That’s me mounted on Jack, commanding a reenactment army of about 1000 18th century re-enactors in 2010.
Why am I telling you this?
Because even when I write fantasy, I’m trying to convey a sense of authentic experience. And in many cases, it’s reenacting experience that allows me to dive into the details that make a world come to life. Although Masters and Mages is pure fantasy; even further removed from history than Traitorson, I nevertheless have some ‘historical imagination and inspiration’ behind every book and every series. The world of Aranthur Timos, with it’s Byzantine politics, racial antagonisms, complex sorcerous economics and deadly politics is all meant to reflect many of the realities of our modern world, but the weapons, armour, swordsmanship and clothing is mostly inspired by the middle of the seventeenth century across Europe and Asia.
One of the opening sequences in Dark Forge, the new sequel to Cold Iron, is an enormous battle. It’s a long scene, and in it, the protagonist is not a general or even a foot soldier. He’s a messenger. He has no other job than to ride around the battlefield passing his officer’s commands. I wrote the scene this way (I’ve never done it before) so that the reader could see the vast and horrifying panorama of a sorcerous, black-powder filled battlefield at every level. But I also wrote it this way because I have several vivid, real experiences of riding through smoky battlefields; of the minutiae of horse-control when there are flapping flags and real cannons firing and hornets stinging your poor mount (oh, yes.) So you might say the epic battle in Dark Forge is a combination of my experiences in modern warfare (fear, confusion, overwhelming sense of my own non-importance) with my reenacting experiences on a two-mile square reenacting battlefield with 2-3 thousand participants.
But there’s a great deal more to Dark Forge than just a big battle. I’d even go so far as to provide the small spoiler that battles don’t always settle anything . . .
Dark Forge is about how Aranthur Timos continues to grow and evolve; how a battle and the subsequent events, the terrible reality of war and killing and its aftermath help to shape him. It has espionage and an Eldritch Romance. It’s probably my best novel. You’ll have to read it to learn more.
Oh, and there are still lots of swordplay. I try very hard to make every sword fight different, and informative both of character and about how martial arts actually work. But also, in part, I write them because I love them.
This is me and Bob Allegreto fighting sabre on horseback. See you again when Bright Steel comes out . . . it’s not that far away!