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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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

My New Book Has Finally Arrived!

visions of light and shadow

You’ve been waiting patiently, and now it’s here–book 3 of the Wind Rider Chronicles!
Get a discounted price by buying direct   |   Amazon  |   BN   |  Kobo   |  Other  


It has been six months since Cailean’s death, and Elowyn can’t get his special clifftop in the mountains out of her thoughts…or her dreams. Something is drawing her there, despite the danger, and time is running out. The new spring growth is threatening to cover what’s left of his foot trail forever, but getting there is going to be more challenging than she imagined, especially with the thieves still lurking along the mining road.

Morganne is having difficulties of her own. The monks are making plans to send the tomes away, Braeden’s tax demands are increasing yet again, and Morganne’s once prosperous shop has been noticeably empty. On top of that, the Kinship is getting ready to leave Minhaven—seemingly for good this time.

With political unrest building, and the Black Shrine still intact, Glak and Bane want the girls to go with them. Elowyn is eager to leave her sorrows behind, certain that Aviad is calling them to follow the road beyond Minhaven, but Morganne isn’t so sure. She’s not ready to abandon everything they know for an uncertain future, and Elowyn finds herself at a crossroads. Will she be able to convince Morganne that it’s Aviad’s voice she is hearing, or will she be forced to go on alone?

Get it today at your favorite ebook retailer. (Print copies will be available soon.)

 

 

What Makes Effective Christian Fiction…And What Doesn’t?

In this article, Lee Duigon discusses what makes effective Christian-based fiction by way of a book review of the Chronicles of the Nephilium by Brian Godawa. Even if you don’t know the book, this is a very well-written article worth taking a look at–particularly if you read and/or write Christian fiction. It was published in Chalcedon’s online magazine. You can find out more about Lee Duigon and check out his book series, Bell Mountain, through his personal website and blog.


A Review of Chronicles of the Nephilim by Brian Godawa by Lee Duigon

Who doesn’t want to know more about those “giants in the earth”—Nephilim in Hebrew?

I couldn’t wait to read these books. Biblical mysteries elucidated! The bare-bones narrative of Genesis fleshed out! What really happened in that age before the Flood? It’s quite a draw.

And what a disappointment, when I finally read them.

But first I read the appendices attached to each book. These were fascinating, compelling. Delving deeply into Biblical and extra-Biblical scholarship, Godawa relocates Genesis into its original historical and cultural context, that of the Ancient Near East: Sumerians, Babylonians, Canaanites, and how ancient Israel itself was influenced by these neighboring civilizations.

This led him to make an intriguing argument that there are other spiritual beings, angels, some good and some evil, some subordinate to God, Yahweh Elohim, but others in rebellion against Him; and that these rebel entities came down to earth and set themselves up as false gods, worshiped by the heathen nations; that these beings sought to control human history; and that they interbred with mortal women, producing a race of giants and assorted abominations.

He supports his argument with both Scripture and other ancient sources, such as the non-canonical Book of Enoch, Jewish tradition, and non-Jewish mythology. I have not the scholarship to debate his conclusions.

But whatever the value of the scholarship behind them, I cannot endorse these novels.

A Movie in Your Mind

Godawa is a Hollywood screenwriter by profession. His work is in the movies, he thinks in terms of movies, and he writes his novels hoping that his readers will experience them as a kind of movie in the mind.

What he does is string one movie cliché after another. He’s got them all: wise-cracking heroes getting off zingers as they march into mortal danger, like any pair of cops in a buddy movie; beautiful young women who are really good at martial arts; rapid shifts from one scene to another, action-movie style; sneering villains who are only one short step removed from snarling “Curses, foiled again!” My impression was of a comic book without pictures. Godawa prefers to think of his novels as movies without film. Maybe it would be fair to liken them to movies based on comic books.

And of course, as in any movie pitched to eleven-year-olds, these novels feature endless slangy, smart-alecky dialogue. What is the point of having characters that are supposed to be immortal spiritual beings, or great heroes of the Bible, if they’re just going to talk like a twenty-first century screenwriter thinks teenagers talk?

Really—it just seems wrong for archangels to say things like “We saved your rear ends.”

Literary Offenses

Two more literary offenses must be noted here.

These books present a bad case of “adjectivitis”—way too many adjectives burden the text, most of them unnecessary. There is no need for the author to editorialize about his villains. What they say and do establishes them as the bad guys. There is no need to label them, repeatedly, as “diabolical” or “sadistic.” Not when they’re always shown doing diabolical or sadistic things.

Worse, Godawa puts into the mouths of rebel angels, immortal beings living centuries before the Flood, actual quotations from present-day leaders of the Democratic Party. To list just a few examples, with their original speakers:

“Hope and change” (Barack Obama)

“Fundamental transformation” (Obama)

“I feel your pain” (Bill Clinton)

“It depends on what ‘is’ is” (Bill Clinton)

“You didn’t build that” (Obama quoting Elizabeth Warren)

In addition to verbatim quotations from the twenty-first century, Godawa’s wicked spiritual entities also spout modern catch-phrases of feminism, “gay rights,” “animal rights,” and accuse God of such modern trespasses as colonialism, imperialism, sexism, and being “macho.” As a reader I found this very hard to bear.

Godawa says (in an email to me: I thank him for taking the time for it) that he has done this to demonstrate that wickedness, tyranny, and flimflam have always been with us, they originate from spiritual wickedness, and they haven’t changed. To use current political leaders’ quotes, he says, is to demonstrate that the same sins that afflict us today afflicted us before the Flood.

Fair enough. You can make that argument. But maybe Godawa doubts the readers’ ability to come to the desired conclusion unless he makes things thunderingly obvious.

Elsewhere he himself has written, “Christian movies, though well-intentioned and sincere, often suffer from heavy-handedness in their desire to convert the unbeliever through art.” And he adds, “Which is more to be avoided: a pagan movie that rings true, or ‘Christian’ propaganda that rings false?”1

Physician, heal thyself.

Why Does It Matter?

I’ve taken time to discuss these literary faults because I think it’s important.

Why?…..

Continue reading: https://chalcedon.edu/magazine/a-review-of-chronicles-of-the-nephilim-by-brian-godawa

 

New Release: Monster Huntress by David Wiley

Track down Your New Favorite Fantasy Heroine today!

Do you love saucy red-headed fantasy heroines? Then you will absolutely adore Ava Evenstar of David Wiley’s Monster Huntress, book one in the Young Huntress Series which released April 21st.

The world tells Ava she’s just a little girl who should know her place, but Ava wants a sword not a crown.

Ava and her father are following in her mother’s footsteps, hunting monsters in the 13 Kingdoms, seeking revenge for her mother’s untimely death. Little do they know that the monster responsible is building up a dangerous force. When The King requests the help of Ava’s father in exchange for her becoming a princess, Ava is not pleased. Can Ava escape her fate and the obnoxious prince of Harborg to live the life she’s always known, or will the dark plans of the monster catch her in his trap.

David Wiley combines the action of Tomb Raider with the fantastical elements of The Witcher to create the exciting world of The Young Huntress high fantasy series.

Track down Monster Huntress today and slay your need for good fantasy.


Want a sneak peek into the story? Here you go!

Ava woke up a few hours before dawn. She already had a horse loaded up and saddled. She slipped into the traveling clothes her father had bought for her, a green tunic and brown breeches. She strapped Seraphina to her back and grabbed a light brown cloak before heading out the door.

The whole village was still asleep as she mounted up. Ava’s mind raced as she thought about all of the adventures she had heard about. She imagined all of the exciting quests that were waiting for her outside these village walls. It was a new day, a new start to the next chapter in her life. Even though she would miss this old life, she knew she was ready to become an apprentice monster hunter. She had dreamed of this day for years and she knew her father would finally agree to train her when she caught up to him. He had to.

She urged her horse into a slow walk, not wanting to wake anyone with her departure. She reached the western edge of the village and stared out at the vast expanse of desert ahead of her. And then Ava heard a shout behind her. She turned in the saddle and spotted Edgar a little ways back, leaning heavily on a thick staff, waving. She smiled and waved back. She was going to miss that boy but she had a feeling they would meet again someday. Ava urged her horse into a trot and rode off into the distance knowing that Edgar would still be standing there, in spite of the pain, waving until he couldn’t see her anymore.

Join the Monster Huntress tour for more of the adventure!

 

Black Friday Sale! Indie Christian Books

Looking for great gifts for family and friends this Black Friday?

Get discounts on both print and e-books from this huge Christian book sale that starts TODAY and ends November 30th. Choose from a wide range of genres and authors. Package deals offer even deeper discounts.

The Wind Rider Chronicles is included in this sale for prices too low for me to offer through Amazon or other retailers. Buy a print copy of both Journey to Aviad and Ancient Voices, and Into the Shadow Wood comes free! My e-books are on sale too. Check it out–there is no charge for shipping!

Journey to AviadPrint $9.99
Ancient VoicesPrint $9.99     /     e-Book $1.99
Into the Shadow Woode-book $0.99

Package Deal – Print $20.00 (all 3 books)

 

The Best Fantasy Novels You’ve Never Heard Of by Andrea Lundgren

I frequently get questions from fellow readers for fantasy book recommendations. I have well-known favorites (The Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit) but then my list goes off to books that are less known, so I wanted to share the best with all of you. These have been picked based on the quality of writing, world-building, characterization, and the fact that…well, I love them all! 🙂

Check out Andrea’s list of The Best Fantasy Novels You’ve Never Heard Of  
I’m happy to say that my Wind Rider Chronicles series made the list! 


Andrea Lundgren is a Book Coach, Editor, and Author who enjoys books and all things writing–why we write, how we write, and what we read to write better.
Visit her blog at https://andrealundgren.com/into-the-writer-lea/