fantasy

Rose of the Oath and NaNoWriMo

I’m back! Not that it feels like I’ve really been gone since I’ve posted a little on here. But it was relaxing to not have to do the longer posts… Or it would have been if it weren’t for NaNoWriMo.

But I did it! I finished NaNo, with four days to spare!

I actually had my chapters outlined to finish yesterday, but then I got up on Saturday and decided to just get it over with. Nearly 7000 words later, I was done and treated myself to Culver’s onion rings as a reward.

I actually wrote two things for NaNo this year: a novelette and a novella.

The novelette is a prequel to what will be my  new Beauty and the Beast story.

Rose of the Night

Behind every beast, there is a curse. Behind every curse, there is a promise. But hundreds of years before it all, there is a story. A story of a forbidden rose and the smooth voice of a masked stranger. A story of rebellion and sorrow and love. A story of a promise given and of a hope received. This is the story of the Oathkeeper.

The novelette itself is currently in a sad shape. Too wordy in some places (hey, I wasn’t about to work on clipping until after NaNo) and suffering from a lack of emotion and depth. But I’m pleased with the MC’s voice and I can work with the draft… something I’ll be starting to tackle tomorrow.

Then there was my main work, the Beauty and the Beast novella.

Rose of the Oath

With war sweeping Aslaria, Elissa will do anything to save her brother. Being trapped in safety herself was not what she expected the result of her rescue to be. Though, with a mysterious scarred host and the surrounding howls of wolves every night, safe is relative. As one age ends and another begins, Elissa wants nothing more than to return her family. And she is prepared to do almost anything to escape.

I am very happy with how Rose of the Oath turned out. It needs work, mainly because I kept adding things as I wrote, but I’m very excited about it. It will be a bit before even beta readers get to glimpse it though, so here are some rough, unedited clips from the novella to tease *cough* I mean, for you to enjoy. Just forgive any typos, because I’m sure there are some there. My rough drafts can be atrocious.

He stood still, wrapped in the cold shadows before dawn, only the faint twitch of a muscle in his cheek revealing he was more than a statue. A gust of wind tore from the enclosing mountainsides, racing downwards, tearing at his hair and twisting his thick cloak.

He didn’t move.

A wolf howled, the call rising into an eerie pitch before dropping, hurtling downwards. The echo still hovered in the air when another howl replied.

His jaw tensed. His fingers whitened over the hilt of the great sword resting in his hands, the point piercing the turf.

The wind returned, circling around, buffeting him from behind. From the side. Sweeping out before him, then circling around, retreating about a rose which bowed and danced in the center of a sprawling patch of vines.

Roses carpeted the ground, sweeping upward against iron trellises, but his eyes remained focused on the one. No wind brushed its petals, which trembled against the tossing of blossoms and leaves on either side.

His breath slipped between his teeth and he finally lifted his gaze as the wind hurtled off, whistling though the narrow pass which led outwards. Out into the forest. Out into Aslaria.

And he waited.

I choked back a laugh while Eldric fell into a fit of coughs with which he only with difficulty recovered. Moving Helene to his side, he held out both arms, wrapping the around the slim figure. Her arms tightened around his neck as she pressed her cheek against his. After a long moment she pulled back and regarded him with wide eyes as only a seven-year-old can.

“You’ll be home for our birthday?”

“A while nine days? Of course I’ll be back.” Eldric ran one finger down her cheek. “And I can guess what you want for a present. Another of those books, don’t you. Or would you prefer pencils?”

Klara bit her lip, twisting a strand of fair hair about her finger. “I don’t know… They would both be so nice.”

Eldric lifted a helpless gaze to meet my own. “They’ll pauper me, that’s what they’ll do.”

I snorted out a laugh as he rose. “You don’t have to get me anything if that’s a comfort.”

I exhaled shakily, choking back a sudden sob in the back of my throat. “Eldric.” I sprinted for the door the voice had come from. A single light spilled from the torch and bars covered the upper half of a thick door.

“Elissa, what are you doing here?” Eldric demanded, his hands seizing my own as I clutched the bars.

“I came for you, of course.” My eyes roved the door, searching for a lock. There it was. A great big one. “Do you know where the key is?”

“Key?” Eldric stared at me. “You have to get out of here, Elissa. Now!”

I blinked, staring back. “What in all of Alsaria do you mean? I just got here.”

“And now you’re going to leave.” Eldric’s hand tightened over mine. “If you are even able now. You’ve not seen the master of this place. He’s…” his jaw tightened. “I don’t know what he wants, but the girls need you.”

“No, the girls need you.” My eyes fastened on his. “The rebels are advancing.”

Air hissed between Eldric’s teeth. “Still?”

“Yes. And you know I can’t lead them to the safety of the caves by myself.”

“Where are they now?”

“With Mother Karlin. The villagers were leaving this morning. The rebels could be in the village even now…” I closed my eyes, pressing my forehead to the bars. “We need you. And I need a key.” I straightened. “Where is the Master of this place, because I fully intend…” the hair on the back of my neck prickled and Eldric’s jaw tightened as he stared past me.

“Run, Elissa. Run and don’t come back.”

“Never.” My own eyes bore into his, then slowly, my throat tightening until I could barely breath, I turned around.

The figure I’d seen dimly in the vision looked event taller in the confinements of the corridor. A cloak swept about his frame, a hood shading his face. One leg was cocked behind the other as he leaned against the wall, a glinting sword hanging from his fingers. My chest tightened. How long had he been standing there?

My gaze shifted to the door, tracing the smooth grains as they rose upwards, then my breath caught in my throat.

There he was. Staring at me. His arms crossed, his hood veiling his gaze though shards of light reflected off fragments of scars.

“What the blazes?” I stumbled to my knees, snatching up my bow. My fingers fumbled for an arrow, but the smooth wood slipped from my fingers, clattering to the floor.

With a sigh, the man stepped forward, his key twisting in the lock. He yanked the door open and I staggered to my feet, pressing back against the cell wall. The arrow I clutched in my numb fingers.

What did this beast even want? I’d been adamant about Eldric leaving the night before. I still was. He had to get the twins to safety. And he would… assuming the figure standing before me had truly let him go. But what did he want? The danger Eldric was so insistent to protect me from was still present.

I shuddered, my gaze never leaving the man’s face. Where had he got all those scars? And was that blood staining his dark tunic beneath the furs? My throat constricted. But the man stood to the side, inclining his head towards me and held his hand outwards.

I bit my lip, staring at him. “What do you want?”

He straightened, one eyebrow lifting as he watched me. His lips parted, then he grimaced.

“You really can’t talk, can you?”

The man glared at me, but shook his head.

Great. Just my luck. A captor I couldn’t even speak with.

What about you all? How many of you took part in NaNo? What was your final word count?

Posted by Hope Ann in A Writer's Life, Rose of the oath, WIP, 15 comments

Fidelyon: ‘H’ With Ethaniel

Ethaniel, the main character in my novel, Fidelyon, has taken it upon himself to introduce you to his world by going through an alphabet of terms and names.

 

I have two friends whose names start with H.

The first is more of an acquaintance since I’ve yet to get to know him better…something I do hope to do one of these days. His name is Haytham and he is one of Elentisa’s oldest councilmen. Don’t for a moment think that ‘oldest’ signifies decrepit in any way. His grip still makes my arm hurt and he claims to be as strong in battle as any younger man. Do I believe him? Yes, I do.

The name of my other friend is Hilith. Originally a guard in the king’s castle, he was one of the first men Ard recruited while assembling a new Kingsguard. Of course, Hilith grumbles about the hours he’s made to stand in the cold or the late nights on guard, but he enjoys the position and always has a ready quip and flashing smile for every occasion.

 

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Posted by Hope Ann in A-Z with Ethaniel, Fidelyon, WIP, 10 comments

Christian Convictions: Magic in Writing

Christians and Magic

I don’t care for the word ‘magic’. It can be a touchy word in the Christian community. Is magic bad? Is some magic fine to read and other magic not? Is it fine to write? Can I love Lord of the Rings but decide against reading Harry Potter* **? The word magic is so broad that everyone can have their own picture of it without anyone being wrong.

*The answer is yes, by the way. You can choose what to read as you please. You only need to have logical arguments involved if you’re trying to prove why one shouldn’t be read and the other should be read.

**Also, I’d like to note that I’ve not read Harry Potter. I’ve read arguments both for and against reading them, but I’m not currently making any judgments one way other the other. *glances to either side, wondering if I’ve managed to avoid offending both sides or have successfully riled everyone*

Christians and magic

I split magic into two main categories. The larger category is fantasy magic, which I like to address as abilities, gifts, or powers. The second one is real-world witchcraft.

Fantasy Magic

Imbedded abilities

This allows characters in fantasy lands to communicate telepathically, animals to talk, shape-shifters to walk the land, gifts of invisibility or creating fire to be given from person to person, or an unusual ability to pass down a family line. I don’t consider any of this proper magic, nor would I call it magic in a book. There’s no mysterious force involved and no spells and chants. It’s simply the way things are in some faraway place. Why should one expect the laws of nature in a fantasy world to operate the same as natural laws here on earth? That’s the whole point of fantasy; to be able to create something new. Something different. I don’t think there is anything in general imbedded abilities which a Christian need shy away from.

Spiritual Powers

Especially in allegory, this can be fascinating to work with. Characters may have abilities which are gifts from the allegorical portrayal of God. Once again, these aren’t chants or ceremonies or something the character is making happen. It is a gift, and should be used as such or there will likely be consequences. And if there are gifts given by the Creator, there might be dark gifts given by the allegorical equivalent of Satan. I don’t believe there is anything wrong with this type of power either, if handled carefully. There were prophets in the Bible who God healed through, and there were also sorcerers. As writers, we don’t try to ignore the darkness in the world, but rather we show it for what it is, reveal the consequences, and bring out the brightness of the light. That being said, even in allegory I, personally, would not go into great depth of any sort of rites powered by the darkness.

Immaterial Force

In a fantasy world there might be an immaterial force or energy which anyone trained can tap into and use for good or bad. It might be called magic. It might be called science. Or it might be religious in nature. I waver on this issue. I would not call it wrong, but at the same time I think a writer needs to be careful with this type of magic. Here, in the real world, magic is bad. There’s not white magic and black magic. The dangers of using an amoral force is that readers may bring the ideas of a force which can be used for good or bad from the fantasy world and apply them to the idea of magic in this world, especially if one is using wands and spells and chants. A lot goes into how it is portrayed. Is it a sort of energy one can draw out with the right tools in a very science-like manner, or is the tone very magic ridden, with rites and ceremonies? Like I said, I wouldn’t go so far as to say this kind of ‘magic’ is always or completely wrong, but it also wouldn’t be my option of choice.

Portal Magic

This is the ‘magic’ that crosses the borders of time and space, dropping characters into the past, the future, or even different worlds. This can be portrayed as science. Or you can mix fantasy with real-life, as if it is something which always exists, most people simple don’t know about it. I’ve no problem with either of those aspects, though I’d not condone portraying it as a magic one has to speak spells over.

Real Magic

Here in the real world, there are only two sources of power. Power from God, and power from Satan. There’s not white magic and black magic; any magic is from Satan and should not be meddled with, which is why I don’t think any character in this world should have magical powers. They might have fantastical abilities due to a science experiment of some sort, but what they can do should have a natural explanation.

As I mentioned early, just because we are Christians doesn’t mean we avoid writing about any kind of evil. How graphically we describe the evil is a topic for another conversation, but there is evil in the world and we don’t try to gloss over it for our readers. Rather we show its consequences and the power of the light. All this to say, magic is a possibility in writing, if you are working on something like a spiritual warfare thriller, but it should never be portrayed as good. And I’d deal with it only in general terms. There is no need for a Christian writer to study the occult to write a ritual, and readers aren’t going to benefit from soaking up details about the darkness which are best left alone.

So when writing, there are a few basic questions you can ask. Is the book here, or in a fantasy world? If in this world, then magic should not be tampered with as an amoral power. Are there cool abilities you want give a race of people? Go for it. Do you want spiritual power in an allegorical world? Make sure the source of good and evil are clearly defined and don’t get carried away on the dark side with blood magic and spells.

Real magic in this world is always evil and should be handled with care, if at all. But what many call magic in fantasy is nothing more than fascinating abilities. And as for the real magic in fantasy, look at the source, the uses, and the portrayal to decide if it is worthwhile or not.

Note: What I write is what I believe after reading the Bible and holding conversations with friends and parents, but that does not mean I’m not interested in Bible evidence for another point of view. If the topics interest you, I encourage you to study them on your own as well. Friendly discussion in the comment section is encouraged if you have points you’d like to bring up, but this is not the place for a full-scale debate. : )

Posted by Hope Ann in Christian Convictions, My Writing, Writer's Corner, writing articles, 17 comments

Beyond the Parchment: Part 1

Last month I gave you three options for the beginning of a serial story, and the third one won by a landslide. And so, without further ado, here is the ‘pilot episode’ of my serial story (including what I wrote last time). Enjoy!

It Just Had to be Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the Second

I wake up in the dark. Shreds of parchment flutter around me, sifting through the shadows in a noiseless wind. I watch them vacantly for a long moment as my thoughts slowly connect. A late night of writing. My muttered threats about deleting the whole document if it didn’t cooperate. My dreams filled with vague faces, half remembered prophecy fragments, and a gleaming silver sword a character was given as proof of his kingship…which he then accidentally stabbed into a stone, couldn’t pull it back out, and ended up leaving behind.

My lips, which have gradually turned upwards in a smirk, widen into a smile. Now that idea I’ll have to write down. I roll over, reaching for the notebook I always keep by my bed.

And freeze.

It isn’t there. Only darkness and the paper fragments, quickening in a wind I can’t feel. I narrow my eyes. Am I not awake then? Is this an inception type of dream? I frown. But I have to wake up. To write down that idea before I forget it. What idea was it again…? It will probably be something really weird once my logical brain gets a hold of it.

Except…

Except I feel awake. And the wind about me almost looks like… It looks like the portal cavern I’d been trying to invent the day before. That jolts me into a sitting position.

“Calm yourself, May Ann,” I growl to myself, then, “what if this is real? If I should be so lucky.” I raise my eyebrows. “Which I doubt, of course. Luck indeed. The portal didn’t even work. But then…you never know. It’s good for description anyway.”

The parchments have sped into a blur now. I stretch out one hand. For the fraction of a second, a cold gust slices against my skin, then it is gone. The paper. The wind. The darkness. Moonlight seeps through my window. Everything is as it should be.

I swallow down an unreasonable touch of disappointment and reach for my notebook. At least…

My breath quickens.

I’m not alone.

Reaching backwards, my hand closes about the dagger I keep by my bed as a shadowy figure steps through my door. I stare, barely even remembering to breathe as I take in the fair hair, short beard, leather armor, emblazoned hammer and whip, and the sword clenched in the man’s hand.

Emotions and thoughts batter about my mind too quickly to even acknowledge them, but one thought sears through all the rest. Why him? Of all my characters, why had the portal brought him through? There were so many others I’d rather see.

You’re asking why him when you should be asking why at all? Are you insane? Do you realize what you have done? What will happen now…boy, but he is perfect isn’t he? That sneer and the way he holds himself with such…such vainness. Even my inner voice is having trouble focusing on scolding me the man strides to the middle of the room, slowly turning as his gaze skims the maps covering the wall.

I should probably introduce myself. Something calming. Perhaps some flattery.

He steps towards my desk, his hand curling around a crystal figurine.

“Don’t touch that!” The words snap out of my mouth before I can stop them and the man spins, his eyes searching out the shadows. One long step, and his hand wraps itself around the front of my nightgown as he drags me from the bed, bringing the cool edge of his blade against my throat.

“You dare give me orders?” He demands. “Do you even know who I am? Of course you don’t. You should though. You will too, after tonight. You’ll remember me. Your whole world will remember me. Also, how far is your nearest tailor shop? Because I require the best of whatever –”

“What you require is something I’m going to be sorry I didn’t give you,” I grumble, twisting backwards.

“And now you’re interrupting me.” The man shifts his grip to my hair and holds up his blade before my eyes. “Don’t you know what this is, girl? It’s a sword. It will kill you.”

I smirk as my eyes travel adoringly up the engraved blade to the ruby studded hilt. “Well, it might if it weren’t Andrith, the third most powerful blade in Braceaon and incapable of killing anyone who is innocent. Frankly, you’d do better with a normal dagger. Can I hold the sword?”

“No.” The man growls out the word as he slams it into his sheath and thrust a dagger under my skin. The edge of this blade is sharp. Idiot that I am. “It’s the second most powerful blade. Now who exactly do you think yourself to be? And what are you dressed in? Is that the fashion here?”

“Andrith is the third most powerful blade. And it’s a nightgown. Something which, in your world, would be very improper for you to see.” The man snaps himself out of his perusal of my long nightgown with a suddenness which makes me suppress a grin. On second thought, there are worse characters who could have appeared at this time of night. “Also, I’m May Ann. Will you please remove that dagger from my throat?”

The man scowls, but actually complies, even though it’s only to step back and sweep a dashing bow and flick his cape over his shoulder. “Lord Jerinthreo Kraven Balstin the second, Earl of the third shire of Braceaon.” He never could resist introducing himself with a flourish. “And owner of the second most powerful sword in the world.”

Yep, just as vain as I imagined him. As far as swords were concerned…I’d looked forward to the discovery of the most powerful blade in my book for this very reason. I just hadn’t expected to be the one to tell the second son of one of the most powerful lords in Braceaon about it. For now the matter was best left alone. As well as the fact that Jerinthreo was claiming his brother’s title.

“Well, then maybe –” I reach over and flicked on the light switch. The next moment I am pressed against the wall, the dagger at my throat once more.

“Traitor!” Jerinthreo spat out the word. “Firstly, you can call me Lord Jerinthreo. And what do you want to do, signal my enemies?”

“It’s a light!” I protest. His glare deepens and I amend my statement. “Lord Jerinthr… Jerinthre… will Jerin do?” The names I make up; I’ll never be able to add that perfectly accented ‘eo’ like Jerinthreo had said it. “Everyone has them. Look!” I point upwards and at the light fixture and Jerin followed my gaze. I take the opportunity to shove his hand out of the way and sidestep towards my chair where I’d draped my clothes.

“It’s…natural then?”

“More or less.” I shrug. “Did you expect everything to be the same in this world?” How has he even gotten to this world anyway? The portal machine isn’t his, though I don’t put a bit of meddling – or outright stealing – past him. He must have got in another fight with his brother…

My eyes widen. “Daraton?”

Jerin’s gaze hardens. “What do you know of my brother?”

For a second, my breath catches in my throat as my mind sifts through the tangle of half-formed plot twists and characters. There’s no way to know exactly where the characters are or if they’ve even followed my storyline exactly, but as my gaze skims over Jerinthreo again, this time under the light, I pick up signs I missed the first time. The tear in his velvet sleeve. The lopsided clasp on his cloak. The scuffs on his boots. The tightness lurking under the faintest sneer which curls his lip and lifts the side of one nostril. My eyes end at his, taking in the green glare which masks fury and pain.

He takes a step forward. “Are you in league with him too?” His fingers tighten over his dagger. “Whoever you are; however you know so much about us –  because it obvious you’re not from Braceaon, tell me what you know about my brother right now. Because if you helped him murder my father, then by the blazing mountain itself…” His cavalier attitude has vanished but I hardly notice as I stare at him.

“Lord Balstin is dead?”

“Why else do you think I’m here?” Jerin spits out the words.

No. It’s not right. Something is missing. A few pieces shift in my mind. My picture is different from anything Jerinthreo or Daraton will guess, but it’s still far from clear. Except in one point.

I spring for the light switch, plunging us both back into darkness. “Is he here? Daraton? Did he follow you?”

In the moonlight, it’s hard to decipher Jerin’s expression. In any case, he doesn’t have a chance to answer as glass crashes downstairs. Jerin’s jaw clenched and he steps toward the door, drawing his sword. I grit my teeth and snatch my clothes and shoes from my chair, then grab Jerin’s arm, ducking as he swings his dagger.

“Come on. I know a way out.”

His eyes narrow. “Any why should I trust you?”

Feet thud through the house, nearing. Where has the portal let out at and who has come through? More than one person, from the sound of it. I send a glance desperately around my room, finally pausing as they rest on a green stone, framed with silver petals.

I spin back to Jerin. But it’s too late. Another figure fills the door in the moonlight and the room explodes in a clash of silver and metal.

So, what do you think? What should happen next? Any guesses as to backstory? Or clothes Jerin should try out, assuming he survives the fight?

Posted by Hope Ann in Beyond the Parchment, My Writing, Reader's Corner, serial story, 25 comments

Books Worth Reading – June 2016

This month has been busy, but I’ve still got some reading done. Of course. Even if it was just during the evenings some days.

Three of these books are parts of series that I finally got around to reading. And only one of them is a library book. Hurray! I’m finally starting to read some of the books on my shelf. Or am adding more books to my shelf. But who really cares? And if you do, what does it matter? They’re books!

Futuristic Fiction

Last month I told you about, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. And, this month, I read the second book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Speak. What happens when one expected to die and finds themselves alive? With a mission to help and lead people who hate them?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. Like the first book, the style reminds me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel story arc, though there is an arc too . At the same time, it was a bit quicker with more action than the first book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the poor characters. Nadine hasn’t grown any more merciful in the second book. But I love them. They are distinct and very human. And Parvin’s struggles connect me to her so closely even though we aren’t very much alike.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. Though be warned, the end will leave you in anguished expectation for A Time To Rise which comes out this fall.

Fantasy Books:

I wrote about the first two books in The Blades of Acktar last month. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades: assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. But now in Defy, war covers the land, Renna is a captive with a horrible choice before her, and the price Leith must pay to rescue her is indescribably high…assuming the rebels will even trust him enough to let him help.

Writing: 4 out of 5

Characters: 4.5 out of 5; there was so much character development in so many characters in this book. Especially Renna. And the things things Tricia makes her characters suffer…I’m so glad I’m not one of them.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; This is my favorite of the three books, and there’s a fourth book coming! I loved Renna in this book, and Leith, and basically everyone. Defy is a fitting climax to the last two books and is a exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

And here’s another third book in a trilogy, Arrow by R. J. Anderson. This was also a fitting climax to the No Ordinary Fairy Tale trilogy. In a world where fairies are real, they’re far from innocent glittering pixies. With an evil empress, rebels determined to fight for their freedom, and a fairy determined to stop bloodshed before it’s too late, this is a fascinating story.  If you like reading about fairies, then this is a version of their life you will very much enjoy.

Writing: 4.5 out of 5; good pace; very interesting.

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 story.

Recommendation: 4.5 out of 5; I loved all three books in this trilogy. The climax didn’t disappoint and is probably my favorite of all three. I love the main character, the settings, the other characters…an exciting read.

And finally there’s this book. A single book, not part of a series, just one beautiful, delicious, single book…Waking Beauty by Sarah E Morin! I heard about this book during The Very Serious Writing show podcast and, when I saw it at the library, I couldn’t resist. What happens when a prince wakes up the Sleeping Beauty, but she refuses to believe she’s awake? What happens when a princess has been tormented by dreams for so long, she won’t let anything close to her heart for fear it will be torn away again?

Writing: 4.6 out of 5; a little slow at the beginning but very interesting.

Characters: 5 out of 5; fresh, fun, distinct.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; sound, solid.

Theme: 5 out of 5; subtle at the beginning, but the depth of allegory by the end stunned me.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I loved this retelling of Sleeping Beauty! I enjoyed reading about the ‘after it all happened’ story and the allegory was wonderful. If you like fantasy and fairy tales, I highly recommend this book.

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

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, 0 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

New Fantasy Times: Other Dragons

I met a dragon once. And I lived; always a plus when dealing with unpredictable beasts such as those great scaled monsters. Not that I’d ever say such a thing to their face. Or faces, as the case may be.

Dragon, as defined by the New Fantasy Handbook of Common and Uncommon Creatures, is ‘a creature, generally with scales, wings, fangs, and claws. Are clever, can sometimes talk, quite often have eyes with varying degrees of hypnotic ability, and should never be treated like a normal wild beast.’ Due to the necessarily vague and loose structure of that definition, it is wise for one to research deeper before meeting dragons face to face.

In some realms, dragons have been relegated to myths but in many others, they are alive and well today. But even within realms, dragons can differ very drastically. As any classifier of such creatures knows, the word ‘dragon’ stands for a family, not a species.

Dragons cover every spectrum of color, but what many people don’t know is that the color quite often is related to whether the dragon is cold-blooded or warm-blooded and what climate they live in. A quick side note here, both types of dragons are good in their own way, but if you’re using one to escape after a midnight raid on a frozen tundra, don’t chose a cold-blooded variety. Just trust me on this one.

Dragons are also all sizes. While they do tend to have a larger average bulk than many animals, there are quite a few which are no bigger than birds or cats. Others are a comfortable size to ride, while a few could crush whole houses under their scaly chests. Thankfully, these later beasts are growing less common today.

To add to the complication, dragons have no steady shape. Some dragons have long necks, thin bodies, and narrow faces. Others are muscular. Others have double wings and some have none at all. Scales aren’t always a given either, though they are very common. But there are rare breeds of dragons known to grow manes. And even with scales, there are some which shimmer, some simply dull, some which fade and change colors to meld into the background…you get the idea. As for claws and teeth, I can tell you they’re generally sharp. Frankly, I’ve kept as far away from them and failed to find or take any good photos.

Oh, and don’t forget the eyes. Rarely is a dragon without some hypnotic power in its eyes. Normally it lasts only while eye-contact is being made, though there are rare cases when it can develop into a sickness which continues for months. But, quite often, the effect won’t even be noticeable. You’ll simply find yourself treating the dragon with more care than a normal mount, or not shooting one when on a hunt. The latter technique is very annoying, let me assure you.

The wit of dragons is as varied as their size. In some lands they are simply wild beasts, hunted for meat and scales, or gliding though the tree-tops with wild songs. Tamed dragons of a smaller size have been found in the homes of the rich as pets, while others pull carts. There are even accounts of dragon fighting, though in many realms this is illegal, and it is always dangerous.

Dragons are most commonly used as mounts; many nomadic groups greatly favor these beasts because they are hardy and (if you have the right kind) a ready source of fire. Some dragons can understand human speech, and a few can even communicate and talk. There are even rumors of dragon societies, but I’ve yet to find one myself.

Not all dragons breathe fire, of course; only about a quarter of them have that ability. And the ones which do breathe fire don’t breathe out smoke. This misconception comes from a species of dragon which breathes out steam to frighten off enemies, but are otherwise harmless.

Though, as far as harmless goes, no dragon is without a quality defense. Even subtracting the fangs and claws, some dragons also secrete poison. Some have stingers in their tails or in their wing tips. Then there is fire, heated breath, freezing breath, poisonous breath, a whip-like forked tongue… The good part is, most dragons won’t attack people unless provoked. Repeat, I said most. And for those idiots who decide to attack dragons for the fun of it, outside the lands where dragons are butchered for meat and where the skill of hunting is down to an art, well, they deserve what they get.

Taking down a dragon isn’t easy. Most normal weapons won’t cut through their scales. There are generally soft spots, but not always. And they vary from beast to beast; a cracked scale, behind the ear, the eye, the back of the inside of the throat. Generally, it’s safer to not try at all unless the dragon is massacring whole villages. Besides, riding them is so much more fun.

The topic of dragons is extensive; it could take a whole book to cover them. Where they live, for instance (from tree tops to caves to burying themselves in desert sands to making hollows in the sides of snowbanks). Or what they eat (pretty much everything, from reeds to cattle to melons). Or what sounds and songs they make. The differences between males and females. How many young are raised at once, by who, and for how long? Ages of dragons (hint: most get pretty old). Their hobbies (quite often includes gold, polished stones, or sword hilts). What they enjoy (riddles and swimming). What they can do and what they will do and how they appreciate music…the list could go on and on.

But I can’t.

And so I’ll leave you one final tip. Many people know to never trust a live dragon. This is questionable, since some are actually quite friendly. But never, ever, trust a dead dragon. Dragons which die of natural cause are rarely found; they hide themselves away in a tomb of their own making. If you find a dragon which appears dead, and there’s no knight there to claim the victory, steer well clear. If you don’t, you’re very likely walking into a trap from which there will be no escape.

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade to address? Please comment below; he promises to at least read what you have to say between his realm leaper’s 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 Legend Seekers, My Writing, New Fantasy Times, Writer's Corner, 12 comments

Longbows – part 1

I’ve always loved archers and archeress. Robin Hood, Queen Susan, Hawkeye, Katniss, Legolas, Silvara… Whether in movies, books, or real-life, archery is cool to watch. There’s something about the quick draw, flashing arrow, and bullseye impact dozens of feet away. And, in a fantasy or medieval battle, bows are an important feature on the field.

Longbows generally stood taller than the men who drew them because the height of man is proportional to his arm and, hence, his draw length. Yew wood is the traditional wood of choice for the longbow, but other woods worked well too such as Wych elm and the Italian yew. There were also recurve longbows, where the end of the bows limbs are bent slightly out to increase power for the length of the bow. These, however, took more work and were more expensive.

Bows shot on the battlefield likely had draw weights between 90 and 120 pounds, though views on this differ. Some archers may have even brought two bows with them. A stronger one to begin shooting and a lighter one for later on when their arms were tired, or as a backup if one bow broke. There were even some bows outfitted with pointed limbs so they could be quickly transferred into a stabbing weapon if arrows were gone and the enemy fast approaching.

Longbow men could shoot fast, and at quite a long range. Old archery fields sport marks with distances ranging from 130 yards to 345 yards. During the 1500s, under Henry VIII, archers were expected to be able to shoot with accuracy at a range at 220 yards. Well trained men could shoot 250-350 yards while there are claims of a man loosing an arrow 482 yards with a longbow.

An expert bowman could loose 10-12 arrows a minute during battle. (A quick side note here; arrows are loosed from a bow, not fired. That term came later, in relation to guns.)

Providing for archers in war was anything but cheap. At various times, law required archers to provide themselves with a sheaf of 24 arrows, but during battle these would swiftly be gone and the resupplying of arrows must have been a constant job.

Ash and Aspen appear to be some of the most popular wood for arrow making, while repairing arrows was a viable possibility after battle, considering the cost of a sheaf being nearly five days wages.

Arrowheads were of various qualities, with the best arrows carrying tips of hardened steel using a quenching process. Since the iron for these tips had to be of a certain quality, and the process took longer, these arrows were more expensive. The vast majority of the arrows were boiled or tempered.

Different arrowheads were required to shoot against various kinds of armor, and it is a very real possibility that archers carried two or three kinds of arrows, laid them out before the battle, and chose their arrows depending on their targets.

The cutting head, broadhead, or long-needle bodkin were ideal arrows when shooting against textile armor (more on armor below) but some arrowheads would curl against plate armor. A short bodkin, on the other hand, might punch though plate armor but would not pierce mail, while a long bodkin would. But it is important to note that an arrow, even if unable to pierce the armor, could deal strong blows with bruising or worse simply due to the force behind the projectile.

SANYO PHOTOLABO V250

1) Swallowtail broadhead. 2) Small straight broadhead. 3) Forked hunting head. 4) London Museum type 16 war head; it is a war head of the later medieval period used to pierce plate armor. 5) War bodkin long type 10. – This war head is the most common of the medieval period. It was used against knights in plate armor and will penetrate armor up to two millimeters in thickness. 6) Needle bodkin type 7. – This war head was developed to pierce mail with devastating results

Barbed arrows existed, though they were more expensive and it is unknown to what extend they were used on the battlefield. But, barbed or not, many arrowheads were simply shoved firmly onto the arrow instead of being fastened. That way, when one was wounded with an arrow, the head would likely be left in the wound.

The shield was the most significant single item in the defense against arrows. Made of wood, reinforced with multiple laminations of heavy canvas and sometimes even with parchment, most shields were not meant to last for long periods of time like swords and bows. A well thrown spear could disable it, while swords and axes could chop it down during battle. But, if made properly, a shield could adequately protect the vital areas of the man bearing it from longbow arrows.

But a shield can’t protect the whole body and so armor was worn.

Mail was perhaps the most commonly worn metal armor of the medieval period. It combined good protection with flexibility and also held the potential of repair. Of a greater or lesser strength depending on its make, mail was especially effective against cutting blows from a sword or ax, but was less useful against a bodkin-style arrow. To penetrate, any arrow needed to strike the mail at close to 90 degrees to the target surface.

Textile armor was commonly worn beneath mail, leather, or plate armor. It consisted of a stuffed and quilted knee-length coat which offered formidable resistance to the shock of an arrow impact as well as obstructing penetration.

Plate armor, consisting of metal plates riveted to the inside of a leather or linen base, was the next step up and a good defense against arrows. But all such armor gave way under an arrow strike and could cause bruising and internal damage. Full piece plate armor was an even better defense, and well able to deflect arrows unless the arrow struck close to the perpendicular.

Helmets were also useful. But when the wearers took them off or lifted the visor due to heat or to rally their men, archers tended to aim for their wearer’s faces.

The longbow was a powerful weapon, used for hundreds of years. As with any other weapon, the training of the archer, the quality of the bow and arrows, and the quality of defensive armor were all factors to the damage done on the field.

And that will be the topic of my next article; archers in battle.

(Information from The Longbow by Mike Loades)

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Posted by Hope Ann in Writer's Corner, writing articles, writing tips, 5 comments