Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Ale Boy's Feast: CSFF blog tour

The Ale Boy's Feast is the fourth and final book of the Auralia Thread series by Jeffrey Overstreet. It is a high fantasy series--- that is, a fantasy set in a world other than our own.

The Auralia Thread series is somewhat like the Lord of the Rings series in that the story continues from one book to the next. The Ale Boy's Feast is the conclusion. I would recommend starting with the first book in the series, Auralia's Colors, and reading the series in order. I haven't read the middle two books in the series and as I read The Ale Boy's Feast I felt I ought to have read the others first (which I why I'm not writing a review--- please turn to the other tour participants for reviews).

The fantasy world of The Auralia Thread is a unique vision rather than an imitation of an established fantasy world. It's a world I was glad to visit, and I hope to hear more from author Jeffrey Overstreet in the future.

*Book link -
Author’s web site -
*Participants’ links

Gillian Adams
Red Bissell
Grace Bridges
Beckie Burnham
Morgan L. Busse
Valerie Comer
CSFF Blog Tour
Shane Deal
Chris Deane
Cynthia Dyer
Andrea Graham
Katie Hart
Ryan Heart
Bruce Hennigan
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Dawn King
Inae Kyo
Shannon McDermott
Shannon McNear
Karen McSpadden
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Eve Nielsen
John W. Otte
Sarah Sawyer
Kathleen Smith
Donna Swanson
Rachel Starr Thomson
Robert Treskillard
Steve Trower
Fred Warren
Dona Watson
Phyllis Wheeler

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Do You Want More Readers for Your Blog?

From the Catholic Writers Guild blog:
Everyone wants to know how to get more readers for their blog, myself included.

Because, after all, if you're not reading my blog, you're missing out!


Recently, I realized that I have some pretty committed readers, though they may be small in number. And maybe, just maybe, I should focus on interacting with them before I go out and worry about everyone else who isn't reading my blog.

Read More....

I have already been following some of the steps recommended in the article:

1. I interact with those who comment on this blog by making response-comments, and by checking out the commenters' blogs and usually becoming a follower of them.

2. I read other people's blogs and comment on them. I also--- as in this post--- am not averse to sharing a great blog post from someone else's blog.

3. Getting known for something: the CWG article suggests to share if you have a unique conversion story or a unique perspective. I guess the fact that I have same-sex-attraction, am Christian, and believe in chastity as a solution rather than jumping on the Gay marriage bandwagon makes me unique. Don't know if that will help me gain readers or repel them, though.

4. Read other blogs. I've used Google Blog Search to try to find other blogs that may be of interest--- I've found some with reviews of Mercedes Lackey or Marion Zimmer Bradley books. I also have a few lists of like-minded blogs--- the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour has a list (see sidebar), and I've used the list from the LDS (Mormon) Writers' Blogfest (see sidebar again). I've also looked up all the blogs that have participated in the blog tour for Karina Fabian's Infinite Space, Infinite God II (see related post).

One way I accomplish #4 is that I follow blogs on my Blogger dashboard page--- I've added ALL the blogs from the above mention blog tours/fests to the blogs I follow there. Whenever the blog in question had a sidebar invitation to follow them on Facebook's Networked Blogs, I also followed them there.

When I first had a previous blog, I was mostly interested in reading/commenting on the big blogs with loads of followers. But I've since learned that a medium-sized blog that is more closely targeted to the kind of blog I'm doing actually is more likely to get results. And when I read/follow/comment on a tiny blog with very few readers, the blog author is often happy enough over it to start following my blog, maybe even will add a link to my blog on their sidebar.

But I know all this blog-interacting can be kind of hard on some people. I mean, if you are a writer and spend a lot of time just by yourself writing, maybe you are a shy person around others and doing things like commenting on some stranger's blog is really hard for you. Yeah, it's hard for me too, but it gets easier once you do it. (If commenting on blogs is hard for you, why not write a practice comment here? Even if all you can think of to say is 'interesting post'. Or 'boring post' for that matter!)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Greg Mitchell: The Strange Man: Stephen King Rides Again!

The Strange Man (The Coming Evil)

Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy Blog Tour
Book: The Strange Man (The Coming Evil)
Author: Greg Mitchell
Genre (Official): Christian/suspense
Genre (actual): horror

'The Strange Man' by Greg Mitchell has everything you'd expect from a classic Stephen King novel--- except the compulsive swearing, which I don't miss one little bit.

Dras Weldon was a classic slacker--- living for horror movies and GI Joe collectibles, unemployed and loving it. His older brother Jeff is the responsible one, a pastor who has taken over the church that was once pastored by the boys' father.

But there is an ancient evil afoot in the town of Greensboro, and when the reckless Dras comes face to face with the fact that the bogeyman, the scary thing in the woods, isn't something out of a horror movie but as real as it comes, he has to warn his best friend Rosalyn who is the Strange Man's next target.

At this point Dras realizes that just that when fighting werewolves one needs silver bullets, the remedy for demon infestation has to do with the Bible and Jesus--- it's Kryptonite for demons.

Unfortunately when Dras evangelizes at his girl Rosalyn--- with all the skill of a third grader--- she's offended. She thinks he, the preacher's kid, is taking a superior tone to her, the lower-class girl. So she remains in danger as Dras continues his quest to fight the Strange Man.

The book is a Stephen King thrill ride, up until it hits against the real problem with Christian fiction. The author sets it up very carefully that the Bible/Jesus stuff is a logical step when fighting this particular monster--- like silver bullets for werewolves or a squirt gun of holy water for a vampire.

But when I read the witnessing scene I thought 'oh, no the Christian message!'. It was off-putting. And I'm a Christian, I can imagine what I would have thought when I was still a Neopagan.

And in all honesty if Dras had set about doing some Pagan-derived anti-demon ritual I and many readers would have found that more in our comfort zone. Perhaps readers today--- even Christian ones--- are too biased against Christian elements in our fiction--- in most authors, the only characters who spout Bible verses and evangelize are the villains. Look at the second season of the BBC TV series Being Human for confirmation.

And perhaps also the Bible element makes the horror a bit too real for our taste. After all, most of us have been witnessed to/witnessed at. Regardless of what WE believe, we are aware that many people take such things seriously. Maybe having the Bible/Jesus being this monster's vulnerable point makes us a little vulnerable to the thought: maybe it's not just a scary book. Maybe it could be real. Maybe there's something out in the scary place in my own town that's out to get ME!

To read more reviews and such about 'The Strange Man', follow the links on the 'Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour' blogroll on the side bar of this blog.

Featured Post:
Lackey's The Oathbound: Thalhkarsh the Demon

Note-- the government told me to tell you I got a free copy of the book in connection with the blog tour.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Some genres, when crossed, explode

Genre is important in fiction. If you want your work to sell, book publishers and book readers have an easier time if you can hang ONE label on it: mystery, fantasy, mainstream fiction, literary fiction, thriller, romance, Christian fiction, Gay/Lesbian fiction, and so on.

But sometimes the writing urge comes on us to combine genres: Christian fantasy, fantasy-romance (girl meets vampire), Gay/Lesbian mystery. This also can work, some of the time.

But some genre-crossings don't work so well. Christian science fiction? Mainstream sci-fi fans may think: Christians--- aren't they those bad people who don't like science? And the Christian publishers/readers may think: science fiction--- isn't that the bad stuff that seeks to destroy our faith in Christ and in God's word? But there are some brave souls out there writing Christian science fiction, and some has even been published.

But Wildmage is the ultimate bad genre mixup: high fantasy that is Christian fiction (like Narnia or Lord of the Rings) and that is also Gay/Lesbian fiction (like Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage series, or J. F. Rivkin's Silverglass), but doesn't promote the ideology of the Gay activist movement. Yes, wow, I can hear the heads exploding now. Mostly it seems like a great way to get blacklisted everywhere.... which I guess is why I'm a pen name and not a real girl after all.....

But in today's crazy publishing world where print-on-demand self-publishing companies like can make all sorts of cross-genre explosives happen, if it's what I want to write, I can do it. If I write well, and do some internet networking, maybe it will even build a following.

After all, years ago who could have predicted that every other book in the sci-fi/fantasy aisle would be about sparkly vampires?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Charlaine Harris, Bob the Cat and the Origin of Shapeshifters

Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series (Sookie Stackhouse novels) is a fun romp into a world where vampires, werewolves, fox-women and fairies co-exist with regular folks, though it's weakened quite a bit by the author's habit of throwing in explicit sex scenes.

One book tells the tale of how telepathic barmaid Sookie's friend Amanda the witch unintentionally turns her boyfriend Bob into a cat during some 'adventurous sex' (not described.) Amanda and Bob the cat, New Orleans residents, go to stay with Sookie in northern Louisiana and have to stay longer than planned when Hurricane Katrina hit.

At one point in Amanda and Bob's stormy relationship Amanda goes out into the woods looking for Bob and finds him with a female cat who is nursing a litter of kittens. Said kittens all look like Bob.

Later Bob is changed back to human, but nothing more is ever said about the kittens. They are half-human after all. What will become of them now that their human parent has bugged out?

That makes me wonder about the origins of werewolves and similar shapeshifters. In most werewolf tales, a werewolf gets that way by being bitten by another werewolf. But who bit the first werewolf?

I like the idea that shapeshifters might arise when a witch transforms a human into an animal, and that animal reproduces in animal form. Surely the child of a human, even a transformed human, will inherit the human essence/human soul.

In Asian culture, by contrast, the fox people (gumiho, kitsune) arise when a fox, who normally live only 12 years, lives to the age of one thousand. There's also a magical being that arises when a household object such as a teapot or a sandal becomes one hundred years old.

In Wildmage, there are shapeshifters. What happened was this: the original settlers of the elemental world (Wildmage world) came through portals from our world. They came from different points across the scope of human history (and landed within a hundred year span of the elemental world's history). Among those from the latest period were some who were humans with animal DNA, or animals with human DNA. On contact with the mage energies of the elemental world's environment, they all became shapeshifters who can be full animal, full human, or take the change-form (like the Wolf Man in the movies, hairy man-shaped dude with claws).

Later on, the lizard-men who settled in the central region of Zmaray got stuck in their change-form permanently, but that's another story.

Writers of Faith United: LDS Writers Blogfest

It's wonderful when writers who have love for Our Lord and our Heavenly Father work together to help one another. I've discovered that some writers of the LDS (Mormon) faith are currently doing so through an event called the LDS Writers Blogfest.

Now, as a Catholic, when I'm looking for correct theology it's not the LDS church but the Catholic Church that I turn to. But for other purposes the LDS folks are just as much my brothers-and-sisters in Christ as Catholics, Baptists and Moravians are.

There are a number of ways that we writers of the Christian faith can unite with one another. We can unite along denominational lines, as the members of the LDS Writers Blogfest are doing. I've noticed Catholic writers doing the same thing as we link to the blogs of other Catholic writers. Some people might be concerned that this might be prejudice--- certainly I've encountered Evangelical preachers who have extreme negative views of Catholics and consider a Catholic as unsaved as a Satanist. But I think for most of us it's more a matter of liking to be together with similarly-believing Christians.

Another way we can unite is by genre. There is something called the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy blog tour, which monthly picks out a Christian book in the speculative fiction genre and reviews it on their blogs over the course of three days. Though most of the members of the blog tour seem to be Evangelicals, there are also Catholics, a Lutheran pastor, and many other denominations.

A third way we might unite is by connecting to writers who share a similar theme, across genres. Some writers often or always include certain themes in their writing--- child abuse, women's issues, a certain disability. A fantasy writer who writes about characters with autism spectrum disorders (like Asperger's syndrome) might connect with mystery and romance writers who write on this theme as well.

In my case, my theme is characters with same-sex attraction (gay/lesbian orientation or identity), in a fictional universe where respecting the Biblical/traditional/sacramental view of marriage isn't considered hate (or h8) and chastity is always an option. If there are any other authors out there writing books like that I'd read them even if they were romances or westerns!

Here are the list of participants in the LDS Writers Blogfest. I'm living proof that you don't have to be LDS to enjoy the posts or the blogs!

Annette Lyon: “Desire”
Annie Cechini: “The Spirit of Revelation”
Ben Spendlove: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Chantele Sedgwick: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Charity Bradford: “LDS Women Are Incredible!”
Jackee Alston: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Jenilyn Tolley: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Jennifer McFadden: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jessie Oliveros: “Establishing a Christ-Centered Home”
Jolene Perry: “It’s Conference Once Again”
Jordan McCollum: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Kasey Tross: “Guided by the Holy Spirit”
Kayeleen Hamblin: “Become as a Little Child”
Kelly Bryson: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
Krista Van Dolzer: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Melanie Stanford: “What Manner of Men and Women Ought Ye to Be?”
Michelle Merrill: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Myrna Foster: “Opportunities to Do Good”
Nisa Swineford: “Desire”
Sallee Mathews: “The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”
Sierra Gardner: “The Atonement Covers All Pain”
The Writing Lair: “Waiting on the Road to Damascus”

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wildmage: Insert war here

Characters from K-drama 'Dae Joyoung'

I'm from the 'no plot, no problem' school of writing which means I often have to do a little re-imagining of my story, or write a chapter that comes before my original chapter one.

In Wildmage I've come to the conclusion that a war that was a vague part of the backstory needs to come onstage for the first chapter. I did a little clustering on this idea and came up with loads of cool stuff.

The story now starts with the Battle of Kumori. Kumori is a border county of the Northern kingdom and the original home of the Wildmage Hana. The traditional enemy of the Northern kingdom and its three allies is the Zmaray empire, home of the part-reptile Zmaray people. The Zmaray empire is in the center of a large, pangaia-ish continent, is landlocked, and always wanted to conquer its way to a coastline, any coastline. So this time they invade the Northern kingdom at Kumori which is at the border between the Northern and Eastern kingdoms.

I'm also working with a new character, Geon, a wildmage who is part of an army hwacha crew and who discovers Hana, a five-year-old orphan girl who in the midst of war's chaos has ended up with some refugee fox-people (fox shapeshifters, gumiho/kitsune). Geon discovers Hana has an unprecedented mage-talent even at her tender age and sends her off to his old teacher.

It's kind of odd having to insert a war into an already started story but it's really helping to develop the core idea. Geon is going to serve a purpose later in the story as an intermediary between Hana and the Oraha (king)--- Geon meets the Oraha during the story and is later given a position at the Court.

Hwacha is a Korean weapon that fires exploding arrows. They tested one on Mythbusters.
Kumori was inspired by a Korean place name Gomori/Komori, and by the hill Cumorah which is a part of LDS (Mormon) history.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Female Conan the Barbarian: Silverglass by J. F. Rivkin

'It's fun to see a tall, handsome, hard-fighting, hard-drinking barbarian hero--- who is female. --- Piers Anthony

Corson brenn Torisk is not only everything Piers Anthony said above, she also chases girls--- sometimes. Corson's your classic barbarian hero in female form. In the beginning of Silverglass, she's giddy-happy because two of the warring factions of the city of Rhostshyl have paid her to kill the same person--- the sorceress Nyctasia ar'n Edonaris.

But when Corson finally meets her target, Nyctasia is in a low tavern pretending to be a student-minstrel, and she offers to pay Corson handsomely to serve as her bodyguard. And Corson evidently feels that Nyc has a body worth guarding as the two women get quite *friendly* along the way (offstage, non-graphic *friendliness*).

Corson must save Nyctasia's life more than once before they escape the city and Nyc's enemies (many of whom are members of Nyc's family.) En route to meet Nyc's friend 'Ben, they pass through the haunted forest, where they must stay on the road or risk a horrible fate (and of course Nyc leaves the road, much to Corson's disgust.)

Overcoming evil magic, assassins, poison and seasickness, in the end Nyc is away from her enemies and as safe as someone like her will ever be. And the two women have forged bonds of friendship (and *friendship*) which will last.

Silverglass and the other three books in the series were at one time sold through lesbian mail-order bookstores and currently are present on many lists of lesbian fantasy fiction. But reading the story it's clear that both Corson and Nyc have men as their primary love interests, and their *friendliness* with one another is a casual thing.

Silverglass is fun and sometimes funny fantasy for those who like strong female characters. It lacks the angst and tragedy, as well as the driving moral issues, of Mercedes Lackey's Last Herald Mage trilogy (which features the Gay mage, Vanyel). I haven't thought of the series for years, but when I recently found two of the Silverglass books when sorting out my bookshelves, I found they were very much worth a second read.

Silverglass and the other J. F. Rivkin books are currently out of print but can be found on and eBay.

Infinite Space, Infinite God II blog tour

Because science fiction is just a form of fantasy where a wizard's broomstick is called a spaceship....

Here are the blogs where the blog tour is happening and the dates ISIG 2 stuff is due to appear:


Susanne Drazic

Grace Bridges

John Konecsni

Lisa Hendey

Confessions of a Cooperator

Teri Harmon

Penny Ehrenkranz

Beverly Mcclure

The Baptized Imagination

Chelle Cordero

Katie Hines


Rebecca Russell

Julie Davis

Naomi Clark

Homeschool Blogger

Character Education Criteria Reviews

Chelle Cordero

First Wild Card Tours

So What Do We Think

Laura O'Neill

Victor Gentile

Summit Book Reviews

You Gotta Read Book Reviews

Marian Allen

Frank Creed


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The beneficial effect of chastity on magic

There is a fantasy trope dealing with the chaste person--- usually a female virgin--- who has a degree of magical power which will be lost if the person becomes unchaste/loses virginity. In our Britney Spears culture, it's not at all to be wondered at that this trope is not in common use.

In Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover, there is some talk that a Keeper--- the leronis (sorceress) who is at the center of a magical/psychic working--- must be a virgin or terrible things will happen. In later ages of Darkover, a Keeper must only be chaste while she is actively working as a Keeper.

The cultural origins of this trope may go back to the pagan religions of antiquity. The Romans had their Vestal Virgins, whose purity was seen as a spiritual protection for the Roman people. The penalty for a Vestal who had been unchaste--- and her male partner--- was savage. This was because people literally thought that the unchastity of a Vestal would cause disaster--- it was possible, they thought, that dozens of Romans would die in a lost battle or natural disaster as a result of Vestal unchastity.

The reality behind this fantasy trope relates to the real-life consequences of unchaste behavior. The best modern example is the way the AIDS virus spread through the gay male community.

Once the AIDS virus spread to a few of the gay males in the USA and Western Europe who were heavily involved in massive unchastity in sex clubs or bathhouses, it spread through that group in a frightening way. Young men in gay-mecca communities in LA, San Francisco and New York City watched in horror as 10, 25, 50 of their friends became ill and died of a new unknown disease. While the most sexually active men were (and are) at most risk, even a man with only one sexual partner might get it if his partner had ever been unfaithful--- or if he'd had an infected partner before the relationship began.

People heavily invested in the sexual revolution don't like to hear this, but a little self-control in one's private behavior really does keep some of the real-world monsters at bay. And that may be what encourages a few writers to explore chastity themes, and to use fantasy tropes such as that of the chaste person with enhanced magical power.

One can use it in various ways. Does a person have to begin magical studies while still a virgin to get the best results? Can one use rape to deprive a sorceress of her power? Does the Dark Lord send his minions out to buy untouched poor children in order to have a good supply of virgin sacrifices? Or are there mere rumors and false ideas about the necessity of virginity that must be overcome--- as when a young rape victim is denied the right to study magic because she could never learn anyway, now....

Saturday, April 9, 2011

High Fantasy

What is high fantasy? It's a subgenre of fantasy which is set in invented or parallel worlds. The fantasy's world differs from the real world in various ways.

There are three types of high fantasy:

1. The fantasy world may have no connection to our world, as in the Valdemar series by Mercedes Lackey.

2. There may be a portal from the fantasy world to our world, as in the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis.

3. Or the fantasy world may be a world-within-a-world within the real world--- as in the Harry Potter series, where the wizarding world is within our own, real world.

In addition, there is a science-fictional subtype of type 2, where the 'portal' between worlds is in the form of spaceships and other technological means. This is how I would classify the Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley. I also see the Homecoming series by Orson Scott Card, while it is seen as a science fiction series, as being somewhat like Darkover, a variant type 2 fantasy.

These distinctions are only important so far as it helps readers discover more books-I-like, and writers to find an audience.

My Wildmage series is High Fantasy type 2 (though I'm not sure the portals will play much of a part in the current book, it is how the planet was settled by humans.)

Writing sex, writing heroin

Recently I found something on the 'net where a writer was complaining about some writing book or course, that it did not cover the all-important topic of writing sex scenes and sexual tension. Even in 'inspirational' (Christian) romances, this writer opines, one has to be able to write sexual tensions and the scene in which the couple discusses their reasons for not having sex.... (??? Well, this writer does admit she's never read any 'inspirational' romances.)

IMO, this just shows how skewed the world is with its attitudes about sex. They don't seem to remember that the whole purpose of the biological sex drive is to make more people. Sex outside the purpose tends toward becoming dysfunctional to the point of being anti-survival.

Sex, like visiting the bathroom or clipping your toenails, is a part of life. But the idea that you have to write extensively about any one of these things is a novel is just a bit odd.

One reason writers has come to use sex-writing as a crutch in their fiction is because it does, when carried far enough, have a certain shock-value. If you can't keep readers hooked with the quality of your writing, throw some sex at them. They'll look at THAT!

But this approach is a little like dropping your trousers in church. Sure, everybody will be paying attention to you, but you won't be winning anybody's good opinion.

A way to view the sex content of the fiction you read is to mentally 'translate' it from sex scenes to something relating to heroin usage. Is the hero looking to pick up a girl-or-guy at a bar? Translate it to him going to a dealer to buy some heroin. Is the heroine wearing an extremely modest dress? Think of it as her waving her heroin supply at other junkies. That scene where the couple are ripping their clothes off and doing it on top of the washing machine? They're really pulling out their syringes and injecting themselves with the drug.

This mental trick is to help us un-brainwash ourselves from our culture's unhealthy obsession with the sex act, divorced from the realities of its biological purpose, and of its probable consequences when misused (such as AIDS and other STDs, jealous rages and homicides, and so on).

The great novelists of ages past managed to write their novels, including romantic novels, without depicting the sex act or 'sexual tension' (will they or won't they have sex...) A couple of generations or so, nearly all writers were convinced that the struggling young writer who turned to pornography writing ('erotica, erotic/sexy romance) to keep bread on the table, was going to be developing bad habits that could destroy his ability to write good fiction later. Maybe we could learn from that, rather than assuming that the way our generation thinks today is the only way there was, ever?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Worldbuilding: Using Other Cultures for Inspiration

How do you create a fantasy world with some interesting exotic touches? One way is to base your fantasy world culture in part on some culture other than your own.

Notice that I said 'in part'. This is for two reasons. One is that to base your fantasy culture 100% on some other culture, you would have to know a great deal about that culture. That's fine if you are bicultural, or lived in some other land for most of your formative years. But for most of us, getting enough knowledge of another culture to do this would be much too time consuming.

The second reason is for the comfort of the reader. If you are writing a book in English, your reader base is in contact with English-speaking cultures--- either British, American, Australian or one of the other English speaking lands. If you wrote a fantasy world that was 100% based on a culture foreign to the reader, they might find it confusing and difficult to understand. They may need to have a few elements that are a little more familiar.

In practice, a writer will probably add elements of his own culture without even being aware of doing so. But I think it's a better idea to think about these things enough to do at least part of it on purpose!

In Wildmage, the setting is the Northern kingdom. The ancestors of the people there were Koreans. But they were heavily influenced by some aspects of European culture, particularly Christianity.

This is how it happened. There are connections between our world and the Wildmage world. These portals were in the hands of Christian monastic orders. These portals have been used to send people under threat of persecution for their Christian faith out of harm's way.

In the case of the Northern kingdom, Korean converts during the early period of missions to Asia went through the portal to escape threat of execution or war dangers. On the other side of the portal, in the Wildmage world, the refugees were taken in by monasteries for a time, and gradually left to build their own homes in the new world. Since the majority of those in these monastic establishments were ancestrally from Europe, this was the base for a somewhat blended culture.

Names for the two worlds? Our world is called the Old World or the Christus-Benedictus World. The Wildmage world is called the Elementals World or the Seven-Elementals world, based on the presence of seven types of beings, called elementals, which aid people in the Elementals world in developing magecraft-skills.

One of the best aids I've found in working the Korean culture into my Northern kingdom is a small Korean English dictionary. When I need a name for something quick, I can look up a Korean word to create a name. So I've used 'sori', meaning frost, as a name for a mage tower built of white stone, and 'koa', orphan, as the name of a cloister where the sisters run a school and an orphanage for girls.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Frodo and Sam as a same-sex couple?

Somewhere in the internet wilderness I read something that referred to Frodo and Sam of the Lord of the Rings as a same-sex couple. (In spite of the fact that Sam got married to a girl at the end.) But I guess when you are looking for a hint of 'people-like-me' you tend to stretch a point.

Frodo and Sam do care very much for one another. But if you want to see them as a same-sex couple, you pretty much have to view them as a chaste same-sex couple. In that they can be models for us, in that you can care exceedingly deeply for a person, go through hell with them, and not let Certain Temptations spoil the whole thing.

But I don't really attach the 'same-sex couple' tag to Sam and Frodo, and here's why: Sam is Frodo's servant. There relationship is not couplehood, but the relationship of a servant to his master and a master to his loyal servant. The class difference would make a 'couple' relationship between the two of them kind of creepy, as if Frodo were taking advantage of his higher class status to coerce Sam into a relationship.

But I suppose there are some folks who might want to ignore that and consider the pair a couple. (But remember, a chaste couple!) And I'm sure there are some folks who'll say such speculation would ruin the whole trilogy for them, too.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lackey's The Oathbound: Thalhkarsh the Demon

One of the more difficult foes Tarma and Kethry have to fight in the book The Oathbound (Vows and Honor series) is Thalhkarsh, a demon summoned by accident by a young sorcerer trying to conjure up an imp. He mispronounces the imp's name, and gets a demon instead.

The sorcerer is killed by the demon, who then uses the sorcerer's apprentice to get out into the world. He sets up a temple where the demon can be worshiped as a god by means of sex orgies and the human sacrifice of local whores. Thalhkarsh believes that with enough worship he can become an actual god.

Tarma and Kethry are compelled to fight Thalhkarsh because of the geas on Kethry's sword, Need, which compels her to aid women in distress. After nearly being defeated by the demon twice, T & K are victorious and the demon is transformed into a lovely, fragile woman who is handed into the care of magery-skilled priests who will preach goodness and light at her until it sticks.

Demons make the ultimate villains for fantasy and horror precisely because they are pure evil, intentionally. They are pure spirits without the passions of humans, which means, I understand, that once they have set out on the course of evil they are wholly unable to turn back--- that's why Christ didn't die on the cross to save Satan and the fallen angels from hell, their nature makes it impossible for them to repent. Even outside the Christian context, as in Mercedes Lackey's work, there is the sense that demons are the kind of bad that won't be fixed and won't ever show mercy.

The nearest comparison to the demon in realistic fiction is the sociopathic character. A sociopath does not have empathy--- not in the sense that he cannot detect the nonverbal clues to what other people are feeling, but in the sense that when he knows, he just plain doesn't care.

But while it may not be possible to fix a sociopath, it is possible for a sociopath to decide it is in his best interest to do the right thing, or to show mercy. A demon on the other hand has an unquenchable hunger for evil--- he wants to eat your soul for dinner. On toast.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Problem of Prince Majun

In the first chapter of The Wildmage of Balhae Woods, the wildmage Hana is consulted by a messenger of the king. The king's only son and heir, young Prince Majun, has been examined by the court healers and mages and it has been discovered that prince is not capable of siring children. No healers or mages known to the king can cure the problem; it is hoped that Hana's outstanding scrying ability may help her locate some obscure little-known bit of magecraft that can do the trick.

In the world of Wildmage, there are many more girls born than boys, about 7 to 1. There have been historical incidents where tyrant kings have drafted scores of young women into the military to use them as shock troops in their wars against their neighbors; the women's lives were expended just to soften the enemy up for the 'real' soldiers. Because of that the idea of women soldiers is NOT considered a respectable notion and women most of all rebel against it, seeing it as an attack on their rights. So in most of the kingdoms, the Northern kingdom (where Hana lives) among them, the idea of a princess inheriting the kingship is not acceptable since the king's function is to lead his men into battle.

There are complicated rules of inheritance to help ensure male heirs. Most men have a concubine or two in addition to their wives; kings have several concubines as well as having queens. Sons of concubines can inherit from their fathers if there is no son by the Queen to take the throne. But things can get complicated as one goes further afield for heirs.

In the particular royal family we are talking about, the closest blood heir after Prince Majun is the son of a concubine, while the next closest is the son of the lawful wife. So there are two heirs with about the same level of rights. The king finds it imperative that Majun be made fit to inherit.

Hana, as a mere wildmage rather than an Order mage (who are trained in the special Order schools or in associated monastic establishment), sees this as her chance to make a name for herself. She must find a work of magecraft that will fix the problem, and resist the temptation to resort to the evil, demon-touched form of magic called sorcery.....

Notes: Prince Majun's name comes from the character Majun in the Korean drama Bread, Love and Dreams (AKA The King of Baking). Hana was a character in another Korean drama but I don't know which one. The king of the Northern kingdom also has the title "Oraha" which is a title of the ancient Korean kings of Balhae. And Balhae Woods is taken from the name of Balhae an ancient Korean kingdom.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Word Choice Fun: Scrying or Seeing?

The main part of writing is getting the words right. As I am working on the Wildmage book I'm constantly coming across decision points where I have to decide on just the right word for something.

The wildmage Hana has as her primary talent the ability to see/sense things at a great distance. I tend to be inclined to use the word 'scrying' for what she does when she exercises this ability.

There are some problems with that word, though. When you read occult or 'New-age' books you are often given directions on how to 'scry' using a crystal ball or magic mirror or even black-tinted water in a bowl.

Pagan and Pagan-friendly fantasy writers don't have any problems with using magic-methods lifted direct from occult books. But as a Christian I don't want to be following such sources.

When Hana scrys, she doesn't use any method remotely like occult scrying. She holds a jade ball in her hand, but does not look in to it as one does with a crystal ball or the like. And the ball is strictly speaking not necessary--- Hana is using a natural gift of hers, though it's not one folks have in our world.

I might use the terms 'seeing' or 'Seeing' rather than 'scrying'. Certainly the secular fantasy writers use such terms--- I believe Mercedes Lackey uses 'FarSeer' for a person with this gift. But at this point I kind of like the term 'scry', in spite of the connections to occulty silliness.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tarma and Kethry as Role Models

It ain't easy being different. At a time in my life when the being different was really starting to hurt, I discovered Tarma and Kethry, the swordswoman and sorceress characters from Mercedes Lackey's Vows and Honor series.

This series is set in Velgarth, the same fantasy world which houses the land of Valdemar, home of the Heralds and Companions, but in kingdoms other than Valdemar.

Tarma is from the Shin'a'in people--- nomads from the Dhorisha Plains. She is the sole survivor of a massacre that killed the rest of her clan. In order to seek blood vengeance against the killers of her clan, she has no other choice, under the traditions of her people, than to become one of the Sword-Sworn.

Kethry was born into an impoverished but noble house. When in her early teens, her brother sold her into an arranged marriage with a brute. When she escaped, it was discovered that she had mage-talents, and she trained in the White Winds school of sorcery. When she left the school, she was given a magical sword, Need, which was bespelled to aid women. It enables her to fight like a trained swordswoman.

Kethry and Tarma met while Tarma was seeking her revenge against the killers of her clan. They were bound by a blood-oath, accepted by the Goddess of Tarma's people, and are thereafter Oath-sisters, bound with a magical bond.

What appealed to me (and many others I assume) was that Tarma and Kethry were, in a sense, a couple. They loved one another dearly. Each was the 'significant other' in the other's life. Yet they were a chaste couple, since Tarma as a Sword-Sworn was not only vowed to chastity but had been rendered essentially sexless by her Goddess.

As Time Marched On, a lot of folks I think came to believe that Mercedes Lackey was a bit cowardly for not making Tarma and Kethry an 'out' Gay couple--- assuming, I  guess, that ML had intended her characters to be Gay but had backed off fearing that the controversy would hurt book sales. (It could be that she meant to have her characters be saying something about friendship between women, rather than about Gay pride.)

I think, though, that for a lot of us that adopted Tarma and Kethry as an ersatz Gay couple, the fact that they were not officially Gay was actually a good thing. Many of us weren't quite ready to be identifying with Gay characters quite that strongly! And straight readers often needed to be eased into things--- at the time Gay main characters were not as common in fiction as they are today.

Tarma and Kethry helped me (and a lot of others) cope with discovering same-sex attraction/Gay identity in ourselves. The bit about them being chaste helped way more than I was ready to admit at the time. Let's face it--- if you are Gay, you are going to be spending a lot of time being attracted to people who turn out to be straight.

It's not so much that I needed characters like Tarma and Kethry (or Vanyel in the Last Herald Mage series) to preach me a cheery Gay-is-OK message. It's more like just getting a drop of hope when dealing with the 'can-I-be-as-weird-as-THIS-and-still-have-a-life' question.

And now, I'm a Christian. Who knew THAT was going to happen? I'm committed to chastity for the sake of the Kingdom. Where can you find fictional characters that speak to THAT? There aren't, really, (until I create some), but Tarma and Kethry are a place to start.