Monday, January 4, 2016

Another Short Story: A Different Kind of Sword, my "stab" at what advertising might be like in the past

Dear All:
Because I'm competitive and I like a challenge, I decided to enter another Writer's Cramp on, a really fun website for those of you who want a writer's community.

Prompt: Write about advertisements or advertising in 1000 words or less.

I thought I'd do science fiction, since this prompt is asking for it, but then another wonderful writer in the community did an amazing job in the genre that I knew I couldn't beat. At first, I thought there was no point in entering the contest because she would win, hands down. Then I thought to myself, what about the opposite of what I had been planning on writing? What if I wrote a story set in a time before advertising was a thing? What would it be like? And because I think swords are cool, I started to hunt around for the history of swords. One thing led to another and I was hooked. I researched for an hour to make the story come together, and then wrote it. It was a blast. This is the first time I've ever written historical fiction. And to my surprise, I ended up in a tie for the win with the aforementioned writer! Hope you enjoy!

A Different Kind of Sword
The length of iron glows bright in the flame. I bring my hammer down steadily against the metal.

“Do not forget the four key factors in making a sword, my son,” my father said. “First, hardness, which comes from the iron.” He paces around me and the fire pit in the center of our working station. We are in open air, but it is as if Hell has opened its fiery gates.

Ching! Sparks fly as I hit the sword again.

“Strength comes from the specific dimensions of the sword and the requirements desired by the owner. Do you remember the other two?”

Sweat is beading on my brow, and I huff in annoyance. “Flexibility as the sword requires some give to slice through objects, and the perfect balance in the right hands. I am not a novice, Father.”

My father was taught by his father and his father before him. Sword making is an art, but one that has not changed for centuries. I crave more.

When my father leaves for a meeting about the heavy taxation the nobles have imposed on us, I dash to the new kiln I have built. One day in the cool breeze, I fell asleep and left my iron sword in the fire on top of some charcoal. When it cooled, it was harder than the original iron sword. I devised the construction of a small pit with a chimney to create this new metal on purpose.

Suddenly, I go flying with a cuff on my ear. My father has returned early. “Edward, this is a waste of your time! Do your work so we can keep a roof over our heads. With what’s been going on, we are making nothing as it is!”

“Father, let me do this. If I can convince the nearby villages to purchase these new swords, maybe I can help our cause against the nobles and earn extra money to support our family,” I say, rubbing my tender skin.

“Let me see this sword,” he grunts, rolling up his sleeves.

I hand it to him, my brown eyes flashing defiantly. His gaze softens as he touches the blade and slashes a few times in the air.

I hold my breath.

He shakes his head. “Fine. But if you cannot convince them, and you will not, you promise to do as I say and never speak of this again.”

I cannot believe he is giving me a chance. “Yes, Father, I promise.”

Over the next two weeks, I forge several swords of different sizes and weights in the new material that I dub Ironfire. Daggers that the ladies can use and hide in their skirts. Imposing, shining weapons for the hardened soldier. A light, but sharp middle sized sword for the everyman.

Next, I recruit my best friend, Thomas, the son of a tailor.

“What do you want me to do again?” he asks dubiously.

“We have to show them that the Ironfire swords are better than what they already own,” I say. “We need to perform a sort of play. Maybe we can display a miniature swordfight with an Ironfire sword and a regular iron sword.”

Thomas’s eyes widen. “It can cut through iron?”

“Yes, Thomas. Watch.”

After my demonstration, Thomas offers to make costumes.
In two more weeks, we are ready. We travel to the first neighboring town with Thomas strumming a lute and I, dragging a small cart containing my precious new swords across the bumpy road, since I cannot afford to take our old horse. I may be faster than he is.

“Hear ye, hear ye! Arm yourself with swords fit for a nobleman,” Thomas calls. We are wearing colorful cloths around our necks. Townspeople stop and stare in the street and start to gather around us. Thomas passes out scraps of leftover cloth from his father’s workbench with a sword handpainted onto it. We cannot write, but I hope the picture will be enough to spread the word.

The staged fight is thrilling at least to me, and I hear several gasps from the audience when the regular iron sword is lopped in two by my Ironfire one.

But no one buys a sword.

The next town is the same. I cannot understand what I am doing wrong. All the townspeople who see the demonstration are interested and even in awe of my presentation.

Finally, one man at the final village speaks to me. “I am sorry, son, these swords seem fine, but we trust our local sword maker, and you are just a stranger.”

How did I ever think that promoting my swords with a ridiculous show, handing out pieces of cloth to spread the word about my new swords would have ever worked? Only an idiot would attempt such a fool’s errand.
“Can someone tell me one major reason that the Peasants’ Revolt in England in 1381 failed?” Miss Hornsby asks.

Several hands shoot up in the air.


“The peasants didn’t have good enough weapons. Their swords were made of iron, not steel."

“Can someone tell me what steel is? Mary?”

Mary sits up primly. “Steel is an alloy of iron and is created by combining the carbon from charcoal and iron.”

“Correct.” Miss Hornsby peers over her glasses pointedly at each of them. “Take note, class. If they had only understood this steelmaking technique back then, their superior weaponry might have won them the war.”

Would love any comments you all might have!
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Saturday, January 2, 2016

Review of Imposter by Antony John and US GIVEAWAY!

Dear All:
So excited to introduce the next book of a dear friend and amazing author here in Saint Louis, Antony John. With no further ado, here's a little blurb of his newest book, Imposter.

Goodreads description: Nothing in Hollywood is what it seems…

Seth Crane is a nobody, just an eighteen-year-old community theater actor who’s been in a few small commercials. So when a director stops him after a show and offers him the lead role in a huge indie film, it seems like a dream come true. Suddenly he’s swept up in the glamorous Hollywood life, with fancy parties, press junkets, and flirtations with two beautiful stars.

But something’s a little strange on the set. And when his costar’s darkest secrets start popping up in the media—secrets she’s only told Seth and that could destroy her life—Seth realizes that fame may have too high a price.

Antony John’s twisting, turning, suspenseful novel will keep you on the edge of your seat until the shocking end.

ImposterMy Rating: 4 couches

My Review: I've been actively following Antony John's career since I read his wonderful Five Flavors of Dumb, and waited in anticipation year after year for each Elemental trilogy book to come out. What I love about his writing is other than his terrific talent of fleshing out three dimensional characters and eloquent prose, is the fact that he takes risks.

Imposter is yet another example of this. He started with YA contemporaries, moved to YA dystopian, and now he maneuvers through a YA thriller with style and grit. Seth, the protagonist, is an 18 year old guy who is trying to make it big as an actor like so many other teens. But Seth lands the opportunity of a lifetime-- to star in an indie film that two big name Hollywood stars dropped out of after much speculation and drama. Seth knows this will make his career. But nothing is as it seems, and as he wades deeper into the Hollywood scene, and falls for a famous movie star, he realizes that he may have bit off more than he can chew.

The plotting of this book is deliberate and well paced. I was sucked in from the first page and read the whole book from cover to cover in an evening. John has shown skillfully again how he can make you believe his characters, and even when they bridge into typical teen territory, there's just something about them that makes you want to keep turning the pages to find out more about them. I loved the hook and setup of this book-- the way John sets up the movie and how it works and fits with the plot is so fascinating. Not to mention it's hard to know who to trust (if anyone at all).

I'm glad I took a while to think about this book, because to be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about it initially. This is a huge departure from John's previous books, and I think there is something safe and happy-making about status quo. But John didn't want to play it safe, and I think he really succeeds here in pushing his comfort zone. Second, I think I was so wrapped into the characters that when it didn't end up the way I wanted to, I was disappointed. But that's the whole point of a thriller-- to turn your expectations on its head and surprise you. It definitely did that in spades.

Overall, a well plotted and intense thriller that kept me hooked from start to finish-- while it wasn't my favorite of his books (not saying much as I've loved every one of his books), it is definitely a worthwhile read, and like any great thriller, will keep you guessing until the bitter end.

Now, I have the pleasure of doing a giveaway for this fun book. Sorry to my INT readers, I promise an INT giveaway is coming soon!

I will be giving away an ARC of Imposter by Antony John and a signed hardcover copy of Imposter that is being donated generously by Left Bank Books, my local St. Louis bookstore. Please support your local bookstores whenever you can... they do amazing things!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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