Fiction

Templars of Fact and Fiction

The Templars played a part in the history of Among the Shadow‘s origins.  This was years ago,  when the Knights Templar became the central focus of novels, revisionist history books and films.  Suddenly, the medieval Knights were everywhere, from being in control of secret organizations, to being the key to finding lost treasures and solving religious mysteries. A new History Channel drama, Knightfall, may soon bring the Knight Templars back into the limelight (check out the trailer here).

The problem with many of the Templar books is that they are based on fake history , or create their own.  Partially thanks to medieval fake news and propaganda spread by the Templar’s enemies, the Templars are easily abused by those with imaginative views of history.

In spite of this onslaught of fake history, the real history has always been largely available.  There are the classics Dungeon, Fire and Sword and The Knights Templar, which give a complete picture. Others like God’s Battalions and The Templars and the Shroud of Christ address many of the claims of revisionists.

So how does this apply to my writing? Years ago, during the height of Templar mania, I was reading The Knights Templar, and came to chapter on the battle at the Horns of Hattin. During this battle, the Crusader army had brought with them what they thought was a relic of the True Cross. The battle was a catastrophic loss.

Instantly, though, I had an Inspiration Moment that would from the basis of Among the Shadows: Epic battles, legendary warriors and powerful relics. This would merge with my new found fascination with the fantasy genre and help define historical fantasy.

Ultimately, the Templars and the Battle of Hattin would recede into the background of the novel. The lost relic would remain prominent, as would threads of history — history that I wanted to remain accurate as opposed to how it was being handled by other writers. Of course, being fantasy, the fantastic is dropped against the historic backgrounds. Blurring the lines a bit, but leaving history intact, leave readers wondering what  in myth and legend may be hints of forgotten truths.

Maybe the Templar connection will be explored again in future novels, but for now, their history remains part of our own all these centuries later.

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Lost on Nan Madol

The mysterious Nan Madol is in the news, due to attention from a television show. These ruins of a forgotten city on the island of Pohnpei have long been the center of myth and legend. In one of the opening scenes of Awakening, sequel to Among the Shadows, Ethan, Milena and Kyra, are vacationing on the ancient isle, but they find something unexpected in an empty tomb. A brief excerpt from the forthcoming Awakening

Next to Ethan, Milena put her hands on the boulder. She closed her eyes, and cleared her mind with the box breathing she learned when training with her katanas. The energy began to surge within and she felt it intertwine with Ethan’s.

“On three. One…two…three.”

She opened her eyes, lit green from within, her husband’s burned blue.

“It’s moving!” Kyra yelled…With a little help from gravity, and more from their strength, they rolled the boulder out of the way…

Kyra turned the light on the darkness, chasing it away. “There are steps going down into another chamber.”

“Let me have one of those.” Kyra handed her father his flashlight and he started down. As soon as Ethan reached the last step, the light reflected off a crystal pyramid, twice the width of the boulder, but no taller. It sat dead center in the room, nearly filling it. The low ceiling added to the claustrophobia as Milena and Kyra joined Ethan. Krya approached the pyramid and reached out her hand.

“No, wait!” Milena yelled, running for her a moment too late.

Kyra’s palm pressed on the crystal and light swirled within it, illuminating the room. The walls shimmered and vanished. The tomb, the ruins, the island — all of it — had been replaced by a dusty, vast plain under a blazing sky. Haze obscured the jungle covered hills rising in the distance. Shadows passed over the ground.

Kyra looked into the sky and screamed.

Read how their adventure began in Among the Shadows and look for Awakening coming in 2018.

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Where are our Sages?

Being a “mentor” or “life coach” appears to be a popular career choice. I don’t know if it’s a generational trend, or a sign of some underlying needs.  I tend to think it’s the latter, but I do know that our fiction is full of these mentors, or Sages, that seek to pass on their guidance. The role of the Sage is not a new one, it’s part of the ancient tradition of one generation passing on to the next their wisdom.

Perhaps a lack of that transfer of wisdom is the cause of the growing trends. Fiction, though, has been reminding us all along of this lost responsibility of each generation. John Eldredge, on writing on the stages of a man’s life in The Way of the Wild Heart, explores the Sages of fiction:

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Are You Ready to Choose a Side?

The War Among the Shadows has begun. Are you ready to enter the fray? Will you stand with the Watchers against the Darkness? Six will face the creatures lost to myth and legend. Will you join them? Among the Shadows Kindle edition is now $2.99 for a limited time. Step through the veil before it’s too late!

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Find Life Before it’s Lost Forever

This extended excerpt from Among the Shadows is from a chapter that serves as an interlude in the story. In the midst of the dire situation Milena found herself in, this was an opportunity to see more into her mind and her husband’s, and explore deeper themes relevant to all of us. Enjoy…

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What is Your Choice?

So many people get lulled into a day-to-day existence of hitting their marks, getting stuff done, running place to place — to do it all again the next day.  And the next.

Every so often there are tuggings on our minds, glimpses and reminders, that we are meant for more than just staring into televisions, playing with our phones and letting society tell us who we are and what we should be.

For brief moments we realize that we are part of an epic tale.  All is not what it seems to be. A war rages in us, around us. A question demands an answer: What is your part in the story? Will you embrace it or walk away into a bottomless abyss of whatever others have decided for you?

Milena chose to step through the veil. Ethan conquered the Darkness and embraced his strength. Kane stopped fearing what he was. Duncan would find his place among those like him. Kyra made the shadows flee from her. They all stood together against the impossible.

Among the Shadows not only tells their stories, but of what simmers in us all.

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Some are More Equal than Others

After seeing this video on judging people equally, I was reminded of this famous quote from George Orwell’s classic, Animal Farm:

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

Animal Farm, both allegory and satire, was published in 1945 as a commentary on the totalitarian communist regime of Stalin. Yet it is still very much relevant today in that people seem to unwittingly allow ideas of inequality and fake tolerance into their thinking. We tolerate unless it offends us. We are inclusive if we agree with the included. We preach equality, but judge differently.

It is easy to caught up in causes, movements and emotion. These are the times we should be most on guard, for this is when others can take advantage of us. When we aren’t thinking clearly, and chaos is around us, we should stop and clear our mind. As Orwell wrote:

In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.

And so is defending truth.

Categories: Critical Thinking, Fiction | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Does Every Story Have a Villain?

In Waking the Dead, John Eldredge writes:

Little Red Riding Hood is attacked by a wolf. Dorothy must face and bring down the Wicked Witch of the est…Frodo is hunted by the Black Riders…Beowulf kills the monster Grendel…Saint George kills the Dragon. The children who stumbled into Narnia are called upon by Aslan to battle the White Witch and her armies…

So why does every story have a villain?

“…Because yours does.”

What are the villains in your life, your Story? Addictions, vices, work, bad habits, crazy people… As Eldredge writes, we are “born into a world at war.” He is coming from the perspective of Evil that was long ago unleashed in the world and seeks to undermine all that is good.

Our stories have villains because our stories are inspired by life. Fiction is only fact in different clothes.

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8 Heroes of Krynn

Always on the lookout for a new fantasy series, I ran across Dragonlance a few weeks ago. It turns out the series isn’t new, but began way back in 1984 with Dragons of Autumn Twilight. This would spawn nearly 200 books in a shared universe. In the book world, a “shared universe” is a series of books written by multiple authors.

Dragonlance is set in the mythical land of Krynn. Like many “classic” fantasy tales, it is populated with races of humans and other creatures, battles between good and evil, and those who must rise up and decide the fate of the world. I know there are some who look down upon such stories as a “trope” — and I’m sure whatever they are reading is high-level, amazing literature — but the rise of heroes to battle evil is a timeless theme that crosses genres and speaks to our own existence.

What often makes or breaks a story is its characters. Dragons of Autumn Twilight introduces readers to Kyrnn’s most memorable band of friends, whom have already been trough much together before we drop in their world, only to be faced with far greater threats. Book 1 finds the heroes in one dangerous encounter after another — probably reflective of the authors being involved in creating Dungeons & Dragons games. As the series progresses, the epic scope expands across Krynn. Continue reading

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War Among The Shadows Begins Again

No class or book on writing ever skips the quintessential topic of beginnings. Few other things do writers lose as much sleep over. There are endless lists on how to start a story and how not to start a story. Yet, as with everything, this process becomes easier the more it is put into practice.

In Among the Shadows, the Prologue was rewritten three times — with the first two being recycled back into the book elsewhere. With Book 2, Awakening, the Prologue has come together much quicker and appears more set in stone. Of course, this doesn’t mean it won’t change as the book progresses. In any case, I will share it here, to give a taste of what is to come. This isn’t a final draft and more refinement of detail, pace and tone is in order.

This is also a good exercise in finding the right balance in detail. This Prologue is, to a large extent, pulled from history (some of the queen’s words verbatim). Enough detail to paint a picture in the reader’s mind of the scene and time, but not so much that it sounds like a history lesson. Sure, an Egyptologist might want more or quibble with changes, but most readers want a living scene in their mind.

So here is a little preview of the continuing War Among the Shadows:

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Categories: Books, Fiction, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

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