Inspiration Sunday!

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Matthew 6:25-27


A Writer’s Guide… to Sword Fighting by Morgan Morrow

Fellow fantasy writers, you won’t want to miss this fabulous article on sword fighting from the perspective of someone who actually does it.

A love of Swords

I’ve always loved stories featuring heroes wielding swords. That love eventually resulted in my finding and joining a dojo that teaches a school of kenjutsu dating back to the warring states period in Japan.

My years of practice have given me an insight into sword fighting that I think is fairly uncommon in this day and age. My experience is limited to the katana, but I feel like much of it could apply to other swords and other fighting styles as well.

Using a sword

Firstly, swords are generally expensive weapons and they are not indestructible. Trying to cut through someone’s sword is unrealistic, but hitting it broadside and shattering the blade is not.

Throwing a sword would be a last resort only for the most desperate of situations, because not only would you lose your weapon the blade may well shatter or bend upon impact.

The blade is not the only part of a sword that can be used to attack. The hilt can be used for offense; to hit the enemy in the face, solar plexus, or groin. It can also be used to defend against an attack that is coming too quickly to get the blade in front of.

For added realism, it’s important to remember that most swords, if not secured in the sheath, can slide out when the wearer leans forward.

Keeping one hand on the hilt and sheath to secure the blade is oftentimes necessary. It is not unheard of for someone to lean forward, have their sword begin to slide out, and then grasp the blade to stop it. This is not a good idea and will usually result in stitches…

Keep reading A Writer’s Guide… to Sword Fighting

Originally found on Chris the Story Reading Ape’s blog. (Thanks for always posting interesting stuff!)

Medieval Monday: Washing Laundry

Whenever I’m tempted to gripe about doing piles of laundry, I remind myself that I really don’t have it all that bad. After all, the washer and dryer are really doing most of the work. I’m just moving the piles around and folding them. I don’t even have to move them that far—from one floor of my house to the next. Our medieval counterparts certainly didn’t have that luxury, or many others that we don’t give much thought to. So in honor of my growing laundry pile, I thought today’s post would answer the question of “how would I have done it back then.”

First, I would have needed a source of water. The most common source would have been a nearby body of water—preferably moving water, like a river or stream if there wasn’t a community wash house. Laundry would have to be hauled there and either beat against rocks, or with a washing bat or beetle. These were basically sticks used for moving cloth around in the water or for hitting it. In time, the fabric would come clean, even without the use of soaps.

Laundry was unquestionably women’s work. It therefore became a social event where women could exchange news, information, and plenty of gossip. Doing laundry was time consuming and labor intensive, so it was not something that was done every day, or even once a week. If you were wealthy, you might have an extensive enough wardrobe to change into clean clothes more often. The poor did not have that advantage. Laundry was saved up and washed once a month—maybe once every several months.

Undergarments were washed more frequently, sometimes in a wooden tub at home. Delicate fabrics and expensive garments would be soaked in tubs as well rather than being beaten against rocks or with beetles. A plant called soapwort or other herbs like marjoram could be used in the water to clean and deodorize fabric. To brighten white cloth, lye was used (a mixture including ash and urine). Plenty of advice and recipes still exist that tell how to remove stains, some as simple as soaking the stain in verjuice, others far more complex and involving many days-worth of work.

Washed laundry was dried on a pole in front of the fire, hung outdoors on bushes, ropes, or wooden frames, or laid out flat on the grass. The sun had a natural bleaching affect on white linens. If there was enough space, laundry would be dried indoors in poor weather.

Robes and cloaks were sometimes rubbed with wax to weatherproof them, but this process would have been too expensive for peasants who would have worn felted wool instead. Outer garments were not washed very often. They would simply be shaken or beaten with a brush or a bundle of twigs to get rid of dust and dirt, then re-worn until they could eventually be washed.

Here are some fourteenth century laundry instructions from A Medieval Home Companion, written down by an elderly Frenchman to his new young wife. (This is a fascinating book that I highly recommend if you can get a copy of it.)

“If there is any spot of oil or other grease, this is the remedy: Take urine and heat it until it is warm, and soak the spot in it for two days. Then, without twisting it, squeeze out the part of the dress with the spot. If the spot is not gone, have Dame Agnes the Beguine put it in other urine, beat in ox gall, and do as before. Or you can do this: Have fuller’s earth soaked in lye and then put it on the spot. Let it dry, and then rub it. If the earth doesn’t come off easily, have it moistened in the lye, let it dry again, and rub until it goes away. Or, if you don’t have any fuller’s earth, have ashes soaked in lye and put those well-moistened ashes on the spot. Or have very clean chicken feathers soaked in very hot water to get rid of any grease they have picked up. Wet them again in clean water, rub the spot on the dress well once more, and all the stains will go away.

To take stains out of dresses of silk, satin, camlet, silk damask, or other material: soak and wash the stain in verjuice and it will go away. Even though the dress is faded, the color will come back, although I don’t really believe this. Verjuice: At the time when the new verjuice is made, one should take a glass vial of it, without salt, and keep it, because it is useful for taking spots out of dresses and bringing back their color. It is always good, new or old.

Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover more topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.


Inspiration Sunday!

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Psalm 46:1-3

Fantasy Art Friday

Get inspired with this week’s Fantasy Art Friday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing.

Sunlight streams down into the snow covered forest, though the sun’s warm appearance is deceiving. The air is cold and crisp, numbing faces and fingers, and leaving the breath of people and horses hanging visibly on the air. A noblewoman makes her way slowly through the trees, quiet and dignified. She is accompanied by members of her household; attendants, servants, and soldiers to protect them on their journey. They proudly display the banners of her fiefdom as they go, but no one is nearby to see them. Why is she taking such a remote and difficult path rather than a well traveled road? And what journey is important enough to have pressed her out into this frozen winter landscape?

Artwork by Yeonji Rhee

Want to see more Fantasy Art posts? Find them here.



What’s New Wednesday: How it’s going…

I’m nearly there, everyone! My most recently written chapters are now in the hands of my book coach for review, and the very–last–chapter has been started. *Whew!* I can see the finish line now, and that’s a great feeling.

To help me get through these last few thousand words, I’ve got a great behind-the-scenes team cheering me on.

First, the peanut gallery–courtesy of my youngest daughter. They mainly offer ideas, and sometimes point out typos and other little mistakes I’ve made as I’m writing. I can only handle them in small doses though. Like most birds…well, how to say this delicately…they simply talk too much. I know a lot of writers enjoy background noise and even music while they write, but for me to immerse myself in a totally different world, I need to be able to tune out this one. Peace and quiet while I sit at my desk helps my imagination flow.

Then there’s tech support for all those pesky Windows updates that insist on pushing through whether I want them or not. Usually as soon as I walk away from my computer, too. I’m always afraid I’m going to lose whatever I’ve been writing when that happens. So far I’ve been lucky! The problem with losing a piece of writing is, no matter how good your memory, you’ll never re-create it exactly the same way twice. Cera is 18, so she’s got a lot of experience at walking across keyboards. Somehow she knows how to make my computer do things I never even realized were possible.


Finally there’s my moral support team…a few of them anyway. Yeah, that’s me somewhere under that pile of animals. Their job is to keep me wedged into my seat so that I can’t wander off and get distracted by other things. It’s so much easier to just keep writing. I’ve learned to be ready to grab my laptop at any moment though to keep it from crashing to the floor. A ringing doorbell means the world is quite possibly coming to an end, and it’s their job to warn the whole neighborhood about it. They take the job pretty seriously!

Medieval Monday: 900 Years Ago she was an Artist…

Monastic communities and illuminated manuscripts play important roles in my book series, so articles like this one always intrigue me. They give me glimpses into a reality that has long inspired my imagination and continues to fuel it. I can’t help but think, this woman could have been a real life version of my character Morganne, who loves and studies the ancient spiritual tomes of her world. The thought makes me want to read more history, look deeper…discover what life would have been like for someone like this woman who lived 900 years ago. I hope you are intrigued by this article too. Don’t hesitate to browse the Medieval Monday Index for more information about the real Middle Ages.

900 years ago she was artist – we know this because she has bits of blue stone in her teeth

A team of researchers examining the remains of a woman buried around the year 1100 AD have – to their surprise – discovered dozens of tiny bits of blue stone in her teeth. They soon realized that she was likely a painter of illuminated medieval manuscripts.

The discovery was made by an international team of researchers, including those from the University of York and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. They had been examining the remains of individuals who were buried in a medieval cemetery associated with a women’s monastery at the site of Dalheim in Germany. Few records remain of the monastery and its exact founding date is not known, although a women’s community may have formed there as early as the 10th century AD. The earliest known written records from the monastery date to 1244. The monastery is believed to have been home to about 14 religious women from its founding until its destruction by fire following a series of 14th century battles…

Continue reading:


Use the Medieval Monday Index to discover other topics relating to daily life in the Middle Ages.