it crucial to a full appreciation of this masterpiece of epic poetry.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
It also has the distinction of being complete (or nearly so), whereas several clearly earlier works exist in fragments. For example, The Fight at Finnsburg, which itself is told in part within the Beowulf poem, and so must be older, is extant in only a single folio of some fifty lines, and that as a transcript dating from 1705: the original has since been lost.
The single existing Beowulf manuscript itself was nearly lost due to a fire which destroyed much of the Ashburnham House library in which it was residing during the year 1731. The manuscript was damaged both by fire and by water, as well as smoke and age; the edges of many pages have shrunk and crumbled from the heat, resulting in the loss of many individual letters. Since then the manuscript has been preserved and digitized, and much of the text restored through ultraviolet and fiber-optic photography, though many hundreds of letters are forever lost.
In 1995 professor Kevin Kiernan created The Electronic Beowulf Project, a comprehensive interactive cd-rom edition of the Beowulf manuscript, which I purchased for my book research at a cost of around $300. The cd-rom includes not only the manuscript plates along with infrared and x-ray photos of all the damaged portions, but all of the early transcripts of the poem as well, which provide much useful information on the text, as the earliest of these were written down before the manuscript had fully deteriorated, and one short section even before the fire.
The manuscript itself has been dated to the reign of Canute the Great, Viking king of England, Denmark, and Norway, who died in 1035. The poem was very likely composed (or at least written down at this time) to please these Viking overlords of England, who were then at the height of their power. Indeed, it begins with a call to remember the heroic deeds of the ancient Danes, and how they achieved great fame in former days.
The events detailed in the story of Beowulf are both historical and legendary, set in a time some five hundred years before its composition. Much like the tales of King Arthur or Robin Hood, where a grain of truth is obscured by superhuman feats and mythological beings, the young Norse warrior Beowulf undertakes an epic quest to defeat a marauding ogre that is ravaging the Danish realm. Although there is no historic evidence for Beowulf's existence, many of the supporting characters show up in early chronicles and sagas from France to Iceland, or are associated with burial sites in Sweden and the Rhine.
It would be futile to undertake a comprehensive analysis of Beowulf in such a short space as this, but as the founding work of English literature there could be few works more worthy of that status. As difficult as it may be to read, even in translation, it is well worth the effort to any lover of heroic adventure or epic fantasy. Many modern works in the fantasy genre owe their inspiration to Beowulf, from The Lord of the Rings to Star Trek's Klingons.
Because it's poetry, with Beowulf translations it's really a matter of personal preference as much as anything. Some are better than others, with some being stronger in one area than another, due to the choices each translator is forced to make. While one will adhere as strictly as possible to a literal translation at the expense of form, another will focus on alliteration or metre and take great liberties with content. Few achieve both, and that does not begin to address the academic debates each line and word has undergone throughout the past two hundred years. Short of learning Old English and reading the original as written, my advice is to read as many translations as you can, and there are by now no shortage of them to chose from.
I will continue to add editions to the page linked below as I find time (I will post notices of updates here). To start with there are three: those by Leslie Hall (1892), William Morris & A. J. Wyatt (1895), and Francis Gummere (1910). Of these, the easiest to read (and most popular) is Gummere's, while the other two tend to use a great deal of archaic language which is now rather outdated.
I'm doing this for several reasons. One is that I read a lot of classics, but the free ebook files I tend to find on sites like Project Gutenberg or The Online Books Page are either poorly edited or in a generic text format that doesn't allow for such basic e-reader features as bookmarks or annotations, which I use a lot. And while Gutenberg is a fabulous repository of our literary history and culture, their text files often have quirky issues, such as hard return line breaks that don't allow for wrapping smoothly to my iPaq's window, or tabs that push the text too far to the right, and consequently I end up reformatting all their files as I read. Once I've done this I turn them into Reader files so that next time I can read them more comfortably. It occurred to me that I should maybe share these files so that other readers might benefit.
My other motivation for doing this is entirely self-serving, and has to do with my efforts in marketing my own work. One of reasons I've started doing book reviews on this blog is to increase the number of potential keywords readers might search for when they're looking for new books to read. And since my own name isn't well known yet, getting the names of other authors and their works inserted on my site will hopefully bring new readers who might like what they find. Even if they don't buy my book, the added traffic will increase my page rank and make it easier for other readers to find me.
But since I don't read a lot of contemporary fiction, preferring the works that have withstood the test of time, the number of reviews of new books I can offer here is minimal at best. I just don't find most modern authors have the skill in handling character and narrative as do the masters. I can re-read Homer endlessly, but it's all that I can do to get through a Cussler or a Clancy novel even once. After all, entire academic careers are spent on studying the Shakespeare canon, or even just the tragedies. But what modern author could fill even a single semester course? Perhaps Asimov or Orwell, but there again we're getting into classics territory.
I'll continue to do reviews of modern works I read as I see fit, but for the most part I plan to focus on the history of several genres, such as fantasy and science fiction (from the likes of Morris and MacDonald in fantasy, or Verne and Wells in sci-fi), as well as those that fall into the realm of folklore and mythology (such as the tales of Robin Hood and the Arthurian tradition, both of which I have researched extensively, and in the case of King Arthur, even done a public lecture on the subject). My intention is to provide something of a historical retrospective of these genres, with the texts and all the relevant background data provided for your perusal and enjoyment.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Born in Salisbury himself (the modern equivalent of the old word Sarum), Rutherford has an obvious love and affinity for the region which shows in this massive work. I had read this once before, back in 1987 when it first appeared, and recalled its highs and lows only vaguely when I took it up again last month.
Following in the footsteps of James Michener, Rutherford's plan is epic in scope: to tell the history of a single region from its earliest days to the present. He does this in two ways, using two methods which would provide the template for his future work. First, he creates a half dozen fictional families who he then follows throughout the ages as they interact and react to the major events and people of the past. Each of these family lines have specific traits and genetic characteristics, as well as social standing, both of which seem equally difficult to overcome, so that, for example, the long-toed and stubby fingered rivermen of 10,000 B.C. tend to be relegated to subservient positions and even slavery throughout their many generations, yet always prove exceptional craftsmen and waterfolk along the way.
The second, and less successful, method Rutherford employs is a continual jumping through time from one significant event to the next. This is understandable from a practical point of view, as obviously two covers could never contain a continuous narrative spanning such a length of time. Yet it proves jarring at every turn, rendering the novel more an anthology of short stories than one cohesive narrative. This is more an issue in the earlier stages of the book, as the temporal shifts grow consecutively shorter with each leap, so that where many hundreds of years are simply discarded between the construction of Stonehenge and the subsequent coming of the Romans, by the time of the Black Death and the War of the Roses it is very nearly a continuous timeline. Indeed, the last chapters, covering the years from the Reformation through World War II and beyond - a span of some 300 years - takes up as many pages as do all those that lead up to the conquest of the Normans in the 11th century.
This proves difficult to overcome at several points, in that many of the events themselves are not interesting enough to draw the story on, and as the characters are new at every section, their stories are often short and shallow. The seemingly endless conquests, for example, grow quickly tedious, and pale by comparison to the fascinating drama surrounding the construction of Stonehenge. Not until the building of Salisbury Cathedral does the intensity pick up again. From then on it's engrossing reading, with the drama building as events become more and more familiar and relevant. This is a problem I often encounter, both in historical fiction and non-fiction accounts of ancient events. For one thing, there is simply less known about such far flung times. But it's also true that the more distant events are in time from us, the harder they are to empathize with. Consequently, the relative weighting of Rutherford's chronology is not so different from that which is found in virtually every collegiate "Intro to Western Civilization" textbook.
All in all, Sarum is a truly astounding work, both in the scope and breadth of its subject, as well as in the way it makes actual history a fascinating tale. After all, human history is the greatest story ever told.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
The fixation comes, I would propose, from two things: the Gothic love of blood and death (that seemingly innate appeal that brings a host of skulls and ghosts to every store at Halloween), and the human yearning for immortality. It is these elements which have rendered the vampire such a potent figure of folklore through the years, and all the more so as our world grows less mysterious and such creatures consequently more mythic.
Fortunately for me, Kostova made no attempt to romanticize the undead as in Twilight, or every book by Ann Rice, save in the single figure of Vlad Ţepeş, the Impaler - commonly known as Count Dracula - and then only to a minor degree, as a lover of learning. What historian wouldn't want such a library, after all, and all eternity to study? Still, this plays only a very small part in the larger narrative, although the author's own love of books and manuscripts is obvious throughout.
As a work of historical fiction this novel succeeds to a large extent (even though Vlad the Impaler is the only historical personage in the entire book), if only on the extent of background information imparted by the author. Clearly a great deal of research went into it, and Kostova claims to have spent ten years completing it, inspired by stories of Dracula her father told her as a child while living in Slovenia. Consequently, she is ideally suited to write this story. However, as a work of suspense and horror it failed completely to convince me. This is in great part due to the fact that there is very little action or suspense throughout its nearly one thousand pages, and what there is is interspersed between lengthy dissertations as the characters sit reading in one library or another. I also detest first person narratives, as innately shallow and limited in scope. That said, the prose is well written, and the content interesting enough to keep me reading.
One final note, however, is that I found the ending wholly unsatisfying, as one of those too easy culminations which leave you wondering why someone didn't just do that five hundred pages ago if that's all it took. It's like the building crescendo of a drum roll that ends with a rim shot.
What brought me to read this monstrosity was not its subject, or my general interest in historical fiction (which it really is only marginally), but the fact that it was a debut work of fiction which fetched a price of two million bucks and a marketing campaign of another half a million, which of course resulted in an astounding amount of copies sold. How a book this long and tedious got the interest of an agent, let alone a publisher is beyond me, but it just goes to show that miracles can still happen in this day and age.
Rating: 3 out of 5
Monday, May 11, 2009
The foremost factor is that publishing yourself is an enormous amount of work, and frankly I'm exhausted from it. I've spent the past few weeks wandering around the house in something of a muddled haze, attempting to regain some sense of perspective on the issue. I often do this when I'm formulating writing ideas. I put on some mellow music and sit staring out the window at the clouds for hours, waiting for the clarity to come. Sometimes it does. Sometimes not. Just as with clouds, sometimes you get brilliant beams of light, and sometimes you get rain.
The fact is that first and foremost I'm a writer. Authors write because they enjoy it, because they have a story they need or want to tell, or simply because they're good with words (but hopefully all three). The greatest single lesson I've learned over the past six months is that authors also have to be first-rate salesmen. I think this is the better part of why most writers prefer to turn their work over someone else once it's done. It's just easier to let a big publishing house take on all the work of getting a book to market - even if it's still up to the author to promote it. This is, of course, why the publisher takes the majority of the profits as well.
And although I've met with some success with my first novel, I had begun to wonder if that trade-off wasn't worth the cost. The truth is that I would much rather have spent the past six months working on another book, instead of making promo videos and managing an ad campaign. The second greatest lesson, then, is that self-publishing - for all the talk of authors using it as an easy route to seeing their work in print - is vastly harder that following the traditional path to publication. My sense is that with trade publishing persistence will eventually pay off, since its very much a numbers game, and sooner or later someone is bound to like your work - that is, so long as it's commercially viable. With self-publishing, however, it's entirely up to you to get your book out there before the readers' eyes, and up to them to determine whether it has merit. Every good review by an actual reader builds up an author's credibility, and it doesn't take a million dollar ad budget to get a good review if your work deserves it.
Still, I'd begun to wonder lately if I shouldn't resume the process of sending out queries to agents and editors, if only so that I can get my novel into brick-and-mortar stores. Because another thing I've come to see is that visibility is key to getting your book into readers' hands, and most readers like to browse the book store aisles, even if they buy their books online. I rarely buy a book at Barnes & Noble, but I still go there anyway, just to see what's on the shelf. Maybe it's the smell of all that paper. Maybe it's the neatly ordered ranks of glossy art. Maybe it's just hanging out with people I don't know, but who I know are just like me at least one significant way: we love to read. Either way, you can't deny the stimulative value of a store stocked full of the very thing you love, whether you're the buyer or the seller.
But back to the search for perspective. Ultimately I decided to make a list of the reasons why I opted for self-publishing in the first place, sort of a pros-and-cons of publishing from an independent author's point of view.
1. Self-dependence. It's the foundation of the American way of life. Ironically, while small business owners are admired and esteemed for their hard-working, independent values, self-published authors tend to be reviled and mocked as somehow failing to succeed, as if the corporate publishing model were the only one.
2. Self-control. As an independent publisher, I retain all rights and control over my work. Every aspect of its creation and production is up to me. Again, this is a two-edged sword, since it also means I have to do all the work. But as I enjoy doing it, and can, that's all the more reason why I should. Trade publishing requires turning over nearly all the decisions - creative or otherwise - to businessmen. Some of these they may be better suited to deal with than I, but certainly not all, and particularly with regard to the artistic choices which drew me to writing in the first place. Those I won't give up for any money. And speaking of money...
3. Higher profit margin. With literally hundreds - if not thousands - of middlemen inserted between the author and the reader throughout the traditional publication process, each of whom are paid or take a cut, there is very little left out of the final retail price for the author of the book. Standard royalties hover around 4-7% (with 14% begin about the upper end the biggest authors can expect), and the majority of books never earn out their royalty at all, meaning that authors tend to live from one advance to the next and never see another dime, since the book will likely be out of print within a year, and in the bookstore for even less. In contrast, I keep every penny my book brings in, and I decide how many pennies that will be.
4. Quicker publication time. Once you finish writing your masterpiece you want to see it into print as soon as possible, if not right away. But first you have to find an agent, and to do that you have to write up queries and send submissions, a process that at best will take many months, and more likely several years, and may never meet with success at all. Then, once you acquire an agent, they'll start the process all over with the publishers. Again, this will take many months at best, and could go on for years, and again result in nothing. But if it does, and you achieve that lofty goal and sign a trade contract, another year to eighteen months will pass before you see your book in print. Then, two years after you finished writing it (and hopefully have two more done by then) you go back mentally several years to where you were when it was first completed, and talk it up to anyone you can. Meanwhile, your mind is now entirely on another project which you will, of course, gladly interrupt or abandon at this point. After this, of course, the road will hopefully get easier, and the cycle of writing and publishing will more closely coincide. But that will only happen if your first book is a significant success. Otherwise, you'll have to undergo the process all over with the next one, because your agent may or may not deign to continue their association, and the publisher will be far less interested in losing money on you yet again. None of this, of course, applies to self-published authors, who can see their book in print within a month, and spend their time promoting it as they see fit before they move on to the next project, which has just as much chance as the one before.
5. Pride of ownership. Self-publishers are often derided as being driven by vanity. Firstly I would say that having struggled and succeeded in producing a finished novel they have every right to be proud of what they've achieved. Do onlookers mock the marathon runner who comes in last? Just to have finished is something. But I would also say that the very concept that drives the thought of self-publishing as somehow inferior is itself driven by vanity. After all, the motivation behind an author's claim to being published by "X" major trade is a statement of pride. It is my contention that half the reason authors want a contract with a trade publisher is so that they can boast about it to their friends. And more power to them. But self-publishing is about engaging readers, not editors. Which brings me to my next point...
6. Even if you get a major trade contract it doesn't mean you'll sell a single book, or in fact that your book is any good. It only means one reader thought it commercially viable, which is not the same thing at all. More and more these days commercial success equates to mediocre: easy enough for anyone to read and comprehend, and falling within a fairly narrow range of subjects for which the largest number of people show some interest, such as murder, suspense, and romance. Broad, general, vague. Which doesn't mean it isn't good. But unless it fits in this commercial niche it probably won't be published by the trades. And if it is it won't get a nickel for marketing. Which bring me to my most important point...
7. You still have to sell the book yourself. Unless you've got a fluke on your hands that will somehow beat the odds to become that one-in-a-trillion bestseller that somehow goes viral - which you can never plan or prepare for, let alone count on - you're going to have to get out there and peddle your wares yourself. The bigger platform you have the easier this will be, and the more success you're likely to have, but the vast majority of us just have to find a way to get our book into the reader's hands, and then keep at it. Therefore, the more venues an author can find to get their work in front of readers the better chance they'll have.
Now, this last is also an argument for approaching the major trades, since they potentially provide a lot of outlets - but you have to weigh that against all the other points just given. Is giving up control and profits worth getting a publisher imprint on the jacket spine? Will this get you any more exposure than you might get yourself? The truth is probably not. All a trade contract will get you is a listing in the quarterly catalogue (probably at the very back) and a little bit of clout when you go out to press the case yourself. The publisher might be able to get your book into B&N for three months, but it's up to you to keep it there.
The whole point is that either way it's a gamble and a lot of work. But with trade publishing the process is dependent on a lot of factors the author has no control over, and reliant on a lot of other people to get it done. This may be a good thing, depending on your outlook and your abilities. Frankly, I'd rather have a batch of lackeys do the grunt work for me. But I'm not Tom Clancy, nor will I ever be. The fact is that I prefer to do things myself, and always have. Sometimes there's a steep learning curve involved, and this is one of them. After pondering the matter, however, I'm more driven to continue than before.
Monday, May 4, 2009
The very first thing I did, of course, before even taking a shower or eating more than a chunk of cheese on rye, was watch the film twice through, and then the behind-the-scenes-how-we-made-the-bloody-thing-on-next-to-nothing video, both available for streaming in widescreen HD via the official website at the link above. Given this thing was made by fans of Tolkien (and clearly of Peter Jackson, too) on a budget that wouldn't even feed a professional crew for half a standard film shoot (a little less than $6000), and yet achieved results that emulate remarkably what New Line spent a billion dollars on, I have to say I'm quite impressed.
Aside from some too-dark battle scenes and a bit of stilted dialogue, the overall result is lush and mythic, with stunning cinematography that would fit right into Jackson's trilogy, a haunting score that mirrors Howard Shore's, and most importantly a brilliant Andy Serkis imitation. Already web rips of the streaming video are showing up (although the first one I downloaded was in black and white), but I'm hoping for official VOBs for personal DVD burning, or at least an official hi-rez AVI or MP4. I'd love to watch this on a big screen, although my brand new 21" widescreen monitor looks pretty good, and with dual 5.1 surround it's plenty loud.
The film actually premiered over the weekend with a one-off theater showing in London, but don't expect to see it at your local cinema anytime soon. The project was purely non-profit, and no one on the crew got paid. For legal copyright infringement reasons this is how it likely will remain, although these folks deserve much more. Here's to the beginning of some long and illustrious careers.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
It's down to crunch time, and as always things are getting crazy. During these last few weeks the days get long and the workload increases as we try to tie up all the ragged ends and make sure all the mis-delivered, misplaced, or otherwise misappropriated orders get replaced or filled with the proper items. This takes me from east to west across the state, often in a single day. I lift about two tons of books each day (not even kidding), and my poor spine is bowing like an ancient willow in the wind beneath the strain. Some days I lay down on the couch when I get home and it's just about all I can do to get back up. Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to my summer break. As difficult as writing is, it's a walk in the park compared to hefting freight all day, and I'm really looking forward to getting back to it.
Friday, May 1, 2009
A few minor notes should be pointed out here for the sake of clarity. Clearly not a movie fan, Mr. Snow does show some knowledge of the original Beowulf poem. However, the mention of "his father’s deeds and his uncle’s jealousy" refers to a plot device entirely of my own invention, not to be found within the poem itself (although extrapolated via rational inference). Conversely, the reference to the "Grendel's father" plot twist, and to Wiglaf's significance, greatly increase my respect for this reviewer.
For those of you not in the know, Beowulf is a 10th century old English poem that has been translated and adapted many times; from good text translations to terrible film adaptations. In the poem, Beowulf is a giant of a man descended of kings, yet king he is not. Because of his father’s deeds and his uncle’s jealousy he became an outcast and sent on a deadly mission that no one ever thought he would come back from. His mission was to kill the unstoppable ogre, Grendel.
R. Scot Johns’ very good version (that’s because it’s not a film) of the epic tale stays as true to the poem as possible. He starts off slow, introducing characters and a bit of history among the clans, but then Grendel is introduced and it is all on. In my own minds eye I could envision Grendel wrecking havoc, sundering the souls of men and feasting on their flesh. This is due to R. Scot’s ability to describe a scene, telling enough for you to form an image but not so much as to not let your imagination flow. I was personally amazed at the information this book presented. Turning a poem into a full blown novel is not easy and more than a little did R. Scot do when researching the tale of Beowulf. Any parts that he did change were very sensible, making it easier to read and overall added to the story well. The best change was the twist of Grendel’s father and the importance of Wiglaf.
What I liked most perhaps about the story of Beowulf is that he is human. While I was reading the book, I was always comparing Beowulf to other mythical heroes, Samson and Hercules being two that came to my mind quickly. Yet Beowulf was unto his own and I was glad they he wasn’t like them. I would not have liked to read about an all conquering hero, I like my hero’s flawed. He was young but too brash, had the strength of thirty men in his arms but unwise in the way of life.
Tempering the good with the bad I must say that a lack of a professional editor has hurt this book. From spelling mistakes, to misplaced names, to insufficient map detail has caused some annoyance while reading. A good editor should have solved these problems, but this is a learning curve fledgling authors often take (especially when low on capital).
Overall I was impressed by R. Scot’s work, more so when I visited his website http://www.fantasycastlebooks.com/ after finishing the book. The Saga of Beowulf is action packed and true to the heroic fantasy genre. I would really love to pick up some original work from R. Scot because this book only hints at his originality and the underlying ability he has for writing heroic fantasy.
Concerning the lack of a professional editor I can only agree with his wish for one, as well as the reason given for said editor's absence (i.e. low on capital). That said, to my knowledge there is only one instance of a misplaced name (Hrothgar for Hygelac on page 242), which was only pointed out to me recently by a friend after the book has been in print now for half a year. Kudos again to Mr. Snow for catching it, if this is, indeed, the one he meant (and if not, please inform me of the rest, that I might correct the errors). Of spelling and grammatical errors I'm aware of barely half a dozen, which is on par with most professionally published fiction these days, although each one irks me to no end, since I must assume full responsibility for them.
Regarding the map, there are two reasons for the lack of added detail. The first is that little is actually known about this time in Scandinavian history, and so the map is rather accurate in that respect. But the other is that, frankly, there really isn't much else to put in, in terms of set locations. Nearly all of the events take place in three locales, and the function of the map was first and foremost to provide an overall relationship to their physical locations in the real world. I had wanted, or at least considered, including higher detail maps for the Geatburg region, as well as a map of northwest Europe where the Frankish raid episode takes place, but ultimately decided this was unnecessary, since the Geatland scenes center almost entirely around the Trollhight mountains (seen on the map), Lake Vaenir (seen on the map), and Geatburg itself (also on the map). As for the Frankish raid, it takes up only three chapters out of thirty, and simply didn't merit it, as any map of modern Europe will provide the basic topography of the region. Still, I take serious note of the "annoyance" this has caused one reader, and will consider the matter for further editions (one solution being simply to delete the map altogether and leave the reader to use that imagination our reviewer clearly prefers).
All in all a good review, and I'm happy to have it. The reviewer seems to have enjoyed the book, and that is all an author can ever hope for.