Nov 11


Posted: under Background, Horngard, Life beyond writing, Research, the writing life.
Tags: , , , ,  November 11th, 2023

Writing about sword-wearing, sword-using characters, and then handling some antiques owned by others, pushed me to indulge my own long-term interest in blades.   Some of mine are blades I used in fencing lessons (with SCA instructors) and those have been more or less permanently blunted.    I bought a bated (blunted from birth, so to speak) longsword when I needed to see what it felt like to carry, how hard it was to handle in indoor spaces and in the woods, etc.   It was very helpful to get that physical feel of it, especially walking around and through ordinary obstacles.  I have a few sharps, on which I practiced slicing things and poking things to see what it felt like (and also because it’s fun to slice the bottom lumps off  2 liter plastic bottle hanging from a tree limb when it’s full of water and the water squirts out and…yeah.  Juvenile fun with swords.)  But all of it (including the spear, the bill, and some other more period bits I have) have contributed a lot to scenes in which someone is doing something with a sword, spear, bill, etc. When I borrowed a scythe and scythed some tall grass, that was another experience that enhanced my writing about Gird.  Same with the crossbow.  No amount of just reading or watching movies or videos can provide the body-feel of handling things yourself, whether it’s kneading a loaf of bread, digging a ditch, riding a horse, knitting a sock, or…using a weapon.

I was gifted a gorgeous USMC Mameluke officer’s sword by friends who knew I hadn’t been able to get one at the time, but I don’t “play” with it…it needs sharpening (barely sharp now) by someone more expert than I am.  It has a curve, and it’s definitely a weapon, not just a display item.

But as the Paksworld books have progressed, and I’ve studied more about swords, I’ve wanted to add a lighter-armed cavalry type to the mix in some areas.  And I’ve long wanted a curved blade that I didn’t feel as protective of, as I do my dress sword.    I have a character now, in Horngard I and II, Nasimir Clart, owner/commander of Clart Cavalry, who is a quintessential cavalry man, familiar since Xenophon wrote about horse training and cavalry operations in ancient Greece, and described vividly (for the 19th century) in the excellent series of books by Allan Mallinson, about a young officer’s career through the Napoleonic wars  and beyond.   And I could not envisage Clart without seeing someone with lance and saber.

So when Matt Easton of Schola Gladiatoria, one of my online sources of info on antique weapons and fighting styles, had a review of a reproduction of the 1796 pattern British Light Cavalry saber that he thought got all the details right, right down to the distal taper of the blade…I was hooked.  It is a substantially “beefier” blade than the Mameluke,  much wider and heavier, with a deeper curve, trading grace, speed, and ease of maneuver for power.  So here it is, side by side with its scabbard.

I’m reasonably sure Nasimir Clart chose a different hilt…something he would find more stylish that also gave more hand protection than the simple knuckle-bow here.   But for me, this will do just fine.  It was getting dark by the time I got back from feeding the horses this evening…discovered it on the porch on the way out…so I didn’t have time after unboxing it to change into something more appropriate to take a picture of the first swings with it, but yes…I took it outside (it’s WAY too big to swing around inside) and found the balance strange in one way but quite nice once I started swinging it from the position to cover the back to various cuts in front.  This is a saber for serious cavalry combat in the lightly-or-no-armored style.   I will be doing things with it, for the same reason I used the others…it’s research.  That it’s also fun and good exercise is beside the point.  I absolutely did not buy a saber for the fun of it.   (Stop laughing, you there in the back.)



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Oct 27

Edged Steel, Lure Of

Posted: under Horngard, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , ,  October 27th, 2023

Bringing Nasimir Clart into POV status as a character has led to the conclusion that I need yet another sword.   A cavalry saber suited to such a man as Nasimir Clart, for instance.  And paging through images of sabers (and sabres) for ones that were combat weapons, not just dueling weapons, has led me to….the 1796 pattern Light Cavalry Saber of the British Army.   Which is  not only a handsome, graceful blade but had the reputation as a killer, for its ability to lop off body parts, including heads.   Is it “in period” if the Paksworld stories were written as 13th-14th century?  No.  But Paksworld isn’t this world, it has dwarves as master smiths, with advanced (compared to ours) skill in mixing metals for steel…so they *could* make the right steel for sabers of that size and type in Paks’s day, allowing light cavalry a weapon superior to anything in the “real” (our-world) late medieval period.

Clart’s company is not exactly 18rh-early 19th c. light cavalry, either.  But it has some of the same uses: scouting, communication, covering troop movements, harassment of enemy troops, hit-and-run attacks.  It’s highly mobile, flexible, in ways a heavy-armored cavalry isn’t.  The company deploys both lancers and swords, mostly this type of saber.   And…I’ve never held this kind, just the modern ‘fencing” saber.  Not the same animal at all, a house-cat to a tiger.   In the area of “replica” swords, most sabers have been duds–the opinion of experts far more knowledgeable than me.  However, there are late 18th, early 19th c. sabers that “looked right” for Nasimir Clart (who sat in my head, saying “Maybe, too thin, maybe, too curved, NEVER, and YES!”)  Yes to the very popular 1796 pattern British Light Cavalry Saber.  Which has now, according to several experts, been reproduced accurately in all respects after using an actual antique, not pictures, for the model.

Before the final version of the combats I’ve written Clart into, in the new books,  I expect to have my own replica saber in hand, to feel how it moves in the hand, what it ‘does’ to wrist, elbow, shoulder, and back in use, and thus (if needed) improve the way I wrote the scenes.  There will be vegetable parts on the ground.   For those interested in what this saber–as an antique and as a replica–looks like I suggest looking up Schola Gladiatoria on You Tube, one of my favorite channels (along with Tod’s Workshop).   Or you can search for British Saber 1796 and see a lot of images of various versions of it.

And though Museum Replicas is out of stock with it right now, in the future some fine day I expect to find a package from them with my very own saber in it.

Meanwhile, Clart Company’s first cohort, with its commander and junior captain of the first, have made it out of the foothills and onto the plain, while the second cohort and its junior captain, are spending another few days back in camp at Horngard, while their lightly wounded recover more, and the second in command (senior captain of the second) who was seriously wounded either stabilizes or dies in Fox Company’s medical tent nearby.  Golden Company is awaiting the arrival of an expected Andressat contingent with the Count in attendance and some gifts for the king, and in between, a trade caravan will show up unexpectedly.  Everyone’s avoiding the Pliuni road becaause Pliuni is in bad odor thanks to its behavior in Horngard I.


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Jan 26

On Fantasy/Historic Archery: Guest Post by David Watson

Posted: under Background, Life beyond writing.
Tags: , , ,  January 26th, 2015

David Watson, known in the SCA as Master Iolo, is a crossbow maker and experienced archer who has studied archery in warfare a long time, including visits to museums in the US and Europe.   Here’s his take on the recently very popular YouTube videos of superfast shooting, including by people who insist that they’ve discovered historical truths unknown to mere sport shooters.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 01

Archery Details

Posted: under Background, Contents.
Tags: , , ,  December 1st, 2009

I’m basing a lot of my longbow archery on information derived from the Mary Rose bows, as reported in (among other places) Strickland & Hardy’s The Great Warbow, which includes a history of the longbow in use from the Battle of Hastings up to the Tudor period.   (It’s also a great temptation to spend way too much time on details that aren’t plotworthy…how to conserve and then revive bows that have been buried in silt and salt water for centuries, for instance, something no one is trying to do in this book.  On the other hand, the horrible but effective treatment one noble received for an arrow wound in the face may show up sometime.  Not right now, though.)  Read the rest of this entry »

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Nov 27

Feasts and Swordfights

Posted: under Contents, Life beyond writing, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  November 27th, 2009

Even though we didn’t actually end up fencing yesterday–taking a guest from far away around the land took up the time that might’ve been spent with swords–the swords were around and unsheathed from time to time for purposes other than putting bruises on one another.  There was an award to hand out, and the very special sword to show to the guest from afar, and another to demonstrate on a pell to someone who hadn’t seen that one yet.   As for the feast–this being Thanksgiving in the US–we ate like a mercenary company in Aarenis, finally in a good Valdaire inn.  Platters and serving dishes emptied with amazing speed.   Although I’m normally a casual cook and diner, I love setting out a beautiful table a few times a year, using “the good stuff”  to its fullest extent and piling on the food of all kinds.

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Aug 21

The Little Crossbow

Posted: under Life beyond writing.
Tags:  August 21st, 2009


Here it’s spanned, loaded with a little wad of aluminum foil (no goldfish crackers at fencing class last night) and ready to shoot.

Available from New World Arbalest –email them if you want one.  It’s not up on the online catalog yet.   Mine is 13.5 inches long; the prod when the bow’s not spanned is 8 inches.

Ammunition–try things.  I’ve used the goldfish crackers, the corner off a saltine cracker, M&Ms, carrot and celery sticks (inch to inch and a half long work better than longer ones, and trimmed fairly narrow but still stiff), wadded up paper and aluminum foil.   Oh, and the foam ammunition for a toy gun.   I expect it would also work with dry peas and beans (haven’t tried yet)

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Aug 16

Reading at ArmadilloCon

Posted: under artwork, Marketing, the writing life.
Tags: , ,  August 16th, 2009

Today I read a bit of the new book to an unselected audience for the first time: a scene with as much interest and as few spoilers as I could find.  This was at ArmadilloCon.

The audience liked it, but you have to understand it was Sunday at a science fiction convention and everyone was looking a bit (some more than a bit) glazed.  All except one soul who apparently thought this was a critique group and not the reading of something finished, and explained what she thought needed to be changed.  (Hint: don’t do this.  It’s like the old joke about trying to teach a pig to sing–you can’t, and it only annoys the pig.  The book’s in production, as I told her with as much gentleness as I could muster.  No changes at this point.  But, ahem.)

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Jun 17

The Book of Swords, Preview

Posted: under Life beyond writing.
Tags: ,  June 17th, 2009

I think I mentioned, some time back, the video Reclaiming the Blade, about the history of the western sword, and how it was used.

Hank Reinhardt, co-founder of Museum Replicas, was on that video, and though he died in late 2007, the book he was working on is now coming out from Baen Books, titled The Book of Swords.  Toni Weisskopf, his widow, took his various drafts and brought them together.

I was sent an ARC of this book, and have been looking it over for a couple of days…and I have to say, I’m impressed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Dec 16

Weaponry 1a: swords

Posted: under Contents.
Tags:  December 16th, 2008

Weaponry in Paksenarrion’s world has clear connections to late medieval/early Renaissance weaponry in our world’s history except for one obvious lack: there is no gunpowder. Hence no petards, no bombs, no cannon.

There are, however, blades of many styles, in abundance. Where did these come from, and what does it take to maintain them? (Some of you, in various re-creation societies, are now licking your chops…back off, this is not going to be a definitive treatise–and yes, I’ve read definitive treatises.)

We’re well into the age of steel here, so blades mean metal blades–and metal blades mean that somewhere there’s metal ore and someone with the knowledge and skill to convert ores into steel–steel that will take a point or an edge (or both, but not necessarily) and not fall to pieces the moment it’s hit by another sword.

Along with the iron ores, the swordmaker needs the ability to make a really hot fire, and then control it: this means a fuel source, and a forge in which to control the temperature. That forge needs to be made of something that won’t burn up at those temperatures, that will contain the fire and yet let the swordsmith move the metal around, pull it in and out. And the swordsmith needs an anvil and the tools with which to beat the fire-softened metal into shape, and a container of the right liquid in which to quench it. And a lot of skill.

So there’s a lot of work behind every sword, whether it’s the short stout gladius type used by the soldiers of the Duke’s Company, Halveric Company, and some others–or the longer slimmer rapier used by freelancers in the south, or the hand-and-a-half longsword used by nobles and captains in the north.

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