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The Castes and the OutCastes...where dharma may be based on a lie A Warrior's Path is actually the 7th novel I've written, but it's the first one where I trusted my words enough to release it out into the world.  Before I did so, I wanted an independent assessment, so I asked for a Kirkus review, and here it is:


I especially like the part where they talk about "the ...milieu is markedly original..." and "...first-rate world building." Funny thing: they draft I sent Kirkus was the one I thought was the final, but my sister, with whom I share a brain, convinced to rewrite certain sections. All told, it turned out to be changing about 3% of the words or less, but that 3% made a huge difference.

I should also point out that this book is not set in a proto-typical medieval Europe but rather in a world that is a melange of India, Japan, and ancient Greece.

Anyway, here's what the book is about:

Two millennia ago, a demon thundered into the skies of Arisa, casting down the First World. She was Suwraith, the Bringer of Sorrows. And on the same night as Her arrival, there rose about the world's great cities the Oases, a mysterious means by which Humanity lies protected against the might of the Sorrow Bringer. It is a temporary respite. Throughout the rest of Arisa, Suwraith’s Chimeras boil across the Wildness, the wide swaths of land beyond the boundaries of the few, far-flung cities, killing any unfortunates in their path and ruling all in Her name. But always She seeks more: Humanity’s utter extinction.

Into this world is born Rukh Shektan, a peerless young warrior from a Caste of warriors. He is well-versed in the keen language of swords and the sacred law of the seven Castes: for each Caste is a role and a Talent given, and none may seek that to which they were not born. It is the iron-clad decree by which all cities maintain their fragile existence and to defy this law means exile and death. And Rukh has ever been faithful to the teachings of his elders.

But all his knowledge and devotion may not save him because soon he must join the Trials, the holy burden by which by which the cities of Humanity maintain their slender connection with one another, and the only means by which a warrior can prove his worth. There in the Wildness, Rukh will struggle to survive as he engages in the never-ending war with the Chimeras, but he will also discover a challenge to all he has held to be true and risk losing all he holds dear. And it will come in the guise of one of Humanity’s greatest enemies – perhaps its greatest allies.

Worse, he will learn of Suwraith’s plans. The Sorrow Bringer has dread intentions for his home. The city of Ashoka is to be razed and her people slaughtered.

And here's where you can buy it:




January 31, 2014, 01:37:10 PM
Laughing about books I found this link through another site - it made me cry with laughter  ;D

"40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever"

March 22, 2014, 05:03:37 PM
Re: Creating a Religion Seems like whenever there's a thread about some aspect world building in fantasy writing forums, there is a disconnect between people who want a well rendered world to be in place, even if it's mostly behind the scenes, and the world-building minimalists--folks who think that most aspects of world building are a colossal waste of time that distracts the reader from the most important aspects of the story.

It's certainly true that world building can become a form of procrastination, and that even some very successful authors probably do fall too in love with the minutiae of their worlds for the taste of many readers. I'd say there's room for all kinds of tastes and styles in fantasy, but I also think that the average reader of secondary world or epic fantasy expects to be immersed in a world that feels like it's real. We also tend to read authors who fall inside our own comfort zones. As someone who is trying to write my own novel, I also experience the frustration of not being able to please everyone. One person might get annoyed that I interrupted an event or action-focused narrative to mention that there's a statue and two candles on the alter at all, and another person might want me to go into more detail about these features.

One thing I've noticed on fantasy boards is that other readers and writers haven't even heard of some of my favorites, but they have favorites of my own that I haven't encountered. I've also discovered new writers because of some of these discussions.

Nearly all of the secondary world and epic fantasy I've read that's been written in recent years has some pretty intricately rendered world building, but maybe that's simply because I tend to gravitate towards that sort of thing. So my question for the world building minimalists out there, is can you recommend some newer secondary world, epic style fantasy that doesn't really concern itself with world building aside from what's immediately relevant to the plots and main characters?

June 25, 2014, 10:03:25 PM
Re: Broken empire fan art FINISHED.

August 02, 2014, 10:58:10 PM
Re: One million words of crap I've only been writing about two years, and so far my motto has been: "Well, I can always change it later."

The million words really isn't a good measure of quality. Everything you write after 1 million won't be gold and everything before it won't be complete crap. You could be the worst author in the world, write something today, and there would still be some value in it. You could be the best, and there will still be some crappy moments in what you've written. The more you write, the better you're able to recognize the good and the bad, and hopefully replicate the good. It's the recognition that's important, and the ability to admit when something you've written sucks so that you can change or remove it.

I'm about 375k words (counting edits, strikes, etc.) into my current work in progress, and I just yesterday realized that 3 of the first chapters were written with a third person omniscient narrator, while the rest of the book is third person limited. It's a long process, but the upside is that you will notice your progress, and then you get to shame your past self for making such absurd mistakes.

December 09, 2014, 04:18:51 PM
Re: One million words of crap If I recall correctly, the one million words comes from Stephen King...Malcolm Gladwell also say it takes 10,000 hours - both daunting.  I think they are actually pretty much "on target" for me and my writing. I published novel #14 and books 1 - 8 were written with only one goal -- to learn how to write. So none of them were meant to be published.

I just wanted to point out that it's not just the number of words...but finishing books. Figuring out how to structure a book with when and how to expose various elements and then finish in a satisfying way is something that takes practice as well.

December 11, 2014, 10:32:34 AM
Re: Rape and other sensitive issues in Fantasy novels It's impossible. Try as hard as you want, you can't control what people take out of your work. You can do your best to make everyone see it the way you want them to. It will never happen. And that's a good thing. People are different. They're going to see different things in your work. Different things will be important to them. If you're not actively promoting a dangerous idea, such as violence against a specific group of people, or discrimination against a certain group of people, I think you're okay.

Interpretation is too subjective to censor your work for fear someone will misinterpret it. Someone will. Often times, it's the most innocuous statement in the book, and people turn it into hate. Other times, people interpret it one way, when really you're making the exact opposite point. It isn't something you can fight, and quite frankly I don't understand why anyone would want to try. Why would you want to decide what fiction means to other people? Shouldn't they be entitled to their opinions? That's the beauty of interpretation, is that someone might get the most satisfaction out of something you didn't intend.

Now, of course that has a downside. That means people can also get the most pain out of something you did not intend. Am I saying authors shouldn't be aware of what might trigger someone and try to minimize it? No, but is that author "guilty" of something if they don't think of minimizing a trigger, or because they choose not to? What if they have chosen not to because to them it is the best way of advocating their point?

People are going to see the worst in your work. They're going to see things that aren't there. Don't paralyze yourself because someone might take it the wrong way, or simply because they might disagree. It's impossible to please everyone.

.... phew. rant over. Now back to our regularly scheduled Justan*. Have I made a cheesy joke yet today? Oh, wait. I did*.

March 06, 2015, 04:32:30 PM
Re: Ancient and medieval fighting and weapons There's a huge number of weapons that fall under the category of "sword". Perhaps even more than all other premodern weapons combined. A complicating factor is that swords always evolved. Some people tried out making swords with somewhat longer blades or narrower blades, actually liked how it sat in the hand and moved, and recommended it to others. But there never was a perfect sword, because swordsmiths always had to take the availability and prices for raw materials into consideration, and more sophisticated constructions would take a lot longer, making the sword more expensive for the buyer. And always there were other people trying to improve armor against the types of weapons they were commonly facing against. As a result, it all blurs together into a very broad range of "swords", which is really anything with a long blade on a short handle.
Of course in practice there were some forms of swords that worked really well and lots of people used them, while others just never caught on. So there are many different types of swords. But it never was an exact science and there was no standardization, so the distinctions between types are often quite blurry. Like literature genres, you have certain archetypes, but the personal preferences of the smiths and users don't conveniently stay within those lines. Modern historians like to pretend there are such clear lines, but many of the categories used today are modern inventions.

That being said, the names used for swords in fantasy are almost always completely wrong. Mixing up an African leopard with a South American Jaguar is not a big deal, they are extremely similar. But calling either of those a Siberian Tiger is just plain wrong.

Generally speaking, there are two types of swords: Bronze swords and steel swords. I am almost certain that you will never see a copper sword or an iron sword anywhere. Copper and iron are both too soft for large blades (though I think there are some copper knives) and you have to mix them with other elements into an alloy that has much better property. Copper alloys are usually called bronzes (brass is a modern term for a specific type of alloy that was lumped together with other bronzes in ancient times) and iron alloys are called steels, regardless of what those other elements are.
You can make steel that is superior to bronze, but this is very advanced metalurgy that has been invented only in recent centuries. Ancient and medieval steel is not superior to bronze! The reason bronze fell out of favor for weapons and armor around 3,000 years ago is that tin, which was most commonly mixed with copper to make bronze, became fantastically expensive and almost unaffordable. This forced metalworkers to find some way to make a good alloy based on iron. Those early types of steel were inferior in quality to bronze, but still could do the job decently enough and were many times cheaper. Over time the quality of steel improved, but it really is the much cheaper price of steel that made it the primary metal of choice throughout late antiquity and the middle ages. When you have one guy with a bronze sword and one guy with a steel sword, it really doesn't make any difference. When you have five guys with bronze swords and twenty guys with steel swords, it makes a huge difference.
Copper and bronze didn't really play a big role in ancient Central and Southern Africa, and they started with steel. (Though much later did develop bronze technology for art.) In America, they didn't even have that (only gold and silver, which doesn't work for weapons), but the Aztecs did have a weapon called macuahuitl that has a size and shape similar to sword and is also used in a very similar way, so it's sometimes called an obsidian sword. It's constructed more like a wooden club with a row of obsidian shards set into it as an edge. Completely different construction, but works almost the same way, so whether you want to call it a sword or not is probably personal preference. If it looks like a sword, handles like a sword, and cuts like a sword...

Okay, now we are getting to the kinds of swords you usually see in fantasy:
Keep in mind that the "Middle Ages" refer to a period of 1,000 years and an area that includes all of Europe and extends into Northern Africa and Asia. There are lots of differences between specific places and times, so everything here is a very gross simplification. Scientifically very inaccurate, but I think for the purpose of fantasy weapons entirely sufficient. Unless you want to have a fantasy story set in real world France in the year 1241 and want to have it as historically accurate as possible. The most common one-handed sword that every halfway decent knight runs around with would have probably called by him a "sword". It wasn't like the swordsmith had a wide range of different models on a rack. You picked your length and weight that best suited your height and strength, but that was mostly it. When people are talking about knights now, it's usually called an arming sword and looks like this.
Spoiler for Hiden:

Which looks very similar to a viking sword, which lloks like this.
Spoiler for Hiden:
The only real difference is a much smaller crossguard between the blade and the hilt. Not really sure why. The term Arming Sword is used mostly for swords that are later than the viking period so it might be possible that the crossguard was a new invention that came up around 1000 AD, but as I said those developments are always fluid evoultions that reach different places and different times and might not be adopted everywhere.
This sword was not only used in Scandinavia, but I think throughout all of northern and central Europe.

It is almost the same weapon as the earlier Roman spatha.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Again, the handle is a bit different, but the blade is mostly the same. A straight steel blade about as long as an arm and two fingers wide.

Even in China, at the opposite end of the Old World, you get the jian, which again is really pretty much the same thing.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Why? Because it works! It's good. It's weight and proportions are a very good match for a human swordsman and it's a great alrounder that combines speed, accuracy, and versatility, while also being easy to carry around with you all day on your belt.

Big downside: It's really expensive. Which is why most people who went to war didn't have one. Not only does the blade of a sword need five or six times as much metal as a spear blade, it also needs to be forged at a much higher quality because longer blades are at greater risk of bending or snapping. That's basic mechanical physics. Imagine taking a pencil and snapping it in two. That's easy. Now take one of those halves and snap it again. Which is a lot more difficult. And good luck snapping one of those quarters with your bare hands. And it's not because you have a bad grip on a small piece. Long things bend and snap easier than short things in relation to the thickness. Which is also why you get to see small blades very early, but really big and long swords only very late. You need a lot of metalurgical tricks to make steel that can take the stresses of such a large blade.
Most people who went to war had spears or axes, which have much smaller blades and are therefore a lot cheaper. In most languages other than English, the word "knight" means "rider", because they were a small elite of people who were wealthy enough to own a horse bred and trained for battle. These people also tended to be rich enough to own a sword. Which is why knights are usually very much associated with them. A sword was nice to have on your belt when you visit the village or run around in the castle, but for really serious fighting, there were better alternatives:
When you fight a guy with really heavy armor, you want a weapon with a lot of punch, because your sword blade can't cut through it. When you do a cavalry charge, you don't want to get into the reach of your enemies spears to be able to hit them, so you also use a spear (a "lance" really is just a spear used while on a horse for most of history). Or a bow. The sword is wonderful when you don't have anything else. It's a great alrounder that will be useful in almost any situation. But when possible, you want a specialist weapon for your specific task. When you went into battle with one, it was your backup weapon, like a pistol. Even the samurai didn't make a big deal about their swordfighting skills, because that implied you somewhat regularly got into situations where you lost your bow and spear. Then why do modern Japanese people make such a huge deal about their swords? Because contrary to common belief, exotic foreigners are just as stupid as Europeans and Americans and love cool stuff they see in movies or read in unrealistic fantasy books.
The lack of reach of a sword compared to a spear is a real problem in battle. Sparring is of course not the same thing as battle to the death, but people who are decent with swords and spears made the experience that if you have one person with a spear against one person with a sword, the swordsman needs to be extremely good to win.

The only case I am aware of where regular soldiers were all using swords were the Roman legionaries. And that was because the legions used a very specific type of formation combat that relied on getting everyone squezed together so tightly that spears couldn't be really used and then stabbing swords were extremely effective. But that is really the only case I know of large numbers of soldiers using swords instead of spears.

Speaking of the Roman sword: I mentioned the spatha earlier, but the standard roman sword was the gladius. Which also really just means "sword".
Spoiler for Hiden:
The gladius is shorter than the spatha, but not really by much and calling it a "short sword" is quite misleading. They are still pretty big. I mentioned before that large blades require advanced metalurgy and forging techniques, and therefore most bronze swords tend to fall into this category.
In the same way daggers can be really big too. Much larger than a small pocket knife. The roman pugio looks like a big knife (though technically a knife has a single edge, while a dagger has two), but some types are large enough that some people might think of them as small swords.

The other type of sword that is super popular around the sword are sabers. There is a huge variety of sabres, both in blades and handles, but they all share the same trait of having a single edge and being curved.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Sabers have some advantages and disadvantages compared to straight swords. The disadvantage is that they are generally not as good at chopping, but instead work much better at slicing. Which is why soldiers on horses generally tend to favor sabres over straight swords because when you ride by someone on the ground quickly, it's easier to just slice your blade over him than trying to get a good chop from an akward position. But when you hit armor, a sabre has less of an impact and doesn't hurt as much. Neither sabres nor straight swords can cut through metal armor, but any heavy impact still hurts and can push you over.

Then you have a couple of "hybrids" like the German messer ("knife") and the Japanese katana ("sword").
Spoiler for Hiden:

While they do have a single edge and a slight curve, the curve is quite subtle and the blade pretty heavy. You see katanas everywhere, but I don't remember seeing a messer anywhere in fantasy, even though there's no reason why it shouldn't.

Going back to antiquity, there is also a kind of chopping sword that looks really quite weird at first. Again, there are many names, but the most generic is kopis.
Spoiler for Hiden:
And the title for weirdest looking sword probably goes to the Egyptian khopesh.
Spoiler for Hiden:
Swords like these are almost a kind of hybrid between sword and axe and saber. You can't do any fancy fencing with them as you see in a three musketeer movie, but you can both chop and stab with them. And you really just have to look at them to see how extremely good these are at chopping.
While they look very exotic, this was one of they ypes of swords used by the Greeks for quite a long time. But they went out of fashion during Aniquity, and I don't really know why. I would suspect that a straight sword is simply easier to forge, though.

You also might know the Asian kukri, which really is just the local adaptation of the kopis introduced by Alexander the Great when he was in the region. Most kukris you see are small and knife sized, but they can get to the size of big two-handed swords.

April 12, 2015, 01:44:21 PM
Winners and Stories I thought it would be cool to have a place where all the winners and their stories are represented.

I started with the Month I nearly won with a poem. (Okay, it's the month the publishing on the main page started and that may be the real reason. ;))

Bold theme = already published on the main site

Writing Contest Winners - Hall of Fame


[March 2013] The City "Obsidian City" by Philip Overby

[April 2013] Time Travel "HAVOC TIME!" by Arry

[May 2013] Magic "Wizardry" by Charlemagne

[June 2013] Mazes "In My Head" by Jaimie J.

[July 2013] The Deep “The Island” by 137minutes

[August 2013] Elements “A Fine Morning for Running” by ladygreen

[September 2013] Battles “The Battle of Bledrag Field” by TOMunro

[October 2013] Sports “Cheating Death” by Andrew Ward

[November 2013] Doors “Thorns in the Garden” by Timekeeper

[December 2013] Underdogs “A New Start” by TOMunro


[January 2014] Betrayal "Stab and Twist" by ACSmyth and "Jing Ke – A Tale from the Stone Road" by G_R_Matthews

[February 2014] Fanfic “The Road to Arrow” by TOMunro

[March 2014] Grimdark “The Heir to Foulstania” by Jared Shurin

[April 2014] Write about Jake/Lynn “The Artisan’s Mask” by ladygreen *Best Story of 2014*

[May 2014] Portal Fantasy “Song and Dance” by ladygreeen

[June 2014] Taboos “Life and Death” by Elfy

[July 2014] Apprenticeship “A Dangerous Talent” by LisaElle

[August 2014] Seven Deadly Sins “Septum Insidias” by AlmightyZael

[September 2014] Fantasy Clichés "The four Orcshiremen" by OnlyOneHighlander

[October 2014] Abandoned Places "The Rookery" by Giddler

[November 2014] Joker Month "The mist in their veins" by Ancalagon

[December 2014] Religion "Ailurophilia" by Carter and "Wardu's Wager" by Jmack


[January 2015] Science Fiction "Junk Mail" by Giddler

[February 2015] Fanfic "Ghost in the Light" by Saraband

[March 2015] Rogues "The 7 Tenets of Rogueishness" by Rukaio_Alter

[April 2015] Plot Twist! Werewolf, Vampire, Goat "A Twist too Far" by Rukaio_Alter

[May 2015] Fairytales "The Sun, the Moon and the Morning Star" by Jmack *Best Story of 2015*

[June 2015] Multiple POVs "The Braying Jack" by Jeryn

[July 2015] Flash Fiction "For Evil to Triumph" by wakarimasen and "Last Regrets" by OnlyOneHighlander

[August 2015] Space Opera "Space Opera" by Jmack

[September 2015] Politics, Scheming and Intrigue "The Translator" by tebakutis

[October 2015] The name of the short story must be that of a fantasy bestseller but the story isn't allowed to have anything to do with that book. "The Exorcist" by Nora

[November 2015] Mighty Beasts "The Magnificent Mythical Zoo (No Refunds)" by Rukaio_Alter

[December 2015] Young Love "Adrift" by tebakutis and "An Unconventional Proposal" by Rukaio_Alter and "The Library of Alexander" by Jmack


[January 2016] Breaking the Fourth Wall "But, I’m a F#@%ing Dragon! " by m3mnoch

[February 2016] Fanfic III "Mistaken Identity" by Rukaio_Alter

[March 2016] Nightmares "A Gift for the Nightmare Man" by tebakutis

[April 2016] The Last Contest (Dystopia) "Everything in Frame" by tebakutis

[May 2016] Well known Fairy Tales from a different POV "The Magic Lamp" by Lanko

[June 2016] Random Wikipedia Article "One Last Drink" by tebakutis

[July 2016] Story Generator "Conan meets Nietzsche" by Lanko

[August 2016] Potions and Elixirs "Goldenfoot, The Brave" by @night_wrtr *Best Story of 2016*

[September 2016] Pirates! "The Rule of the Curse" by @SugoiMe

[October 2016] Corpses "Where there's a Will" by @TOMunro

[November 2016] 1750 "Youthful Optimism" by @Lordoftheword

[December 2016] Dragons "The Fishwife's Tale" by @Jmack


[January 2017] Urban Fantasy "A Sliver of the Sky" by @Jmack

[February 2017] Fanfic "A Song of Rings and Thrones" by @Lanko

[March 2017] Through the Beast's Eye "Hellhound" by @Rukaio_Alter

[April 2017] Omens (Scavenger Hunt) "On the Fire Escape" by @Nora

[May 2017] Music "Echos of the First Refrain" by @Carter

[June 2017] Gangsters and Crime Lords "A Baron and a Princess" by @Rukaio_Alter AND "Who Criminals pray to" by @Nora

[July and August 2017] Story Generator II

May 05, 2015, 09:01:07 PM
Re: One Sentence writing advice If ultimately you're not enjoying yourself despite the eventual hardships, then you're doing it wrong. (Which is also a broad life rule for me)
May 14, 2015, 01:36:52 AM