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!)

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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: http://www.medievalists.net/2019/01/900-years-ago-she-was-artist/


 

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

 

Medieval Monday: Game of Thrones and the Real Middle Ages

I will say up front that I do not watch Game of Thrones–I’ve seen enough of it from my husband’s binge-watching sessions to know that while the storyline is good, the visuals are just way too graphic for me. I found this article interesting anyway, because Game of Thrones is not the first book, movie, or TV series to paint an overly dark picture of the Medieval era.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty of brutality and tragedy (as there is in any era), but there were also many peaceful days in between during which ordinary people lived out their lives, working the land, learning skills, plying trades, and raising families. European culture flourished, bringing us incredible architecture, art, music, scholarship, and other worthwhile things that have endured to the present day. With so much focus on the dark aspects of this time in history, it is my hope that in some small way I’m helping to bring a more complete picture into the light with my Medieval Monday series.

Anyway, enjoy the article, and don’t hesitate to browse the Medieval Monday Index while you’re here.


What The New Footage From Game Of Thrones Can Teach Us About The Real Middle Ages by Matthew Gabriele

HBO just reminded us that Winter is here. In its new trailer for 2019, fans of Game of Thrones were only offered a few seconds of what will happen in the coming season, the show’s final one. We see a meeting of fire and ice, dragons and wolves, as Daenerys Targaryen with Jon Snow meets Sansa Stark at Winterfell. From last season, we know what’s to come: the wallas with all walls, didn’t work and the great war between the living and the dead approaches.

Although none of us fans can know for certain what’s to come, it’s probably fair to guess that the season will be dark, that Westeros will be filled with violence, that there will be tragedy. How do we know this? For one, we’ve watched the show. But for another, the show plays off a popular conception of the medieval world as dark, treacherous, and violent. In other words, it uses our assumptions about the Middle Ages to help tell its story. And as a medievalist, and having taught a course on Game of Thrones at Virginia Tech since Winter 2015, I fight against these preconceptions whenever I teach.

How – and even if – to teach the relationship between a fantasy world such as Game of Thrones and the historical European Middle Ages has admittedly caused controversy among scholars. But to my mind, the fact that the show both reinforces and at the same time challenges our assumptions about the period is precisely what makes Game of Thrones so interesting.

The Middle Ages are known as the “Dark Ages” for a reason. It doesn’t have anything to do with the 12th century though. Instead, the idea came much later. During the Enlightenment, the medieval came to be known as the antithesis of the modern, a repository for whatever we considered “bad.” These thinkers built themselves up by tearing their medieval predecessors down. Basically, what they created was nostalgia, which can take 1 of 2 forms. First, it can believe that an ideal past has been lost and needs to be reclaimed. Second, it can say the past has no value and should be wholly discarded. The first is the friend of authoritarianism, while the second excuses modernity by placing all its sins in the past.

Game of Thrones relies upon that second kind of nostalgia, the one that my students so often bring with them to my courses. They have a set of preconceptions about what they’ll find in the Middle Ages…

Continue reading: https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewgabriele/2019/01/13/game-of-thrones-real-middle-ages/#5b7aac4f43c7


 

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

 

Confessions of a Slow Writer: Why NaNoWriMo isn’t for Everybody – by Anne R. Allen…

A topic dear to my heart as I participate in NaNoWriMo, knowing (and accepting) that I’ll never make a 50K word count goal. I’m a slow writer, too, but maybe that’s not all bad…

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

We live in a speed-obsessed civilization. Whatever it is we crave—cars, trains, electronics, food, dates—we want them ever-faster-and-furiouser. In fact, much of the developed world seems to be engaged some turbocharged drag race of the soul, hurtling our frenzied selves from cradle to grave, terrified of slowing for even a minute of rose-smelling.

So here we are in National Novel Writing Month, when much of the writing community is turning out fiction at rate of speed never imagined by our pre-electronic-age foreparents. NaNoWriMo can do great things for a lot of writers and help them take their craft to the next level. A number of excellent, bestselling books have started as NaNo projects, and I do recommend it for writers who need to overcome blocks and “creativity wounds.

If you’re participating, you’re probably here on the fly, champing at the bit to get back to that brilliant WIP. Go…

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Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween Movie, or a Christmas Movie?

This fun, well-thought-out article by Max Gladstone finally settles the debate that my household engages in every year…or does it? I’m firmly in the Halloween movie camp–I mean, really, it’s about Jack losing passion for his role as the Pumpkin King, trying to be something he’s not, and subsequently finding himself–and his love for Halloween–all over again. But my husband is firmly in the Christmas move camp for reasons of his own. Whichever camp you’re in, this is a brilliant article on the topic and well worth reading. Who would have thought a claymation movie would inspire such deep, philosophical debate? Well, it is a Tim Burton creation after all, and not exactly your typical kid’s film. If by some chance you have missed this movie in the last 25 years, go rent it. Right now! Then come back to this article and see what you think. Halloween movie or Christmas movie? Maybe it’s both…


Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie? In terms of worldbuilding, it’s obviously both—it’s about a bunch of Halloween-town residents taking over Christmas from Santa Claus.

But worldbuilding elements don’t suffice as genre classifiers, or else black comedies wouldn’t exist. Creators deliberately apply worldbuilding elements from one genre to another for pure frission’s sake. Consider Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (speaking of Christmas movies), which takes a New York noir character, a down-on-his-luck con, and drops him into an LA noir scenario of movie glitz and private eyes; or Rian Johnson’s amazing Brick, a noir story engine driving high school characters. Fantasy literature is rife with this sort of behavior—consider Steven Brust’s use of crime drama story in the Vlad Taltos books, or for that matter the tug of war between detective fiction and fantasy that propels considerable swaths of urban fantasy. If we classify stories solely by the worldbuilding elements they contain, we’re engaging in the same fallacy as the Certain Kind of Book Review that blithely dismisses all science fiction as “those books with rockets.”

And what happens after the slippery slope? The No True Scotsman Argument?!

This is a frivolous question, sure, like some of the best. But even frivolous questions have a serious edge: holidays are ritual times, and stories are our oldest rituals. The stories we tell around a holiday name that holiday: I’ve failed at every Christmas on which I don’t watch the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. When December rolls around, even unchurched folk can get their teeth out for a Lessons & Carols service.

So let’s abandon trappings and turn to deep structures of story. Does The Nightmare Before Christmas work as Christmas movies do? Does it work as Halloween movies do? It can achieve both ends, clearly—much as a comedy can be romantic, or a thriller funny. But to resolve our dilemma we must first identify these deep structures.

Halloween Movies

Halloween movies are difficult to classify, because two types of movie demand inclusion: movies specifically featuring the holiday, like Hocus Pocus or even E.T., and horror movies, like Cabin in the WoodsThe Craft, or The Devil’s Advocate. Yet some horror movies feel definitely wrong for Halloween—Alien, for example. Where do we draw the line?

I suggest that movies centering on Halloween tend to be stories about the experimentation with, and confirmation of, identities. Consider, for example, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which might at first glance be mistaken for a simple slice of life featuring the Peanuts characters’ adventures on Halloween. In fact, the story hinges on the extent to which the various Peanuts’ identities shine through the roles they assume. Charlie Brown is the Charlie Browniest ghost in history; a dust cloud surrounds Pig Pen’s spirit. Snoopy operates, as always, in a liminal space between fantasy and reality—he becomes the most Snoopy-like of WWI fighter aces. Linus, whose idealism and hope are the salvation centerpiece of A Charlie Brown Christmas, isn’t equipped for the kind of identity play the other characters attempt. He’s too sincere for masks, and as a result becomes the engine of conflict in the story. For Linus, every holiday must be a grand statement of ideals and hope. In a way, Linus is rewarded—he meets the Avatar of Halloween in Snoopy’s form, but fails to appreciate the message sent, which is that Halloween is an opportunity for play, for self-abandonment. It’s Lucy who turns out to be the truest embodiment of the holiday—by explicitly donning her witch mask, she’s able to remove it, and bring her brother home.

Even movies that feature Halloween in passing use it to highlight or subvert their characters’ identities by exploiting the double nature of the Halloween costume: it conceals the wearer’s identity and reveals her character at once. In E.T.’s brief Halloween sequence, for example, while Elliott’s costume is bare-bones, Michael, Mary, and E.T. himself all shine through their costume selections, literally in the case of E.T. The Karate Kid’s Halloween sequence highlights Danny’s introversion (he’s literally surrounded by a shower curtain!) and the Cobra Kai’s inhumanity (skeletons with all their faces painted identically!). Even holiday movies like Hocus Pocus that aren’t principally concerned with costuming present Halloween as a special night for which identities grow flexible: the dead can be living, the living dead, and a cat can be a three-hundred-year-old man.

If we expand our focus to include books that focus or foreground Halloween, we find Zelazny’s A Night in the Lonesome October, Raskin’s The Westing Game, and Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, all of which focus on the experimentation with, or explicit concealment of, identities, and the power of revelation. Fan artists get in on the fun too—every time Halloween rolls around, I look forward to sequences like this, of characters from one medium dressed up as characters from another.

The centrality of identity play to the holiday explains why some horror movies feel “Halloween-y” while others don’t. Alien, for example, is a terrifying movie, one of my favorites, but with one notable exception it doesn’t care about masquerades. Cabin in the Woods, on the other hand, feels very Halloween, though it’s less scary than Alien—due, I think, to its focus on central characters’ performance of, or deviation from, the identities they’ve been assigned.

Examined in this light, The Nightmare Before Christmas is absolutely a Halloween movie. The entire film’s concerned with the construction and interrogation of identity, from the opening number in which each citizen of Halloween Town assumes center stage and assumes an identity (“I am the shadow on the moon at night!”), to Jack’s final reclamation of himself—“I am the Pumpkin King!”

So, are we done?

Not hardly.

Continue reading this article: https://www.tor.com/2018/10/26/is-the-nightmare-before-christmas-a-halloween-movie-or-a-christmas-movie/

Christmas Movies

What’s New Wednesday

It’s time to freshen up my blog a little, so in the coming weeks you’ll see some new features popping up. Don’t worry, I’ll keep doing Medieval Monday and Fantasy Art Friday, since I know many of my followers enjoy those.

I am going to reserve Wednesdays for anything new, exciting, or interesting going on. This might be related to my writings, personal life, free book promotions I’ve found, or anything else that I feel like sharing.

For my first What’s New Wednesday, I’d like to share a brand new character interview that was recently featured on K.M. Jenkins blog as part of an author spotlight.

The interview is with Bane, a character who appears in Ancient Voices: Into the Depths and Visions of Light and Shadow.  He has a pretty quiet and mysterious role in Ancient Voices, but some of his secrets are finally revealed in Visions of Light and Shadow.

So check out this brief interview with Bane.  CHARACTER SPOTLIGHT: Bane


Want to read more character interviews from the Wind Rider Chronicles?

Meet the Characters from Journey to Aviad

Meet the Characters from Ancient Voices

Meet the Characters from Into the Shadow Wood

 

Medieval Monday: Saving the Past

As so many medieval historical sites and artifacts have been lost to time, one of them has recently been brought back from oblivion thanks to The Friends of Friendless Churches! Check out this article from medievalists.net and see the pictures. The transformation is really incredible!


English medieval church restored to beauty after being abandoned for over 50 years

A medieval church dating back to the 13th century is reopening after an impressive campaign led by The Friends of Friendless Churches to restore it.

Located in East Hatley, Cambridgeshire, St Denis dates to 1217, with much of the surviving medieval elements coming from the 14th century. The long history of the church includes renovations done in the 17th and 19th centuries, but gradually it fell in to disrepair and as the cost of repairs couldn’t be met, St. Denis was abandoned in 1961 in favour of a new church.

Aerial shot of the Church of St Denis in East Hadley – photo by Ben Greenhalgh / The Friends of Friendless Churches

Continue reading and see more images: http://www.medievalists.net/2018/09/english-medieval-church-restored-to-beauty-after-being-abandoned-for-over-50-years/


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