Month: May 2016

Pilgrims and Progress

Good day, my fellow pilgrims. Can I call you pilgrims?

Why?

You just had to ask, didn’t you?

Very well. I want to call you something. You’re not a bunch of nameless faces, after all and I’d rather say something other than ‘hey guys’. Besides the term ‘pilgrim’ is fitting, if I say so myself.

*coughs* I do say so. *coughs*

A pilgrim travels, just as we are all traveling. There’s journey involved in writing a book. Or reading one. Or the pilgrimage of life as we pass as strangers and witnesses in a strange land until we reach our final and glorious home in heaven.

*inhales deeply* That was…deep. Also, there’s this song that I like which fits very well.

All right, pilgrims, on to lighter topics.

Who here has seen the trailer for the 2017 Beauty and the Beast, taken screenshots of practically the whole thing, and then made collages of them? *raises hand guiltily* Why does release date have to be nearly ten months away?

Once this movies comes out, I’m seriously going to have to make some new collages for Rose of Prophecy.

But I did say progress in the title of this post, and it’s true.

For starters, I finished the second draft of Scarlet Rose yesterday!

*internal cheering*

This is the first book in my futuristic trilogy called – you guessed it – Scarlet Rose! There’s plenty of work to be done on this book which is very much in progress. The main problems is I’ve so many secondary characters and subplots that they’re drowning out the main character in my story. And yet I don’t want to get rid of anything. *sighs* The troubles of a writer. But better too much than too little, right? Or not. I’m still not sure on that quarter.

Nextly (yes, I made the word up. And I like it. I think I will keep it) I was looking forward to the Rooglewood fairy-tale novella contest which was to be announced in June, only to discover this past week that it has been postponed until next year. While a little disappointed, I have to admit I was also relieved. Selfish, I know. But now I’ve more time to focus on my own novellas.

Speaking of which, Song of the Sword is progressing well. I’ve been getting beta reader feedback and am focusing on clarifying various points which are confusing. And I’ve been planning my launch which is in two months! Where did the time fly? And I’m hoping to have review copies of Song of the Sword ready by the beginning of July! But I’ve got everything written down and the various tasks I need to do deadline out.

And no, it’s not because I’m super organized. Well, actually, I may be super organized. But I can’t relax unless I’ve everything laid out and know what I need to get done and by what time.

I’ve also been preparing a street team. And a Facebook page for said street team. And cool blog buttons. And promotional pictures. You’ll get to see them in a week or two, so keep your eyes open!

Life has been buzzing along at a rapid pace and summer’s heat struck with a vengeance this week. The relation between life and myself can be summed up accurately by this gif…with life, of course, being the cat who’s completely relaxed and without a care in the world:

On that note, anyone seen HOME yet? Because it’s adorable. And such a different take on a common story line of aliens invading earth…

What do you think, pilgrims? Do you accept the title I’ve given you? Also how do you prefer to write: starting with too much information and clipping, or having too little and being forced to add more? How are you dealing with summer’s heat? And, most importantly, what do you think of ‘nextly’ becoming an official word?

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, 13 comments

New Fantasy Times: Mysterious Pasts

Tip: if you take in a child and decide not to tell them their past you had 1. Better have a good reason, and 2. Don’t leave notes and paintings about, or decide to talk about the circumstances surrounding said child 18 years later while they’re eavesdropping.

My own past wasn’t straightforward in the least. That’s not a story for here, but suffice it to say that the glitter and glory of mysterious pasts as told in so many histories is far from the truth.

Mysterious pasts are far from common. That’s the main reason they’re still mysterious. Obviously, if a child never knows what happened in the past because no one will talk about it, that’s a pretty big clue that there’s something to discover. If they’re told they were picked up by the side of the road, that’s an even harder but just as obvious jewel to crack. But there are other ways children of normal families have figured out something is amiss. A stray line here. A picture or letter there. A family heirloom. Growing up and noticing differences between themselves and their siblings. Evasive answers or too many answers. Fragmented memories from their infancy. Or the reaching out of others who know their past. If one has a mysterious past, then one will at least discover that it is a mystery if they just know where to look.

But there are also dangers. Just because you don’t know your parents, or your past, or where you came from (or if you think you know these things then discover it’s all a lie) that doesn’t mean the truth is better. i.e. it doesn’t mean you’re a hidden prince and the golden hero of an ancient prophecy like so many of this realm’s stories like to portray. Most likely, it means your parents weren’t married and the matter has been hushed up. It’s wrong, and it’s sad, but that is the harsh truth.

Still, to take the bright route and assume that’s not the case, the secret of your past isn’t (probably) going to be kept from you unless there’s a reason. Like ‘you will die if anyone discovers this and we don’t trust you enough to protect your own life’ (annoying, I know) or ‘we don’t actually know ourselves, but there’s this old lady who might have heard something…’ Anyway, there are only so many princes. But sometimes mothers pity lesser, or should I say, lower, children. The starving child of an executed criminal, for example. There’s a reason she kept that story from you. Or nobles have been known to adopt the children of servants or even slaves. There’s even the occasional adoption of an abandoned child from some rebel encampment or enemy nation. Who knows, you might be a prince…but of the wrong nationality. Whatever your lot, make sure you really, really, really want to know the truth before trying to find it.

Of course, every son or daughter will want to know, whatever the warnings given and whatever their age. They might discover something at a young age. Or when they are coming of age. Or forty years down the road and they are settled with a family. Whatever the stage of life, it’s fairly certain they’ll take the adventure set for them no matter where it leads. Courage or foolishness, you decide.

But be careful in your search. There’s normally a reason your past is mysterious. Parents don’t just decide not to tell their child important facts about their birth on a whim. The reasons range from their own ignorance as to where you came from, to prices of honor, pride, or even danger. Basically, be subtle about it. Don’t go telling everyone you know or yelling the mystery for the world to hear. And start by asking. Unless there is a very good reason not to, go to your parents and ask them. There’s this thing called talking to each other that so many families forget now days, and the trouble it gets everyone into is ridiculous. If they don’t or can’t tell you, you’ll have to pursue other directions, but start with asking.

And, through it all, recognize that, no matter how hard you search, you may not get all the answers you want. Especially if you’re in a realm where records aren’t kept of births and adoptions, there may be no trail to follow. And depending on your age, many if not all the people with the answers might be dead. I don’t say this to discourage you, but just to give you a realistic view of what might happen. If your whole life is tied to your past, then you’ve lost an important battle before you even started.

Then again, who knows? Maybe there is some ancient prophecy. Maybe you are a prince or princess. And maybe you will save the world. Though, secret here, you don’t have to be royalty or in a position of authority or even have a prophecy written about you to save the world. But, in the end, remember that your life is your own. Or rather, it is your Creator’s. And don’t you dare ignore or spurn the present because you can’t remember the past.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Stealthmaster Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper missions, even if he holds the rights to choose what to write about and what to ignore.

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Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 4 comments

Music and the Muse

How does one write while living in a small house, surrounded by noisy siblings?

Well, for one, I’ve long discovered that one doesn’t need quiet surroundings to write. Quiet helps, of course, but it’s also a rare commodity at my house.

Also, the myth I heard while younger, that one must ‘sit down and edit or read or write for fifteen minutes before getting focused enough to produce good writing has never given me any problems. I don’t deny that editing or getting into the spirit of a novel before settling down to write might help, but since I write in fifteen to thirty minute chunks quite often, this course of action doesn’t really work. I just tell myself it’s time to write and force my mind to switch its focus to writing.

I’ve two main places I write where I will be the least distracted. The first is in the least (but not infrequently) visited room of our house; the laundry room/storage room/Dad’s office. The other is at my own desk in my room, where at least my brothers normally leave me in peace. Of course, I still have two little sisters running back and forth quite often. I’ve become fairly proficient in the art of ignoring surrounding commotion and am not sure if that’s a good or bad thing.

But my main help to writing, besides the sheer determination to focus on the screen instead of looking out the window, is music. Sometimes I play it on my computer, sometimes I wear headphones. I love headphones. I also love music. It’s come to the point that it is sometimes hard for me to write without music.

I quite often don’t even care what I’m listening too, as long as there aren’t lyrics and it is melodious. This can result in me suddenly wondering what on earth I am listening to when I’m on a YouTube list and I suddenly come back to awareness of the music part way though a weird track or song.

Though I have my own music I listen too, including Narnia, Thor, Epic, and Lord of the Rings soundtracks, there are also a few YouTube mixes I really like. This one is my favorite.

I also enjoy a select number of music videos, some of which carry wonderful story possibilities. I do not listen to these while writing; I’d not be able to focus on my story if I did. But this is my current favorite. I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to it, and the number would probably be too embarrassing to admit if I did. Suffice it to say I love Proof of Your Love, by For King and Country. It’s different, but very powerful.

What about you? Do you listen to music as you write? Do you have any favorite songs, music videos, or mixes?

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, Legends of Light, 10 comments

Longbows – Part 2

Read Part 1 here

Longbows, and bows in general when used in battle, were not just a weapon shot from safe heights or long distances. As one of the most expensive artillery weapons, bows and archers played a large role in the outcome of battles.

An archer was more vulnerable than many foot soldiers. Due to the motions and work connected with drawing back a bow, archers had to wear non-restrictive clothing…meaning not much armor. But, as it was also necessary for archers to be affiliated to various groups, they did quite often wear certain colors. The commonest form of archer’s clothing was the courtepy; a short coat or tunic, or perhaps a hooded cloak of sorts which extended just below the shoulders. They also, at times wore stout padded coats, with a mail collar and plate leg-harnesses along with a simple helmet of iron or boiled leather.

While it was possible for a longbow to be shot from the back of a horse, the level of skill required took years to attain. For the most parts, the bowmen who rode horses used them only as a means of quick transportation.

When it battle, bowmen standing on their own without defenses were very vulnerable to any sort of charge by the enemy. Archers needed to be posted in prepared, defended positions. Or, at other times, they were shielded by men at arms or were interspersed among the foot soldiers.

In pitched battle, long range flights of arrows were likely to be carefully controlled due to the cost of arrows, with the majority of arrows shot at ranges of 50 yards and closing. Though cool in the movies, it’s highly unlikely there were numbers of arcing volleys toward the enemy lines with all archers shooting in unison.

The advantage of ground, especially high ground, played a great part in how well a force of archers could operate. And, as the battle lines clashed, the archer’s job wasn’t over. As the enemy troops closed in on their defenses or army, archers – who were sometimes interspersed with the men-at-arms – shot though the confusion at enemy targets only five or ten yards away.

But not all fighting was done on the battle field. Bows were used in siege warfare too. Incendiary arrows could set fire to buildings inside city or castle, while regular showers of arrows could put everyone inside in danger, not the less because soldiers inside the walls might fail to wear armor due to their perceived security. Archers could also keep the walls clear as their own men tried to mount with ladders, but such work required a keen eye and skilled shooting to hit friends.

The besieged could also use bows against those mounting their walls through various means including arrow-loops in the walls. Shots from within the wall required the archer to place himself in a vulnerable position in relation to the vertical slits (sometime with horizontal openings crossing them), but those shooting from below also had to advance to try to hit the openings. Due to potential structural weaknesses, an arrow loop was buttressed with splayed sides ranging from six to ten feet deep, forcing archers inside to shoot a considerable distance from the actual opening. But, though harder, the further back an archer on the inside shot, the wider angle of shot he could achieve.

Bows lasted the longest in naval warfare, being used into the mid and even late 1500s. From an effort to catch the enemy ship on fire, to hanging in the rigging and shooting down on the enemy deck – or shooting from the deck to topple enemy snipers, bowmen were quicker and more accurate than early guns.

Though expensive, archers were also deadly and well worth their cost in battle. Due to the many combinations and elements of war, it’s difficult to put an exact scale of importance to a longbow in battle. As but one piece in the larger realm of war, archery was neither for the weak nor the cowards. With less armor than most soldiers, but still near if not among the front lines, archers had to be able to draw their bows back again and again and again. But in both large and small scale fighting, they often helped to set the stage and were instrumental, if not crucial, to the final outcome.

(Most information from The Longbow by Mike Loades)

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Posted by Hope Ann in My Writing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, writing tips, 1 comment

Books Worth Reading – April

Fantasy Books of the Month

A writer must read. There’s no question about it. What you want to write, you read. Reading not only sparks creative thoughts, but it also sharpens a your skills as you see how one writer could have done something better, or study how another writer expertly manipulated your emotions.

Of course, the downsides to being a writer is you can’t enjoy as many books as before because you’re consistently picking out poor writing. At least I do. But that just makes the well written books that much better. And, for the month of April (I realize this is a little late, but better late than never) I read several great fantasy books. *rubs hands with impish grin*

Firstly, Songkeeper by Gillian Adams. I’ve already written a whole review post on this second book in the Songkeeper Chronicles, so I’ll keep this brief.

Writing: 5 out of 5; great pace, great settings. Perfect amount of description and action.

Characters: 5 out of 5; Fresh, human, love them.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, funny, rings true.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtle, but strong.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; one of my favorite middle books of a trilogy; keeps the story going while building up to the next book.

Then there is Dreamlander by K.M. Weiland. *sniffles* I had to spend the rest of the evening recovering after finishing this book. It was…it was good. Wonderful. And I felt so bad for the main character. As the one person in his generation who is able to cross from our ‘real’ world to the ‘dream’ world, he’s always awake in one or the other; either fighting for his life or trying to save the world. No long restful sleepy mornings. I don’t envy him his role, but I do highly recommend this book. It’s long, but it’s worth it.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5; there were a few sections with some telling instead of showing, but they were always brief enough I hardly cared. Dreamlander has great pace which kept building up. You know those books which you like, and then it gets better, and then it gets even better? This was one of those books

Characters: 5 out of 5; Fresh, both human and nonhuman; you can see the reasoning behind various character’s actions, even when they are wrong. They draw you into the story, emotionally investing you in the outcome.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Well woven throughout the story

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; highly recommend this book. And, one of the best things about it is that it’s a single book. Don’t get me wrong, I love series. But everything seems part of a series now days. I love finding great single books I can read without having to worry about how many more books I need to buy or when the next one comes out.

Next, there is Knife and Rebel by Christian author R. J. Anderson. The third book, Arrow, just came out and I’ve not got it yet though I fully intend to. The series title, No Ordinary Fairy Tale, says it all. In a world where fairies are real, they’re far from innocent glittering pixies. If you like reading about fairies, then this is a version of their life you will very much enjoy.

Writing: 4 out of 5; A little slow to start, but they’re still interesting and quickly get exciting.

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; fairy and human are both excellently done, though compared to some of the other books I’ve read this month, they don’t have as many distinct quirks as they could. But still, well done.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Subtly woven into the first book. Stronger, but without being preachy, in the second book

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; This trilogy keeps the story moving well. Each book is a separate story with one overall arc through all three. I’m looking forward to reading the last book…you’ll probably be hearing about it next month.

And finally, I finished the Two Towers in my journey though reading Lord of the Rings for the third time. And there’s no need to parse out this book. Tolkien is an excellent writer and all fantasy writers should read his works. No, they must read Lord of the Rings. It is the fantasy trilogy of the century. *Glares down any challenge*

So, what about you? Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading lately? Any wonderful fantasy to recommend to me?

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

Posted by Hope Ann in Book Reivews, Reader's Corner, 9 comments

Beautiful Chains

They were beautiful. And they were deadly.

Delicate scars twisted down the right side of her face and her arm in flower-like swirls, but no matter how softly the star lamps glimmered gold against the emblazoned pattern it didn’t change their purpose. Their power. Their weight which kept her grounded on the forest floor and stilled the fluttering of her gossamer wings.

Her feet ached. Her throat and eyes burned. Her fingers itched for the bow which had vanished from them nigh a week past. But still she press on, slipping through the forest shadows, ignoring the thorns which tore at her tunic and ripped at her legs. A breeze lifted strands of auburn hair, tossing them into her eyes. She brushed them back, her breath coming in quick heaves.

She had until dawn; she had to reach the clearing. If she did; if the Witnesses were there, they’d take her in until her innocence was proven. Until the chains glinting from her skin were removed and her title of archeress of the forest was returned. Until she could return and save her people from the mysterious darkness closing them in.

Behind her, in the distance, a wolf howled. She shivered, pressing forward. Slowly the sun sank. Slowly she sensed the glimmer of the sun on the horizon.

And then she was there, the clearing opening its welcome arms about her. For a moment she swayed unsteadily, then wearily sank to the clipped turf even as a Witness fluttered into view.

“What do you wish for?” The questioning voice was high, like spring bells.

“Sanctuary.” Her voice broke and for the first time she let her gaze travel up her arm to the brand emblazoning her supposed crime of treason. Tears started to her eyes. It wasn’t true. It wasn’t true. But danger was upon the whole forest and she could do nothing. And it was her fault. “Sanctuary and judgment.”

Posted by Hope Ann in fantasy, My Writing, Writing Scenes, 2 comments