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Dear Readers,


In our last, we mentioned that we have a second book in the works. It’s part of a series whose titles (and elements) are based upon this mysterious nursery rhyme:

“Grey goose and gander,

Waft your wings together

To carry the good king’s daughter

Over the one-strand river.”

The second book in the series, The Good King’s Daughter, is now a complete draft and is currently being given its first editorial run-through. Then it will be checked, rewritten where necessary, then formatted and published, like Across the Doubtful Sea, on Amazon and Kindle, we hope by early March. In the meantime, work goes on for the first in the series, Grey Goose and Gander, as well as on our sequel to Across, Empire of the Isles.

The Grey Goose series takes place in an imaginary medieval Russia, with yagas, talking animals, warriors, invaders like the historical Mongols, magic, saints, singers, and a young woman warrior, Unegen. The story is original, although there are elements from Russian history, as well as from folk tales.

We also mentioned in our last our favorite Russian fairy tale illustrator, Ivan Bilibin (1876-1942).


If you look him up on-line, you’ll find out that he was strongly influenced by his exposure to traditional Russian folk art and architecture. Like these:

russianwoodenbuilding TiledStoveCropt 0_10731_92b7363f_L russiancostumescentral

There is scholarly argument over how authentic this sort of thing was by Bilibin’s time: by 1700, Peter the Great was actively westernizing Russia. This lead to everything from laws about dress to regulations about beards (Peter taxed them—but so had Henry VIII, who had one, and Elizabeth I, who did not).



(The second picture is of a government token to show anyone who would ask that you’ve paid the beard tax.)

And here we come to that fork in the road where “strictly accurate” may get in the way of creativity. Anyone who has read The Lord of the Rings knows that Rohan has wide, grassy plains. There are no such plains in New Zealand, so Peter Jackson did what he could to give at least the rolling effect. It’s not grassy, as JRRT described, but we have yet to meet anyone who has complained about the look of Jackson’s Edoras or the Rohirrim (one of our all-time favorite parts of the films, in fact).

Bilibin was inspired by something, no doubt. He wrote about it in Folk Arts of the Russian North (1904). And he produced illustrations like these—

bilibin3_saltan bilibinbrdrs-1024x710 Ivan_Bilibin_024_variation Ivan_Bilibin_028 Ivan_Bilibin_247 Ivan-Bilibin-Baba-Yaga IvanBilibin11 PR_RU--12--big PR_RU--13--big ruske-bajke-ivan-bilibin-4 ruske-bajke-ivan-bilibin-6 Vasilisa

We hope you enjoy them as much as we do and imagine that, in our world of Grey Goose, Bilibin would feel right at home.

Thanks for reading.




Amazon carries Golynets’ Ivan Bilibin, but if you would like to see the illustrator in his natural habitat, you can download Wheeler’s 1912 Russian Wonder Tales (in a 1917 reprinting) with Bilibin’s illustrations at Archive.org for free.


We’ve just discovered a very interesting site at Textualities.net. It’s full of images and interesting ideas.