Guys with Swords-Sign Me Up

When I started writing Knightless in Seattle, I wanted my character to meet a Knight in Shining Armor in present-day Seattle. I didn’t have far to look for how that could actually happen.

(Don’t try this at home)

I have a daughter who regularly participates in LARP- Live Action Role Play (more about that in future posts). Among the people she has met are guys who like their swords. Real swords, that is. I met one of them, a perfectly normal guy you’d pass on the street and never guess spends some serious time taking Historical European Martial Arts classes in fencing, and is quite good at it by the way.

Let’s face it- guys (and some of us girls) love their weapons- the bigger, the badder the better! Even though there isn’t a lot of call these days for wielding a broadsword, a mace or a pole-axe, plenty of people spend their free time learning to wield these bad ass weapons.

Medieval Martial Arts isn’t for sissies, and it’s not for people looking to ‘look cool’ in movies or plays. It’s serious business, and the people who teach it are dedicated to keeping alive the traditions and methods of medieval combat.

If you have always wanted to learn how to use a longsword, spear, short staff, dagger, sickle, messer (dare I ask?) or rapier, you can go sign up for classes at your local neighborhood HEMA academy, or join a club, because lucky for you, there was a huge revival of interest in this whole thing in the early 1990s. There are associations and organizations and resources available, and the internet makes it easier than ever to find them and plug in.

I did a quick search on the internet and turned up a large Southern California presence- but there are schools all over the country. And they like to hold tournaments and competitions (a big one is held in Las Vegas). Awesome!

In Los Angeles, The Academy of Arms instructors, like many self-respecting HEMA academies, teach a curriculum drawn directly from historical texts of the 14th and 16th centuries. You should check them out, they have some great videos.

Their stated goal is “to revive these lost arts by increasing awareness and inspiring a passion for this rich period of history.” They offer both Recreational and Historical track levels of classes where you can learn to use all the badass medieval weapons you could dream of.

So if you thought (like me) that Knights didn’t exist in this day and age, then let my book, Knightless in Seattle, and HEMA prove you wrong!

Who are these Romance Writers You Speak of?

Who are these Romance Writers you speak of?

I think that there is a cultural stereotype of romance writers. I am going to take a politically incorrect stab at it, and say it goes something like this:

The average romance writer is a lonely woman, probably not terribly young or attractive or even particularly intelligent (if you were to dig a little deeper into the underlying assumptions) who basically doesn’t have a life, or has such an unhappy life, that she is reduced to living her fantasies vicariously by writing them instead. Kathleen Turner’s character, Joan Wilder, in Romancing the Stone fulfilled all of these stereotypes except the “not particularly attractive” part. It was a movie, and fiction, after all.

I hate to disappoint you- well no, that’s not true. I am HAPPY to disappoint you, and relieve you, of that hopelessly inaccurate stereotype that you may have so comfortably written us all off with.

Because here is what I have seen in the years that I have been a member of the national non-profit writer’s association, Romance Writers of America, which started in 1980 with a group of 37 writers and now boasts over 10,000 members: romance writers come from every stripe and walk of life.

We romance writers are (to name a few stripes) police detectives, newspaper journalists, research scientists (author Stephanie Laurens headed up her own cancer research lab in Australia), school teachers, college professors, college students (thanks Julia Quinn- who penned her first two romance novels while an undergrad student at Harvard, and was admitted to Yale medical school), military officers (Merline Lovelace retired as an Air Force Colonel and took up romance writing), lawyers, real estate agents, marketing professionals, and yes some housewives (tell them they don’t have a full-time job!) Oh, and some of us are men. A lot of us are happily married. We are 18 to 80. We are a pretty average cross section when it comes to appearances and interests. Some of us are conservative. Some of us have tattoos. In other words, there are a lot of things we don’t have in common.

But there are some important characteristics we share.

We all have a passion to tell a story, and the drive, determination and persistence that it takes to pursue the solitary activity of putting butt-in-chair and fingers-to-keyboard to bring those stories to life for readers. We care about being the best writer we can be. We study our craft. We network and form communities. We help each other. Most of us do this in addition to very full lives. Few of us quit our day jobs. All of us do it because we can’t not do it.

I’m an average person you would pass on the street every day and never guess is a romance writer. I work full time in an engineering field, having a decidedly logical, analytical sort of mind. I have a degree in psychology. I’ve been married and had a couple of kids. I like hiking, traveling, dogs, people, reading, stupid funny movies and action movies that you MUST see on the big screen. I love, love, love science fiction, epic fantasy and great love stories.

And I write. Romance.

I started writing once I finally believed in myself enough to stop just dreaming about it and start doing it. It took a little courage and a lot of work. I found it to be not only freeing to do this; it became empowering to embrace and feed that creative part of myself that has always been there.

Hooking in with a great writer’s organization helped a LOT. I not only found great learning opportunities, but I also learned one last thing Romance Writers have in common; we are all a little crazy. We not only hear voices in our heads, we take them seriously. If we don’t, these imaginary people will just keep us up all night until we agree to write down their stories. It is a wonderful shared insanity, and I’m lucky I’ve found a support group for my affliction.

You can lump me in with them anytime.