5 Real Life Warrior Queens

This post is a bit long, a bit fact-heavy, and there are plenty combative ladies I didn’t have room to include. This is one of my favorite topics along with military history, so feel free to mention anyone I didn’t get to today!

Lakshmi Bai

An artist's depiction of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi in battle with the British, with her stepson, Damodar.

An artist’s depiction of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi in battle with the British, with her stepson, Damodar.

Lakshmi was her stepson’s regent over Jhansi, a small principality in northern India, until 1857, when a mutiny led to the slaughter of British soldiers and civilians. The British saw it fit to blame Lakshmi and when it became clear that she wouldn’t be allowed to retain control of her kingdom, Lakshmi led a rebellion, even riding with her army against the British. She was shot with a musket, but returned fire before being finished with a saber.

Nzingha

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Illustration from the cover of “Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba”

A seventeenth century queen of the Ndongo and Matamba Kingdoms of the Mbundu people in modern day Angola, Nzingha rose to power around 40 shortly after the death of her brother, Mbandi, and spent the rest of her life fighting against the Dutch and Portuguese. She led many battles and campaigns against the European invaders up until her death in 1663 at eighty years of age.

Boudicca

Bronze statue of Boudicca at the river Thames in London.

Bronze statue of Boudicca at the river Thames in London.

When King Pragustus died in 60 A.D., the Romans brutalized his wife Boudicca and their daughters and attempted to seize the king’s estate. At this, other tribes flocked to Boudicca’s aid in an uprising against the Romans. Led by Boudicca, the Celtic armies sacked Camulodunum (modern Colchester), Londinium (modern London), and Verulamium (modern St. Albans) before being defeated by Suetonius Paulinus.

Cynane

Artist's impression of what Cynane may have looked like, from the online game Total War: ARENA.

Artist’s impression of what Cynane may have looked like, from the online game Total War: ARENA.

There is a lot of ambiguity surrounding Cynane, but we know this much—she was Alexander the Great’s half sister by Philip II’s Illyrian wife, she was trained by her mother in the martial arts, and she was not afraid of taking what she wanted. There are even some stories that place her on the battlefield with Alexander doing single combat with enemy leaders. Alexander tried marrying her off to get her out of the way, but after his death she turned up and demanded her daughter Eurydice be made empress to his heir. She was killed for her efforts, but in the end, Eurydice did become queen.

Artemisia I

Eva Green as Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire. (Don't get me started on this film's historical inaccuracy. Just don't.)

Eva Green as Artemisia in 300: Rise of an Empire. (Don’t get me started on this film’s historical inaccuracy. Just don’t.)

If you’ve seen 300, you probably know who this is, at least the fictionalized, sexualized version. Though sometimes confused with Artemisia II, Artemisia I rose to power as regent of Caria for her son after the death of her husband. Mentioned by Herodotus, Pausaniaus, Polyaenus, in the Suda, and Plutarch, all sources agree that Artemisia I was a cunning tactician and invaluable asset to Xerxes I. Famed especially for her feats in the Greco-Persian war, she distinguished herself at the naval battle of Artemisium, but disappears from the historical record after escorting Xerxes’ illegitimate sons to Ephesos after the Persian defeat at Salamis.

Things fantasy books (almost always) get wrong about hunting

I think it is a safe assumption that many fantasy writers have never been hunting in real life. Really, why sit in a stuffy deer blind with no AC or toilet for hours on end when you could be reading books and sipping tea in your favorite armchair?

When it comes to hunt scenes, most people don’t notice the common inaccuracies because they are pretty consistently incorporated across TV and books. However, if someone is looking to appease the tiny demographic of fantasy-reading hunters, these are the things I’ve noticed books most frequently get wrong about hunting.

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And why would you WANT to kill this magnificent giant? I mean, look at him. By the laws of natural selection, he should live a nice, long life and the chance to have lots of equally pretty babies.

Game regularly comes in the size of midsize automobiles.

In truth, wild animals tend to be on the small side. The average wild boar, for example, will probably more resemble the dimensions of a Golden Retriever versus his overfed, domesticated cousin. (Unless a petty Greek deity is involved.)

Rabbits, pheasants, and other game are also pretty small, so just one of these is most likely not going to feed your group of five daring adventurers—unless they’re omnivorous pixies.

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Things get notoriously messy when it comes to bagging birds. It’s the feathers. Feathers everywhere.

Insta-death.

It is one of the more icky realities, but the clean, tidy kills we get on TV and in books are more than a little censored. In reality, animals pretty much never die straightaway, especially if you’re using a bow and arrow. Even if shot perfectly through the heart, animals are still capable of running several hundred yards before collapsing and in some cases can continue thrashing for several minutes.

More than a little disturbing, but true.

Stalking vs. Lying in Wait

Writers really like having their characters go gallivanting off into the woods to stalk their prey instead of setting up a perch and waiting for unsuspecting prey to come along. But moving through the forest “unseen and unheard” is hard. Very hard. Actual hunter-gatherer peoples spend years and years learning to stalk effectively and it’s still not easy. Even the best hunters come home empty-handed quite often.

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Wild bacon seeds can be plentiful at the right time of year, especially in areas with few natural predators, but even these brazen little piggies can be hard to pinpoint.

The forest is a 24/7 buffet.

One thing that bothers me is characters going off on hunts at random times of day, but nature is not your neighborhood Walgreens. Most animals only come out at dawn or dusk and hide for the rest of the day. Sure, you could theoretically go track them down, but it would take a long time and you’d have to basically be a freaking ninja as mentioned earlier.

In short, hunting is not nearly as glamorous or easy as we fantasy writers tend to make it sound. It’s icky and laborious and you’re probably better off just packing lots of lembas bread.

Character development is for wimps…apparently.

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My reaction to being told I should kill characters to “break reader’s hearts.”

I do not go for fluff. If I went for fluff, I wouldn’t be into Greek mythology, Game of Thrones, Mistborn, Tyrants and Kings, or most my other fandoms. I find it hard to get into a story without difficult situations and high stakes and, lucky for me, that stuff has become popular. Quite a few authors have even begun relying on break-ups and character deaths to drive their plots instead of more traditional methods—like actual character development.

I see a lot of posts floating around the author blogs and social media about laughing over character deaths and making readers cry. Seriously? Is that what storytelling is supposed to be about? Because you wouldn’t know different by looking at the chatter that’s been popular lately. Stephen King says to “kill your darlings,” but many have taken that to mean “write lots of random red shirts to be killed off willy-nilly when you don’t want to come up with an actual storyline.”

tumblr_mxzvzd2nZK1t4ese3o1_500As a reader, little else drives me as crazy as when I feel the author did something on purpose solely to incite reader reaction. For me, it usually has a backwards effect because I see it coming and I just turn into a smoking mountain of volcanic rage.

As a writer, I have become very careful about making sure my stories’ deaths and tragedies are not in vain. Taking out extra characters, combining characters, and redistributing roles is a good way to cut down on excessive tragedy, not to mention create more succinct stories overall.

This may be a groundbreaking thought, but having characters killed, raped, maimed, or anything else for shock value is not good writing, it is lazy writing. If a story is well written, you don’t need arbitrary violence to illicit reader emotion. Does this mean there shouldn’t be surprises? Of course not. It simply means that bad things within a story should have reasons beyond audience provocation.

However, in this case, like so many others in literature, it is all perspective. Summarily, if there is a definitive purpose to the unfortunate event, leading to plot advancement and/or realistic character development (preferably both), it is serving a veritable purpose and is actually good. (Unless you’re having some sympathetic innocent raped and/or murdered to advance the character arch of someone else. Don’t ever do this. Just don’t.)

And I’ve never actually laughed about killing characters when it came down to it, no matter how much I hated them. Are there actually writers that do this?

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Writing Update: January 2016

Writing Update: January 2016

Have I not posted since November? Over a month? Oh, I am a bad little blogger, me.

The Fandom is strong with my family.

The Fandom is strong with my family.

The ending of 2015 was extremely busy (what else?) filled with visiting grandparents, Japanese finals, college applications, and the premier of one highly anticipated film. In summary, my grandparents still love their nutty granddaughter (can’t say why), I passed all my classes (thank God), I have been accepted to Concordia University Texas (go Tornados), and Kylo Ren is my new baby (I regret nothing).

But writing, yes. I do have writing to talk about.

Daindreth’s Assassin has been entered in the Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript contest and is on track to begin querying agents in March. I’ve been working on this series for nearly three years now and I am so excited to be taking the next steps. Amira and Daindreth’s story has gone through such a massive evolution from what it originally started out as and I can’t wait to see how things develop.

I have a t-shirt, a certificate, and a PEN. It does not get much more official than a PEN.

I have a t-shirt, a certificate, and a PEN. It does not get much more official than a PEN.

Though, I confess, Amira and Daindreth have been my main focus lately, I have not forgotten Janir and the Argetallams.

The second book in the Argetallam Saga is even now getting a facelift and reedit, heading for the presses this spring. I have completed drafting all seven books in the series, so hopefully I will get my act together and be able to bring you the third and fourth books sometime before the next new year, right?

Right.

I feel like I’m forgetting something…

Oh, yes. The third Fanged Princess novella now has a title: Fanged Kindred. It is still marinating on my computer and I mean to get that one out soon as well. Poor Haddie has been pushed to the back burner, but I keep meaning to bring her forward. I really miss her sass.

I have high hopes for 2016 and wish you all the best in your literary and all other endeavors! Happy belated New Year!

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(I shamelessly stole the Google New Year’s GIF, as you can see.)

Brace yourself—NaNo WriMo is coming

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Large-SquareCome Sunday, it will be that time of year again. The time of writing meet-ups, all-nighters, and frantic pounding at keyboards to meet last minute word quotas. There is something exciting and addictively nerve wracking about joining people across the country and even the globe in getting to that 50k word mark. No pressure, right?

I’ve participated in National Novel Writing Month for two or three years now with pretty good success overall (if I do say so myself). Due to my (clearly vast and indisputable) experience, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned from participating this glorious tradition.

1. It doesn’t have to be perfect.

The whole point of NaNo WriMo is to write a draft—a draft. Drafts just need to be done. It’s okay to focus on word count for the next 30 days. Those plot holes, halfway character development, and inconsistencies can wait for now.

2. Actually, it does have to be perfect.

While you should not stress about editing during this phase, you do have to be sure and do it later. The months following NaNo WriMo mark a veritable deluge of questionable submissions flooding the inboxes of literary agents (almost all of which are deleted without a second glance). If you’re looking to publish traditionally, take a few months to polish up your work before submitting. If you’re looking to self publish, definitely take all the time you need. You’ll have a better finished manuscript and your characters will thank you for it.

3. Hang in there.

You may not write the requisite 1,667 words everyday and it’s alright. Slow progress is still progress and you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself.

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Yes, I totally stole that post title from a meme.

4. It’s supposed to be fun.

Forget about Little Mr./Miss Goody-Two-Shoes over there who’s done halfway through the month. I promise you, most people will be struggling with their word count just like you and I. Chat with other writers. Make friends. Relax and enjoy yourself a little. Kick the green-eyed monster to the curb.

5. FUN, I tell you!

Even if you don’t make it to 50k, that doesn’t mean you aren’t on your way to a great story or becoming a fantastic writer. Remember that the whole point of this is to express your creativity and self—to have fun.

If you’re participating this year, I’d love to be writing buddies! Friend InkspelledFaery here.

Blog Tour Review: Eclipse (The Priestess Trilogy, #3) by @MelissaSasina

Priestess Trilogy Tour

P3 Eclipse 750Tensions escalate between two clans, threatening their fragile peace. On one side stand the Túath, on the other the Milidh. The prize: control of the land of Éire. Yet amidst this brewing conflict, another more dangerous threat looms. The village of Tara is ripped apart, not by war, but by the seed of betrayal as the priestess’ own kinswoman, Gráinne, conspires to seize control. Enemies shall become allies and Shiovra is faced with a difficult choice, one that will ultimately engulf her world in an irreversible eclipse.

Find Eclipse on Goodreads

Find Eclipse on Amazon

Find Eclipse on BN.com

4 out of 5 stars

This is the last book. The conclusion. The END. It’s hard to believe that this series is finally complete, but one could certainly do worse by way of endings.

I’ve been following this series since I downloaded the first, Defiance, during a free promo over a year ago. One of my favorite things about this book has been the world building and the historical tidbits Sasina tosses in with her mythological references and there was definitely more of that!

The plot:

I admit I was a little intimidated at that word count, but the scenes are broken up into bite sized pieces and this reads very quickly. Like its predecessors, this book has a plot that moves along at a grueling pace and you’d better be ready to keep up!

Something important happens in nearly every scene, so there’s very little “drag.” This is the kind of writing style I like best—the kind that makes you lose track of time.

The characters:

There’s a great deal of what I call “head hopping” in this book, which is to say we get inside the heads of quite a few characters. On one hand, I think I would have preferred a greater degree of exclusivity in order to give us more insight into the main cast. On the other hand, we did have a glimpse into everyone—villains, heroes, and everything in between.

There is one point I wish I could ignore, but it influenced my opinion of the book too much not to mention. There’s this thing where the leader of one of the villages tells his wife to sleep with this other guy in order to secure said other guy as an ally. The result is this love triangle with a mutual understanding and consent between three partners.

The thing that bothers me about that is…well, I didn’t feel there was enough explanation. I get that the husband was okay with the whole arrangement, but why?

Was it supposed to be a cultural thing like in ancient Sparta (where wives could take any lover they wanted so long as their husband approved)? In the second book, it was kind of implied that women were supposed to remain chaste before matrimony, is that only before? Was it a personal thing where the one character just really wanted Other Guy as an ally? I just feel like there wasn’t enough set up for the modern western way of thinking and I would have liked a little more of that.

Otherwise, I truly did enjoy this book. This author excels at world building and making the setting feel authentic. She truly brings myths to life and I would definitely recommend this series to anyone interested in a different kind of fantasy novel.

Defiance
The Priestess Trilogy # 1
By – Melissa Sasina
Genre –  Fantasy/Romance
 
Shiovra has been named High Priestess of the village Tara, but she quickly finds herself hunted by the Milidh, a clan born of war and vengeance. With the safety of Tara at stake, it is decided that she is to seek aid from her betrothed, one she considers the enemy. At her side is Odhrán, a Milidh warrior sworn to protect her and determined to gain her trust. But their journey is fraught with peril and Shiovra learns that darkness lurks in the hearts of her own kin. Steeped in ancient Irish myth, this tale is spun of love, war, and DEFIANCE.
 
 

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