Sunday, October 11, 2015

Why Carry a Big Sword?

One reason I love the cover of THE TALON OF THE HAWK – and what readers always say, too – is that you can’t go wrong with a big, mother-effing sword. 

I love this character, my warrior-princess and heir to the high throne of the Twelve Kingdoms, because she does carry a big sword. Goes without saying that she knows how to use it. It was super fun for me to get to write a warrior heroine who’s really good at what she does. Maybe it’s what I write, but it seems like I don’t get that many opportunities to write a woman who is a dazzlingly skilled fighter.

In fact, when I got this cover from my publisher, I gasped aloud. I loved loved loved how Ursula’s sword shines, her heir’s circlet and her thousand-yard stare. In a state of thrilled excitement, I showed it to my husband. Know what he said?

“That sword is too big for her—she could never swing it.”

More than a little tartly, I replied, “Does it help to know she’s not entirely human?”

At which point he backed off, really fast. No doubt due to that honed spouse’s sense of when they’ve put their foot in it and domestic discord is barreling down the track at them like a drunk driver on the wrong side of the highway. To be fair, he and I studied Chinese martial arts together for many years, and our teacher very much emphasized what female fighters could do versus male fighters—particularly as regards upper body strength. And he doesn’t read my books.
But man, way to harsh my buzz!

Especially because I don’t think—maybe I’m wrong and, boys, correct me if I am—that men ever look at a cover with a male hero carrying some improbably large and heavy sword and say, “No way he could swing that thing.” Instead we know it’s fantasy. That’s why we want that story—for the fantasy of the badass hero or heroine who *can* do this thing that would never occur in our reality.
It does, however, point up that these considerations must be weighed. Thus this week’s topic: Choose Your Weapon: Arming Your Characters—how do you choose, from what do you choose, and why?

For me, arming Ursula with a sword wasn’t a decision. When she first walked onto the page as a character, she had her sword in her hand. It becomes an integral part of her character—including the jokes that she sleeps with it. She also uses a variety of knives, but the sword is her primary defense. It’s also a character metaphor, as she holds everyone not just at arm’s length, but at sword length. The jewel in the pommel of her sword holds great significance in the overall story arc, too.

On the other hand, Dafne, the heroine of book 4, THE PAGESOF THE MIND, is a librarian. She’s never going to swing a sword. I did, however, get to write a terrific scene (to my mind!) of Ursula teaching Dafne basic self-defense—with short daggers much more suited to Dafne’s size and strength.

But, you’ll notice, Dafne IS carrying her mother-effing weapon on the cover also. 

We all have our strengths!


  1. Lol!! I can't wait to read that scene with Ursula and Dafne. And I love that you have her, Dafne, holding her weapon on the cover!

    As for your hubby...a smart man knows when to back away.

  2. heh. there's a reason we'll be hitting 25 years soon!

    It's an awesome scene - I can't wait for you to read it! *bounces*