Tag Archives: lady knights

If Lynn Shepherd Cares About Writing, She Should Actually Read Books

I wanted to be an actress, but my parents said that I should go to college and get a degree in something useful.  So I majored in Creative Writing (take THAT!).  My favorite authors are Terry Pratchett and Tamora Pierce, but Brian Jacques’s Redwall series initially sparked my passion to write.  Needless to say, I was never interested in writing The Great American Novel.  I wanted to write about knights and magic and castles and fantasy, specifically YA (Young Adult) fantasy because that is what inspired me to become a writer.  I cannot TELL YOU the struggle I had in college because of this.  Teachers and students alike sneered at my “genre writing.”  It took me years to recover from the ego-beating I received in university writing classes from closed-minded assholes who claimed that writing about girls with swords wasn’t worthy of my page or their eyes.

I have since emerged from the Despairing Self-Pity Cave a fearless defender of YA.  Sherman Alexie, author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, wrote this brilliant article that sums up my feelings exactly about the importance of young adult fiction and the ignorance surrounding what it should be and who should write it.

This morning, I stumbled across this totally absurd piece entitled “If JK Rowling Cares About Writing, She Should Stop Doing It.”  I needed a rant, so I came here.

Lynn Shepherd, some writer who has not tasted the same success as JK Rowling, has decided that in order for the unknown authors of the world to get a fair shake, Rowling should step down from her tyrannical throne and let others have a chance, for Christ’s sake.  I mean, it was all well and good when Rowling was “Pottering about,” but now she’s strangling the adult book market with her crappy novels and no one else can even get a word in edgewise, so maybe she should just keep to writing for babies so that other authors can be published.

The premise alone is ridiculous, since that’s not actually how publishing works, but this line

This Line

THIS LINE

is what makes my head explode:

“I did think it a shame that adults were reading [the Harry Potter books], mainly because there’s so many other books out there that are surely more stimulating for grown-up minds.”

So she has the audacity to judge readers for enjoying something that she has never read because she claims to be some sort of arbiter of what adults should and shouldn’t read.

I thought Harry Potter was uncool before it was cool

I thought Harry Potter was uncool before it was cool

It’s not breaking news that another snooty literary type thinks that any work labeled “children’s” or “young adult” is not worthy of adult consumption.  It’s just disappointing and tiresome.  Who the hell is anyone to say that it’s wrong for an adult to identify with Hermione or Alanna or Katniss any less than Elizabeth Bennett or Rosasharn or Lady MacBeth?

And if you say YA novels don’t use sophisticated prose, then I raise you the austerity of Hemingway as an example of powerful literature sans the fancy-pants and then hold up the maddening complexity of Joyce, who used all sorts of fancy literary devices and yet managed to make you want to kill yourself after having to untangle his sentences.

But children’s books are void of complex ideas, you say? The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.

Good books transcend genre.  Period.

But back to Shepherd, cus it gets better.

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Marion of the Lists

Here is my second writing assignment!  The theme was “First Day.”  This character is from an old D&D campaign, but I like her so I’ll keep reusing her!  Ten points if you spot my very obvious Tamora Pierce reference (although, I guess Marion, by virtue of being a red-haired lady knight, is sort of an homage all of her own. . .)  Enjoy :)

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“Damn him and his toasted arse!  If it’s not the slags, it’s the swill!”

Gilder hurled his cap to the ground and did a war dance on top of it, cursing gloriously.  The nervous page shifted on his feet while the short man finished his tirade.  The boy had had the unfortunate duty of reporting to Gilder that one of his jousters was passed out at The Mutton Chop, and the keeper wouldn’t let him leave until his debt was paid.  While he wasn’t unused to delivering bad news, sometimes the receiver got a little carried away.  Gilder, who ran the jousting in town, was mostly the good sort, but any man could get mean when someone messed with his coin and the page preferred to leave without a black eye.

“How much does that red-faced bilge drinker owe?!”

“Not sure, Mister Gil,” said the boy.  “But prolly lots, seeing how the keeper’s got him locked in the back.”

“More than his bout in bets, then.  Curse his soaked hide!  You get out of here now, I’ve got some thinking to do.”

After the grateful boy left, Gil turned to his three other partners in the tiltyard — the armorer, the weapon master, and the head of the stables.  They stared back at him in tired resignation.  Sir Duncan was a disgraced knight, but he had been a damn decent jouster once.  Or at least he won more than he lost, which was all that was needed of him.  These last few months had been particularly irregular, though.  It used to be that paying your tilters was enough to keep them on time and sober enough to ride.  Not with Duncan.

“That bastard’s cost us three bouts this week already, Gil,” said the head of the stables.

“Yeah, when’re we going to cut him loose?”

“When you figure out a way to end the wars and keep the young men around, then we’ll talk about cutting tilters,” sneered Gil, unfairly.  He knew the armorer was right.

“I can do it.”

Gil turned around.  A female wearing breeches and a smock stood in the opening of the tent.  She was tall for a girl and dirty, like she didn’t sleep inside.  Her red hair was completely untethered.  She looked him straight in the eye.

“‘Ere, what’s this!” Cried the weapon master.

“Yeah, throw the baggage out,” said the armorer.  “We got a problem to figger out!”

“I know you,” said Gil, engaging her against his better judgment.  He motioned for the others to be quiet and they obeyed.  Although they each helmed a vitally important part of the operation, there was no doubt that Gil was the head of the snake.  “You’re the one the men have been complaining about, the girl hanging around the yard trying to have a go with the lances.  Don’t you have a husband or something?”

“Duncan’s always half-drunk for these bouts,” she said, unphased.  “Everyone knows it!  He’s the laughing stock of this yard.”

“You think I don’t know that?”

“I can ride ten times as good as him.  And I can win.”

Gil sighed.  He blamed those modern scribes, always writing those damn romances about swordmaidens.  Now every slip of a girl fancied herself the next Lioness Rampant.

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Marion: Origin Story

More nerdiness revealed.   The origin story of one of my characters from a D&D campaign.

When her brother Maddox left Brookshire as a journeyman, Marion turned to the castle guard to continue her sword training.  Learning from the guard captain wasn’t quite the same– Maddox was a patient teacher who believed in her natural ability, whereas the guard captain merely humored her until she left him alone.  Despite this, by the time she was thirteen, her skill with a blade earned her a reputation amongst the soldiers that actually garnered her father’s attention, though not in the way she hoped. Immediately Lord Barinor threatened less pay for anyone who continued to train his daughter with a weapon. “What man wants a wife who can defend herself?!” he bellowed. Undaunted, she went every day to bully someone, usually a wet-behind-the ears recruit, into giving her a lesson. Threats and withdrawn meals didn’t stop Marion from stealing a pair of breeches, tying her long red hair back, and heading for the garrison whenever she could.

The day she turned fourteen years old, a knight named Sir Garth, hailing from southern Brookshire, arrived at the manor. Marion was excited by the prospect of a real-live knight—they rarely came this far north and if they did, they never stayed long. Marcus, the oldest of the five Barinor children, made sure of it. He excelled at making people feel unwelcome, and ever since he was denied knighthood, he didn’t much like anyone who had won his shield. Fearing the knight’s visit would be short, Marion waited diligently by the stables, dressed in her brother Mathen’s clothes (Maxim, his twin, promised to beat her into rubble if she took his again), her fingers curled around the pommel of a guard’s sword.

“You’re pathetic.”

With a sigh, Marion turned around to face her brother.  “Marcus, do you spend your whole life waiting around a corner to say something smart?  Don’t you have anything better to do?”

“I could ask you the same question.” Marcus unfortunately took after their father, which meant that even if he did manage not to stoop like a hyena over prey, he could only charitably be described as five and a half feet tall. He wore a black cloak with large shoulder pads and a stiff collar, his hair, more orange than red, spiked and wild. “You know why he’s here, don’t you?”

“Because Father thinks his own sons aren’t worth shit?”

Marcus tried to grab her by the front of her jerkin and missed. Marion backed away and brought her sword up. The darkness passed from his face and he laughed. “Go ahead. I hear Sir Garth likes women with a little fight in them.  It’ll make it all the more fun for him.”

“What are you talking about?”

Marcus turned away with a dramatic twirl of his cloak (she hated when he did that) and walked briskly toward the manor, calling over his shoulder, “Oh nothing. How many days do you think Father will lock you up when I tell him where you are and what you’re wearing?”

“Marcus, you dripping pile, I’ll-”

“Mari, don’t.”  A strong pair of hands gripped her shoulders, keeping her from a charge. “Let him go.”

Marion grit her teeth, but obeyed, watching her brother jauntily head inside. “Pom, he’s going to tell on me!”

“Let ‘im,” spat the stableboy. “He’s a coward and yer father’ll prolly give him a smack for being a snitch.  He’s over twenty for Lord’s sakes.”

“I just wanted to spar that knight, just once, and he’ll probably leave tonight and I’ll never have the chance!”

Pom shifted uncomfortably.  At first glance, he seemed typical stableboy fare: tall, gangly, straw-haired.  But under the bad haircut, the maddening acne, and the faintest whiff of horse, he knew things. There was only one reason why a single knight with a lot of land came to a manor that happened to have one daughter just turned marriagable age.  He watched his dear, earnest Marion, taking practice swipes with the stolen blade.

“Why is Mucus such a bastard?” She ranted. “I can’t do a damn thing around here without him interfering in my business. He’s supposed to be the lordling, you’d think he’d have better things to do than prance around in that sissy cape.”

“Seems to me he’s doing exactly what a lordling should be doing.”

“Ha!”

“Anyway if you ask me, I’d be less worried about Mucus and more worried bout what’ll happen to you when Maxim finds you’re wearin’ his breeches.”

“They’re Mathen’s. ‘Sides, I think I look better in ’em than he does.”

“I think you look prettier in a dress.”

Marion sheathed her blade with a smirk. “Oh what now? You gonna kiss me again?”

“Only if you deserve it,” he said, smiling back.

“Only if you can catch me!” Marion took off across the courtyard, tossing her hair, beckoning. He chased her, the girl with breeches and a sword on her hip.

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Marion

My nerdiness revealed.  Here is a little character sketch I wrote based on a D&D campaign.

The lady knight rubbed the balm on her cracked and weathered hands and thought of her mother. Her mother’s hands were calm, cool and soft, except for that sewing callous on her index finger. Once, Marion bought her four silver thimbles for the Harvest, one for each finger. She was six years old. She had had to win a lot of races against the boys to get the coin for those thimbles and when she gave them to her mother, wrapped in a colored scarf, her mother had laughed. That was before Martin.  All the silver thimbles in the world couldn’t cover what the knight had done to her own hands and she had a feeling that they wouldn’t have had much effect against who (and what) Marion had had to kill.

She could hear the rest of the band outside her tent, settling down after a day’s journey. Bahb was swigging beer, loudly clearing his throat and hoping to drown out Isis’s wretched fiddle-playing. Leah was gently, patiently trying to play along on her lute. Marion really didn’t understand elves’ tolerance. If she had tried to play that cursed instrument that way at home, her brothers would have put her face through it.  Zefania had started taking long walks since Horace joined the group.

Horace may be an extraordinary bastard, but the man knew battle tactics, weapon technique, military discipline. King Dominic’s gracious bestowal of knighthood was more than Marion could have ever dreamed for herself, but it wouldn’t replace the training in the palace that she missed as a wandering warrior, learning the sword from those she paid. It wasn’t that Marion had no compassion for Zefania—the thought of her own mother’s body, cold and bloodied, made her hands itch for her blade.  Martin had taught her a lot about men, more than she would ever learn as a woman, and Horace was a different breed, to be sure.  More disciplined, less rash.  But Marion knew arrogance when she saw it and his religious fervor made him self-righteous (second ear down from Bayon, donchaknow).  All the better.  Let him show her up, again and again.  Beat her with his practice weapons, cluck when she failed.  In between the humiliating illuminations of her lack of formal training, she was learning.  Oh, was he good.  She would get faster, stronger, better.  Sometimes the best way to beat your enemy is to become him.

Replacing the lid on her balm, Marion quickly rose and immediately regretted it.  Suppressing a yelp, she forced herself to stretch her protesting muscles.  She could almost feel the bruises on her arms, legs, and middle coloring deeper.  Horace had obliged her a sparring lesson during the midday break.  She perhaps should have paid attention to the rest of her companions’ warnings (blah blah blah treaty blah blah).  She also probably shouldn’t have called Horace a grub-eating priest-licker.  She was paying for it now–his teaching skills went into serious decline when he was angry.  And sitting on that damn horse across a rocky beach for the rest of the ever-loving day really didn’t help her soreness.  What a bastard.

The salty air soothed her sun-scorched face as she emerged from her tent and slipped her feet into her boots.  She squinted against the sharp wind and sun’s last rays glaring off the choppy ocean.  Leah was attempting to explain music theory to the wizard, which had convinced Horace to join Bahb in drinking.

Marion watched Leah, her slender hands caressing her instrument, her silvery hair cascading down her shoulders instead of tied up neatly as usual. The elf’s lips betrayed a smile at Isis’s humor, her eyes creasing in silent merriment.  The men eyed her, though they pretended they weren’t.  There was just something about a pretty female, Marion supposed, no matter what you did in this life, that’s what everyone noticed first.

Annoyed, Marion turned her gaze back down the beach to the small fishing village.  They had passed it earlier before deciding to camp upwind, a decision finalized after witnessing the fishwives gutting the day’s catch.  Rubbing her fingers into her rough palms, she headed toward the cluster of buildings.

“I’ll be back,” she called over her shoulder. She hoped that Horace hadn’t noticed her favoring her right leg.

A particular shop had caught Marion’s eye when they passed through earlier.  Women in dresses streamed inside, and out wafted the scent of cinnamon and secrets.  She knew it was the sort of shop that her mother would have visited to buy perfume, after expressly promising her father she wouldn’t.  Now Marion stared into the window, her hazel eyes filled with the beautiful things that lined the walls—hats, scarves, and shifts made of velvet, linen, cotton, dyed in all the colors. There were racks of feathered hairpieces and cloaks. There were mirrors and shells everywhere.  You won’t beat Horace wearing one of those dumb bonnets, thought Martin treacherously.  The shop was mostly empty except for three women, maybe sisters, who were laughing and chatting.  One was playing with another’s long black hair.  Marion watched them for what felt like a long while.

“I’m just going to look,” she said finally.  She secured her belt and sheath and straightened her green linen tunic.  Steeling herself, she opened the door, which jingled.  Marion inhaled the scents of perfumes, candles, and potions.

The three women turned and looked at her.  Three sets of eyebrows raised.  One of the women, who wore a magnificent purple robe, wrinkled her nose.

“Can I help you?” The woman with the long black hair sounded like chocolate.

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