How I Lost Camp NaNoWriMo and Why I Am Okay With That Now

I kinda, sorta like competition. As in, if I start something, I’m going to win it. And if you challenge me and I take it up, I will finish it.

I don’t start something then give up. Take NaNo. I’ve not done it every year. Sometimes I don’t have a project I’m actually writing or I know I won’t have time. When I do take it up, I set myself deadlines and I get it done.

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Do you really want to make your reader cry?

As writers, do we really want to make our readers cry?

Well yes. Of course. Why else do you write except to harvest those precious tears?

Yeeeaaaaahhhhhhh…

Or maybe not.

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Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Fear Clichés

“That just… sounds cliché.”

Four words every writer cringes at. We have so many ideas. We try so hard. And then someone comes along and tells us it is cliché. Commonplace. And we wonder how on earth we’re going to fix our story when everything seems to have been done already.

If you read a lot or watch any number of movies, you’ll recognize a number of clichés on sight. The dashing prince rescues the helpless princess. The mentor dies and his student goes on to save the world. The villain dresses in a long black cape and carries a pet snake on a staff.

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New Fantasy Times: Damsels in Defiance

Elena has taken it upon herself to write this article. Kirin’s hurried agreement may or may not have had something to do with the arrow she was twirling between her fingers as she made the request. But regardless, Elena, everyone!

Ever been on the receiving end of a rescue? Yes? Well, you might have noticed they don’t always go as planned. You know those minor details which tend to crop up. An alert guard. A well defended dragon lair. An absent prisoner off on an escape of her own. Until, of course, the captive ends up in the grip of her captor with a dagger pressed against her throat. Not an enviable position.

Of course, all rescues don’t go like this. There was the time the pompous prince of Athada arranged the capture of his betrothed, then showed up in a scarlet cloak, accompanied by servants bearing silver crystals to record the event. He battled through a dozen apathetic guards before swinging open the door of the poor damsel’s chamber only to be splashed with several bucketful’s of tar rigged up on cleverly disguised ropes. The princess and I, concealed back at her father’s castle in perfect innocence, laughed over the transmission of the prince face for the rest of the night.

But, admittedly, not many captures are going to end this well.

Avoiding capture in the first place is always a good idea. Not as if we’re always given that option. But there are some things a girl can do. Like not disobeying a father or other authority and deciding to venture out the dangerous dark alone. I’ve nothing against a bit of danger, but if you slip off on your own in some rash attempt to prove your skills, you are practically asking to be captured.

And as for valid captures, the reasons aren’t limit to kidnapping a princess and bringing her to a castle in the hopes that riches will sway her to marry her captor (I mean, if she does agree, is that the sort of woman any man is going to want?) or to evil generals who want a ransom or a pressure point on his enemy (which is completely unfair to our friends, even if it’s not our fault, and we ought avoid this capture if at all possible, even if it means sacrificing some of our own freedom and staying safe).

But we woman are also captured for other reasons unconnected with the desire of our hand in marriage or the capture of those who love us. As messengers. As spies. As slaves. Or even intentional captures to manipulate the enemy from the inside.

Anyhow, readers of common stories sometimes expect their captives to act in an exasperatingly simple way. Now if you what to enhance this view of yourself, there are a few pointers you can follow:

  1. At least several times.
  2. Huddle in a corner. Preferably while crying.
  3. Make no effort to move (actually, the dead-weight tactic is a great passive-aggressive technique for many angles of behavior)
  4. Refuse to tell your captor anything, while clearly showing your answer through facial expressions (another way to trick your captor, if you are good enough at it).
  5. When your rescuer comes and gets in the inevitable fight with your captor, stand to the side and scream, ignoring the any weapons at your disposal (really not the best option since, at this point, it’s probably do or die).
  6. Basically, have no more use than a delicate golden curtain.

However, waiting around for rescue isn’t always a viable option. And there are many things a woman can do to while away the time and try to escape.

The first thing is establish your value, because on that depends your own safety and how far you can go before you press against the limits of your captor’s goodwill. If you’re being held by a prospective suitor or someone who needs you alive for a ransom, you can have some fun. Pranks on guards. Riddles. Sarcasm and insults. Of course, gauge yourself carefully. It would never do to be placed under stricter guard because you’re merely being annoying. If you’re being held by a slave driver or as a spy…it’s probably a good idea to shut up and make the least noise you can. Or maybe the most noise. It depends a lot on your guards and your captor’s personality. Each situation is different.

But, whatever the case, there are a handful of personalities one can choose and use to the full:

  1. The tearful princess: basically acting as weak and helpless as you can while preparing for one sudden push. This can be quite fun to reenact. The hard part is not laughing at everyone’s looks of disgust while you sob or pretend to be so delicate you can’t even walk on the rough ground.
  2. The steady maiden: take it all in stride. Keep informed. Don’t show much fear, but don’t show how much you know either. Act like everything is normal. The confusion this causes can be hilarious as well, though you will probably be watched fairly closely.
  3. The defiant damsel: insults, sarcasm, pranks, either with brazen triumph or practiced innocence. You can say what you want, demand what you want. Also quite fun to act. Of course, you’re likely to be kept under a fairly heavy guard, but you’re also likely to get some of the things you need for an escape.
  4. Using two or even three layers of personality can also give you some good results.

Also, always remember that persistence pays off. Want a view of the courtyard or extra sheets to tie together for a rope? Ask and plead and cajole until your captors are so annoyed they give in. You can veil your reasons in foolish girlishness, guilt your captors, or use hard brazen logic. Again, it all depends on the mood of your capture.

Conceal anything which could be used as a weapon in your clothing. And be prepared to use it. Especially in aid of a rescuer.

Finally, help your rescuer in any way possible, leaving behind clues. If you happen to escape, tell others as soon as possible so your rescuer doesn’t fall into your captor’s clutches and the roles reversed. It’s always very inconvenient when that happens, believe me.

 

Have any questions, legends, or trending cliches you’d like Kirin Quillblade (or Elena) 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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New Fantasy Times: Heroic Grievances

Inspired by Elena’s discovery of Villainous Complains last month, Kirin has stepped in to write his own take on the grievances he believes heroes are forced to suffer due to stereotyping.

Everyone likes to throw the word hero around. Saving the world. Heroic. Saving a nation. Heroic. Saving a city. Heroic. Saving a king. Heroic. Saving a tiny lamb from drowning in a flash flood. Heroic. Saving chocolate. Not one mention, thank you very much. Didn’t even get a free sample.

I mean, come on everyone. What do you really think makes a hero?

In this realm, a hero is a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds, noble qualities, who has performed a heroic act, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You get the idea. A heroine, of course, is a girl or woman who has the same qualities, but because I’m not about to write hero/heroine throughout this whole complaint, I’m just grouping everyone together as a hero. So replace man with person in that first definition and if anyone with this land’s tender sensitives gets offended, well, umm, I frankly don’t care.

Anyhow, it’s not that I don’t agree that someone saving a nation is heroic. Though I do claim there is a difference between doing something heroic and being a hero. Anyone with power can doing something heroic, and the weakest person can be a hero. But for some reason, people always expect the hero to win. Sure, they tend to in books, because who wants to read about a hero who fails? But in reality – all right, Elena is telling me to get on with it and stop being so discouraging. I’ll pick up the topic again in a moment.

You’ve probably all heard the common quote about how some heroes are born, some achieve the position, and some have events thrust upon them…or something like that. Greatness? Or was it about greatness in the first place instead of heroes? Never mind. It works for heroes pretty well, besides missing the most important part of the role.

Frankly, the heroes that are born (to the greatness part; all heroes are born) tend to be a bit smug in my experience. They’re born to a prophecy. They are the long awaited one. They’ve been raised and pampered and trained and beefed up and then go on their quest…etcetera, etcetera.

The heroes who become heroes consciously, vary. Why anyone would want the position is beyond me. Apparently they didn’t do their research on the work involved. Or maybe they really, really, cared about people and had no one close they had to protect. All the more power to them.

Then, of course, there is the most common hero who’s normal until events come tumbling down on his head, burying him and demanding he shoulder the weight to survive…and save the nation, king, lamb, and chocolate besides.

But it’s really the spirit of a man or woman which makes the hero. The circumstances and events will bring their character to light so everyone recognizes them as a hero, but their wills and determinations and strengths are already there. That is what makes one a true hero. Their character, not what they do.

Of course, what they do is effected by their character. And there a number of common misconceptions here which ought to be rectified.

Like death having to start their story. We, I mean, heroes, don’t lose a father or child or family or village, and then decided to change the course of their life and become a hero. They really can start acting heroically before they lose something they love dearly.

And as for their poor mentors…they’re smart. They’re strong. They’re generally wise. That’s why they’re mentors, after all. And they don’t die all that easily, despite what this realm’s stories try to make it sound like. More often they stick around long after they are needed.

And as far as training is involved, heroes don’t get a pill which gives them accelerated learning speeds or abilities to train so they can take down a fighter who’s been practicing for years after only a week’s work of training on their own. A pity, really. I could do with a handful of those pills. But real skill takes months. Years, even. And heroes have to learn the long hard way like anyone else. Or else they die. Or they learn trickery, which I recommend as the better option if they’re short on time. Why do you think I became a stealthmaster?

All heroes don’t have broken families either. Some do, of course, but many have normal lives until somehow they are dragged into the light and effort of being a hero. I’ve known transcribers who have edited a perfectly good supportive, or not supportive but still pretty good, families out of their records because it was too much work to write about everyone.

Oh yes, and as far as getting wounded goes, we bleed and hurt and take just as long to recover as any other person. Whippings, getting shot in the shoulder, getting stabbed in the leg, generally getting beaten within an inch of life and yet not dying ISN’T PLEASANT. And we will lie abed recovering like a decent human being. You can’t throw us through physical and emotional mills and expect us to continue operating as if everything is still find.

On which note, I’ll go back to what Elena shut me up about earlier. Heroes don’t always survive. And they don’t always win. But when they don’t win, they get back up and keep fighting. When they don’t survive, their memory keeps others going. I would also like to point out here that I really don’t care for the records where heroes die. Yes, it’s true. It happens. I know. I just told you so. But I’ve seen enough of that. I don’t read to see failure. I read to see success. To see what I could do. Theoretically, of course.

And please, please, please, don’t expect heroes to dodge bullets, break into unbreakable compounds, rescue everyone, save the dog’s life, go days without sleep, and still have the brain-power and strength to save both their girlfriend and a busload of kids – who happen to be hanging off opposite ends of a bridge. Try it yourself sometime and tell me what you think.

Really, in the end – oh, right. I almost forgot. I mentioned personality, the will, the spirit…all that stuff which makes a hero. I stand by that. But at the same time, remember that a hero is a human. Well, most of the time. I’ve known a good number of…never mind. My point is, we make mistakes.

Also, we have, umm, *coughs* flaws *coughs*

So yes, there are qualities most heroes have, like courage and never giving up and loyalty and all those noble things. But we do get angry. Or sometimes we don’t want to get out of the bed in the morning. Or we want to give up. Unless chocolate is on the line, of course.

And self-sacrifice is all very good. But just because we’re willing to give our lives, or maybe aren’t terrified of dying, doesn’t me we want to die. I mean, come on. Life isn’t that bad. Even with villains on every side who refuse to tell you their evil plans. If we treat death carelessly, that’s only because that’s how we deal with it. Please don’t think we don’t care and just send us into more danger. Seriously, it’s like ‘oh, he survived, well here’s an even more dangerous mission. Let’s see if he makes that one.’

But, yes. I think that covers it. We’re human. Amazing humans, yes. But the anticipations place upon us are…staggering.

Like expecting us to do all kinds of random things.

While our love ones lives are on the line.

Normally with a sorrow of some kind in our background.

But we have to stay strong.

And be kind to everyone.

And rescue everyone.

And have witty comebacks.

And have a quality romance on top of all that without actually talking about any of the important problems with the girl. What’s with the not talking? And the romance? Not that I’m completely opposed to the romance part, I suppose. But who has the time?

We do try, all right. But we get thrown overwhelming odds, sleepless nights, awful food, pitiful pay (fame doesn’t feed anyone, though it might give your best friend or mentor a nice grave-site. All right, Elena, I’ll shut up about the depressing stuff now). But the true heroes will never give up…even when they aren’t given chocolate.

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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Developing Your Characters: Part 2 – The Fear

As I mentioned last month, developing fictional characters can stray into great detail. Writing pages of likes, dislikes, hobbies, and backstory can be helpful, but it can also swamp you with information that doesn’t really have a place in the story, and still leaving you wondering about how to distinctly portray the character in question.

There are three main questions, powerful, yet short, which an author should answer for each of their characters. The first question is, what does your character want? What does he desire more than anything? What will he give anything for and what is he striving for? Coupled with this question (if the character is a major one) is what does he really need, and is it what he wants?

Today, we’ll move to the second major question which can be asked of all characters:

What does your character fear?

Except in rare cases, your character is bound to fear something. If he doesn’t fear anything, then you can probably glean quite a bit of information about him by figuring out why they don’t fear anything. But generally your character will have some fears.

There are two type of fear. The first one is situational fear. As your character is hiding in a dark closet or running from wolves or in the middle of battle, his or her fear is natural. And, while some characters will be afraid to different degrees, in different situations, and of different things, if they aren’t afraid sometimes then they’re probably not human.

You can learn a lot from situational fear, but other kind of fear, the fears you want to find for this question, are the ‘great fears’ of a character’s life. Unlike ‘what does your character want’ the question about ‘what a character fears’ may have more than one answer and will likely have several layers of answers. A man may fear breaking under torture, but he fears for the safety of his family even more, while the topmost rung consists of his fear of failing his nation or his God.

Still, there will probably be one culminating fear, coupled with several others, which may or may not be related, but which also shape the character. These fears will tell you quite a bit about your character: what or who he cares for most and where his deepest loyalties lie. It also gives you another weapon to torment your poor character with, by making them choose between two fears or prodding them to see what will make them face their fear, if anything will force them to allow the fear to come to pass, or what they will give to keep a fear from coming true.

So, discover what your character wants, what he fears, and be on the watch next month for the last main question to ask of your characters.

MASTERSOFTHESOUND.COM

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New Fantasy Times: Villainous Complaints

Villainous Complaints

Elena recently discovered fragments of a handbook compiled by a villain (who will go unnamed) who also deemed himself a writer. After one defeat, he spent the better part of the night ranting to himself about the perceptions of villains by the common public.

There’s too many people claiming the title of villain now days. One has only to kidnap a princess or destroy a town and their names are suddenly spoken in hushed whispers. Ridiculous. There are some of us who actually had to WORK for our titles.

And the public perception of villains…I mean, I remember when the no one would dare speak the name of one who held their life in their hands. Now people laugh behind our backs and underestimate us in the most astounding ways. Do they honestly thing we got our positions with careless henchmen or soldiers who couldn’t shoot straight? HONESTLY, PEOPLE! Let’s think about this a moment here!

And besides that, why must our name be blackened and twisted into some cruel merciless form? What do they think a villain is? Someone who slaughters for fun?

Actually, that’s a good question…who a villain is, not the slaughtering for fun part. Slaughtering, by the way, is not to be recommended unless in the most dire cases. Nine times out of ten it only succeeds in raising up a rebellion among people who would have been grudgingly content to live under higher taxes and stricter laws as long as they themselves were left in peace. Plus, it gives us a bad name; as if we don’t have enough of that going around as it is. But I digress

A villain can be one of two things. The common definition nowadays is that he is a ‘cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime’. Basically, he’s a scoundrel or, as we call them, lower-class villains. But sometimes they are just the major evil agency opposing the hero, some character or another everyone always seems to like. Don’t ask me why. These ‘heroes’ tend to be beaten, captured, and have everything they love torn from them and still everyone wishes they were them.

But back to the ‘evil agency’ or, as I like to call it, the higher class of the villain guild. I’m not exactly opposed to the definition, but can we please bend that term ‘evil’ slightly to mean something more than gloomy towers, black clothes (where has the fashion sense gone now days?), and a love of death, gold, and pain?

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up…the main points anyhow.

For starters, we villains can be in almost any position. Of course, we normally prefer a powerful place in society…say a king or a general. But sometimes we’re spies. Or tavern keepers. Or teachers. Or housemaids.

For one just starting a career, a lesser position might be a good place to start since you’ll be under less scrutiny. Of course, even as something like a blacksmith or actor, it’s taken for granted you’ve a powerful following of people who you can raise up at a moment’s notice to accomplish whatever schemes you intend to…well, accomplish. Otherwise, don’t you dare take the title of villain because the guild is growing aggravated at incompetents claiming to be villains. We in the process of hiring assassins to deal with the matter.

On the other end of the scale are the dark lords. SOOOO annoying. They might not do much, but their presentation is enough to make the bravest cower. Of course, presentation is half of what being a villain is about, but still they needn’t flaunt themselves over the rest of us.

Oh, and family relations have nothing to do with a person’s success, though it may place some people in a better position to exercise authority than others. But a nephew is about as likely to try to kill and take the throne from an uncle, as an uncle is from a nephew. Flaming terrors, but what is it with the poor uncles now days? Almost everyone becomes an uncle eventually, provided he has siblings. And what about the Aunts? They can be just as deadly, sometimes even more so.

Back to our grievances.

Like people thinking we’re some sort of monsters. All right, I admit, there are some who do enjoy causing pain or death. But most of us just have something we want. There may be a particular small group we hate and will inflict pain on if we can, but for the most parts life is just life. We may even show a touch of mercy here or there to keep the subjects in line. Ruling by fear is all very well, and we rarely rule by love. Too much work, the love part. But we can be nice if we wish. And besides, when those who fear us are also treated decently well, then tend to let us do as we please.

And honestly, there are far more entertaining things than stuck away inside some dank torture chamber.

Dancing, for instance. Music. Feasts. Hunting. Counting over treasure (for those with dragon blood in their veins, as well as a few mathematically minded souls. Most of us just like to spend it.) Hunting. Swimming. Climbing. Hiking. Racing. Chess. Writing. Reading. The list could go on and on. Basically, we can be very sophisticated if we please. And there are many of us who do please.

And on the subject of likes, can I just touch on clothes? Put quite simply, we’re as varied as any other guild. Some like black. Some like scarlet. Some stay in fashion. Some start fashions at the point of a sword. And some of us don’t care how we look as long as we’ve several weapons nearby. But everyone looks good in black; hero, villain, or idiot. It doesn’t have the same flair it used to. And we don’t all use such dark colors.

And…oh yes. Minions. If anyone knows where to get simple, mindless, happy minions, please tell me. Because I’ve yet to find them. One either has slaves, or they pay others for labor.

Also, just because we tend to control many people by fear of one kind or another, doesn’t mean we don’t have friends who help us simply because they like us. We, or at least I, can be very charming if I please. We don’t give power to anyone unless there’s a reason. And that reason is normally because we like the person. A friend. A brother. A son. Of course, if they betray us they’ll die. But isn’t that how life goes with heroes too, and no one complains about them.

We true villains didn’t get where we are by making mistakes, and we are careful our subordinates are smart as well. They support us, we reward them. Everyone is happy. Also, they know their success is bound up in ours. And we rarely kill someone for failing. That’s a disastrous waste of talent and those who do kill subordinates who fail tend to be villains of the lower quality.

Oh, and the skills. We’re the same as any other person. What did you expect? Of course, many of us can fight well or are at least skilled at tactics, but that’s to be expected. But we have interests and skills like any other; reading, music, debate, riding, sports. Even cooking and gardening.

Our security, on the other hand, tends to be top of the scale. Your hero can’t run across twenty paces of open garden while being shot at. Either he sneaks in, or he’ll die, because we only hire the best. Actually, cut out the sneaking in too. Even that would be very difficult. And when we capture the hero *insert mocking tone* we DO NOT tell him all our plans, or stand around taunting him and giving him time to escape. The villains who do this are, in reality, double agents or are so insecure they need to see the hero’s fear to ensure they have succeeded. A ridiculous mindset when they already have prove their power by capturing him or her in the first place.

But really, in many of our tastes, we’re like any other person. We’re not monsters, at least not normally. As for our choice of career, there’s many reasons. Sometimes it’s revenge. Other times its love of family or nation. Sometimes we want power or riches. Sometimes a villain really is a bit insane mentally (they also tend to be great masterminds. Why do the ones who don’t enjoy what they get always succeed?) But in the end, it’s because we want something, either physical or ideological, and so we set our mind to get it. And we do get it, no matter the price.

Also…presentation. Anyone can kill or lie to take what they please. The real villains do it with such class that their foes feel honored to be defeated by them. (Yes, I know they’d deny it, but they do).

Disclaimer: The views held in this report is in no way supported by either myself or by Kirin or Elena. It is the copy of a diary rant only, to give you a quick glimpse into the mind of a villain. Please do not put this advice to play in your own life.

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Developing Your Characters: Part 1 – The Want

Developing fictional characters can stray into great detail, from what a character likes to eat, to his favorite color, to ‘does he snore’? I’ve filled out pages of questions about various characters, so much so that I forget almost everything I’ve written, then don’t bother to look back, and write the character as he or she first comes to mind. A problem, I know. I’m working on it.

But there are three main questions, powerful, yet short, which an author should answer for each of his or her characters. In fact, character development might not need to go much further for some secondary characters. Meanwhile, with main characters, keeping these questions in mind while writing will be a great help in giving them their own voices. And the first question and answer is…

*rolling drumbeat*

What does your character want?

Not the little things, like food and shelter. There’s always going to be some things a character needs and others he wants. But what does he really, really, really want? What is always in the back of his mind? What would he give almost everything to gain? Honor? Love? Gold? Salvation? He may not realize his desires narrow down to a single phrase but, once we the authors know what this desire is, we can use it to inspire him, torment him (we’re awful, I know) or change him.

As an extra note for major characters, is what the character wants what he needs? What they want may drive the story to the end where they get it. Or what they want may be wrong or not as important as they once thought and, by the end, they will give up what they want more than anything else for something else they’ve realized is more important.

Or what they want might change.

The character’s desires will drive what he says, does, and how he views the circumstances going on around him.

Keep an eye out next month, for the second of the major question which should be answered for every character, large and small.

MASTERSOFTHESOUND.COM

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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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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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