It’s a dangerous world, attempting to tread water in the ocean of words, let alone swim in these times where “cultural appropriation” and “cultural insensitivity” may blow up in our faces, after a mere brush against the drifting mine.
This is true for writers and readers alike.
One of those avid readers, squarely in the camp of enjoying new and fascinating stories wherever I find them, I have a few words in defense of us readers and writers trying to navigate the “cultural appropriation and insensitivity” minefield.
Take any movie set in the early Middle Ages, or any book. As far as cultural accuracy goes, most of them could be accused of insensitivity because they have not been historically accurate or true to the culture throughout their work. Yet it does not necessarily follow that they are culturally insensitive, or seizing the culture for their own.
The producers, story writers and authors are trying to communicate a time and place filled with people that stir our imaginations to fire.
The great stories call us to adventure, to love, to fight for good and conquer bravely. They are trying to help us understand a different culture, a different person, at the level of heart and soul. To do this to the best of their ability, they must at times use words or customs that did not even exist in those times they are creating a story about, or they must adapt them to our contemporary understanding. If they were true in every detail, we would completely miss some important character motivations and scene meanings because we had no idea that what we saw or read had a specific meaning, and we would possibly understand less than three words in ten because of old style language.
This is true whether we are English, American, or any other culture going back in our own history. If we are going back in time and crossing cultures, say from the American to Korean Middle Ages, there is an even larger cultural gap. But that does not mean our minds and hearts cannot meet despite the obstacles. Story is made to bridge the ocean gulf between us: whoever we are, wherever we are, whenever we are. The purpose of story is to communicate.
But what does it communicate? That is key to discover, so we can disarm the mines planted by those who love discord and do not respect peoples’ created differences with grace, who do not see that the very differences between us may be the source of every individual culture’s beauty, riches, and usefulness to the wide world. Admiration, respect, and appreciation bring every word and gesture in all forms of communication to life. Without that motivation, every word and gesture is dead, or worse, an explosion waiting to happen.
I use my own work as an example here, since I know my own motives better than those of any other communicator. Like any writer of past times and historical fantasy, in Path of the Warrior, the first companion story in Falcon Dagger, I am swimming between cultures. But it is dangerous.
This was kindly brought to my attention by my friend Jenn Rogers and her daughter, who are fans of Kdramas and all things Korean. I have never seen a Kdrama, though I plan to remedy that. My love for Medieval Korean culture started with my introduction to Tae Kwon Do years ago, and the martial history of the Land of the Morning Calm.
The martial focus was what I especially respected and explored on behalf of my main character in Path of the Warrior, an honorable exile from Korea, named in his native land Ryu Tae-shin, though his name was changed in my other stories, which did not detract from his honor but added to it, since he bore an insult with graceful nobility, because of necessity. That necessity was bearing up under slavery, and not confusing those who he knew would read of him later. He kept his name Tae Chisun, because he made the name – the name did not make him.
Despite any inaccuracies, of which I am sure there are at least a few, since I am seeing across cultures and time to Ryu Tae-shin’s story, I am attempting to bring to life a noble man, one I admire, who cares about his people, his family, and others. I am trying to share, across cultures, my appreciation of one who defends the right. Any mistakes in the work are mine, of course.
But do inaccuracies of naming, (which I have attempted to fix to the best of my ability), or historical settings or mannerisms (sometimes subject to poetic license), or outright ignorance, mean that this story of a man who sacrificed everything for the lives of his people appropriates the Choson culture or is insensitive to it?
Does it communicate that Koreans are bad in some way, more than other cultures? Does it claim they think exactly like I do?
It is a story born of admiration for a strong people in a time of conflict.
That is my opinion, supported I think, by Hwarang Ryu Tae-shin himself. But you will have to discover for yourself if you can stand in Ryu Tae-shin’s boots and wrestle with the fierce conflicting loyalties between his sworn oath to his Kuksun overlord and his oath to save the love of his life and his people.
Would we put our lives on the line for right?
Some things, like our desire for justice, our love or hatred of truth, our depth of love tested by fire, our willingness to sacrifice for others, is the same in every culture. Mind you, I do not say we think down the same wave, or row the identical path to those values. The customs, mannerisms, and circumstances may, rather they will, differ. Completely leaving aside what we believe about who we are, where we come from, and where we are going, or our religion.
But we are all human, and our hearts are fashioned from cuts of the same sail, each loosed on the sea of life from our individual islands and continents. We can sail together, all the brighter and more formidable in array for our different flags, painted sails, or pennons.
If we detonate the mines between us with well-aimed ordnance, disarm them with the truth of the story, or on the occasion when there is truth in the accusations of appropriation or insensitivity, if instead of cursing the dark we light a candle of communication, we can retain and grow mutual respect and admiration for the greatness of every people. We can swim without harm through the minefield, and our hearts and hands meet in understanding.
We can enjoy our intriguing idiosyncrasies, our various culture strengths, and help each other overcome our different weaknesses, for everyone has them.
Each person is made in the image of our Creator, the master of the waves, of every land, every heart. He made equality. Meeting another heart and mind in the sea of thought, across the waves of life, is an invaluable gift.
May we overcome every wave and mine between us. For the sake of us readers, who love brave adventure and goodness, and also to encourage those who communicate these human truths to lighten our darkness.
Or, as my Tae Kwon Do Grandmaster, Tae Hong Choi, and Grandmaster Vince Church, would say, Pil Sung! Certain victory through courage, strength, and indomitable spirit.
This month of March I’ve been working on Path of the Warrior, the first entry in Book III of the Falcon Chronicle series.
Here is a sneak peek:
We wrestle with memories to find meaning.Without knowledge we live in emptiness, for life and death have no purpose. Memories give sight through the mists of time. Where do I come from and where am I going? The watermarked parchment rustles. I read words written in quill and ink and a man’s soul.
The night was dark and warm as blood. Unseasonably warm, as the maples had not leafed in the courtyard. On nights such as these the tiger walked unheard. Tae Chisun rolled the silk-smooth paper in his hands and tucked it into the message case.
He took the lamp from his table and handed it to his messenger. He did not mind darkness and silence, not when he had his sword and his hands and feet. “Rangdo, run fast, and we may yet preserve our people.”
His student nodded, his thin face sober, and ducked out into the driving rain. Embroidered with black sigils of officialdom, the band tied about his head directed water away from his eyes and down his back.
Tae rested his hand on his long sword, the hilt familiar under his fingers.
To his people of the Land of the Morning Calm, the tiger symbolized strength and protection. His brothers in the hwarang, the full flower of the warriors of his people, worshipped that tiger spirit, and followed Seon, the Zen. They fought with sword and bow, hand and foot, with a prowess that even the Hsuing Nu heard of on their far Northern steppes and respected.
Now he must fight with his heart, mayhap every drop of his blood—against enemies within and without.
Did his messenger know he carried Tae’s life and that of his people in his hands? Tae resisted the compulsion to draw his blade. It would be an easy thing to follow, to ensure loyalty.
He let his fingers slip from the sword hilt. He had known before he began his message to Jun-ho Tsing, rebel kuksun of the five thousand massed outside the gate, that one rangdo with a false tongue walked among his two hundred. Tae’s heart beat heavy in his chest.
During training, his students emulated his every hand strike, feint, and sword-blow as he led them in the honored techniques of Subak and Taekyon as the sun rose over the rim of the world, glinting flame on the water of the river they practiced beside. Over time they grew strong. Their feet flashed high in jumping kicks and sent their mounted opponents’ hats of horsehair spinning to the ground. The punches of the most adept cracked ribs like dry pine—could crush an attacker’s throat—shock the heart so it ceased to beat. Their open hand strikes knocked a man senseless, disrupting the nervous system, or in precise combination brought the touch of death.
His rangdo—two hundred students who aspired to become hwarang, as he was. Tae had thought every one of them sought to serve his kuksun’s family, their village, their land. Sought to serve with the same honor as the favored Tae Chisun—who held the hand and heart of their kuksun’s daughter, Huen.
Tae’s breath stopped a moment. Favored. Yes, he was. And with the dawn he would be Kuksun Paekche Kim’s most esteemed hwarang—or he would be dead.
Surely his most trusted messenger was true. Would his rangdo carry his offer to Jun-ho Tsing of the five thousand? Or would he try to rise above his rank and take the message elsewhere, yearning for Kuksun Paekche Kim’s favor? Did his messenger believe with the kuksun that it was an honorable path to fight to the last child? The other villages would follow Paekche’s example.
Tae grunted. Taxes always went to an overlord, be it king or kuksun. Better that it was to rebel Jun-ho Tsing than the lord of death. The village had little food left and many rangdo, who ate much. Tae swallowed. He had not tasted the hot bite of Huen’s fermented cabbage and spice for days.
He stepped out into the wet dark and shut the door. Who knew the undercurrents between the villages better than its protecting kuksun, with his hwarang and rangdo warriors? The rebel Jun-ho Tsing would need them all to oversee his new land and people. So Kuksun Paekche Kim might live, and his brothers, down to the lowest rangdo. Satisfaction tugged at Tae’s mouth. Life—and his Huen’s smile.
He would see her live—if it meant his own death. His mouth tightened. He had a task yet to complete. Rain misted against his face, the budding maples smelled sweet.
He carefully wrapped his sword-hilt against the wet and slipped away.
Molten fire shone along his blade in the light of the lamps from his old master’s open door. The door yet quivered on its hinges.
Tae kept to the shadow.
Standing under the square door-arch in his leather and cane armor, Woon Chong said nothing. His mouth pulled up in a sneer and he drew his weapon, stepping down to meet Tae. No one stirred behind the carved porch pillars, no voice or clatter of dish came from within the house.
Tae retreated farther into the dark; the light must not blind him. He kept his weight even, not lifting his feet from the mud. He must feel his way along the earth; avoid the stray branch, the deceptive puddle, the rock that would turn.
Woon Chong shifted his heavy frame, circling him, a floating feather. Noiseless, he lifted his blade from his side, slicing up and across Tae’s body in an adder-swift strike. But Tae was not there to be gutted.
Woon Chong rained heavy blows on him, precise with hate. Steel grated on steel and sparked. Tae’s blade gave before his hwarang master’s, deflect, attack, and deflect—until the moment Woon extended his arm. Tae struck his wrist. Woon Chong’s sword spun away and thudded to earth.
Tae locked Woon’s arm behind him, his blade at his throat. His master did not dare try to throw him. His chest heaved under Tae’s hand; his breath whistled hoarsely. Not for Tae, the mountain-cat playing with the mouse.
He gripped him hard. “I am sorry.”
When Tae returned to his command post the rain had washed the blood from his hands and the tears from his face. Dawn was near. The traitor had struggled and pleaded. But he could not let Woon Chong live. Such a one would betray again.
Tae swallowed hard. The same might soon be said of him.
And they must not find him with Huen, or she would be accused. When he first saw her he had been rangdo to hwarang Woon Chong.
That morning, his master ordered him to display the way of the sword with one of his brothers, to show their skill before the kuksun’s daughter, who walked through the courtyard.
She had been such a bright spirit, her cheeks soft as a slender peach, her deep brown eyes reminding him of those of a water-deer. Her words to her maid when she saw them, before she brought her hand to her mouth, were swift as the red that crept up her neck, a rosy blush on her golden skin.
With a sudden rush, Tae had disarmed his brother in a moment. Huen laughed at the surprised rangdo’s stare of disbelief at his empty hand where his sword had been. And red-faced Woon Chong ordered Tae to strike his brother with the flat of his sword. Tae stopped after three blows.
Woon yelled at him to continue, and Tae bowed, held out his sword hilt and said, “I did not teach my brother the sword aright.” He bent across his brother’s back and took the rest of his master’s instruction.
As Tae returned from washing his bloody back after the sword lesson, he contrived to pass near Huen. He overheard her quiet aside to her maid. “That rangdo has a spirit about him. A tiger, yet with the gentleness of the deer …”
She said it thoughtfully, words that would be cause for blood coming from any other mouth. Tae thought her rather perceptive. He had bowed deeply, straightened, and met the sardonic gaze of his kuksun, who stood just beyond his daughter.
Tae touched the rough wood of his command post door. From the beginning, Woon Chong had sought to protect his place as hwarang, driving the rangdo under him mercilessly, without care for life, limb, or purpose. No warrior among them attracted their kuksun’s notice without paying a price to Woon Chong. From then on, Tae performed his master’s toughest tasks. They had made him strong.
Tae bowed his head. Even now he did not lift his sword without reason—and held it until his task was finished. His master had been the last.
He wiped his eyes. Woon Chong had thought to kill those hwarang of rank around him and sell the villages to Jun-ho Tsing. To gain a new kuksun who would place him at his side, as Kuksun Paekche Kim had not. One who had reached enlightenment would call him demonic—one who walked with greed and hate.
Tae stepped inside the command post, wiped his blade, and slid it slowly back into its wood sheath. His own journey had not begun in truth.
Before his test to become hwarang he went to the Chin mainland to study scribing, medicine, and the arts of war. His questions had been many. Why did he yearn for joy? Why did life and the earth feel broken?
In the Chin place of learning he found answers to his questions of the stars. A man, shunned by the rest, had showed him the Book of the I AM.
Tae settled himself against the command post wall and laid his sword before his feet. Seon, as his people put it, did give power. Inhuman strength, to both flesh and spirit—but never the power to dispel his darkness. That grew ever heavier.
Tae smiled wryly. Strange that one could seek enlightenment, the end of delusion, and be so deluded. Caught in so much darkness that there was no light to see it.
The pages of the Book had reflected as a pool the ugliness of his hate for Woon Chong and the other dark things crowding within him. Turning his face toward the Buddha, drinking the power of Zen, did not change their existence. He caught back a short laugh.
And after what he discovered, he could no longer petition the spirits of river and hill or follow the way of the Zen. He had beaten the man who asked him why a warrior feared the truth.
But it haunted him, would not leave him. The promise of meaning and purpose kept him close until he read the Book further and was answered.
The Master of the stars gave the path of meaning to all things he created.
Tae’s throat closed. He had known he could never attain rightness as the Master of the stars was right in all things. Compassionate, just, pure, strong, the Master of the stars was good. Loving men, he existed in himself. Tae was evil, and condemned. But then love and sacrifice expunged his darkness.
He knew swords. The Book’s edge was keen, dividing the pure from the impure. But unlike any other sword, the Word within the Book’s pages also healed.
The Master of the stars paid his blood-soaked debt and sent him on to live, to love, to grow in joy. He was not master of his own fate. He was not God. But the Master of all cared about him, walked with him, taught him to wield the sword in both worlds, in the realm of spirit and flesh. The pieces of the universe slid into place. He had asked pardon of the man who showed him the Book, and they parted as brothers.
Tae tipped his head back against the wall and shut his eyes. He took truth and left the power of Seon, the Zen. But it was not comfortable, dividing intentions, and hearts, and men. Though life held much suffering, his lord overcame it. His Master would bring him to his land of joy in the end, where suffering ceased forever. That time might be very near.
The thin cane door bent under the blows. “Open, in the Kuksun’s name!”
Tae lifted his head from his knees. The door burst open.
They took his sword and seized him, two men for each arm. Six guards marched him between them into Kuksun Paekche Kim’s presence.
Tae knelt one moment before the guards forced him down. He would die with few faces to witness his dishonor—Paekche gave him that. He raised his head.
Paekche’s mouth was flat, his black eyes hard. A frown wrinkled his wide brow beneath his black hair in its simple warrior’s knot, bound by a green silk band stitched with the sigil of the house of Kim.
Had Huen’s hands fashioned that band with pride and joy? Tonight her father would bring her sorrow, whatever he decided. Tae let out his breath. If his blood were of the house of Kim, however distant, it would be easier to convince his kuksun. But for that there was no remedy.
“My Kuksun.” He leaned forward, baring his neck in trust, whether his kuksun raised his sword above him or no.
“Why?” Paekche growled. The stinging blow of his hand numbed Tae’s cheek and rocked him back on his heels. The carefully shaven lines of Paekche’s beard framed the sides of his square chin.
“How could you give us to Jun-ho! Do you seek higher rank so fiercely? Is the spirit of the tiger dead in you? Has the leader of my hwarang turned his back to his enemies?”
“I do not give our people to Jun-ho Tsing, I give them life.” Tae’s jaw hardened. “A man’s heart is not determined by his rank. And the tiger—in spirit we run together, and bow to the Master of the stars alone.”
“So, you raise your name beside the tiger’s, and seek my seat?”
“No, most honorable Kuksun. I fight for our land, and for you. That both may endure.”
Paekche paced back and forth on the dais. His silk slippers whispered over the polished wood. His robes loosed the scent of cloves, star-anise, and musk.
“Did your lord of all not die without lifting his hand for his kingdom?” Paekche’s voice was harsh.
Tae could not stop his back from stiffening. The guards pressed down on his shoulders, but let him rise to his knees, so long as he did not lift his gaze in this moment. He strove to keep the heat from his voice. “He died for us, honorable Kuksun. And he rose from death to build his kingdom—in our hearts—in any who wish purity and strength.” He let out a weary breath. “He holds my heart in his hand.”
“As I, your Kuksun, hold your body.”
“Yes. As does Huen, who holds my heart also.” Tae lifted his gaze. “My Kuksun—I seek Jun-ho Tsing’s face that you and Huen may live, and the house of Kim. He will need you. There is no need for blood.”
Had Jun-ho Tsing even received his rangdo’s message? Two might not be enough. Tae prayed with all his might one got through. “As for the stolen burial land, though our ancestors remain in our memory, bones cannot speak, or touch, or laugh. Their dust sleeps; though that earth is sacred, would they not rather we walk in life, than for our blood to water the ground where none can touch them?”
Paekche lifted his hand. The men holding Tae’s arms stiffened, their fingers binding as steel. The sixth guard stepped forward, a moon-blade halberd in his hands.
It was his answer. Tae’s chest tightened and his breath came short. He bowed his head. He had one thing left to lose.
I hope you enjoyed this excerpt of Falcon Dagger Bk III, Path of the Warrior
Below is a sneak peek at Kingdom’s Fall rough draft that I have been working on a little this week in the midst of attempting to record Fantastic Journey, a book giveaway or two, and a wise word for February.
With a dark scowl, Brother Rolf hunted bright fall leaves blown in from the road off the church stoop. He swept fiercely. The wooden broom handle nestled in his grip, heavy as his old spear shaft. The wide entry-stone under his feet stretched two chill lengths into the walled court under the warmth of a new sun that peered over the walls of Bolton Abbey and streamed past the open gate. His breath shot in a thin cloud above the lowest step of the north transept tower.
A shiver raised his freckled skin where his thick wool sleeves did not protect him. The chill of the stone beneath the edge of his black habit pierced his bare toes. He moved faster, chasing an errant leaf, red as his hair, vibrant as the dew spangled dawn.
If a leader did not soon rise from the Northumbrian mists, stones sister-kin to the icy, glistering dark granite beneath his feet would mark the last resting places of his people. The kingdom was weakening.
Brigands harried the strongholds north of the Humber River as he did the leaves. With few to stay them while the king lay ill, such raiders grew ever bolder. Even Lord Dain Cieri of Cierheld, leading the north lords from his stronghold walls of uncommon stone, did not have enough armsmen to guard every hold between the ancient Roman Eagles’ great North Wall and the Humber. The brigands melted like frost when chased, yet seemed always to know where to strike. And with talk growing in the north against the south lords, the unrest in Britannia might mean more than brigands. It might mean war.
Turning, Rolf swept the last crimson beech leaf from the side door with a vicious stroke. Though the brigands had not yet struck near Bolton Abbey, it was their nature to hunt the vulnerable. Even though, unlike some church holdings, his brothers of the abbey had little in the way of riches. Even their dedicated church utensils were not of gold, but bronze. Abbot Alton would not keep gold when their people were hungry. Rolf smiled a little, then his scowl crept back. He was slipping indeed, not to have suggested to Abbot Alton the looming possibility of attack.
A thudding of small hooves and a soft, heavy step against the dirt of the courtyard rang loud at his back. Rolf swung around, continuing the swift motion of his broom in a level stroke.
A man leading a donkey ducked the twiggy end coming for his head and swung in return, the blur of a long weapon coming at Rolf from the left. His heart in his throat, Rolf sprang to the edge of the step to soften the full blow, bringing his broom across his body in both hands. Blade struck wood with a dull thud. Rolf blinked. The weapon did not bite, for it was sheathed in leather. And the face beyond it . . .
His breath of relief became a growl. Knocking the blade to the side, he dove down the steps and thrust the broom handle at his attacker. The donkey reared and backed. Its giant owner quelled it with ease, wrapping a long arm about the donkey’s gray neck and twisting his body to let Rolf’s attack slide past.
“Cease, little brother!” Dark eyes twinkled above a bristling black beard and a large, misshapen nose. That pot of a dented helm and the big feet in leather boots caressing the earth—Rolf knew them both.
A merry laugh rolled from the man’s wide chest beneath a mat of curly dark hair between a thick neck and gaping tunic. “Ye’ve not lost all yer’ skill.”
Rolf glared at the black-haired giant, who again whisked the sheathed blade about to rest at Rolf’s throat. Rolf squinted. The plain hilt marked his own blade—or the blade that had once been his.
-Kingdom’s Fall rough draft excerpt (this book will be part of Falcon Dagger – cover in the sidebar)
And if you missed the newsletter, here is an encouraging word of wisdom for February:
Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. And He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgement as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes.
Cease from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret, it leads only to evildoing.
This is so encouraging to me. That God would have me do what is right and fight injustice where I can, first in myself and then in my world. And that I can then rely on Him for the final outcome, that He will bring justice to all.
This is the Romance Giveaway I committed to a while back that looks like it has some interesting reads. Don’t forget to sign up for a chance to win a gift card for the book of your choice! And the ebooks in the giveaway are free, for a limited time.
Then below is aclean Christian RomanceGiveaway with a $20 gift card prize. Be the lucky winner! This one just started today.
Seriously, spring is in the air. The clouds are passing, sunlight is staying a little longer, the robins are seeking worms. New life is around the corner – take advantage of warmer days and plant spring in your heart with thankfulness to our Maker. And don’t forget to thank the special loved one who adds romance and true love to your life.
There are more forms of love than Eros, as a man loves a woman. If you have never read the original story of Valentine, I suggest you do. Or get it at your library.
Here are some fantasy and other reads new to me and maybe to you. My most recent clean fantasy adventures have been Jeff Wheeler’s The Hollow Crown, Morgan Busse’s books, and I’m working on getting K. M. Weiland’s Wayfarer and Jeff Wheeler’s The Silent Shield.
And Morgan Busse has a new release coming February 4 2020. The first two in the series, Mark of the Raven and Flight of the Raven were excellent, now the third is coming, Cry of the Raven. Don’t miss it! Great fantasy adventure.
But there’s more. I’m part of a giveaway for a $30 Gift card and free ebooks thru January 30th.
Some of them are rated moderate for fantasy combat, like mine. Others you will have to use good judgement whether they are clean or not. There are a couple of these I’m looking forward to checking out.
I committed to this giveaway believing it was for pretty clean reads only. I’m keeping my word to share it now, not realizing beforehand what genre some of the books would be. In future I will stick to clean genre giveaways only. Enjoy the clean reads included!
I’m can’t wait for Cry of the Raven! This author I know is good, a great writer of adventure.
There are new doings in the wind. In my life and yours. What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
On my end of things I am looking forward to sharing with you the two books I’ve been working on. Bits of the journey, that is. I don’t want to give everything away! Spoilers live up to their name.
My Blog to Book project on Clean Fantasy should be coming this year, as well as the last stories of the Falcon Chronicle series gathered in a third volume, Falcon Dagger. I will also be on the hunt for free books and giveaways from other authors for you to sample.
On a personal note I can’t wait for spring. I walk outdoors year round, but spring walks bring beauties and adventures all their own.
Some things all of us can look forward to in 2020:
Growth 2. Learning 3. Enjoyment 4. Good things 5. Helping ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country focus on these.
Reading widely (with discretion) gives you all these benefits and more.
I wish you all the best this year of 2020. To your life, and days of happy reading!
And we explore fantasy adventure with all of them: Sight, scent, taste, hearing, touch. (Inside our minds, of course.) And of course intuition, the 6th sense, is never far from reach in a great fantasy story.
But I think there is one more sense.
Fantasy brings together the six senses into a whole and creates a 7th. The seventh sense is one you can discover often if you dive deep into fantasy realms and keep your eyes open.
The greatest fantasies create at moments a unique experience, a kind of sense not to be found anywhere else in the universe we can see. Except in bits and pieces; a kind of joy-filled truth caught in goodness or day dreams or dreams of the night, where odd things that strangely fit are often found.
This 7th sense grasps gleaming facets of truth that we could not see before. It touches them, tastes them. Not first examined by our reason, but felt deep in the actions and reactions you experience while captured within fantasy characters. Inside the kind, the evil, the young and the old, the weak and strong men and women and creatures of fantasy. It happens without your noticing it, while you are enthralled by the hero or heroine you find in many hearts, sometimes growing from a single weak seed. It makes you revolt against evil, also often growing unseen, battling within.
We are so often blinded by our familiar world it usually takes a moving deed, a circumstance, or a state of being in an unfamiliar setting or against a stark backdrop for us to see truth clearly. Such clearness can be startling.
Such was the case for me. Not long ago, I was moaning that there were not very many good fantasy fiction books from the faith sector of our world. Not that I dislike general fantasy, far from it, I admire their authors’ skill very much. I only wish more of us imitated the high bar of storytelling without deserting high moral quality.
I was shown how wrong I was to moan. Patrick Carr’s Shock of Night, Anna Thayer’s Knight of Eldaran Trilogy, Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga, C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters (a novel delightfully re-read) all kept me up late into the night. Sure, there is definitely room for more faith-based fantasy where adventure is never sacrificed, but I’ve discovered treasures everywhere over the long years—from epic fantasy to dieselpunk and beyond. If your heart is hungry . . .
I want to share my otherworldly discoveries on my lifelong venture into best fantasy novels with you.
Join the quest, and find your next adventure! There will be at least 70 posts in this series, and who knows what we may find?
If you don’t want to miss a single grand adventure, sign up in the side bar, where special treasures are reserved for those who seek them.
We’ll venture into worlds unseen where your heart will beat fast at necessary sacrifice, thrill with the triumph of downtrodden hearts against overwhelming odds, and draw lines of right and wrong in blood. You will laugh in side-splitting humor, cry with loss, fight against evil and rage against its seeming victory. But in the end you will come back to peace, hugging gems to your breast. And for those who can see, there is a light going before you.
Let no wall of ignorance, busyness, or other unworthy reason bar you from your next journey to unearth . . . what, I cannot tell. Prepare to use your seven senses.
Crossover: find the Eternal, the Adventure.
Here’s a minute taste of one journey waiting for us on my best books shelf, seeking its place in future posts like The Romance – Exploring Treachery and Trust.
From Victoria Hanley’s The Seer and the Sword:
Torina looked at the boy, at his heavy curling hair and remote, wild eyes.
“If he is my slave,” she asked, “does that make him my own?”
“All your own.”
“I can do whatever I want with him?”
The king nodded.
The princess shivered. “What is your name, son of a king?” she asked.
“Landen.” The boy’s manner, still that of a prince, contrasted oddly with his dusty rags and bruises.
“Vesputo,” Torina said.
“Cut his ropes, please.”
The commander looked to his king, who inclined his head. A blade was drawn. Vesputo severed the ropes carelessly, trailing fresh blood. Landen rubbed his wrists as Torina stepped closer to him.
“My father fought your father.” She said it very softly, speaking as if no king or soldiers looked on. For her, they must have been forgotten.
Landen looked at the ground. A pulse in his neck beat, like the heart of a newly hatched bird.
“Landen,” she whispered. “I never had a slave.”
The boy stood quietly.
“And I never will,” she continued, lifting her chin. “Papa,” her voice rose. “You gave him to me. I set him free.” . . .
Shelley Hitzof Author Audience Academy suggested in a FB session that I post this question about my blog-to-book plan for 2017-2018 and ask your opinion. I decided to include the whole layout, so you can get a general idea what I’m planning to share with you. And you can tell me if it’s something you’d love.
So thank you for your opinion, if you’d give it at the end!
I decided to come up with some serial blog posts/stories with lasting meaning for readers, not for writers. Not because I have anything against writers, (I’m one) only because most of you are YA, fantasy, and speculative fiction buffs. And so am I, and this is something I treasure. I’d love to make a book with you!
I decided to be transparent, bite the bullet, and bare my soul.
These are the kinds of books I love: the ones that pull you deep into a a story world you wish didn’t have to end. The poetic painting of a place where you sense loyalty, love, and goodness rising to do battle against deception, despair, and hate. From the little things like the ups and downs between companions on a great journey, to the soul-tearing decisions of romance, or the life-threatening choices before you, as the hero or heroine.
A world where conflicts are fought within and without. In the intricate vales of the human spirit; in the broad ‘scapes of the land, terrible, beautiful, or engagingly homey; and most of all, in the battle between soul and soul, where the conflicting desires of a villain or villaness (if I can coin the word) and the hero or heroine, drive everything from large armies to their companions, sycophants, or honest followers. What they see and how they react decides their impact on their world, whether they spread darkness or light.
Besides the tried and true we all know, like Tolkien and Lewis, Anna Thayer’s The Knight of Eldaran trilogy, CJ Cherryth’s Fortress in the Eye of Time, Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel, Dennis McKiernan’s The Iron Tower trilogy and The Silver Call duology, Patrick Carr’s The Shock of Night: these types of stories all draw me like a lodestone. In the good conflict contained within them, I glimpse the Morning Star.
This is the very reason I began to write, for those glimpses of joy, beauty, and adventure. And I have feared letting other people know how very much I like poetic, deep themed, character and conflict driven fantasy: historical fantasy, and every other kind of fantasy. Even to other genres. Except for horror and dark.
Because there is darkness enough in our world, enough emptiness, enough despair. What some call realism–the idea that we exist by chance, (which means we have no purpose, no part to play) is actually despair, not the true state of affairs in our world.
Part of Webster’s dictionary definition of despair is “without hope.” And a definition of hope is “to…hope with the expectation of attainment.” If you have no hope of attainment, (which holds solid meaning in its very definition) why do anything? What’s the point? Or why not do whatever you feel like? Tomorrow we die, with less impact than a grain of sand.
When I was a teen, despair almost ate me alive. Partially it was because I was sick, which tends to make everything look black or grey, and partially it was the horrible things I began to see in myself, in life, and in the books I was reading. Where I looked for joy and beauty I began to see betrayal, which brought unhappiness and ugliness. (Fantasy has a strange way of highlighting whatever it portrays, whether darkness or light.)
Suffice it to say, I was learning. But also absorbing what was around me without perspective. I saw a picture in my mind of dominant, rampant evil smothering good, and of despair, a kind of creeping death drawing its shadow over the world. The younger, happy me I used to be was gone, without return.
Then I began to realize, without knowing it at first, that there was more. All who follow good must fight evil, or we will be overcome. And goodness often exists, apparently overcome, but triumphant in the end.
Yes, there is darkness, and fear, and despair, and hate in us and in our world. There is also beauty and joy and hope. Because we were sent here, particular in every area of our being, of time and place, and our every step resounds through the fabric of time, and beyond.
Does this sound like a sci-fi or fantasy story?
It is. And this story is true.Because it’s true, it’s quite natural we find it reflected in many books, the great conflict between dark and light. Not always portrayed clearly or truthfully, but still glaringly there.
With God, all is hope, however we feel about it, for he works all things (even the things that hurt) to our good when we walk with the great dance of his universe, not following the destructive road of the great rebellion. The difference between books of despairing realism and those of hopeful adventure are created when we who write them see the real world, the true story, reality, as we name it, through what we believe. Here it gets tricky. You have to pay attention.
What is true, is true, whoever sees it. But the person who sees the clearest will see the most truth. God is absolute truth, and in his light, we see light. I don’t mean here that we ever see the complete truth, for we see dimly, but we can point to him, who promises to teach us.
So, what fits the world we see, and our experience, best?
That intricate and full of life as we are and our world is, all is for nothing? And consequently there is no good, and no evil? No purpose? Not even for a grain of sand?
Or that someone made all this, and us, and we can find joy and beauty and adventure in him? That we can fight evil, and it will mean something in the end, we can really save something or someone? We can really be a hero or heroine?
These opposing beliefs determine whether you see a grey world, or a world alight with its true splendor, a glory of golds and blues and greens, silver and brown and white as snow–and blackness, dark as the pit. That is not gone, just because we see the good. In fact, it becomes all the darker, revealed by the light.
As many others have said, truth makes stories possible. Truth shows good and evil as they are, opposed; shows the mixture of good and evil motives we often are, and the two roads we are torn between. Truth reveals, moment to moment, which road we are on.
I write my fantasy adventures, historical and otherwise, for teens and up, for those disillusioned or discouraged with the rampant ugliness in our world, so often showcased in books. I write for people who yearn for hope, joy, and beauty, wrapped in the clarion call of adventure.
I hope this post, my turning point in 2017, helps you. That my breakthrough, that I had a wall of my own to overcome, namely fear of you, gives you courage to cross over whatever life-changing wall looms over you this coming New Year.
Crossover: Find the Eternal, the Adventure
Yes, start this very moment.
Define good and evil, and continue your journey with truth. Make a great impact on your world.
I will feel it from here! Let me know in the comments about your wall, and how you will overcome it.
You never know what you’re going to find out in the woods, or see. Hunting is no exception. Here’s my story in pictures. I didn’t get the elk or bear meat I was after, but I got something greater. A glimpse of the vast beauty of our created world.
You never know what you’re going to come across in the woods.
An unusual arrangement of fungi . . .
Last night’s snow . . .
Or a bear crossing your track within ten minutes of you.
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