Inspiring Warrior Fashion

12-warrior-armor-ensembles-history-770x437I love this site. Thank you Realm of History.

For those of you writing historical novels or fantasy epics, this is a wonderful article about fashionable warrior ensembles. It’s easy to see why warriors and knights needed someone to dress them. Can you imagine what it was like to get suited up, and then ride or run into battle wearing this amount of metal and gear?

via 12 Warrior Armor Ensembles From History You Should Know About

Epic Fantasy for the Fans


Under the Shadow


In the Astralasphere Spiral series, Sionnach Wintergreen leads us on a fantastical journey through kingdoms only she can create. The depth and richness of her imagination seep through into her intense, poetic descriptions: from Khydgel’s tortuous Tower of Truth, where the story begins, to the haunted Temple of Fai Lon, where it ends, I am charmed by her words, and how easily she draws us into her world through details:

In one corner, a simple black helm housed a spider and its egg sac. In another, a pair of high leather boots had begun to disintegrate, one remaining erect while the other crumbled over on its side, connected to the floor by a veil of feathery webs. In the middle of the room a desk presided, still piled with journals and parchments, magnifying disks, ink wells and a quill, an orb the size of a clenched fist, a hefty hourglass, and a chalice, the bottom of which was blackened by a dust which might at one time have been bloglun wine.

The story’s antagonist, Lord Mage Asfret, is a complex beast, an Auin Gailfen, who will stop at nothing to attain the power of the Astralasphere (a relic that can empower magic-users via crystals their wear on their bodies). With his lover, Retchen, a hideous wretch deformed by spellfire, but with the ability to read minds, Asfret rampages through the kingdom, torturing and killing, on his quest to retrieve and restore the Astralasphere. Their love is treacherous: he is a man who revels in pain, and she a woman who enjoys providing it. But only so far.

It is easy to love the purple-eyed, crooked-horned hero: Lycian. A Gailfen spellcaster, he is a sweet, gentle soul who travels with his beloved old donkey, Weevil, and his grey wolf, Ayu. How can you not love a man who cares for animals? I am not sure why Lycian allows Writheria to bully him. Does he really love her? Or, is he mourning the loss of his true love, Mylinka? Like all young heroes, Lycian is an orphan with a tragic past and harbours unknown power. He is a great man, but his true destiny is yet to unfold.

The two protagonists in this story are lovers who believe each other dead. I love this concept. I have not read Book One yet, but there is enough backstory here to persuade me that they are fated. Lycian and Mylinka reside in two different places—he in Anjilith and she in Khydgel—and I hope as I read that they will eventually find each other.

Mylinka is a healer, fostered from age twelve, by the abusive Murdoth (one of the Crooked Asp) after her father is murdered at Keep Kylari. She has a few issues. It is her mission to avenge her father’s death and regain her home. I like that Mylinka becomes a strong effective assassin bent on revenging the deaths of, not only her father, but two of her best friends, with a dagger named Mercy and a sword named Despair.

Both Lycian and Mylinka suffer greatly in this story and we learn much of their history; something I dare not divulge. Suffice to say there must be a Book Three.

The book is rich, as rich as Lord Asfret intends to be. Epic fantasy, it employs a host of characters and settings. Sionnach has provided keys to the kingdom: beautiful maps and glossaries of people, places, and terms. But, though it is complex and entirely new to me, I am able to slip inside her world and travel on this complete and satisfying adventure.

Find Sionnach Wintergreen on Amazon

Film Junkies…

If you love film, this is the site for you. Film School Rejects: Movies, TV, Culture

With movie trailers, reviews, articles, and features, you’ll find everything you ever wanted to know. They also offer “What to Watch” for those moments when you just can’t decide.

Also, check out @oneperfectshot on Twitter to see photos like this:

“I am Groot” The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2

I just watched Vol 1 and can’t wait to see this.

What’s on your summer viewing list?

Of Yachts and Men (and Women)

I had a great opportunity for some research and  hands-on experience today when my friend invited me out to Mosquito Creek in North Vancouver to help scrub up her sailboat. This lively and welcoming marina is owned and operated by the Squamish Nation. Her sailboat, the Seven-n-Half % is a well-loved 27′ beauty built in California in the 1980s.


My job was to scrub the winter soot off the white cockpit (without tripping over the tiller). I climbed the ladder and worked up top while she and her grandson prepped and painted the hull. I managed to climb out to the bow (without falling off) and scrub down part of the starboard deck before it was time to load her in a sling for transport. This is how boats are moved from “the hard” back into the water.

After she settled, we boarded, and my friend manoeuvred her under power through the marina, then backed into a tight docking space using the tiller. I can only imagine what she can do with masts and sails and a good wind on open water.

In To Sleep with Stones, Michael Stryker sails through Desolation Sound, then up past Johnston Strait into the Broughton Archipelago near the north tip of Vancouver Island.  I spent some time working at light stations a few years ago, and have a feel for the marine landscape in and around Vancouver Island, but the actual plotting of that journey required lots of research. How far can you sail in a day? What are the hazards? What can happen out on the sea during a gale?

In book three, which I am writing now–working title, To Render a Raven–Estrada and his crew are forced to retake that journey, and many of the scenes occur on or around the boat. They won’t be taking a sailboat this time, though. Their power yacht will look more like this:


Who can resist a flybridge? I spent hours and hours searching online ads for boats until I found the perfect yacht. One of the perks of being a writer is that you can create wealthy IMG_2377characters with unlimited funds: white leather couches, full bar, a master cabin with ensuite…

Now I get to work out who is in this crew, what shenanigans will occur, and what misery will befall them. This was a most inspiring day.

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword

April 28th was an important day for some men, historically-speaking. In 1770, James Cook, British captain of the Endeavour landed at Botany Bay in Australia. In 1789, the mutiny against Captain William Bligh of the Bounty erupted, led by Fletcher Christian. And in 1905, E.A. VanSickler completed this piece of calligraphy:



I stare at this piece every day. Ernest Albert VanSickler is my maternal grandfather. And, this is the only thing I have that once belonged to him. It’s a treasure. Imagine the hours he spent perfecting this calligraphy; the intensity of detail, the focus of eye, brain, and hand, the discipline to avoid a smudge and perfect each stroke. His energy and his DNA are both trapped behind the glass; though the man is something of a mystery to me. He was born November 7, 1889 in Toronto, Ontario; which means that Ernie was sixteen years old when he completed this work. I wonder: did he ever want to become an artist or a writer or a monk?

Ernie was twenty-two when he married my grandmother, and twenty-seven when he signed up to fight in the First World War on Spring Equinox 1916. He is listed as a roofer-contractor on his attestation papers.

Ernest A VanSickler (1)So much for the pen being mightier than the sword.

I don’t think it was entirely his idea. According to my aunt, Ernie and his father went off and got drunk that night and both signed up together. My grandmother was furious. In the five years they’d been married, they’d created four children: Jim, Grace (my mother), and Ernest and Arthur, a pair of delicate twin boys. His namesake Ernest Albert, actually died less than two months later on May 11, 1916. Had he shipped out already? And Arthur (who we called Tiny Tim) was forever sweet and fragile.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my grandmother, a twenty-five-year-old woman left with four children to tend while her husband went off to war. Cora was strong. I remember that. And she had her mother-in-law, tiny Annie, who kept her husband in line with an iron skillet; a trick she must have learned during her ten years of maid service (14-24) in England.

Ernest & Cora (1)

Ernie & Cora

We know that Ernie’s father was a drinker, and somewhat tricksy. On his attestation papers, James VanSickler claims his birthdate is August 20, 1871. He was actually born in 1862, but had he attested to the truth–that he was 54–he likely would have been rejected. And the thought of war abroad was too great an adventure to risk that.

James is described as being  5’11”,  dark complexion, dark brown hair, and blue eyes. His mother was Tuscarora (the sixth Iroquois nation); his father a Dutchman from a colony in New York. The family homesteaded in Michigan for several years. It was the frontier; a wild, dangerous place. When he was only ten, James’s father was killed in a bar fight. When his mother remarried his killer, James and his younger siblings ended up living with their grandmother back in Ontario.

Dupont Street house (1)

374 Dupont Street @Brunswick Avenue in Toronto

Later, the VanSicklers, father and son, ran one of the first gas stations in Toronto. They had an auto body and paint shop, and grew mushrooms in the basement. My mother refused to eat mushrooms ever after. The VanSicklers held dances for their customers.

Here they are throwing a party for the returning war heroes. It’s remarkable these two came home unscathed.

I would have loved to live in this house–sleep in that turreted tower. What stories are trapped beneath those shingles?


The pen is mightier than the sword.

These words were first spoken in Richelieu,  a historical play written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839. Richelieu says: “The pen is mightier than the sword… Take away the sword; states can be saved without it!”

I think I understand why sixteen-year-old Ernie would choose this adage. I see him as a warm, sweet, sensitive, happy-go-lucky guy–quite unlike his father. I see it in the twirling fronds, in the passionate precision he uses to highlight:


Surely, this was a man of the arts, not of the gas station. Could he have painted something other than cars? Still, country and family come first. I wish I had known him better. Wish I could remember more. I was just a kid when he passed away. But, perhaps he is with me still, whispering in my ear, breathing through his pen.

Ernie & Wendy

With Grandpa Van

What to Do with Goodreads

This is a good discussion regarding Goodreads for readers and writers. It starts with Kristen’s initial post, but the comments from other bloggers are excellent. You might learn a few things, like I did:)

Kristen Twardowski

Goodreads is the largest book review website on the internet. As of April 2017, it had 55 million members who wrote 50 million reviews and added 1.5 billion books. According to Quantcast, a website ranking and data collection site, around 400,000 unique visitors access the Goodreads each day from all around the world. Those numbers are all very impressive, but they don’t solve my problem.

I don’t have the slightest idea what to do with Goodreads.

I have a Goodreads page, but I haven’t done much with the rest of the site. There are great forums, lists of fabulous books on every subject imaginable, quotes from novels, ways to win books, and places to ask authors questions. But there are so many ways to interact with the Goodreads community that I don’t know where to start. I’ll admit that I usually don’t even look at a book’s Goodread’s rating before…

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