Author Guest Post: Resa Nelson

Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.

Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award, the highest honor in science fiction and fantasy. It was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine’s first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer’s Sword is Book 1 in a 4-book series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was recently published. Book 3 is scheduled for publication in Summer 2012.

Resa’s standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it “a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended.”

In real life, Resa is a fan of chocolate, travel, summer, museums, ballet, movies, and Broadway musicals (her favorites are Les Miserables and Wicked). She lives in Massachusetts.

How Research Led Me to Using Medieval Weapons
by Resa Nelson

I did plenty of library research for my 4-book Dragonslayer series, but I’m also a fan of physical research. Because my main character is a female blacksmith, I took a course in blacksmithing. But because she also makes swords for dragonslayers, I figured that in addition to reading about different types of medieval weapons, I should get some hands-on experience in using them to give me a better understanding of the types of weapons forged by my main character.

This goal struck me as a daunting task. How could I possibly learn how people used weapons hundreds or even a thousand or more years ago? I thought, Wait a minute. I live in New England. If there’s any place in the United States where I can learn such a thing, surely this would be a good place!

So I went on the Internet and did some searches, using different combinations of keywords. Ironically, I quickly learned that a museum in Massachusetts gives courses that teach historically accurate ways to use medieval and Renaissance weapons. And a course was scheduled to begin soon! I immediately signed up for it.

One thing made me nervous: I’m a pacifist. I hate weapons. I think killing is horrible, except when it comes to self defense. I briefly considered taking a course in sport fencing, but I knew it wouldn’t be the same and that I wouldn’t get what I needed from it. (In fact, I eventually did spend a year studying foil fencing. It was a good experience to compare it to medieval weapons, but my instincts were right: if I’d only pursued sport fencing, it wouldn’t have given me what I needed or wanted.) I felt extremely nervous when I went to my first class in medieval weaponry. What if I froze? What if I threw down the weapon because I didn’t want to touch it? How could I learn if I didn’t embrace the goal of learning how to use a sword?

It turns out that when you learn to use medieval or Renaissance weapons, you begin by using a wooden version of it, which is called a “waster.” The idea is that (1) weapons are really dangerous and you don’t want to risk the possibility of accidentally injuring or killing yourself, your partner, or your teacher, and (2) wasters hold up to practice better. This is how people learned how to use swords in the Middle Ages – they practiced with wasters! The moment I took a waster in my hand and delivered my first practice blow, a thrill went through me. I feel in love with weapons.

This created a dilemma for me that I still haven’t resolved. How can I be a pacifist and love swords and other medieval weapons? It doesn’t make sense! But it’s true. I had such a wonderful time taking my first course (in German long sword) that I took more courses. I got a little bit of experience with daggers, Italian rapier and dagger, halberd, sword and buckler, and a tiny bit of exposure to Viking sword and shield. I joined the museum’s sword guild and began to study one of the manuals written in the Middle Ages by a weapons master. This included studying the text, deciphering the illustrations, and working with my training partner to duplicate what we saw in the manual. I volunteered as a weapons demonstrator at the museum for a few years.

And I’m still a pacifist.

So is my main character, and I gave my dilemma to her. She loves being a blacksmith. She loves making weapons. But she also loves all life and hates killing. She knows dragons are dangerous and kill people, but she hates the idea of dragons being killed, especially with weapons she has forged! Her dilemma forms the backbone of the series, and it never would have come about if I hadn’t done some research, taken a leap of faith, and embraced the study of medieval weapons.

During this blog tour I’m telling lots of stories about the research I’ve done for my Dragonslayer series. You can find out where I’ve been and where I’m going next by checking my website (http://www.resanelson.com), my Facebook page (Resa Nelson & The Dragonslayer’s Sword), or following me on Twitter (ResaNelson).

If you’d like to sample my work for free, you can download a free “mini” ebook called “Dragonslayer Stories” from my website at http://www.resanelson.com/files. No cost, no obligation, nothing to sign up for, no information gathering. I like giving away samples of my work so you can decide for yourself whether you like it or not. You also can enter to win a copy of the first two books in my series, which I’ll give away at the end of this tour on Feb. 14. To enter, just send email to ResaBonusGifts@aol.com. (I won’t keep your email address – this just makes it easier for me to keep track of entries.) I’m also doing a book giveaway on GoodReads, so you can enter to win there at http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/19270-the-dragonslayer-s-sword.

The Dragonslayer’s Sword (Book 1)

For Astrid, a blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers, the emergence of a strange gemstone from her body sets in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy her life. Her happiness is shattered when her lover–the dragonslayer–disappears without a trace, and the life that she knows and loves implodes without warning.

Astrid lives in a world of shapeshifters whose thoughts have the power to change not only themselves but others. Everything Astrid knows to be true is called into question when she learns the truth about her past and the mysterious family from which she was separated as a child.

Reality turns inside out as Astrid gradually learns the truth about the people she loves as well as those she disdains. With the fate of dragons, ghosts, and slaves in foreign lands resting on her shoulders, Astrid faces the challenge of deciding who she is and how she will stand up inside her own skin. Will she withdraw and hide from the world that has disappointed her so much…or will she rise to lead others to freedom and peace?

The Iron Maiden (Book 2)

Astrid is reluctant to travel the winter route beyond the Northlands, even though it’s her duty. She’d rather stay home in her village, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Ignoring the bonds of tradition, she decides to spend the cold winter months in the warmth of her blacksmithing shop. Why should she leave the comfort of her cottage to serve and protect foreigners who might raid and harm her native Northlands?

Everything changes when a traveling merchant steals Starlight, the first dragonslayer’s sword Astrid forged and her last link to her sweetheart DiStephan. Having no time to alert her friends, Astrid races in pursuit of the merchant, determined to reclaim Starlight as her own and return home in time for dinner. Instead, her quest leads her to new lands, unexpected friendships with foreigners, and a harrowing encounter with the damage done by the followers of a new god that considers women as nothing more than servants to men. All the while, she must be ready to face any dragon traveling the winter route.

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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