My Library of Books for Writing Fantasy

5x5 fantasy bookA short time ago, Ernesto San Giacomo posted his 2015 Reading List. In the list was Writing About Magic by Rayne Hall.

I commented, saying I had several books about magic, herbs and stones to help me with writing my fantasy stories, but I hadn’t read that one. A list was requested, but I hadn’t gotten around to making it until tonight.

Some of these books are one-time reads, but others I keep on the shelf as references. I can’t remember all the properties of stones and herbs, and I can’t recall all the spells (though I make up a lot myself), so these are keepers for me.

Natural Magic – Spells, Enchantments & Self-development by Pamela J. Ball: This book provides insight to magic and how a sorceress might work her spells. Not every magic-user is the same, so you can take a little of this and a little of that to create a character. This book was okay, worth buying, but not my favourite.

The back cover states: Before there was formal religion there was magic, and to this day there are people who purport to perform ‘miracles’ with the aid of magical powers derived from nature or the spirit realm. These powers are still out there to be tapped into by us. All you need is the knowledge and know-how contained in Natural Magic.

This book reveals: How to become a natural magician, using knowledge gathered over thousands of years by magician and mystic alike. Techniques employing plants, trees, crystals and incense along with meditation, ritual, chanting and dreams. The tools to give expression to your creativity and beliefs. A wide range of methods to bring about positive changes in your life.

The Druid Magic Handbook – Ritual Magic Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer: This book speaks of Life Force, the alphabet of magic, the elements, enchantment and Ogham writing. It gives a great history on the druids, which I thoroughly enjoyed and ‘connected’ with. I discovered many potential story lines by reading it.

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Is that a challenge? Goals for 2014

Challenge 2014On the eve of the new year is a great time to set goals for the next twelve months. Personally I find goals motivate me to accomplish things I wouldn’t otherwise. I used to set small, easily obtainable goals, and then I started stretching myself further, believing I could reach the larger goals if I set my mind to it.

Occasionally I came up short, yet my inability to reach a goal hadn’t discouraged me from trying harder or continuing onward.

I have a feeling 2014 is going to be an excellent year; sort of that step towards 2015 and better things afterwards. At least I’m thinking 2014 has to be more positive because 2013 was very stressful, depressing, unpredictable in a bad way and filled with events I don’t want to see repeated. I hadn’t accomplished as much as I had set out to do, but at least year ending leaves me with great hope for the future.

I understand there will be at least one sad hurdle to overcome in 2014, but I feel a breath of life that I haven’t felt in the past several years. I see the light at the end of a very long tunnel and an energy building that will carry me forward.

This light hadn’t lit itself and this energy did not come out of nowhere. I’ve been tinkering with matches and forcing my thoughts to think differently. I’ve seen my feet in unhealthy ground and I’m motivated to see them move onward. Like Bilbo Baggins I have been given the opportunity for adventure, and like Mr. Baggins, I will go into the unknown and seek what needs to be sought, so I can return a changed person.

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FILM: Willow

Fantasy Film ReflectionsI can’t recall the first time I saw Willow. I can only assume it was shortly after it came out in theatres (1988). I was in my prime for fantasy films and adventure. I needed little encouragement to disappear for a few hours or few days and return with stories to share. Thirty-minute water-fetching trips sometimes took four or five hours and often involved ice cream, a lost cemetery or endless dirt roads.

The basic story line that survived the passage of time was: A baby who is destined to destroy the evil ruler is born and must be delivered to safety. Her protectors include a halfling and a human fighter. The human is found in a suspended cage near a cliff where he is left to die, and the halfling sets him free to help save the child. Of course, they succeed and the evil queen is destroyed.

Basically, that is what happened, but I had forgotten all the stuff in between which makes a movie worth watching. I had forgotten the evil queen’s (Queen Bavmorda)  daughter Sorsha (played by Joanne Whalley) betrayed her, fell in love with the human fighter Madmartigan (played by Val Kilmer) and helped save Elora Danan, the chosen baby rescued from the river by Willow (played by Warwick Davis), a Nelwyn.

The Nelwyn race were not halfling, but a hobbit-like race who lived a peaceful life of farming, mining and magic. Willow was married with two children and became an unlikely hero who would risk his life to deliver a baby to a far off land where he might not return. His sacrifice was more than that of a single man who no one relied upon for food and shelter.

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FILM: Snow White and the Huntsman

Fantasy Film ReflectionsForget much of what you learned as a child about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That story was written to provide yet another avenue for a woman to be rescued by a fair prince. It’s up there with all the other stories I disliked and Disney branded as the perfect little girl’s tale.

Even at a young age I realised how silly the stories were. Who would choose to marry someone because they brought a shoe that fit their foot or because they kissed and woke them from a deep slumber? All the princesses were subservient to men. They dressed in fancy dresses, were helpless and were destined to serve their males.

Snow White and the Huntsman delivers more of a realistic tale—as fantasy films go. Snow White doesn’t do it alone, but neither is she a helpless maiden who keeps house for dwarves. This Snow White can actually sword fight and leads an army to reclaim what is rightfully hers: her castle.

While I watched this film, I couldn’t help but compare it to the old tale of long ago. I wondered how the wicked step-mother would take control of the castle and what the huntsman would do to deliver Snow White to freedom.

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FILM: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Fantasy Film ReflectionsThis is a reflection on a traditional fantasy film that I recently watched. Beware: spoilers are hiding in the shadows of every letter waiting to spill forth a word. Throughout 2014, I’ll post several of these reflections/reviews after watching a film.

Gandalf: It’s a dangerous business, walking out one’s front door.

I’ve discovered I’m a Bilbo Baggins. No, I don’t have big feet, unusually shaped ears or live in a grassy mound with a round door (though I think I might like a dwelling like his). I have however become accustomed to keeping safe, staying home and avoiding things that disrupt my world.

The description of Bilbo in The Hobbit films was released by the studio (Tolkien Gateway): Like all Hobbits, Bilbo Baggins is fond of his comfortable existence; all he needs to be happy is a full pantry and a good book.

Also like Mr. Baggins, when encouraged or coerced into taking on an adventure, I’m caught up in the magic of it all, and I wonder why in the world had I settled for the quiet, safety of my home with books.

Settle. That’s what many of us do. Settle into the familiar things of everyday life. We bury our adventurous spirit until we no longer recognise it, no longer wish to take it out and play with it and discover the thrill of going into the unknown, travelling that road less travelled.

It is the mundane life of adulthood that I feared even when I was twenty-five. And now I live it.

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Take the Fantasy Writer Exam

It was inevitable. Eventually, I knew I’d face the Fantasy Writer’s Exam. I had seen it a few years earlier but had ignored it. This week, it was brought to my attention again.

So here I am, taking the exam created by David J. Parker and Samuel Stoddard at Rink Works. They believe, “Ever since J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis created the worlds of Middle Earth and Narnia, it seems like every windbag off the street thinks he can write great, original fantasy, too.”

That’s quite a statement, and there’s more: “The problem is that most of this “great, original fantasy” is actually poor, derivative fantasy. Frankly, we’re sick of it, so we’ve compiled a list of rip-off tip-offs in the form of an exam.”

Fantasy writers who answer ‘Yes’ to just one question fail the exam and are instructed to abandon their novels immediately.

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Lost in Ath-o’Lea; I Need a Map!

With plans for the paperback version of Shadows in the Stone underway, I realised today that I need a map of my fantasy world: Ath-o’Lea!

I’ve already completed the initial sketches and the second draft, decided on place names, compass position and various other things I want to add. Still, I don’t have it print ready; just the draft. I need to hand-draw the sea dragons and decide on the final design of the compass rose and Key.

Here’s what I have so far. I created it on paper, scanned it and plugged in the extra items and place names. I’m not happy with the font, so I’ll have to find something more fantasy-like. This was done with the Ulead program, but for my final version, I’ll use Power Point.

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