The first trilogy is complete and all three books are available.
Volume II, The Elf and the Arrow
Volume III, The Voice like Water
Alora’s Tear, Volume I: Fragments
There is no magic in Vladvir…
Tucked away in a quiet valley, the community of Tolarenz offers a refuge and safe haven for its people, keeping persecution at bay. One young citizen—Askon son of Teral—is destined to lead them, but first he must leave them behind: one final mission, in service of the king.
In the north, leering nightmare creatures known as the Norill gather. Their armor is bone and skin; their weapons are black and crude and cold. They strike in the night, allies to the darkness. It is to them Askon marches, his men a bulwark against the threat.
For there is no magic in Vladvir.
What Askon finds when he arrives seems impossible: smoke and fire, death and defeat, and all around a suffocating sense of dread. The Norill seek something they call ‘the Stone of Mountain,’ but in the half-remembered stories from Askon’s childhood, it was always ‘Alora’s Tear’: a gem with powers great and terrible. A gem that cannot exist.
Unless there is magic in Vladvir…
For writers, and especially those who are also English teachers (let’s face it, definitely all English teachers) a tree is never just a tree, the forks in its branches never merely splittings of cells searching for optimal light-to-leaf ratio, the roots—gnarled and pockmarked—never simply spreading to maximize water or mineral uptake. No. A tree is never just a tree with us. It’s a symbol, for life, for decision, for permanence, for any number of things.
So goes the large and small in the mind of a writer, buzzing insects are always hinting at something more (whether we ever intend for you to guess that something is up for debate and changes from moment to moment), mountains stand guard, the markings on a chair tell their own little story, texturing the world, enriching the illusion of characters who have lives beyond the pages and a world that goes on whether they live or die, succeed or fail.
Sometimes though, the writer must also go beyond. Action must take place, exiting events that may span only a moment, perhaps even only a second. Sometimes it’s not enough to force the reader to gaze at the tree branches, or to read the scenes painted on the urn. Sometimes there are battles.
Battles are a unique challenge within a story. Writing them requires pace and impact, detail and fluidity, danger, tension, release, and maybe most importantly the element of surprise. Imagine a boxing match. The fun in watching is mostly in the surprises. Now, depending on your knowledge of the sport, the surprises can become more subtle. If you know the appropriate combination the fighter should throw next, the surprise and enjoyment comes in a number of ways: if it succeeds, if it fails, if the opponent cleverly counters it, or if your fighter makes an altogether different move which neither you, nor the opponent expects.
Such is the way in writing battles. There’s no time to settle in and examine the etchings on a blade that’s headed straight for your protagonist’s head. Unless, of course that is where you surprise the reader. If the story is leading the audience forward, a moment of slow motion at the height of the character’s peril can be just the thing. Other times, it kills the momentum, drags out the drama until the energy is entirely spent.
Perhaps the surprise comes out of the blue, the oft-written knife in the side as two characters stand dramatically close to one another, or the silently flying arrow neither of them see coming. This is a tempting construct, and one that can certainly be used to great effect. The danger, however, is in what is likely the second most important part of battle writing, awareness.
The readers must be aware of what is happening around the character, virtually at all times. Confusion occurs in battle, as it occurs in sport. Some of the finest moments in sport come from particularly unexpected strategies which primarily confuse the opposition. But readers must be able to construct the fight choreography in their imaginations without painting the entire picture for themselves. If ever the reader asks “Where did she go?” it should be intentional, should set up a payoff later in the battle. But, this is a difficult balance to maintain. The reader must not know what will happen next while at the same time, be able to reliably identify where the individual characters are in the heat of battle, so that the flashing blade in the next series of blows comes from a logical place.
The more times readers must overleap their doubts concerning a particular move, parry, or riposte, the more energy drains from the battle, like a balloon releasing its air one flatulent bit at a time.
Cliche as it may sound, many authors and aspiring author students either lack an affinity for sports or simply ignore them. When writing battles, there are few sources so helpful as understanding the drama of sport (combative sports obviously make the best subjects) but even more so, the nature of writing sport. This skill is far more complex than many will be willing to admit. If you doubt it, try writing a quarter of basketball or four downs of American football, an inning of baseball. Then read a similar passage written by an expert. It’s a difficult proposition.
Now, it’s much easier to play a pick-up game of three on three than it is to find someone who will sword fight you to the death (and rightly). So, in the absence of true experience (I suppose you could take up fencing or stage combat) look to the experts of drama in combative sport. And remember that surprise and audience awareness are, as they say in Olympic wrestling, your bread and butter, which sounds mundane enough until you realize it requires a knife.
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Nathan spends most of his working days with the students of Genesee Junior-Senior High School in Genesee, Idaho. Whether it’s essay structure, a classic literary work, or the occasional impromptu dance routine, he strives to keep students interested in the fun and the fundamentals of the English language.
When he’s not teaching, he wears a number of hats, though the one that says “Dad” is the most careworn and cherished (it says “Husband” on the back). It hangs on a hook in a house where music is a constant and all the computers say “Apple” somewhere on their aluminium facades. From time to time it is said that he ventures into the mysterious realm called outside, though the occasion is rare and almost exclusively upon request by son or daughter.