Cas Peace on Medieval Storytelling

image of St. Andrews ruins in Scotland

Photo: Cathedral of St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland by J. Wilder Bill

King’s Envoy is the first novel in the fantasy series, Artesans of Albia, by Cas Peace. An Albian Baron in the fourth dimension sets out to destroy the Artesan craft but first he must gain the power to cross through each realm. Peace shares how to craft a fantasy set in medieval times. 

Are your realms based on the Buddhist concept of multiple worlds, where each is unable to see one another, yet at times, they notice one another’s presence?

My five realms does owe something to Eastern beliefs, if only in a small way. I was intrigued by the possibilities that might arise when completely separate and self-contained worlds, all of which evolved their own distinct beliefs, cultures and customs, could be visited at will by denizens of the other realms. Add the proviso that only an elite core would have this ability and you create a volatile and infinitely variable set of possibilities.

If you met either of your main female characters in person, what qualities would you want to change in them?

I love this question! Each of my characters have their faults, such flaws are what make us human. One is a healer. She is trained, talented and extremely capable, the kind of person you’d want by your side in a medical emergency. Yet take her out of her comfort zone and she becomes shy and insecure. Her confidence only extends as far as her knowledge of herbs, ailments and treatments. As the series progresses she does gain personal confidence, but only when among people she knows.

My other female lead possesses all the confidence the healer lacks. She knows her strengths and weaknesses and isn’t afraid to test herself against whatever life throws at her. She takes her successes humbly, while her failures do not break her. Her worst quality is that in times of stress she resorts to bad language.

In the opening chapter, Taran’s poor judgment places the wrath of an ambitious kingdom on his clan. What does this reveal about the character?

This was a method of showing Taran’s naivety and innocence. He’s had so many failures that he’s willing to try anything. Based purely on some notes left by his father, he sets off to a foreign realm, with the aim of challenging a man to a duel. Its dreadful outcome leaves him morally wounded as well as physically. It reveals the flaws in Taran’s training as well as his nature, and leaves him embarrassed and vulnerable. Yet although he is broken and frightened, he doesn’t shirk his responsibility. Here lies Taran’s strength, and what enables him to move forward and become the person others know he can be.  

Your heroine released her individuality and abides by the codes and orders of her superiors. Did you model her on a medieval knight? 

The fantasy genre doesn’t have enough women who compete with men, and become superior to them, without compromising their femininity. My heroine’s wounded past, and the events that befall her, mold her character and cause her to react in certain ways. When coupled with her deep sense of loyalty and duty, and driven by the tremendous power she commands, they create a dangerous entity, one who possesses the capability to destroy as much as to heal. The question is – will the many traumas she suffers during the course of her mission overcome her love and loyalty, turning them to hatred and destruction?

Which did you consider to be most important, authenticity of the medieval period or the elements of fantasy?

Fantastical elements become stranger and more wonderful when placed in a mundane setting. Small details, provided they’re not overdone, help bring a character vividly to life. Immersing myself deeply into my story and my characters, so deeply that I see what they see, smell what they smell, and hear their voices, is the only way I can write.

Did you develop character through the joy of developing a bond with horses and in showing how they are necessary for survival?

My intention in incorporating such intimate details was to allow the reader to become immersed in the setting. Horses were an essential and vital part of medieval life. I harbor a deep love of horses; I am a qualified horse-riding instructor and spent my early adulthood working and teaching in a school of equitation. I purchased a small Welsh cob named Lively – and trained him to pull a carriage. I competed in cross-country driving events, carriage-dressage, and was among the first allowed access to the M25, England’s most notorious motorway.

The point of view shifts between characters throughout King’s Envoy. Was it imperative for the reader to know more than the protagonist in order to increase tension?

Because the plot spans two different realms and involves more than one faction, it would be impossible to convey sufficient information through a single character. Events occur that would be meaningless and would confuse rather than enlighten were it not for a change of POV. There are also several sub-plots bubbling under the storyline – these all necessitate the use of more than one point of view. The story sticks with one character until the plot demands a switch. Intimately learning the motivations, aspirations and emotions of several characters enhances a reader’s experience.

At what point should a writer plan to create a series?

When the writer knows that those characters have more to give. Readers like to follow a fictional character’s ‘career’ just as much as that of a celebrity or a family member. Look at Conan Doyle’s’ Sherlock Holmes, or a more modern analogy, Peter James’ Roy Grace, or, to stick with fantasy, Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant. We all like familiarity and reading about our favorite characters is like catching up with old friends.

Thank You, for the opportunity to reveal these facts about King’s Envoy. I’d also like to say how much fun I had answering your challenging and insightful questions. The process made me think about my book from a slightly different angle, and often gave me pause for thought. I’d love to hear readers’ thoughts on the novel!

Thank you for your interest, all the best, Cas Peace.

Your knowledge on how to create a believable fantasy set in medieval times is deeply appreciated. For additional questions, you can find Peace at www.caspeace.com.

Archangel for Each Friday

image of an angel in white robes

 

With every Friday I find the grace of God in the form of true love.

Archangel Anael ignites romance with the serenity of a white dove.  

His affection inspires virtue with harmony for an abundant life,

As the angel most often invoked he gives inner peace to deter strife. 

Archangel Anael overcomes shyness, granting confidence to those redeemed,

Within a fiery chariot he carries me and all others highly esteemed.  

My long-term career acquires status as through him I’m recognized, 

For my creativity improving the world beyond what I ever realized.   

The prophet Enoch reached heaven upon Archangel Anael’s upward heave,

And if I practice patience, the glorious gift of passion I also will receive.

When he visits, artists and musicians find solace for their inspiration,

Because the beauty from the grace of God spreads everywhere in creation.

A Puzzled Groundhog Means Romance

image of an owl in a palm tree

Photo: Barred Owl by J. Wilder Bill

Happy Ground Hog’s Day!

For anyone puzzled, I don’t have a photograph of a groundhog. That’s a picture of a barred owl. The little fellow sets the mood, just as well as any other wildlife animal. Like the groundhog, owls at my house let me know what to expect from the weather.

I’m not the only person who improvises with the early Christian Candlemas Holiday. The concept began with preachers passing blessing candles they passed around the congregation. It was the townspeople who decided whether or not a shadow appeared as the candles burned.

In early Germany, Candlemas was celebrated alongside animals, and eventually the flame of candles weren’t the determining factor. The tradition shifted to observing the animals’ behavior in planning spring activities. The Germans who settled in Pennsylvania relied on the behavior of the many hedgehogs living in the area. All wildlife, including birds, insects and mammals, react to the sunlight, and we can pick February 2 as the decisive date. The wildlife notices the nuances in nature, and their instincts guide them on how to plan their time throughout February and March.

In the old country, farmers relied on the intuition of hedgehogs and badgers. If the critters saw their shadows at the harvest celebration, it meant winter still lingered in the air.

Then again, if the badger eagerly dashed out of its home, it was letting the farmers’ know the season for frozen grounds and sparse resources was over. The key signal the animals follow revolves around an intense sunlight at the end of winter being too bright to cast a shadow in the morning. Sunny skies heated the ground and melted the reflective snow.

The significance to farmers in having sunlight on February 2 determined when they could transition from a survival plan for the cold season to the period of new growth. Their ability to time how many weeks they needed to ration the grains and vegetables they kept on reserve translated into survival. The number of remaining cold days determined when the earth would thaw and farmers could begin churning the soil for the next season’s crop.

The warmer weather let the farm animals know when to start smooching. With their food sources becoming easy to access, they could support a larger number in their animal family, same as the farmers.

With the global changes, understanding our environment is as critical to our survival today as it was for our primitive ancestors. You don’t have to travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania and stand among tens of thousands of frozen tourists to witness a critter’s instinctive reaction to the climate. At the infamous ground hog’s hole, a man in a top hat tosses a hundred year-old groundhog named, Phil, through a hole filled with electric heat. Little Phil predicts the future.

Anywhere on the globe, you can venture outside before sunrise in time to interpret nature’s hints about the coming months. If you study the trees and discover droopy leaves, you can expect a rainy season this spring. Where the buds are barely visible, you can plan for a floral Easter. Bountiful leaves flourish where a few cold days may come but the worst of winter is over, but the sky will likely be overcast for a few weeks.

For city dwellers, manmade structures are a haven for tiny climbers and birds. Where critters stay close to buildings, and resist venturing into the sidewalks and traffic, they are still relying on the manmade warmth and the ground temperature is remaining low for a while. If rodents or birds build homes in your interior walls and attic space, they likely are unable to find water outside, which translates into additional cold days.

Aside from pigeons and crows, flying overhead, an active bird life reveals an early spring. They are able to find food in the trees and plants. Resources, such as inspects, become active once the cold drought has finished.

If you also are in an area where you hear birds singing to each other, and your pet dog lingers outside the door with his nose tipped into the wind, head straight to the gym. Beach season and pool parties will come early that year.

For anyone who goes outside to stillness and quiet, with no inspects buzzing around your head and little chirping from the treetops, you can expect six more weeks of wearing fuzzy clothes, those adorable boots, and layering for your chic moods. If the ground hog runs and hides, consider this a wonderful time to plan a cozy Valentine’s celebration in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies. With football season coming to an end, now is a smart time to reconnect with hugs and snuggles.

This year, the ground hog was puzzled by the sunlight. He has only predicted an early spring eighteen times, and this year he didn’t change his impulse to avoid the outdoors until the end of March. As for us Groundhog’s Day observers, we can rest assured in Phil heeding us to grab those blankets and wear thick socks for six more weeks.

Trees Unveil Our Emotions

image of unique trees shaped like a gateway

Photo: My Favorite Tree Gateway by J. Wilder Bill

Trees provide lasting impressions in our lives. All they ask of us is that we embrace their energy.

There is a magnificent red brick mansion on an elaborate road lined with manicured lawns and blooming trees. On the west side of the property, five trees along the brick road frown at me as I drive by. A flash of sadness, a smack of pain, a slam of discontentment, unrest and then a bleak finale. Each time my mood plummets as I’m confronted by the barrier of trees.

I knew by the faces in the trees the family is suffering. I thought perhaps a child is ill, or the couple is unhappy. The trees are recording and relaying their desperate cries.

We share a beautiful bond with trees. But like many, one of my childhood fears involved their coming to life, their long branches trapping me before I could escape. Plenty of fairy tales document incidents where a unknowing child is attacked in the woods after dark.

I grew up with an adventurous family, and my oldest brother’s joy was camping trips on the farm. His goal was spend seven days without seeing or hearing any evidence of civilization. His quest translated into our only eating what we caught during the night and sleeping on the ground. No water bottles, music, plates, flashlights, blankets or long Johns. Just us, lying on the dirt, with a fire that hopefully didn’t burn out so the bears kept their distance. Chiggers congregated in the thousands and they were especially attracted my sweet skin, compliments of my mother’s obsession with homemade baked goods. My duty was to carry the game. One night, when the bag ripped, dozens of frogs landed in the sludgy bottom of the lake. I found these outings a wonderful motivation for my earliest fasts.

Under the ominous silhouette of the forest, my brother told ghost stories about Native Americans burning down settlers’ homes with families inside while the men were out hunting. To this day, if you listen closely you can hear the wives and children’s cries carried time immortal by the trees.

Walking through the night allowed me to know how alert the birds remain after sundown, how peacefully cows stand in a pitch-dark pasture, and how the wind causes water drops trapped by the canopy of leaves to rain down harder than a storm. In the woods, the trees became animated. This was the first place I noticed the expressions of trees.

According the Vastu Living by Kathleen Cox, “we … honor nature because, like us, it is an expression of the five basic elements: space, air, fire, water, and earth.” Trees record the words spoken and the emotional outbursts far longer than we care to be reminded. Their cells absorb the vibration of the moods nearby. If the dominant emotion expressed is joy, the trees are vibrant and bountiful. If the dominant emotion expressed is sadness, the trees project their message of lower energy. The roots accumulate the signals of any pain and remorse emitted by people fighting and arguing on the property above them. Words linger long after the emotions of the person speaking dissolves.

“The element of fire in plants is life-giving,” Cox explains “Tall trees … should also be on the west to help retain the positive energy …. and help block the wind.” After the barrier trees felt suffering long enough to grow frowns, the family who lived there were in the news. Inside the magnificent home, the father experienced financial stress. He appeared to have anger issues left over from his childhood due to his having been adopted by wealthy merchants. His wife alleged he was abusive and left with the children. Within a year, the man committed suicide.

Although inscrutable on the surface, trees tell stories about the situations surrounding them. They mirror love and they respond to sadness. Scientists confirm how trees react negatively to certain vibrations. When exposed to harsh sounds, trees shrivel and die. Then again, trees react in a positive way when exposed to classical music, the singing of a happy child and comforting words spoken when they are watered.

“Without the harmonious presence of the five elements … we can never establish a lasting harmony for ourselves,” provides Cox. Science has shown, the words spoken or sung in a plant’s environment improves their health. Cheerful tones inspire better absorption of the nutrients, and negative tones are directly associated with plants shriveling and dying. The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters set out to prove this finding wrong. The samples placed in a silent greenhouse suffered, unlike the samples given identical conditions, but with sounds.

If you look closely you can see the spirit of a tree. In my fantasy novel, the trees remember every word spoken throughout history. They never forget. The roots of the trees carry the messages across the globe. There are no secrets on our planet because the trees collect our words, but then again, trees also spread comfort. This is why we heal emotionally and spiritually when we spend time in nature amongst peaceful trees.