Thursday, October 31, 2013

Malta in the Fall

Where's Malta?  There it is!
Tomorrow I’m off to Malta.

Yes, that Malta.  The one of Maltese Falcon fame, based on a true story, no less.  Well, the falcon part, not the hard-boiled detective part.

Where’s Malta?  Good question.

It is not where you might think it is.  Unless you’re familiar with the area, and then it’s exactly where you think it is.

But the better question is . . . yes, you in the back with the Michael Meyers mask on.  Yes, the better question is: Why Malta?

Send 'em to the Hospitallers, lads!
First, there’s the history.  Malta is famous for not just one, or two, but three major sieges that helped change the course of history.  The first took place in 1565, and pitted the Knights Hospitaller, the Maltese and some random foot soldiers, about 6,000 fighters total, against the armed might and machine-like force of the Ottoman Empire and 48,000 of their warriors.

Guess who won?

The second important siege of Malta is equally interesting.  In 1798, Napoleon, en route to Egypt, seized Malta from the Knights.  Initially, this wasn’t a big deal, but then the French looted the hell out of Malta and really irked the very religious Maltese.  A small committee of about 10,000 irregular Maltese showed up to discuss the issue with the French.  At the same time, the British, under Admiral Lord Nelson (yes that Lord Nelson) blockaded the island, preventing resupply of the French.  There really wasn’t much in the way of fighting.  The British simply starved out the French, and when they ran out of croissants (and any other food), and disease started thinning the ranks, they surrendered.
Rubble, rubble everywhere

The third major siege of Malta occurred during WWII.  This time, the British had control of Malta.  The island had always been a linchpin in the Mediterranean, providing a safe harbor and landing field between Europe and Africa.  Obviously, this wasn’t lost on either the Allies or the Axis powers.  From 1940 to 1942, Malta became a the site of a gigantic tug-of-war between these two, complete with bombings, an invasion (that wasn’t carried out), and some impressive airshows put on between the British RAF and the German Luftwaffe (which historians like to call air combat battles).
Hello, boys.

So wow, that’s a lot of history, and in just a few five-hundred years!

I’m mostly interested in all the castles, bastions and fortified towers that the Knights Hospitaller built during their reign.  I’ll be working on the release of Tears of Heaven, but also focusing heavily on my next book The Second Cut about the samurai warrior-woman Tomoe Gozen.

If you think Joan de Arc kicked buttocks, wait to read this!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Giraffe Riddle

Did you get the Giraffe Riddle wrong?

Yes Rob, you can be wrong.
This is how stubborn I can be at times, even on a simple riddle that's meant to be nothing more than harmless fun.  I thought I might have been wrong, except certain logical inconsistencies presented themselves.  First of all, me being wrong.

Since this isn't the riddle, I feel justified in telling this story.  If you haven’t heard the riddle, and still want to answer (or face the giraffe avatar penalty), please stop reading now.

Or now.

Last chance.

I’m serious.

Ok, you’ve been warned.

A friend of mine told me the answer was "your eyes".

Don't blink!
According to this article, I had reasoned the answer correctly that it was “the door”.  Initially, though, I was taken with the seeming clever answer that my friend offered.  Your eyes would be the first thing you should open (other than your breathing passage, the alternating aortic heart valves, etc.).

But then, my skeptical side kicked in.  This is one of the hazards of being a high school debate coach.  Besides never wanting to let a teenager be right, you also end up being argumentative, sometimes for its own sake . . . which most of my friends don’t really appreciate.

It’s odd that friends don’t like to be placed in a rhetorical corner, penned in by pedantic definitions and carefully laid verbal traps that leave them frustrated and angry.

You’d think they’d enjoy that.

But I digress.

The solution my friend provided, which initially seemed clever, suddenly started to become silly to me given the information in the riddle.  First, let’s review the text of the riddle:

“It’s 3 a.m., the doorbell rings and you wake up. Unexpected visitors! It’s your parents and they are here for breakfast. You have strawberry jam, honey, wine, bread and cheese. What is the first thing you open?”

First, the riddle says that it’s “3 a.m.”.  This was I started to take issue with the answer “your eyes”.  I’m
Wake me up before you go go!
sure there are some people who have internal clocks more accurate than the NPL-CsF2 Caesium Fountain clock, and would immediately know it’s 3 a.m.  For the rest of us mortals, this requires a garden variety alarm clock, usually next to the bed, preferably battered past the warranty for doing its job so well and consistently.

But ok, one logical inconsistency does not immediately render the answer wrong.

How about two?

The very next phrase in the riddle is “. . . the doorbell rings”.  I don’t know about you, but if it’s 3 a.m. and the doorbell rings, my eyes are open.  First, I want to know who died.  Second I want to know who I’m about to kill for ringing the doorbell so early, likely about to start pounding at the door and waking up the baby!

Well, sure, anyone can find two things wrong with a riddle that make another answer more plausible.

Shall we go for three?

You got the riddle wrong?
The third phrase in same first line says, “. . . you wake up.”  Now, you can be awake with your eyes closed.  I do this all the time when the baby cries and I think I can fake sleeping so my wife has to get up.  It doesn’t work very often, because she knows I’m doing this.  But still, most people open their eyes when they wake up.  They especially do this at 3 a.m. when the “doorbell rings” at “3 a.m.”.

Three does seem to be more than a coincidence.  But as previously mentioned, I like to put counter-arguments in a corner with that pedantic reading.  So let’s get one more nail in this coffin, shall we?

I'd like to ask you a riddle . . .
Given all the above, it’s still possible that your eyes are not yet open, except . . . how would you know it was your parents?  You weren’t expecting anyone at 3 a.m. to ring the doorbell and wake you up, otherwise, well, you wouldn’t be asleep.  You’d have battered the alarm clock’s snooze button fifteen times by this point.  So you must have already opened your eyes to look out the window, or through the peep hole, making certain that a mass-murderer polite enough to ring the doorbell before killing you isn’t standing there.  Unless you often stumble out of bed and open the door to people at 3 a.m. before you open your eyes to find out who they are.

So, there you have it.  That’s what keeps me up at night.  These viral riddles that I may or may not have gotten wrong, depending on how much time you want to spend over-analyzing the information.

Maybe my time would be better spent figuring out why I have so few friends?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

One Month

I’m a joykill.

A friend of mine made up a story about a humorous picture.  The picture doesn’t matter.  I pointed out that one of his key elements was incorrect.  That doesn’t matter either.  He told me, “It would be better if it had been correct.”  That’s what matters.  That’s why we write. 
We try to make reality is better.

A month.

A little over a month.

After questing for decades to publish one of my books, in a little over a month it will happen.

Tears of Heaven will go from being a manuscript that I passed around to curious friends and family, to being an honest-to-goodness book with my name on the cover.

The indie publishing route was never for me.  A good, solid editor was something that I definitely needed.  In just a few short months, I learned a great deal about writing and story-telling.  Every revision, I felt my book getting stronger.  I was telling the story clearer, connecting with the potential audience.

Now, it’s all about to pay off.  Royalty checks do not need to rain down from the sky (though I won’t put up a fuss if they do).  I’ll get to see my name listed on the major seller sites.

We write to make reality better.  But sometimes reality gets it right.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Cover Reveal -- Life Flight by Shaunna Wolf

Cover Reveal -- Life Flight by Shaunna Wolf

Cover Reveal

Life Flight

Erotic Romance/Mystery 

Malachi Blackfeather has spent twenty years in the Army. Two of those years as a Vietnam POW. Now that he's out, all he wants is some peace and quiet to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. Between the flashbacks, and an over interest in sex that is now being called sex addiction, finding his path isn't easy.

Kat is trying to escape an abusive marriage. Her soon to be ex is a master at manipulating the system, and her family thinks she should stay with him, "because no other man will want her". She's looking for escape in any form she can get it.

When they meet, sparks fly. Trapped by a blizzard, can two damaged people, who think there is no chance of love in the world for them, find each other, and survive an unforeseen circumstance that puts both of them in danger?

Mystery, romance, and danger, fill this novel, with a story that will draw you in and not let go.

**Warning: This is a mature adult novel. Recommended for readers 18+ due to sexual content and adult language.

December 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Cover Reveal - Please Sign Up

Ladies and gentlemen, blog and Facebook followers of all ages, welcome to the COVER REVEAL announcement!

I tried to make it glittery with rainbows and unicorns, but the excitement processor on my computer fried.

This is not the cover you're looking for
It’s a very special time in a young (relatively speaking) author’s life when his first cover is completed and ready to be revealed to the world at large.  It’s a coming of age, one might say.  The culmination of years of effort, sweat, tears and no little blood.

Those virgins aren’t going to sacrifice themselves!

So it is with great, great pleasure that I announce the COVER REVEAL for my own book Tears of Heaven.

Tears of Heaven is being published through Wild Child Publishing December 1, 2013.

The cover will be revealed November 15, 2013.

I’m asking any and all of you to help me get the word out.  If you have a blog, no matter what it is dedicated to, I would appreciate if you would agree to host my COVER REVEAL.  Please, please, please FILL OUT THIS FORM.

I’ll take care of all the rest.

I’ll provide you with the HTML and art work ready to go.  I’m also happy to send out an advanced reader copy (ARC) to anyone who will host the COVER REVEAL.

Thank you all for your support in the past, and also for your continued efforts.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

If You See an Angel, Run

People think they want to meet an angel, but they really don’t.  The awful truth is that meeting an angel is the scariest, most life-altering moment of any mortal’s short existence.  Angels have always had their voices raised in songs of praise and their wings dipped in rivers of blood.  When the Throne needs a mortal slain, or an army felled, an angel is sent.  When a city or nation needs to be leveled, and the ground sown with salt for a thousand years, an angel is the destroyer.

Flood, fire, famine, disease, pestilence and death are conjured through an angel.

Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare embodied.

Rogues were an order of magnitude worse.  An angel was a messenger of destruction, operating under orders from the Throne.  Rogues had no direction, no channel for their power.  They sought only dominion through the most direct means possible.

“Go, little girl,” the rogue gestured with his right arm, the one where she’d managed to drive a spike through his wrist.

It would have been stupid to engage the rogue, or really any opponent, in conversation.  Witty banter was for the movies.  Errol Flynn and John Wayne could while away the hours as they faced a bad guy and spouted catchy one-liners.

In the really real world, Del knew better than to take time out of her busy schedule.

She still held a second cold-forged iron spike in her left hand.  She wanted to drop it and reach for her last SIG Sauer .45 behind her back.  Most melee weapons against a rogue were nearly useless. Unless it was the right weapon.  She shifted her grip, stepped into the rogue with speed no mortal could, and stabbed with enough power to lift the rogue off its feet.  Rogues might be strong, but the laws of physics were stronger.  The foot-long spike punched into the rogue’s left shoulder and only her fist on the weapon stopped it.

The Host takes care of their own.

Even if they have to hire it done.

Tears of Heaven available Winter 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013


I love research.  I love history and tactics and logistics.  I love finding out just how stranger than fiction truth can be.

I love hand-manufacturing techniques, learning what it took to make a simple horseshoe, let alone something as complex as a full suit of armor.  I like finding out interesting little details and then working them into my own writing.

Drachmas?  I thought this was an action story!
I can spend hours on end searching down the tiniest of details.  Sometimes, this has a detrimental effect on my writing.  Putting all that time and effort into figuring out exactly what the coin denominations were for the major ports of Greece and the Mediterranean.  The conversation between characters that resulted from this effort ended up being scrapped because, well, it was a lecture on ancient coin denominations that made no sense in the context of the story.

Why would three characters start instructing each other on the different kinds of coins they all should already know about?

Such is the life of a writer.

We often must kill our hard-researched and hard-written darlings.

Quick, take the blue pill!
The other problem with research, especially in the internet age, is that while it’s easy to stumble upon something that sounds cool, it’s even easier to find information that isn’t true.  We writers have to put on the appearance of being an expert in all fields, when in fact we may only have a decent handle on one or two and we’re faking the rest.

You see, when you create a world, and the characters that inhabit it, you strive for realism in every aspect.  History, society, culture, events all need to appear to be organic occurrence.  The characters reactions should be organic and personal.  At the end of the day, though, they’re happening because the author wants them to happen.

How much for the brick in the window?
We have to do everything in our power to keep readers from pulling back the curtain.  It’s not enough to just put up a sign in front that says, “Pay No Attention.”  We have to tack, nail, screw, chain, bolt, and (if we’re really successful) wall over the curtain with brick and mortar.  The world needs to be so real that a reader can step out of this one and into that one seamlessly.

How does that happen?  Three tips: research, research and more research.  It helps if an expert has already condensed research for you, so that you only have research those important bits.  Experts like  like I Clausewitz and limyaael who can take a lot of the pressure off a writer.  But the research still needs to take place, and it should be done.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

These Kids Have It So Easy!

Neener, neener, neener!
Back in my day, we didn’t have oxygen to breath.  Everyone had to smash themselves with two rocks to keep their hearts pumping.  That was when we weren’t working in the salt mines to get enough gruel for our daily meal.  It was hard, but that’s the way we liked it.  Not like today's kids, with their atmosphere and their photosynthesis!


Every few years it seems another blogger or journalist makes the stunning observation that “kids these days are coddled”.  It's barely observable behavior, with no scientific or research basis, codified more from distorted memory of the “good ole days” than anything else.

Let's look at my favorite “observed” pet peeve from this article by the insightful Whitney Collins who claims: We Can Warm a Bench.  This is the suggestion that today’s kids are coddled and soft because of how parents and organizations treat their participation.  Gen Xers who believe they didn't receive participation awards should talk to their parents. You may not remember them because, well, they're unmemorable.  And that’s the point.  But we got them. Also ask your parents about their own participation awards. 

They aren't new.

They also don't turn you into a blubbering, whiny, cry-baby.  You were already a whiny, cry-baby because that’s the only argument you had until your brain rewired itself during your teen years and you grasped logic, reason and negotiation over the more basic instincts.  I have a participation award that I actually treasure among the trophies I've won: my Tough Mudder orange headband. You can't buy these, and Mudders who’ve won them don't typically sell them.  But it's a flat out participation award. You had to run a 13+ mile obstacle course around, over, and across several mountains while sometimes being hit with electricity.

Hey wait, I'm 40.  Where's my basement and free rent?
So this whole argument about “today’s generation” is a self-congratulatory pat on the back to being born at a certain time period, looking only at stereotypes of the next generations from an Us versus Them perspective.

In short, it's horse manure.

It’s about pawning off lazy and biased writing as substantive.  It’s about making unsupported claims and stating them as fact.  These articles paints a very rosy and completely false picture of one generation at the expense of another through equally false observations.  Each point makes broad, sweeping claims that suffer and die from the fallacy of generalization. Gen Xers, like every other generation, had vastly different experiences based more on socio-economic and geographic factors than they did being born at roughly the same time.  At best we could all nod and sing along to “The Smurfs” theme song, or provide forced laughter when someone yells, “Where’s the beef!”

Catch-phrases and trivial pop culture references do not make us a superior generation.

Quit yer whining!
Don't you have a participation trophy to polish?
There is no such thing as a “sweet spot” for children to grow up in, and ours is no different.  The complaints these articles level about Millennials being self-entitled and coddled are the same observations made by every generation all the way back to Neanderthals complaining that Homo Erectus had it so easy because they could make fire.

"Back in my generation the cave was COLD and that made you TOUGH. This FIRE technology, so called, is the downfall of SOCIETY!"

Horse manure.

I have had the distinct honor and privilege of working with high school students for the past six years.  While certainly some can fall into any given stereotype, others are the pinnacle of their generation.  With access to the internet and ebooks, Skype and 24-7 news, they are some of the best informed, best read and most rationale individuals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.  They see an ever-shrinking world, in which the politics of one nation can have vast, sweeping and extremely detrimental effects on others.  They’ve lived through 9/11, the War on Terror, and the Great Recession.  By comparison to other generations, theirs has had the least stability, the most insecurity, and felt the greatest burden of risk.

I know you are, but what are we?
Sure, they may whine about a lack of jobs, opportunity, or the unfairness of being young.  But that’s not indicative of their generation.  All generations have done and will continue to do that.

This kind of pandering is one generation being self-congratulatory, while demeaning another. Complaining about the current generation's failings isn't bold or praiseworthy. It's cliché, as the New York Times kindly pointed out all the way back in 2011 about our own generation (and all the others):

Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s, the twentysomethings were indulged with every toy, game and electronic device available. They didn’t even have to learn how to amuse themselves since Mom and Dad were always there to ferry them from one organized activity to another. If we baby boomers were spoiled, the Whiny Generation was left out to rot. They had it all.

That’s right.  We Gen Xers, who are so awesome and well developed now, who can "sit a bench" because sitting somehow made us tough were once dubbed the Whiny Generation.  At least articles that complain about Millennials help us live up to that dubious moniker.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Belated Birthday Wishes

Note: For my 40th birthday, my wife solicited wishes from friends and family.  I received so many wonderful memories and thanked everyone.  This one just came through from my sister, Kaleen, and I thought it was worth sharing.

Rush Hour in Battle Mountain, NV.
My brother Rob is the oldest, and therefore made all the fun mistakes that Jamie and I never got to make. He paved a way for us, then put up cement blockades on that newly paved path so we couldn’t follow. So, yes, if you want some smart and savvy stories about Rob, stories that make him look young and foolish, spunky but stupid, then, yes, I’ve got those. The only problem is that Rob has probably already told all those stories. Again, pulling the ladder up behind him, so he gets there first, with the best toys, to raise the highest flag.

So, yes I could tell you about the time that we were living in Battle Mountain (and you know it’s gonna be a good story when it starts out with Battle Mountain . . .) and our parents were out. Rob’s friends call him up and say something shady like, “Your parents are gone! Sweet, let’s rob a bank!” or whatever teenage boys say to each other on the phone. Rob
The Lincoln Town Car is so large it affects gravity.
agrees to the shady activity, but needs to get into town about 7 miles away. He makes the only reasonable choice of reasonable criminals. He borrows our parents’ Lincoln Town Car. But he can’t leave Jamie and I home alone. Or, what is probably more to the point, he refused to relinquish the parental-granted authority of Being In Charge. So he makes us go with him. We don’t want to. Jamie and I have been told horror stories (by Rob) about children, cars, police officers, criminals, jail, and worst of all, having to confess to our parents. But Rob is in charge, and has always been persuasive. So we all pile in the Lincoln. I should tell you that Rob was at most 14 years old. So, there we are, Rob in the front, Jamie and I squished into scared little sibling globs on the floor of the back seat so no one sees us. Well, correction, so that Rob’s friends don’t realize that he’s being responsible while he’s being a criminal. Oh I could go on to tell you that he then has to fess up that Jamie and I are in the backseat because his friends want to hop in and go for a ride, too, and we did.

Note: I have no memory of these events, nor would I be disposed to discuss such events if they had actually occurred.

But I won’t tell you that story, mostly because it highlights the fact that Rob had a mullet when we lived in Battle Mountain.

The most dangerous creature known to 3 year-olds.
Instead I will tell you the story of how Rob used to dominate my son Alex at Pokémon by using Charizard. My son was 3, a young, impressionable, adorable 3 year old with one love. One goal in his life. He wanted to be a Pokémon Master. Because of his love of Pokémon battles he wanted to beat the best—enter Rob. Think of Rob in leather pants, an evil mullet, driving up in his stolen Lincoln and laughing a mighty guffaw. Or, your other option is to picture Rob in jeans and a t-shirt playing, with kind eyes and an eagerness to spend time with his nephew. But, if you choose Option 2, you won’t really appreciate the end of this story.

So . . . Rob enters the room, swaggering and says to the sweetest-little boy in the world, “Fire up your Nintendo 64! We’ve got some dueling to do!” Then Rob did the worst thing of all—he picked Charizard to be his starting Pokémon. This evolved form of Charmander has a devilish ability to fly up high and then swoop down and pounce on his victims, pummeling them into the ground. A knock-out move every time.

I said, it hurts my feelings when you use Charizard!
How could Alex compete with such a move? How could he defeat a Flying-Fire-Ground attack.

Well he couldn’t.

Rob, mullet waving in the air, just laughed as Alex was defeated. And Alex, true, brave, kind child did the only thing he could. He used his Feeling Words. He said, “It hurts my feelings when you use Charizard.” Pow! A knock-out to Rob. A real-life David and Goliath moment. Rob was down for the count. And from that battle on, Rob has never used Charizard again. Well, maybe once, but that’s another story.

Note: I'm 99.44% certain this was actually addressed to my brother, Jamie, who also had a mullet.

Rob redeemed himself by later teaching my son how to wave a sword and sing “Be a Man.” Going on to chant call-and-response choruses of:

I got my ass kicked a lot, but I was well choreographed.
“What do we want?”
“When do we want it?”

How he invented the all-time favorite game of “Squish the Nephew” with both my sons and how the giggling lasted well into the night. Yes, Rob started out being a rough rogue with a mullet and a pension for danger. But, in the end, his deep love for family and musicals has always managed to surface above his criminal car and Pokémon activity. Don’t let his tough exterior fool you, he loves like he laughs—heartily.

And he does a mean rendition of the Sharks and Jets. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why Breasts on Breastplates: Part Two

How many more fantasy women have to die?

So my article yesterday on world and character building generated a lot of comments.  Not on world or character building, but instead on my off-handed remarks concerning breasts on breastplates.

I loved it.

Not just because breasts are a wonderful topic (they are), but because it highlights exactly what I was talking about in regards to world and character creation.  Also, I really love doing research on these kinds of things, and then discussing that researching with like-minded folk.  It helps me in my own character and world creation.

So let's get started!

Nice breasts on a bad breastplate.
Through the lens of our modern culture, it would seem that armorers, working on female armor, should make such an allowance for a woman’s breasts.  First, because, well, they’re breasts and like all things feminine, they shouldn’t be treated like a man’s.  Second, of course, they’re breasts and why not show them off!

This misses the mark, exactly because we’re a modern culture so far removed from a time and place of armed men (and women) who wore armor because it meant the difference between life and death.

So let’s look at the breastplate.  I won’t take you through a whole history lesson of development and different versions (partly because I only know a fraction of the information and can’t be bothered to track down the rest).  Suffice to say even ancient man understood that getting a sharp stick or piece of metal stuck in your vitals was bad.  Downright detrimental.  Unhealthy even.

Note: Gambeson lacks penis bulge.
To compensate for the lack of natural armor, humans started covering up the soft, fleshy bits with cloth, leather, wood and eventually metal.  This culminated in all kinds of various armored bits, including our subject, the breastplate. The best designs of a breastplate are convex, meaning they bulge outward like Santa’s belly.  This provides the strongest shape of armor, distributing the force of any blow away from the center, and resulting in more glancing blows.

With that in mind, it should be understood that plate armor was never worn by itself.  At least if you wanted to keep the skin on your bones.  Most armor wasn't custom tailored, but even armor that was would be bigger than the average man-at-arms (bigger being preferable to smaller, which would cause all kinds of mobility issues).  It was also made out of metal.  Metal chaffs.  Like a lot.  And not in a good way.  To compensate for this, layers of clothing would be wor
Get that man a breastplate, stat!
n, usually a padded leather jacket or gambeson (rich, customized armor would have already taken these layers into account).  Once the padding is in place, unless the lady in question was extremely busty, all chests are essentially rendered equal.  Even an extremely busty warrior-woman, wearing a proper gambeson, would only be slightly more “chesty” than her male counterparts (provided her male counterparts aren’t Arnold Schwartenegger in his Pumping Iron years).  Any compensation needed in armor, especially breast cups, are rendered unnecessary.

Now those are some dangerous curves.
The other thought toward breast compensation (as you can read from either this link or this one) is that breasts on a breast plate negate the entire point of the armor. Instead of shearing off the force of a weapon to either side, away from the vital central region, those lovely metal spheres create a wedge pointed straight at the center of the wearer's chest. Any force that hits the breasts will now smash that wedge into the chest, damaging the very area it’s supposed to protect.  In fact, a man-at-arms facing a woman-at-arms wearing a chesty breastplate would be at a distinct advantage.  He no longer would have to find one of the chinks in her armor, she’d be wearing it.  He only needs to smash her in her breastplate, letting it do the damage for him.

So, in short, while women warriors should wear armor, it should also make sense.  From a modern view, breastplate breasts do, but from reality (where the woman wants to survive past round one), they do not.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Why Breasts on the Breastplates?

Note: This came from an online discussion that I liked and expanded into this blog post.

What’s telling to me is that there have been, in almost any era, women warriors: Fu Hao, Tomoe Gozen (of whom I’m writing a book), Boudicca, Arachidamia.  They generally stand out as the exception, rather than the rule, rendering them even more exceptional.  For example, Tomoe Gozen was said to have been incredibly strong, not just carrying a sword, but one that was oversized.  But I have to believe that due to social and cultural constraints and pressures, many women warriors have been relegated to the back corners of history.  In 1997, Jeannine Davis-Kimball published “Warrior Women of Eurasia” describing a historic analog of the Greek Amazonians:

“Now 50 ancient burial mounds near the town of Pokrovka, Russia, near the Kazakhstan border, have yielded skeletons of women buried with weapons, suggesting the Greek tales may have had some basis in fact.”

That said, when world building for any fantasy novel, it’s possible to dictate some, if not all, of those socio-cultural constraints away and make a wholly believable, strong and capable, female character, even as a main character.  Robert Jordan in The Wheel of Time series balanced his male lead characters with equally (or more) powerful female characters.  Although, his three main characters, around which much of the action and the entire story are told, were male.  Still, Jordan created some very unique female characters.

But there are pitfalls.  Female characters should not just be male characters with genitalia swapped.  There are considerations in regards to female versus male characters that should be mentioned and dealt with.  I think that’s where character creation becomes the most interesting.  Strength and speed are, on balance, male dominant traits.  They need to be dealt with to have a character who carries a shield and wields a sword . . . or she doesn’t, and how and why.  Magic and other supernatural elements can certainly aid the writer in creating a world where a female character is the match, or the better, of her male counterparts.  But other aspects can play in that too.

George R.R. Martin's Brienne of Tarth is worth mentioning as an excellent example.  She was trained as a warrior, achieved the knighthood, but still takes into consideration her male counterparts in a fight.  Brienne also doesn’t fall into the two traps that often occur in fantasy female characters: she is not a buxom babe with a sword, she is  “butch” but she is not a “butch” lesbian.  There is nothing wrong with either, but they are too often tropes that writers fall into.  Brienne is a woman who has taken control of her own power and decided her own course within the fantasy world.  She is at once a badass, but also a woman who has loved, a loyal friend who sympathizes with a mother, and a knight who can fight with the best of them.

Finally, please, please, please stop putting breasts on breastplates.  Whatever these are meant to signify, they're stupid.  I don't just mean that they over objectify a woman warrior (although they do that).  They are anachronistic and even dangerous.  Emily Asher-Perrin does an excellent job explaining this problem with her post “It’s Time to Retire “BoobPlate” Armor. Because It Would Kill You.”  As does I_Clausewitz in his article “Why Female Breastplates Don't Need Breast-Bulges.”  Female heroes would wear sensible armor, sensible clothing, and sensible undergarments appropriate to the time and place.  They would be more interested in surviving a battle than looking like an over-sexed and under-clothed runway model.  

If Joan d'Arc didn't do it, then neither should you.

Edited To Add: As you can see, this article generated some interesting comments.  Rather than limit the discussion there, I wrote a follow-up article, Why Breasts on Breastplates: Part Two, to address many of the questions regarding the topic of breasts on breastplates and why they're so silly/dangerous.  Enjoy — RRAM

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Razor Blades and Lemon Juice

The worst part about writing is the writing.

Stories are easy.  They’re ephemeral.  They’re fun.

You have a hero/heroine who is attractive, and smart, witty and charming.  They’re capable, above average, and maybe even (hopefully) bad ass.

There’s conflict and humor and scenes that make your jaw drop in awe.

It’s fun!

But telling the story and writing the story are two different things.  In my head, I’m the best storyteller alive.  My characters go beyond three-dimension right into complex and complicated.  Their actions are both self and plot driven, and there’s subtlety and nuance.

Then, there’s the written word, the medium in which the story must be encapsulated and passed for consumption.  It is both the means by which the story is released, and the prison which traps it.  Writing has rules and regulations, some of which are solid (like spelling and sentence structure) and some of which are open for interpretation and debate.

Learning all the rules takes a lifetime, and even then mistakes are certain to happen.  We’re only human, after all.

So let me just say, right here and now, proofing sucks.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting Stronger

I received my editors edits today, and tore through them.  A few minor issues, a bunch of little corrections (I can't believe that I had the contraction it's when it should be the possessive its).  There was some negotiations on a few things, but in the end she saw reason.

By which I mean I did exactly what she said and she considered that reasonable.

I've still got a ton of edits to make, but the entire book feels so much stronger.  It's the difference between an elementary school production and something more high school/college.

Not quite Broadway yet, but the potential is there!