Being A Fantasy Reader

In this guest post author and book lover, Claire Buss discusses being a reader of fantasy.

Today is World Book Night. A perfect excuse to spend the evening curled up with your favourite book which is an easy ask for a book lover but what World Book Day really wants to do is encourage non-readers to pick up a book and have an adventure. That’s the great thing about reading, it will take you somewhere you’ve never been before or if you’re lucky, take you back to explore it all over again. Often readers of fantasy get a bit of bad rap – there can be mocking and sometimes you don’t want to admit that you read sci-fi & fantasy because it puts you in a pre-determined box but on this day of book celebration I think we can stand loud and proud and shout to the stars that we read fantasy and it’s brilliant.

Or to put it another way – isn’t all fiction fantasy? Because it’s fiction therefore it’s not ‘real’. When you read that chick-lit novel about girls doing lunch and talking about their love lives you may sit wistfully wishing you could be a lady wot lunches. It’s no different to me wishing I could go on a quest in a magical land. My imagination just requires a little more immersion, perhaps.

It can be difficult for an avid reader to entice a non-reader to pick up a book, especially when you stumble over the intricate plot twists of sorcery and sword fights. But think about the books that brought you into the genre – I mean I can go as far back as The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton, talking animals in Farthing Wood by Colin Dann and The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. These aren’t hard-core fantasy tomes. They’re magical children’s books and what a great way to get kids reading by giving them a little bit of adventure. I mean, Harry Potter wouldn’t have been the sensation it’s been without the reader’s ability to immerse themselves in an alternate reality.

Not only am I an avid reader – of all genres but with a particular liking for fantasy & sci-fi – I am also an author. My book is hard to define, it doesn’t really set within a predetermined category. It’s listed under sci-fi because it’s set 200 years in the future but there are no aliens or spaceships. It’s dystopian because there has been a mass extinction event, we learn how humanity coped, adapted and now tries to break free of control. But it’s hopeful and in general dystopian novels are bleak and literally end of the world. And it’s not about a plucky group of teenagers. Instead it looks at the relationships of couples and how they cope with massive life changes. Being a new author it’s hard to get readers at first so you turn to friends and family, most of whom said “Oh I don’t read Sci-Fi”, however once I convince them that The Gaia Effect is not hard-boiled sci-fi, they should try it, they might be surprise and look, it’s such a lovely slimline novel with great cover artwork – how can you say no? Then they read it and text me, telling me off for making them cry. Success! All reviews from family and friends start with the phrase ‘This is not my usual genre’ or ‘I don’t normally read Sci-Fi but…’ and I think that’s the key, if you can just get a non-reader to try something new they might be surprised.

Let’s not forget that genre is an invention of the publisher to make it easier to categorise books and not a request from the reader. I don’t think about genre when I recommend books to friends and family, I think about them and choose books to fit, overriding any objections of ‘I don’t read that genre’ with reminders of all the previous excellent recommendations.  Once we’ve managed to get sporadic readers picking up our novel and getting to the end, our next challenge is to ask them to write a review – even a simple star rating is enough, every little helps.

Find out more about Claire and her book on the following links –

Website: www.cbvisions.weeblycom

Facebook: www.facebook.com/busswriter

 

Are you an author and want to spread the word about your book or writing habits? Get in touch with me at matthewolney9@gmail.com
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Writing Fantasy – Magic

If there is one thing that defines a book as part of the fantasy genre, it’s probably the fact that it has magic in some form or another in it. From stories like Game of Thrones where magic is a very mysterious force to Mistborn where it is heavily explained magic is a key part of a fantasy tale.

Creating a Magic System

When creating a magic system, you need to think about a few things. Where does the magic come from? How is it used? What are the limitations (if any) to those using it? In this post, I will use detail the magic system of my Sundered Crown Saga as an example. In the novels themselves, I’ve chosen not to divulge too much to the reader as I want to keep it mysterious and allow them to learn about it as they read the books.

The Origin

In the Sundered Crown Saga magic is a power that was harnessed by the gods. The world in which the saga is set was created by it. (You can read more about that here and read the origin of humans in the saga here)

As all humans in the world in which the saga is set are descended from those created by the gods, magic is hereditary. As the aeons have gone by and people spread across the world and developed technology, bloodlines have diluted to the point where most people can no longer use magic easily. Those that can are the mages. Bloodlines are vital to the amount of power a mage can wield. For example, Luxon Edioz the main character of the series has a very strong bloodline (I won’t give why its special away).

Magical Abilities

In the Sundered Crown Saga magic can be used for a wide variety of things. From creating light sources to destroying entire cities the things that magic can do is only limited by the abilities and strength of the person using it. There are various skill levels or circles as they’re called in the saga that range from the Lowest Ring to Highest Ring. The Lowest Ring covers simple abilities such as creating light, limited enhancing of physical abilities and lobbing weak fireballs. The Highest Ring, however, covers things like levitation, devastating elemental magic and the trickiest of all; Transmutation.

Bloodlines are important but so is the skill of the spellcaster. Through years of training, a mage with a relatively weak bloodline could cast the highest ring of spells, the only difference being that they would only be able to use it once. This brings us onto the limitations.

Limitations

When creating a magic system, you need to include limitations. From a story perspective, it can get very boring if the spell caster is invincible. There is a reason why characters like Superman have a weakness. Having someone who is invincible often doesn’t make for good story telling. In the Sundered Crown Saga, using magic too often leaves the caster exhausted. Concentration plays a key part in using magic and focusing for long periods of time is draining. Their natural abilities also limit casters. A mage will tire far quicker than a wizard. Even the villain of the saga, the all powerful Danon is restrained at what he can do. Too much overuse can lead to permanent damage to the caster with the worst consequence being death.

How do you go about planning your magic systems? Do you have a favourite? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

 

Writing Fantasy – Keeping it Real? Part Two – Armour

In the first post of this blog series, I wrote about one of my main issues with the use of swords. If this part I’m taking a look at the way armour is often described in fantasy novels and depicted in the movies.

Women’s Armour

Let’s get the obvious issue out of the way. Women’s armour. Now before someone gets in touch saying that women never fought in battle, wrong. There are quite a few historical examples of women dealing out death on the battlefield with the best (or worst) of the fellas. Don’t believe me? Check out this long list of female warriors. As a fan of Byzantine history, Sikelgaita the wife of the Norman Duke of Apulia is a particular favourite.

In fantasy, women warriors are often depicted as wearing, well not a lot. Half the time their armour is there to make them look sexy or stylish. It’s very rare that a movie or novel has them wearing effective protection. Check out this video for an example –

As I did in the first part of this blog series, let’s pit a female warrior dressed in typical Hollywood style armour against our nameless knight.

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Fresh from his encounter with the now very dead warriors, our hero continues on his quest. The road leads him through a thick forest that he knows has a river running through it. The only way across is to cross the old stone bridge. A favourite spot for bandits. Sure enough, as he reaches the bridge, a lone figure stands in the road. To the knight’s surprise, the heavily armed bandit is a woman wielding a sword and buckler.

“Halt. To cross this bridge you must pay the toll,” the woman demands.

As before the knight chuckles to himself and shakes his head in amusement.

“What’s so funny?” the woman said, her tone full of confusion. The knight should be afraid.

The knight draws his sword and raises his shield.

“I bet I can beat you in two moves,” he declares.

The woman’s eyes widen in surprise at the arrogance on display.

The knight’s confidence is not misplaced for the woman is wearing what can only be described as the worst set of armour he has ever seen. More bikini, then a suit of protection. The woman is highly vulnerable.

The two fighters square up to one another. The woman swings her sword at the knight who is too slow to block the attack. The blade strikes his plate armour with a clang. Aside from a scratch to the plate, the man inside the armour is unharmed. The woman rains blows upon the knight. Most connect but thanks to the steel suit the sword cannot reach the meat inside. The woman begins to tire.

“A sword is not the best weapon to use against one as well protected as I” the Knight says with a laugh. The woman swings again, but this time the knight deflects the tired blow with his shield and thrusts his sword forward. Unlike the Knight, the woman in her bikini armour has little in the way of protection. The sword stabs deep into her exposed flank to slay her out right. She crumples to the ground dead.

“Your flanks, throat and groyne were totally exposed. You’re not wearing a helmet nor gauntlets. I could strike anywhere, and the result would be the same,” the knight critiques, a hint of sadness in his voice.

“Now this an example of a good set of armour” –

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Now I’m no armour expert, but it is pretty obvious that quite a few armours I’ve either seen in the movies or in books just aren’t realistic or effective. It may be the fantasy genre, but some basis, in reality, needs to come through. (Unless of course, you use magic a lot. Magic can always provide a workaround to this sort of thing!)

In the next part of this series, I’ll be taking a look at creating magic systems.

Is there anything specific you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch via Facebook and Twitter and please sign up to the newsletter

 

 

 

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Writing Fantasy – Keeping it Real? Part 1 – Swords

Hi everyone, I thought I would start a new blog series about what I’ve learnt since I started writing fantasy novels. In this first part, I’ll be covering the issue of fantasy weaponry with a special focus on swords.

In the Sundered Crown Saga and in other fantasy series, swords are typically the weapon of choice used by the characters. There is something special about them, something that ignites the imagination as well as looking pretty bad ass. The use of swords in fantasy goes all the way back to the Greeks and probably the most famous of them all Excalibur from the Arthurian legends.

In fantasy worlds, we can be as creative as we like but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to fix some things in reality. A prime example of this is when in some stories the character is described as drawing their sword from a sheath on their back. In Hollywood, this is used a lot, but if you tried to do this in real life you will encounter some pretty obvious disadvantages. When writing, I try to think about what would be the most practical way for a character to do something.

Let me give you an example –

 

The knight had his sword drawn from the scabbard at his waist. Ahead of him and barring the road were two warriors, currently oblivious. Both had swords and daggers sheathed in scabbards on their backs. The knight advanced towards them, his steel plate clanking and rattling as he went. At hearing the noise the two warriors ran forward to challenge the brave lone knight.

“You must pay a toll to travel down this road,” the taller of the two demanded.

The knight chuckled heartily causing the warriors to glance at each other in confusion.

“What you laughing about you loony?” asked the other.

The knight stopped laughing and raised his helmet visor.

“I will not pay your toll. Instead, I bet I can best the both of you in three moves,” the knight boasted heartily.

The two warriors sneered at the knight’s bravado.

“You really are a loony. Alright then, you’re on.”

The knight took a step back and held his sword in front of him.

“En garde!” cried the knight.

The warriors set about drawing their swords from the scabbards on their backs. The first gripped the hilt of the weapon and pulled. The sword was stuck. He couldn’t draw his blade, his comrade had the same difficulty. Their draws were limited by the lengths of their arms so that the blade got stuck in the scabbard. All the while the knight chuckled to himself and shook his head at their stupidity. The two oafs before looked foolish as they struggled to get their swords in hand.

“Style over practicality,” the knight muttered as he stepped forward and thrust his sword into the taller warrior’s chest. The man gawped at the knight in stunned surprise, he’d not even managed to pull his blade from its back sheath.

At seeing his comrade fall the second warrior bent over and using two hands gripped the hilt. The sword finally slid free, but the man was panting with the exertion of the impractical movements he’d had to make.

“1 for 1 so far,” the knight laughed.

The warrior swung his sword but the knight easily deflected it and brought his body in close so that the two men were now face-to-face. The fight had become a test of strength. The warrior sneered he could take the knight all he had to do was draw the knife from the sheath on his shoulder and he could….’slick’ his eyes went wide and the knight stepped back. In his offhand, he held a bloodied dagger.

“As you can see, a dagger sheathed on my belt was far easier to use than the one you have strapped on your shoulder. Huh, I daresay I beat my record. 2 for 2 it is,” the knight said.

The warrior slumped to the ground a deep puncture wound in his gut.

“Style over practicality, not worth it,” the knight called over his shoulder as he carried on his way.

 

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These two Youtubers cover this subject really well so check them out –

 

 

As you can see it might just be a little thing but the way in which a sword is carried can have a huge effect on a scene. When it comes to fight scenes you need to think about how practical something is. It’s tricky in worlds of magic, but even so it’s best to try and keep some aspects grounded in reality.

I hope you enjoyed this little blog. Next time I’ll be covering the topic of armour.

Is there anything specific you’d like me to cover? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch via social media.

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Music to write wars to

Music to write wars to

I love writing battle scenes and one of the main reasons for that is the way in which I get into the mindset to do so. As with anything that requires energy and urgency a writer needs to psyche themselves up before plunging into the heart of battle.

At the moment I’m working on a huge battle scene for War for the Sundered Crown and I have found that listening to music is the best way to get into it. A battle needs to excite the reader, put them onto the edge of their seat. Will their favourite characters make it out alive? Will they emerge the same people that they once were?

Planning such scenes is a lot of work in itself, especially if the battle in question is on a grand scale. Tens of thousands of combatants need a lot of direction if the scene is to make any sense and progress the main plot of the story. Strategies and tactics need to be considered as well as what are both sides trying to achieve?

To get into the mood for this battle and the grander war to come I’ve been listening to a few groups and tracks. The best genre of music for this sort of thing is definitely the epic genre, groups like the fantastic Two Steps from Hell and Audiomachine are fantastic at getting my imagination rocking.

Here’s a few of the best tracks I’ve discovered:

Do you have any other suggestions for awesome music to write to? Let me know via the comments.