Blood Silver Is Here!

I’m so excited about this!

Somehow the pre-publication tasks for this book felt a little more complex than usual, no doubt because I’ve been trying a few new things. But they are all done now! (Or most of them.)

One of the new things has been the use of an advance review service. I chose Hidden Gems. (Love it that my book is one of the hidden gems they showcase.)

The way the process works is:

1Upload the book’s file to the Hidden Gems website—in three different formats: epub, mobi, and pdf—along with some information about the book

2Await results as they solicit interest from their reviewers from amongst those who enjoy the book’s genre

3Pay the Hidden Gems fee

4Following the date when Hidden Gems distributes the book to its reviewers, watch in wonder while reviews accumulate on the book’s Amazon page 😀

The idea is that these reviews give prospective buyers more information on which to judge whether or not the book is something said buyer might like.

As I write this post, Blood Silver has 23 reviews! It’s been a bit of a thrill to watch them appear. And it’s been lovely to read so much praise for one of my books!

Of course, not every Hidden Gems reviewer loved Blood Silver. But a lot of them did. Here’s a sampling from a handful of the reviews:

“…a nice quick little read. Great characters, interesting story line, good pacing, and well written.” JMD

“…I couldn’t put it down. It reminded me of Le Morte d’Arthur and Mists of Avalon even though it has nothing to do with the King Arthur legend. This author just brought back those feelings…” Tricia Schiro

“…simple and thought-provoking in a beautiful way. …smart and wise. It’s peaceful and otherworldly. I felt like a new fairy tale had been written and that gave me a lot of joy.” Ambrose Crotts

“The characters felt real, like they could step out of the pages…” Stephanie Wachter

“It felt familiar like an old fairy tale, but was also very fresh and new.” Erin K.

So what’s Blood Silver about?

Faie knight Tahaern loves the bright world of mortals, but the darkness of the faie realm under the knowe relinquishes its denizens but rarely.

To learn more, check out the book’s webpage on Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, or Books2Read.

Blood Silver currently has the low price of 99 cents especially for its release. After the weekend, this will go up to its normal list price of $3.99.

I hope you’ll take advantage of the deal and immerse yourself in a story of knightly chivalry, faie trickery, and the beguiling beauty of the bright world.

Amazon I B&N I iTunes I Kobo I Smashwords I Universal Link

Note: The promotion with its sale price is over now, but many, many of you snapped up a copy for 99 cents. May the story bring you delight! 😀

 

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Plate Armor, How It Works

I have a confession to make about me and research.

Very little of what I delve for ever makes it directly onto the pages of my stories.

Blood Silver is a perfect case in point.

This is my 12th post about Blood Silver. Of those 12 posts, 8 concern swords, armor, and fighting techniques. Given the proportion of posts devoted to the paraphernalia of battle versus those on other topics, you might easily assume that Blood Silver is a war story, with scene after scene transpiring on the field of battle.

But it’s not.

It takes place during a time of war, yes. And the war plays a central role in the challenges my protagonist faces. But out of the 39,300 words that comprise the novella, 3,900 narrate the battle scenes. Roughly 10 percent.

So why do I do all this research? (And why do I write so many blog posts on it?!)

This is why. I become my character while I write his or her story. And I couldn’t thoroughly become Tahaern, a knight, unless I had an equally thorough understanding of the conditions of his life.

Sometimes the research I do for one novel will prove useful for another one that I write later. For example, I did a bunch of research into medicinal herbs when I wrote Troll-magic. And I remembered enough of it that I didn’t need to research it all over again in order to handle Tahaern’s healing skills.

But for his knightly skills, I didn’t know enough. Thus, research!

Now, as to why I blogged about all my research?

Well, I research because I need the knowledge, but I also enjoy learning about new-to-me topics. I generally find the lore I discover to be fascinating, and that was exactly the case with the knightly gear and the knightly fighting skills. Of course I wanted to share all that cool stuff with you!

So, what about plate armor?

I’d found re-enactors, living history buffs, and experimental archeologists to be such great sources for swords and sword fighting that I turned to them again regarding plate armor.

The first video I found prompted more questions than it answered. But having the right questions is very helpful, indeed. Plus the knight portrayed has such cool armor (and the music accompanying his arming video is so dramatic and majestic).

I’m going to share that video with you as an excellent (and short) intro.

Couldn’t you just imagine living in that castle yourself? Don’t you wish you had armor like that? I do, almost.

One of the things the video makes clear is just how many straps plate armor possesses. Each piece is firmly fastened to the appropriate body part, and thus the weight is distributed over the whole body. It does not all hang from the shoulders or rest upon the feet. That’s why those knights had good mobility, even when encased in all that steel.

Which raises the question: how exactly is each piece fastened to the knight’s body? It looked like there was more to it than just buckles.

Historian Mark Griffin reveals the mysteries of “points” or laces.

I loved his arming jacket with its multitude of laces. And I found his remarks about the English knights riding to battle and then dismounting to fight to be most curious. I’m longing to know why the continental knights, who fought from horseback, had such a different style from their English counterparts.

The fact that the knights wore a different style of visor for jousting tournaments than for battle makes so much sense. That’s exactly the sort of thing I love discovering in my research.

Matthew Fields, a member of the Plantagenet Medieval Society, spoke most enlighteningly near the end of the video about his experiences in tournaments. He says that when’s he’s in combat, he does not notice the weight of the armor at all.

Mark Griffn and Matthew Fields answered many of the questions I’d developed, but they also prompted yet more questions. How exactly did all those separate pieces of armor fit together? In what order did a knight put them on?

Fortunately I found a presentation by The Metropolitan Museum of Art that featured a gentleman who is both a re-enactor and an armorer. Now I was really getting down to it. This video delivered the full scoop!

Wasn’t it cool how Jeffrey Wasson had full mobility in his arms? And could scramble up from the prone position? It was helpful hearing all the clanking and rattling produced as he threw mock punches at the air and stepped quickly. So that is what Tahaern and his squires sounded like!

But I still had one more important question.

Both Jeffrey Wasson and Mark Griffin said that a knight donned his armor starting with the feet. But every single example I’d seen showed the knight in question starting with the greave that protected the shin and calf. And they did not put on the sabaton that covered the foot at all. What did that mean?

I understood that the sabaton was often not worn for foot combat. It was really needed when the knight was ahorse, making his feet especially vulnerable to infantry.

But when a knight did put on his sabatons, did he put them on before he put on his greaves? Or after?

Knyght Errant showed me the answer when he decided to time himself getting armed. Just how long does it take a knight to get his plate armor on properly?

And there we have it: another myth dispelled and my question answered!

For more about Blood Silver, see:
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
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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The Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike

Learning martial skills from the past is popular these days.

Re-enactors enjoy it as a hobby. Living history enthusiasts include it as essential to understanding the daily lives of the people of the past, from the times of the ancients through the medieval period and on to the more recent past.

Experimental archeologists understand that there is nothing like re-creating the technologies of the past and using the implements produced by them to generate a thorough understanding of history and the cultures of history.

So there are a lot of people studying the European martial arts (among other things).

The foundations of such study are manuals from the time, such as Flos Duellatorum in Armis by Fiore dei Liberi (an Italian manual) and Fechtbuch by Hans Talhoffer (a German manual).

Naturally the Italian manuals use Italian terms for the various guards and strikes, while the German manuals use German.

Neither language is appropriate for the fantasy world of Blood Silver, so I created my own French-influenced names.

In Blood Silver, the five ‘master’ sword strikes are:
Coup de Colere (Strike of Wrath or Zornhau)
Coup Tordu (Crooked Strike or Krumphau)
Coup Croisé (Cross Strike or Zwerchau)
Coup Étroit (Squinting Strike or Schielhau)
Coup de Couronne (Scalp Strike or Scheitelhau)

I’ve described the coup de colere and the coup tordu in earlier posts. In this post, I’ll zip through the remaining three: the coup croisé, the coup étroit, and the coup de couronne.

The Coup Croisé or Cross Strike

The cross strike is a horizontal blow, often aimed at one’s opponent’s head. It offsets an incoming strike from your foe at the same time as delivering a strike of your own.

The video immediately below from Laurel City Historical Fencing is short and sweet (just over a minute) and shows it perfectly.

I liked how the instructor started slow and sped up closer to fighting speed. The strike itself moves from an ox guard to another ox guard on the other side, and it can be chained together in a series of cross strikes just as this swordsman demonstrates.

The Coup Étroit or Squinting Strike

The squinting strike collects an incoming strike from your enemy, sets it aside, and then strikes your foe. It is similar to the cross strike, but vertical rather than horizontal.

Here’s another short, sweet video (from Dreynschlag) showing the strike.

And now I know the correct pronunciation for the German term for the plow guard. Pflug. 😀

The Coup de Couronne or Scalp Strike

For the scalp strike, one raises the sword hilt high while levering the point downward to threaten one’s opponent’s face. In the video below, Aaron Harmon demonstrates succinctly that the strike avoids over committing.

The sound is a little uneven at the very start of the video (another short one), but evens out rapidly.

While I was seeking out videos for each of the three strikes presented here, I stumbled across a sword duel acted out with great panache by the Akademia Szermierzy. I bet they had fun making it.

It includes vignettes from an Italian manual with the Italian terms. (Only fair to give the Italian some air time after all the German.) 😉

The fighting is dramatic and the music is wonderful, so I’ll share it as the close of my sequence of long sword fighting posts.

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
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
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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Blood Silver: The Title

I loved hearing what everyone had to say about the prospective cover for my novella Blood Silver.

You all helped me see some details that needed adjusting, as well as confirming the choice of the Sunburst version as the right art to use.

Thank you!

In the course of all our discussion, an important question was raised.

Is the title right? The mood of the words does not quite match the light, bright mood of the art. Should it?

I didn’t even begin to know how to answer that question correctly. As I’ve said before, I am no expert on marketing. I’m learning. As an indie, I must learn about marketing, if I want my audience to find my books. But there is far more that I don’t know than there is that I do.

But a lovely bit of good luck came my way.

One of the people weighing on the cover for Blood Silver just happens to be an indie whose marketing knowledge I respect a great deal. So I asked her about my title. And she was most generous in sharing her thoughts with me.

The first thing she explained is that a book cover possesses three “channels.”
1 • The art
2 • The typography (what font is chosen and how the type is placed)
3 • The title (the meaning the words convey)

You could convey the same message with each channel, but if you do you severely limit what you communicate about the book. Generally it’s best to use each channel to communicate different elements of your story.

My kind adviser then proceeded to analyze the message communicated by the Sunburst cover for Blood Silver.

The Art

First we have the art, which is a bright fantasy illustration showing a knight and a lady. The subject matter tells us that the story focuses on two people. The bright, glowing treatment of the surrounding leaves indicates that magic is likely involved.

The image is appropriate for either urban fantasy, straight-up fantasy, or fairy-inflected fantasy.

So far, so good. Blood Silver involves the faie and follows the fortunes of a knight and a mortal woman.

The Typography

Next we have the choice of font and how the title is placed.

The font is Trajan, which indicates epic fantasy. Apparently Trajan is the font to use, if you’re making an epic fantasy film. I did not know this. (See, I told you I was not a marketing expert!) But it’s also the right choice when kingdoms or other big things lie at stake in a book.

Since the events in Blood Silver turn on the conflict between battling kingdoms, Trajan is definitely a good choice.

Regarding placement…this happens to be something that I actually do know something about.

Most thrillers have the author’s name in big—no huge—letters at the top of the cover and the title in slightly smaller letters at the bottom.

Fantasy is usually the reverse: the title sits at the top, while the author byline rests at the bottom.

If the story is urban fantasy or horror, the title may be slanted or vertical or have some other unusual orientation. But for epic fantasy, it will be sedately positioned on the horizontal, centered.

(YA fantasy might have a small title or a flush left or flush right alignment, especially if it needs to convey edginess.)

Now that we have art and typography together, we need to consider not only what they convey separately, but what they communicate together.

In this case, we might guess that the story involves two lovers caught up in a conflict between kingdoms. Blood Silver is not going to be a quiet tale. Quite right.

The Title

When I chose Blood Silver as my title, I was thinking of the phrase “blood red,” because there is definitely blood involved in my story.

That’s a fine reference point, but my astute advisor pointed out that it’s also a play on the words “blood money.” And “blood money” makes us think of treachery, cunning, and deception. Which is perfect, because Blood Silver is all about trickery and treachery.

When you put all three channels together, you have the story of two people caught between the violent forces of large events, featuring trickery and great deeds.

If that’s what Blood Silver is about—and it is!—then I’ve got the right art, the right typography, and the right title.

The result?

Blood Silver will keep its title, Blood Silver. 😀

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
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
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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The Crooked Strike

As I mentioned while describing the strike of wrath, I researched long sword fencing in order to have some idea of what my protagonist Tahaern would be doing on the battlefield in my novella Blood Silver,

Just to refresh our memories, here’s a list of the “master strikes” that every longswordsman would have learned and practiced:
Strike of Wrath (Zornhau)
Crooked Strike (Krumphau)
Cross Strike (Zwerchau)
Squinting Strike (Schielhau)
Scalp Strike (Scheitelhau)

I’ve created diagrams of the strikes to include in the appendices of my book when it releases, so that readers of the story who want to know more can easily learn a little about the strikes.

But two-dimensional representations of motions that occur in three dimensions are very limited in how well they can convey the reality.

The crooked strike seems particularly complex to render, since the version that starts from an upper guard, like the roof guard, comes down initially, but then arcs around sideways.

It makes a lot more sense in video, so I turn once again to Meyer Class Hammaborg for an excellent demonstration of the strike. The video includes many variations on how the crooked strike can be used, both defensively and on the attack, as well as starting from different guards.

There must be a playground or a park near the grounds of the school for swordsmanship, since I could hear kids calling happily in the background. It made for an interesting contrast to the deadly techniques being shown!

I created French-influenced names for the sword strikes as they are used in my story. Thus the crooked strike becomes the coup tordu in Blood Silver.

For more about Blood Silver, see:
Plate Armor, How It Works
Cross Strike, Squinting Strike, and Scalp Strike
The Book Title
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
Wielding a Long Sword
Origin of the Story (The State of This Writer)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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