#LARP and the Single Swordfighter

So, I’d decided to use a Live Action Role Play (LARP) event as a central part of the plot for my romance novella, Knightless in Seattle. I had an idea, but I wanted to get it right and not make anyone want to throw my book against the wall because I hadn’t bothered to get my facts straight.

“Write what you know,” they say, and although I hadn’t participated in a LARP, my daughter had, and I know her. Then I got to know some of her friends who LARP, like the guy who is a fencer and knows his swords. I picked their brains for possibilities. I described the idea of combining a HEMA tournament with the plot of a LARP. “Could this happen?” I asked. They assured me it wasn’t impossible to think that it could.

Then I reached out to an instructor at an HEMA academy to learn about that side of things, and found to my surprise that the sort of fluid crossover I’d imagined existed between LARP and HEMA wasn’t exactly greeted with open arms by the HEMA community. In fact, there was a deep concern on their part to ensure that people (including me) do not confuse the two.

As I mentioned in a previous blog about HEMA (Guys With Swords- Sign Me Up), these guys take the study of Medieval European fighting techniques seriously. The website for the academy in Los Angeles displayed a clear disclaimer that Hollywood stunt-types would not find what they were looking for at the academy and need not apply. From the HEMA side of things, it was the difference between being a sword-fighter and playing one on t.v. The line couldn’t be more clearly drawn.

And I get it. From their point of view, it would be like letting people think there really wasn’t any difference between Indy car drivers and go-kart racers.

But I don’t think they need to worry. Nobody is confused about the difference.

Especially the HEMA students who love their LARPs. (I almost didn’t have the heart to tell the academy instructor that one of his top students is an avid LARPer. Almost.)

I’m pretty sure these guys (and girls) love the discipline and accomplishment of being really good at something. I’m also sure that they are very clear about the difference between immersing themselves in the skills and immersing themselves in another, albeit imaginary, world and put on the whole character of a medieval warrior. Knowing what they know, and being as into it as they likely are (to work that hard at it), the chance to “play” a swordfighter in a LARP could be a pretty irresistible proposition.

Oops! Don’t try this at home!

 

How much fun is that?

I’ll be talking more in future posts about other surprising crossovers to the world of LARP.

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.

 

 

Mommy Porn- Is that MY Romance?

Okay, so I like a good sex scene in a book as much as the next girl, the chance to live out a little fantasy vicariously through the characters on the page who are a lot braver about trying out new stuff than I am in real life. But is that really what sex in romance is all about?

First of all, a couple of definitions.
Porn is all about sex for its own sake. It is mostly graphic sex, often exploitive or degrading. Erotic literature focuses on stories of sexual encounters between various sorts of people.

Romance isn’t interested in porn. It isn’t just interested in sex for its own sake.
Romance is interested in the romantic relationship of the couple in the story. Any sex in the book is there to show the conflicts and the growth of the developing relationship.

It’s all about the couple.

In a romance, the sex isn’t hot because the author shows the characters having acrobatic sex on a trampoline. The sex is hot because I am totally emotionally invested in these two people getting together. It can be any level of sex, as long as the pull of attraction between the two people is believable, as well as the obstacles they must overcome to be together.

Sex is just one of the things couples tend to do together. It can also be a mine-field that a couple has to navigate carefully lest they blow their new-found chance at happiness to smithereens. It can bring them closer, it can create conflict, it can bring up all kinds of issues and questions neither of them really wants to deal with right now. It can entertain the reader, but more importantly, it can deepen the complexity of the story and the reader’s ability to identify even more deeply with the characters.

via GIPHY

I was shocked recently to realize (well, okay, someone pointed out to me) one of my favorite authors, Lynn Kurland- who writes amazing medieval and time travel romances, has no sex on the page in her books. I really never noticed, and that’s because the way she shows the attraction between her characters, the push and pull of desire and the fear of what loving each other may cost them, is so powerful that I feel immersed in that emotional journey right along with them to the satisfying end.

I will confess that I enjoy seeing the sexual part of the relationship play out on the page in Romance novels. I think because it’s part of my own experience with romantic love as an adult- it’s part of the deal, and a pretty important one at that. I want to see the characters get to enjoy all the good parts, especially since they have to go through a lot of the sucky parts-(if the writer is doing his/her job well.

via GIPHY