True Confessions of a Mediocre Writer: Things Can Only Get Better

I became a published writer at age 11, when I wrote a 250-word article for the local paper about a concert at my elementary school. I still have the check—the first ten bucks I ever made as a writer.

The article was not well-written by adult standards, and the editor misspelled my name in the byline, but damnit, I wrote something and I got paid for it.

Soon, I was writing everywhere, every day. I wrote on legal pads, in school binders, on my mother’s old desktop. I wrote literally hundreds of pages—the early sketchings of novels, “Lord of the Rings” fanfics, and cringe-worthy NaNoWriMo entries. The characters I brought to life were like old friends. I liked them better than the assholes I went to school with, at any rate, which is probably why I imagined them in the first place.

None of what I wrote was very good, but it didn’t matter. I had ideas in my head, and I wrote them down. I don’t remember it ever getting more philosophical than that. I didn’t know any better. I was unafraid.

A few years ago, that changed. The ideas weren’t there anymore. I didn’t stop writing, but what I wrote felt stiff and artificial, every word measured and every line of dialogue premeditated. I rethought and rewrote and reworked the first paragraph of a story fifty times, and the poor thing died still waiting for me to go on and finish telling it.

I’m afraid to write a 500-word blog post, which is why I haven’t posted here in over month. Shit, I can’t even send a two-line email without agonizing over the verbal cadence—the cadence of a fucking email.

Aside from the occasional freelance gig, I’m unemployed. I have all the time in the world to write, but I find excuses not to. Instead, I watch YouTube videos and read blogs and click on links to more YouTube videos and more blogs.

That’s how I came upon this article over at Medium.

Continue reading


On Weaponry and Weapon Variety in Fantasy

I was washing my hair in the shower this morning when I started thinking about the regrettable lack of weapon variety in Tolkienesque or “high” fantasy.

What? You mean you don’t think about broadswords and morning stars in the shower?

Fantasy heroes and heroines almost invariably wield a sword of some description, while their companions wield axes, bows and arrows, or magical staffs. And, almost invariably, a dwarf gets the axe, an elf gets the bow, and a grumpy old wizard gets the staff.

God, could this get any more boring?

Here are some high fantasy book covers to illustrate my point:

tolkienesque-coversThere’s actually one guy who appears to be wielding a hammer. Creative.

Now, please don’t think I have a problem with swords. On the contrary, swords remain my fantasy weapon of choice. (When I was recently married, I had the photographer snap a shot of me in my wedding gown with my replica of Andúril.)

What bothers me about high fantasy is not the pervasive obsession with swords, but rather the failure of most authors to provide any variation beyond the occasional “broadsword” or “longsword.” Even disregarding the endless possibilities that exist when you’re creating weapons for a fantasy world, there are hundreds of real-world sword types to choose from, and hundreds more variations on each type.

Here’s a short list of sword types I’ve compiled just from a quick look at Wikipedia:

Gladius – Short, one-handed Roman sword
Estoc – Edgeless variant of the longsword, used for thrusting
Rapier – Slender, sharply pointed sword ideally used for thrusting attacks
Cinquedea – Italian short sword with tapered blade used during the Renaissance
Sabre – Backsword with a curved, single-edged blade used for slashing (see also Middle Eastern scimitars)
Falchion – Slightly shorter version of a sabre
Jian – Chinese double-edged straight sword
Hook sword – Exotic Chinese weapon with a crescent-shaped hand guard and pointed daggers on the ends of the hilt
Katana – A curved, slender, single-edged blade with a circular or square guard, associated with Japanese samurai
Balisword – A longer variant of the balisong knife or butterfly knife, with two hilts that cover the blade when folded
Kalis – Double-edged Filipino sword with a wavy blade
Machete – Cleaver-knife used in the Americas for cutting through thick brush
Cutlass – Type of saber often used in naval combat
Dirk – A long thrusting dagger used by naval officers in hand-to-hand combat
Pata – Indian sword with integrated protective gauntlet
Katara – Indian ceremonial dagger with H-shaped hand grip

While we’re at it, why stop with swords? There are so many more interesting weapon types to choose from outside the mundane array of swords, bows, and axes:

War hammer
Whip/Chain whip
Morning star
– Spiked club-like weapon first appearing in medieval Germany
– Type of polearm with a curved blade, and my personal favorite exotic weapon (see also Chinese guan dao and Japanese naginata)
Shuriken – Traditional Japanese throwing stars, often seen in manga
Poleaxe – Type of polearm with a steel axe head mounted on a wooden haft
Tomahawk – North American throwing axe resembling a hatchet
Quarterstaff – wooden shaft used especially in martial arts (see also Chinese gun and Japanese )
Chakram – Circular blade used as a throwing weapon in India
Knobkierrie – Long, wooden club used in Africa for throwing or bashing
Stinkpot – Invented in China, filled with gunpowder and sulfur, used as incendiary and suffocating naval weapon
Qiang – Chinese spear with a leaf-shaped blade and horse hair tassel
Bolas – Throwing weapon consisting of weights tied together with a cord, common to South America
Blowgun – A small tube for firing light projectiles or poisoned darts, used in Southeast Asia and South America
Nunchaku – Japanese weapon consisting of two sticks connected by a chain
Hunga munga – curved throwing dagger native to the tribes of South Africa

Be honest—do you really want to outfit your fantasy hero with a classic longsword after learning that there’s a weapon called a hunga munga?

Swords are a staple of high fantasy, and I don’t think they’re likely to be replaced by the knobkierrie or the slingshot anytime soon, but the next time you sit down to a blank page on a new project, think twice before falling back on the standard weapons that you’re familiar with. Give your hero or heroine a glaive or a chakram to throw around, and I guarantee you’ll create a character that your readers aren’t likely to forget.

What are some weapons you’d like to see more of in fantasy novels? Share in the comments!

Why Aren’t There More Blond Heroines in Fantasy?

Yesterday I started reading “God’s War,” Kameron Hurley’s celebrated breakout novel, and it is glorious. Hurley’s characters are believable and charismatic; her world, visceral and raw and richly imagined.

Nyx, a disillusioned government assassin fighting to stay alive on a resource-strapped planet, is one of the best female protagonists I’ve read in a long time. She hides her insecurities about her lost faith in God behind a veneer of callous cynicism, and she cuts off the heads of deserting soldiers like nobody’s business.


“On a ravaged, contaminated world, a centuries-old holy war rages, fought by a bloody mix of mercenaries, magicians, and conscripted soldiers. Though the origins of the war are shady and complex, there’s one thing everybody agrees on—

There’s not a chance in hell of ending it.

Nyx is a former government assassin who makes a living cutting off heads for cash. But when a dubious deal between her government and an alien gene pirate goes bad, Nyx’s ugly past makes her the top pick for a covert recovery. The head they want her to bring home could end the war—but at what price?

The world is about to find out.”

Oh yeah, she’s badass. How badass, you ask? Think Zoe from “Firefly” crossed with Jennifer Hale’s Commander Shepard. Yes. That badass—and with the same irreverent disregard for society’s expectations of her.

I will almost definitely be reviewing this book once I’m done reading it, but that’s not what this post is really about. You see, there’s a question bouncing around my head—a question that started formulating when I began reading “God’s War” and realized its lead character is a sexually independent and morally complex young woman.
Continue reading

Lessons of the Red Wedding: The Uses of Character Death in Fantasy


This post contains spoilers for the June 2 episode of “Game of Thrones.” If you did not watch the episode, have not read “A Storm of Swords,” and do not want “The Rains of Castamere” spoiled, do not continue. There are NO spoilers posted here for “A Feast for Crows” or “A Dance with Dragons.”


If you’ve read George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire,” then last night’s “Game of Thrones” was a chance to relive the horror, the pain, and the rage you felt the very first time you read those blood-stained pages chronicling the Red Wedding.

And if you are a “Game of Thrones” fan who never read the books—I’m so sorry. Here—watch this video of a kitten stuck in a hamster ball.

Continue reading

A “Flight of Dragons” Live Action Film Is In Production!

Once again I have to apologize for my absence from this blog. On top of the usual distractions, I’ve been working on a big new project that goes hand-in-hand with this blog. I cannot wait to show it off, but until it’s ready, I’m afraid it’ll have to remain Top Secret. Just be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss the big debut. 😉

In the meantime, I have exciting news to share! I’ve just learned that “The Flight of Dragons” will soon be a live action movie! Yep, that’s right, I’m talking about the 1982 Rankin/Bass animated film.

All mankind is facing an epic choice:
A world of magic, or a world of science.
Which will it be?

Good luck getting that theme song out of your head now. “Flight of draaaagons…..”

The original Rankin/Bass “The Flight of Dragons” combined Peter Dickinson’s speculative natural history book of the same name with the novel “The Dragon and the George” by Gordon R. Dickson, creating a poignant and delightful tale about a world where the opposing forces of science and magic must work together to defeat an evil wizard.

Apparently, according to Director Jesse Stipek, Warner Brothers no longer holds the rights to the Rankin/Bass movie, so the new filmmakers are free to negotiate a new deal. Yesterday, the team posted a production update to their official Facebook page, saying that Imageworx Atrocity is currently in negotiations with the Peter Dickinson and Gordon R. Dickson estates to acquire the rights.

“Once all legalities and talks are complete and successful with the authors, we are going to announce something pretty cool; we just have to be official before doing so!” they wrote.

The initial shoot date of May 11 has been pushed back into June, when they hope production will be in full swing.


At this stage, details about the actual film are few and far between. What we do know is that Andrew Tribolini will be playing Carolinus the Green Wizard. Preliminary concept art by artist Jennifer Miller, which you can check out on the project’s defunct Kickstarter page, suggests that the live action film is very much visually inspired by the Rankin/Bass animation.

The film’s official website has been taken down temporarily, presumably in preparation for whatever big announcement they have planned, but here’s a summary of the film’s plot from the Facebook page:

“The Flight of Dragons” unfolds in an age when magic and science coexist uneasily, and humans still walk the earth alongside wizards, unicorns, and dragons.

One of the four most powerful mages on the planet, Carolinus the Green Wizard realizes that magic’s power is slipping in favor of the logic of science — a potential detriment to men, who need such magic to provide regular inspiration for themselves. Carolinus thus summons his three brothers for an emergency gathering, and suggests that they create a separate magical realm for themselves, via which they can send man the magic he needs on a regular basis.

Two of the brothers agree, but the third — the evil wizard Ommadon — not only refuses to be shuttled off to this removed existence but vows to wage full-scale war on humankind with evil feelings and ideas. Because the rules of the universe forbid Carolinus and his other two siblings from going head-to-head with Ommadon, they must seek out a human hero with the power to stop him. Carolinus sends this request to the Fates. They, in turn, select Peter, who is, of all things, a man of science.

I would love to see what Jesse Stipek and his crew make this happen. “The Flight of Dragons,” along with nearly every other Rankin/Bass film, represents some of my fondest memories of childhood. More importantly, though, a tale about whether science and magic can co-exist in the world has never been more apropos than in today’s technological age.

Do you remember watching “The Flight of Dragons” as a kid? Share your favorite animated classics in the comments below!

Dissecting Another “Game of Thrones” Season 3 Trailer

If you haven’t read the books behind “Game of Thrones” and are looking for a spoiler-free preview of Season 3, check out my latest blog post over at “The Sonic Saber.” (There are no spoilers! I promise!)

If you have read the books and are looking for spoiler-tastic breakdown of HBO’s latest Season 3 trailer, then you have come to the right place! Read on and enjoy!


This post contains spoilers for Season 3 of “Game of Thrones.” If you have not read “A Storm of Swords” and do not want the plot spoiled, do not continue. There are NO spoilers posted here for “A Feast for Crows” or “A Dance with Dragons.”


About a month ago, HBO released its first full-length trailer for Season 3 of “Game of Thrones,” scheduled to premier on March 31. I had so much fun analyzing each scene in that trailer that I’ve decided to perform another dissection on the new trailer just released Sunday.

Now, of course, much of this is mere speculation, and I could be wrong about everything. Take a look at the scenes I’ve identified, and let me know if you think I’ve guessed correctly.

Here we go!


Let’s break it down now, shall we?
Continue reading

The Best of Fantasy Music

Of all the nerd debates, perhaps none is so cherished as the sacred tradition of the “book vs. movie” debate. What scenes were left out? What memorable quotes were altered? How well do the actors resemble the characters we’d pictured in our minds?

Anyone who’s engaged in such a debate knows, it can get bloody—especially when a die-hard fan of the books goes head-to-head with a movie fan who’s never read them.

But amidst the carnage, there’s one truth we can all agree on: Only a truly masterful composer can breathe life into the fantasy worlds we love, capturing their beauty, tragedy, and badassery.

Today, I want to showcase the very best of fantasy-inspired music. These are the tracks I come back to again and again, to relax at the end of a long day or find inspiration when writer’s block kicks in.

Although these are my personal favorites, they’re certainly not the only examples of awesome fantasy music out there. If you like my list, I recommend checking out Radio Rivendell, a commercial-free online radio playing fantasy music ’round the clock. It’s perfect if you need some background music while you’re plowing through homework.

Top 15 Fantasy Music Tracks

(in no particular order)

1. “Finale”
Album: Game of Thrones – Music From The HBO Series
Composer: Ramin Djawadi
Kailey’s Note: This theme gives me shivers every goddamn time. It is eerily subtle and entrancing, without question the perfect accompaniment for the epic finale of “Game of Thrones” Season 1. The rising crescendo really drives home the massive scale of the world George R. R. Martin created. Every aspiring fantasy author hopes to write a novel worthy of this music. I know I do.

2. “Dragonborn”
Album: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Original Game Soundtrack
Composer: Jeremy Soule
Kailey’s Note: FUS RO DAH!!!

Continue reading