Here Be Dragons

The Here Be Dragons bundle has three of my titles in it!

They stalk our myths and hunt our past—dragons—humankind’s greatest and oldest foe. Good, bad, legendary and deadly. Dare you enter the dragon’s lair?

Thirteen tales of dragons, their friends and their foes.

The Crown and the Dragon
        by John D. Payne
Dragon Writers (an anthology)
        edited by Lisa Mangum
Of Blood and Scales
        by A. L. Butcher
Devouring Light
        by J.M. Ney-Grimm
Ascension of the Whyte
        by Karen Wrighton
Of Dragons and Centaurs
        by Deb Logan
Night of the Clockwork Dragon
        by Louisa Swann
The Legend of G and the Dragonettes
        by Russ Crossley
The Dreamweaver’s Journey
        by Diana L. Wicker
Graybill by Rita Schulz
Star-drake by J.M. Ney-Grimm
Like At Loch Ness by Karen L. Abrahamson
Winter Glory by J.M. Ney-Grimm

The Here Be Dragons bundle (with 13 titles) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about other bundles, see:
Spring Surprise
Immortals
Remembering Warriors
Winter Warmer bundle
Mythic Tales
More than Human

 

Share

Blood Silver: The Joust

Tahaern, the protagonist of Blood Silver, is skilled in combat, both on foot and ahorse.

A number of the battles in my novella transpire on foot, because the terrain is so pocked with holes and knotty tree roots that a horse would fair poorly. In one battle, Tahaern is unhorsed!

I researched long sword fencing (which I found fascinating), but I also needed to know how a knight fought when on horseback.

The first video I found was a great deal of fun. It features Sir Henry Sewell, and wow, does he have an attitude! The re-enactor must have an amusing time roleplaying the pride and arrogance of his character.

I’m not sure how much I learned about the niceties of wielding a lance while charging one’s enemies, but I did gain a better understanding of just how important were the spirit and skill of one’s mount. The horses were indeed beautiful, and the jousting was spectacular.

For those reasons alone I’m gong to share the video from English Heritage with you.

So, did his “theater of the joust” take your breath away? I must confess I watched the video several times over just for the enjoyment of it. 😉

Then I went seeking more information about how one actually fights on horseback. And I found a much more specific video by Schola Gladiatoria. It, too, is entertaining (combining the gruesome with the scholarly), but gave me a lot more of what I needed to know.

Matt Easton demonstrates the techniques with a cavalry sword, but also explains exactly how they apply to lances and why.

Did his description of “the extraction” give you a gruesome shiver? It did to me!

But the information was precisely what I needed in order to understand how Tahaern and his fellow knights would have managed on horseback in battle.

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

Which Cover to Choose?

It’s that time in the publishing schedule. I must decide on a cover for my novella Blood Silver. Longtime readers of my blog will be familiar with this phase, since I usually share my process with you.

Sometimes I am inspired and my cover design comes together swiftly. Other times, it’s a struggle. I remember wrestling for months with the color and texture of the title for Fate’s Door. (And then, after all that, I decided a year later that Fate’s Door needed a completely new cover!)

This time I have an entirely new wrinkle.

Blood Silver clocks in a 39,300 words.

The official definition for a novel is a story that is 40,000 words or more. Blood Silver is currently with my second reader. If her feedback prompts revisions which add 700 words to the manuscript, Blood Silver will graduate from the category of novella to that of novel. And I purchase covers for novels from Deranged Doctor Design.

(They created such a magnificent cover for The Tally Master that I want all my novels going forward to receive covers of that caliber. But I’m not yet able to shell out the bucks for shorter works.)

So what do I do?

There’s really only one practical answer. I create a cover, knowing that it will not be used if Blood Silver gains 700 words. That might not work for someone else, but playing in Photoshop really is play for me. So even if the cover I create is never used, I’ll have enjoyed myself making it. (And, really, the likelihood of non-use is slender. The revisions I make after my first reader’s feedback can add hundreds of words. After my second reader? Not so much.)

With that decision behind me, I searched the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites (and other artists influenced by them) from the nineteenth century. I wanted an image featuring a knight in full armor, because the protagonist of Blood Silver is just such a knight. (Although he is faie, not mortal man.)

I found quite a few paintings to choose from.

And, oh, it was hard to choose! I must have mocked up a dozen covers while I debated with myself, trying out which image would work best. Sometime down the road I’ll show you those “just to see” covers. But that’s a different post.

In this post I’ll focus on the four different covers I devised from Frank Dicksee’s “La Belle Dame sans Merci.” And I want your opinions on them. Which one do you like best? Which one would make you click the “Look Inside” button on Amazon to check out the beginning pages of the story?

I really love the painting by Dicksee, so my first version uses his work nearly straight up. I chose a window from the image that focuses on the knight and the lady. I intensified the colors, since the scan seems to have washed them out a bit. And I liked what I had. I was ready to declare it The One.

Until a friend whose judgment I trust weighed in.

She pointed out that it looked like a cover from times past and that I needed to bring it into the modern age.

Hmm. I wasn’t sure that was really a problem. Maybe it was a feature, not a bug. I’ve haunted many a used bookstore, delighting in the older books and enjoying their vintage look. I suspect a goodly number of my readers may be the same. But what about the readers who would be more drawn to a fresher, more modern look?

Plus my friend had another point.

The dark, slightly gloomy tone of the painting doesn’t fit with my story at all.

Oh, there is danger and even gloom in Blood Silver. But the overall mood of the book springs from the sun-dazzled wonder that my protagonist feels when he first emerges into the bright world from under the knowe. My cover needs to convey that.

Back to the drawing board.

My own inclination was to seek out a fresh painting, but my friend suggested that I run “La Belle Dame” through a few filters to see what might be done.

I can be a stick-in-the-mud about filters. I mistrust them, and I dug in my heels.

Thank goodness for good friends! This one offered to (insisted on?) running the painting through various filters herself. Oh, my! I liked what she showed me. (And I’ll be less resistant the next time the possibility of filters come up.)

I loved the “inverted” filter. It generated an image which had a true faie feel to it, along with a sense of the explosion that my hero felt when he first encountered the bright world, and again when he set eyes on a mortal for the first time. Yes! This might be The One!

But, but, but! (You suspected there might be a but, didn’t you?)

My friend and my husband both agreed with my sole concern. As cool as this inverted mage is, it is also confusing. The human eye does not parse it easily. The human brain says, “What is it that I am seeing? I don’t quite get it.”

And confusion is bad. Confusion results in the browsing reader clicking away from Blood Silver to a web page with some other book. That is not what I want my book cover to accomplish!

I was feeling a bit stymied at this point.

Once more, thank goodness for good friends! Mine suggested that I look through the dozen filtered possibilities that she had generated for me. And she drew my attention to the one that went through a blue filter, which had lightened and brightened the overall color balance of the painting. “What about that one?” she said.

And she was right about it giving a more modern, lighter feel. What about that one?

The main problem is the cool hue that results from a blue filter. It works well for the horror genre and sometimes for thrillers. It can be appropriate for certain types of fantasy. But Blood Silver has a very warm feeling to the story, and the coolness of this image stands in direct opposition to that.

Back to the drawing board once again.

This is the one that I currently hope is The One.

It is warm and bright. It’s not dark or heavy. The sunburst effect gives an otherworldly feel to the image and brings out the “blown away” reaction that my knight feels upon encountering the bright world. Surely this is The One!

But here’s the thing about covers: no matter how much an author likes the cover for her book, what really matters is how the prospective readers feel about it. If it makes readers flee, then it is the wrong cover.

Which cover would prompt you to click “Look Inside” or “Add to Cart”?

I’d love it if you’d vote in the comments.

To keep things straight:
Painterly (the first option shown)
Faie inverted (the next one shown)
Cool blue (the next)
Sunburst (the one immediately above)

Cast your vote! 😀

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

The Strike of Wrath

While reading up on long sword fencing, I learned that there are five “master strikes.” They are named master strikes for two reasons.

First, they have a simplicity that makes them accessible to beginners, but they also possess complexity and subtlety for the advanced swordsman.

Second, they combine a strong defense with a strong offense and excellent options for follow-up actions.

An expert swordsman will know many more strikes in addition to the five master strikes, but the five will form the heart of his repertoire.

The five master strikes are:
• Strike of Wrath (Zornhau)
• Crooked Strike (Krumphau)
• Cross Strike (Zwerchau)
• Squinting Strike (Schielhau)
• Scalp Strike (Scheitelhau)

In this blog post, I’m featuring the strike of wrath.

It’s a powerful cut, performed with strength and conviction. It moves from the high reaching roof guard, down in a sweeping diagonal cut, to end in the plow guard.

Those names don’t mean much without more description. Since a picture is worth the proverbial thousand words, I’m sharing some diagrams that I drew, as well as doing some describing.

There are two variations of the roof guard.

One features the sword hilt held slightly above the head and centered, with the blade slightly tilted back.

The other version of the roof guard has the sword hilt held at shoulder height and to one side. Either side will work, depending on the handedness of the swordsman and what he intends to do from that guard.

The plow guard, in which the hilt is held at roughly hip height with the blade angled up, can also be assumed on either side, depending on which foot is back and which is forward.

So the strike of wrath goes from the roof guard to the plow guard, and the momentum generated by the blow requires a powerful step forward while performing it.

Two-dimensional pictures are less than ideal for showing the three-dimensional reality of a sword cut. They can give a general idea of what is involved, but videos of the movement are much better.

The first one I’ll share is an instructional sequence. This was perfect for me, a complete layperson regarding long sword fencing. I needed to see the individual segments in order to understand what was going on.

So that was a nice controlled strike of wrath, but not at all how it might look in a real fight.

For a sample of the power and ferocity of the strike, we have another video.

This version of the strike of wrath started from something called a wrath guard and seemed to end in a guard similar to the near guard. The swordsman certainly covered a lot of ground, and he generated a lot of power with his forward motion.

I suspect different schools may teach slightly different versions of each technique.

(Keep in mind that if this post creates a longing within you to learn swordsmanship, you should definitely seek out an instructor. A short text description and a couple of videos might be enough convey a conceptual understanding sufficient for the reader, but are nowhere near enough for learning how to do this stuff.) 😀

Most of the schools of swordsmanship seem to use the German terms for the guards and strikes. No doubt this is because the surviving manuals on swordsmanship from the 1400s and 1500s were written in either German or Italian.

Neither of those languages seemed quite right fro my story Blood Silver, which takes place in a fantasy milieu resembling ancient Ireland. But I didn’t want to use merely the English translations. I wanted something with a little linguistic color. So I created French-influenced terms.

In Blood Silver, the strike of wrath is the coup de colere. 😀

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

Rope Climbing and a Cliff

Near the beginning of Blood Silver, Tahaern finds himself at the top of a precipice. He absolutely must find a way to descend it safely. But he has no rock climbing experience. And even if he did, he’s not had a chance to study this rock face and plan a safe and workable route down it.

As a writer, I needed to figure how I was going to get my protagonist down this cliff—although I did not have as great an interest in the safety of the descent as Tahaern himself would possess! 😉

But I also wanted to really feel in my own gut what it was like to confront a considerable height. When I am out hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, I stand well back from the edges of any clifftops. What must it be like to stand at the very brink?

YouTube came to my rescue with a video record of one Laso Schaller jumping from the top of a 59-metter cliff into a deep pool of water. It gave me a very clear experience of what standing above a big drop is like. I can tell you that I absolutely never want to do anything of the kind!

I’m going to share the video, but a few cautions first.

Number one: do not try this at home! Seriously, this was a crazy thing to do. I’m sure people must have been killed trying similar things. So, do not try to copy this guy. Do not.

Secondly: I recommend you turn off the sound while you watch, because the video includes annoying music, clearly added afterward. There’s nothing else on the sound track, so there is no need to listen to the jarring music.

Thirdly: if you have any fear of heights, you might want to just skip it. I do possess a fear of heights, and I found that even video exposure to a height like this was scary!

That said, for those of you who want to give it a go, here is the video:

So…did you watch it? Did your heart pick up its beat every time the video cam approached the edge? Mine sure did. That pool looked way too small.

The things a writer will do to make sure she gets an event in her novella right!

But I certainly felt I had a better appreciation for what Tahaern would experience. And I was grateful I could get it vicariously.

My next step was to generate the means by which Tahaern would make his descent. Could he weave a rope out of vines?

I located some videos showing how to braid an adequate rope for climbing and quickly decided this was not a feasible option for Tahaern. Oh, he could make such a rope. But it would take him all day. And he didn’t have all day.

What if he found a vine so sturdy that it could bear his weight? Would that work?

I went searching for rope climbing videos. There were a lot of them. And it looked like standard rope climbing would work for Tahaern. He’s very strong, with excellent upper body strength, plus he has all of the physical training for knighthood behind him. This was something he could do.

I studied the videos carefully, since I am not a rope climber.

My only exposure to rope climbing came in the third grade in phys ed class. I was one of the kids who never got beyond the knot at the bottom of the rope. There were many of us in my class, especially since the teacher didn’t actually teach us how to do it. We were supposed to simply hop onto the rope and go up. I believe one child did just that. In fact, he did it twice—at the teacher’s behest—to show us how it was done. He slapped the beam at the 15-foot-plus ceiling from which the rope was hung. Some of the other kids got part of the way up. Good for them!

The video below is one of the clearest that I reviewed.

It was good to see the details for proper positioning of the legs and feet.

It meant I knew how to have Tahaern succeed. And it meant that I also knew how to have him fail!

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

What If the Sword is Wrong?

I was smack in the middle of writing my novella Blood Silver when a sudden qualm attacked me. Had I gotten my protagonist’s weapon of choice wrong?

Oh, no!

I’ll admit that I hadn’t researched it ahead. I just knew that Tahaern wielded a hand-and-a-half sword. It felt so right to me that I’d never questioned it until after I started writing the sequence of battle scenes.

In preparing to write those battle scenes, I investigated plate armor thoroughly, in addition to researching long sword fighting techniques and how to “give point” on horseback.

But it wasn’t until the middle of the battles that I said to myself: “Wait a minute! I researched long sword techniques. But my protag wields a hand-and-a-half sword. Have I just made a huge mistake?”

I stopped everything and started digging.

The video below set me straight.

I found Skallagrim’s explanation of the differences between swords (arming swords), bastard swords, long swords, and great swords to be enlightening (as well as entertaining). And, of course, I was relieved that I had not erred. A bastard sword—or a hand-and-a-half sword—is a long sword. Whew!

Would I have revised my novella, if I’d proved to be wrong about my faie knight using long sword techniques while wielding a hand-and-a-half sword? Yes. I would have had to. Leaving in something I knew to be incorrect would have itched at my soul most uncomfortably!

As things turned out…I was in the clear!

But what Skallagrim implied about carrying great swords intrigued me. If the scabbard on the back, as depicted by Hollywood, was all wrong, how did the knights carry their great swords? And did my faie knight face similar difficulties with his hand-and-a-half sword?

I figured I’d better find out!

So I was safe again. Tahaern faced no extraordinary challenges in the carrying of his weapon. 😀

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
A Song of Peace
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

Blood Silver: A Song of Peace

The faie knight of Blood Silver—Tahaern—first encounters a mortal when he discovers the healer woman of Gleannbaile at work in her garden. She sings as she gathers leaves for an herbal remedy.

Tahaern is overwhelmed and awed by the density of experience that is the bright world, so different from the darkness of his birthplace under the knowe. Mortal beauty possesses an irregularity that is so much more appealing than the smooth perfection of faie beauty.

I listened to the healer woman through Tahaern’s ears and was nearly as charmed as was he by the melody of her song. I imagined it to be similar to “Deep in the Meadow” as sung by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie The Hunger Games.

The words to my healer’s song were her own, of course.

Deep in the valley, beside the water
A song of peace from wisdom’s daughter
Open your heart, sing with your spirit
Then while you dance, hope will arise

Now brings wonder, now brings awe
Now opens the kingdom, the heart of every choice
Now your dreams shine golden and beckon you anew
Now is the time when I love you

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

Wielding the Long Sword

The protagonist of my latest work is a faie knight who wields a hand-and-a-half sword, which is a specific type of long sword.

Because my story includes a sequence of battle scenes, I found myself doing quite a bit of research on plate armor, medieval weaponry, and fighting tactics. History books weren’t the best places to find the kind of detail I needed.

What did it feel like to wear plate armor and fight in it? Was it really heavy? Did the knight have a decent view through the eye slits? What specific techniques were used with the long sword? Did these techniques have names?

Fortunately, historical re-enactment is a robust hobby, and many re-enactors are passionate about historical accuracy. They were well equipped to answer some of my most fiddley questions. Additionally, the field of experimental archeology, in which historians build accurate replicas to learn about the people who built and used the originals, has grown considerably during the last few decades. This provided another rich source of answers.

Between the two, I was able to find out almost everything I needed to know.

One of the earliest sources I discovered was a video showing long sword fencing techniques. It was made by the Gladiatores, “a professional school for historical European martial arts, teaching different styles of European fencing.” The Gladiatores focuses on “tutoring a lively historical system of martial arts, combined with transferring knowledge in culture and philosophy of ancient fencing masters.”

I found the sparring sequences shown to be aesthetically beautiful as well as simply fascinating. Naturally, as I’ve started to emerge from my writing cave, I’ve wanted to share some of the cool things I’ve discovered with you.
 

So how is the novella progressing?

The first draft is not only done, but I’ve received feedback from my first reader, made revisions based on her input, and sent the next draft out to my second reader!

It will be a few weeks before I get my second reader’s feedback. After I make those revisions, I’ll still need to proofread the manuscript, format it, and acquire a cover. But I’d love to release it before June. Fingers crossed! 😀

Oh! One other exciting tidbit of news…

The novella has a new title.

Blood Silver.

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
The Crooked Strike
The Joust
Which Cover to Choose?
The Strike of Wrath
Rope Climbing and a Cliff
What If the Sword is Wrong?
A Song of Peace
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

Share

Spring Surprise Bundle

I seem to have fallen off my bundle reading and reviewing duties.

There’s a good reason. I’ve reached the end sprint in the writing of my novella, tentatively titled His Poison Tear, and I can hardly bear to do anything but write! You may have noticed that blog posts were a touch scarce during the last week of February. That’s why.

It’s typical of my writing process. By the time I near the end of a story, I am so caught up in the characters—they seem real to me—and I’m so excited by the climactic events that are going down that blog posts just can’t compete.

But I hope I can give a little more attention soon to bundles, because…

There’s a new one out—Spring Surprise—and it has two of my stories in it! Perilous Chance and Sarvet’s Wanderyar.

But it’s not my own stories that have me so excited about this bundle. It’s the stories by the other authors.

I did a bunch of checking the Look Insides on Amazon, and what I saw has me eager to read Easter at Glossner’s by Robert Jeschonek, Eden’s Eyes by Sean Costello, Temporal Dreams by Lesley L. Smith, and “The Brownies Holiday” by Rita Schulz. Those first pages hooked me!

I couldn’t find Mother of the Waters on Amazon, but the tiny excerpt on the BundleRabbit site intrigued me, so I’m looking forward to it as well.

I’ve already read “The Queen of May” by Linda Jordan, so I know it’s good! And I enjoyed The Tuxedoed Man by Marcelle Dubé so much (from the Winter Warmer bundle) that I’m eager to read her novel, The Forsaken Man, in the Spring Surprise.

I’d like to not only read all these titles, but also tell you about them via a series of mini reviews. We shall see!

In the meantime, here’s a little bit about the bundle.

The season of spring ushers in a time of rebirth; new life comes forth, trees emerge from their winter slumber and the cycle of nature begins again. Plans unfold, new adventures commence and the past is washed clean. At least . . . that’s the theory.

In this mixed-genre bundle, tales of hope, fresh beginnings and emerging dreams, dangerous new lives and daring schemes awaken the springtime in us all.

Available for 3 months only — March, April, and May.

Perilous Chance by J.M. Ney-Grimm
Easter at Glosser’s by Robert Jeschonek
Eden’s Eyes by Sean Costello
The Queen of May by Linda Jordan
The Forsaken Man by Marcelle Dube
Mother of the Waters by Leigh Saunders
Temporal Dreams by Lesley L. Smith
The Paths of Water and Air by Barbara G.Tarn
The Brownies Holiday by Rita Schulz
Second Spring by Karen L. Abrahamson
Sarvet’s Wanderyar by J.M. Ney-Grimm

The Spring Surprise bundle (with 11 titles) is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, or direct from the BundleRabbit site.

For more about other bundles, see:
Here Be Dragons
Immortals
Remembering Warriors
Winter Warmer bundle
Mythic Tales
More than Human

 

Share