Tour of Hearthing Castle

Hearthing castle with Hearthingham

Click to take a tour!

Reposted from June 8, 2013:

You’re invited to take a Tour of the Grounds of Hearthing Castle!

Click on either the picture at top, and the link should take you to view the video presentation.

A little more information about Hearthing Castle:

It isn’t your typical castle. This castle only exists on paper. Aside from the walls and a general layout that is castle-ish, it would be a huge pain to defend! This is because Hearthing Castle was never really intended as serious protection against assault by an opposing force.

Oh, sure; when the castle was first built, the builders had some concerns about the possibility of marauding giants, but their ambitious building program outlasted any actual threat. The curtain wall mainly exists to block the chill winds that sweep across Astarkand in the winter, and to provide a handy place for the king’s guards to stroll and look decorative when they’re on duty.

Hearthing Tower was the first building raised to protect the large band of men, women and children who had made the dangerous trek north from Taesleica, back at the beginning of Astarkand’s founding. The hall at the base was large enough to house them all that first winter. Later, more floors were added as needed. Construction on the curtain wall began at almost the same time as the construction of the tower, although it took several generations to finish it to a height that was thought at the time to be adequate.

Later, as the population of Astarkand grew and spread out from that small group huddled in the tower, the kitchens and kitchen cellars were added, and also more floors above the kitchens. The royal residence, the north wing, and Knights Row were added next. The Audience Hall, Castle West, and the south wing were added last. Sheds, castle industries, and cottages sprang up along the outer walls. The barracks and stables were rebuilt more than once before reaching their present proportions.

As the population of Astarkand grew even larger, a town sprang on the slopes of the hill below the castle. By the time the town was built, the Kandians had realized that the giants they feared weren’t going to be an issue (the giants had mysteriously disappeared), but they still feared the dangerous wild beasts that roamed at will.

Bears, wolves, wolverines and northern garcats were a serious danger to life and limb before the town wall was raised.

Since Astarkand has become more settled, the larger predators have mostly disappeared from the duchies. They can still be found prowling in the forests along the northern and western edges of the kingdom. Wolves still run in packs in Astarkand proper, and are seen more of when a winter is particularly severe.

Hearthing Castle has lately entered the process of becoming more of a seat of government and less of a domicile for royalty and retainers. What used to be apartments and chambers where nobles lived on the ground floors of the main wings are now government offices dedicated to the running of the kingdom. What good fairy tale kingdom can survive, after all, without its nameless functionaries handling all the red tape?

Obtain more glimpses of daily life in Hearthing Castle from my books, A Shadow On The Land, King’s Ride, and Eiathan’s Heir (books 1, 2, and 3 of the Legends of Astarkand series).

Reader’s Challenge: create your own castle, take a photo, and send it to me!

The Bible Is Not A Picky-eater Buffet

Bible is a Full Course MealReposted from May 29, 2013:

The Bible is not a picky-eater buffet; the Bible is a 66 course meal.

My credentials that are relevant to this post: I graduated from Columbia International University in Columbia, SC with a degree in Bible.

When you’re eating at a buffet, you get to choose which dishes you’re going to eat, and which you will reject or refuse. Eating at a buffet is all about making those choices!

But, when you are invited to a banquet with royalty at Buckingham palace, and the staff serves you dish after dish, are you going to treat this formal dinner in the same way?

I suspect not!

I suspect…that you will eat at least a little of every course set before you, because you are conscious of the desire not to offend your hostess, the queen, or her staff. Wouldn’t you also be on your best behavior and use your best manners? Wouldn’t you want to be invited back?

The Bible is a lot like that banquet! Now; the queen of England isn’t going to serve you 66 courses…

But…the Bible contains 66* books!

God, the King of Kings; the primary author and final authority for the human co-authors of each of these books, is the ultimate royalty–

When you sit down to study and read the Bible, you may read only a portion of a book or several books, but that portion must be interpreted in the context of all the other parts and concepts included in Bible. It isn’t reasonable nor does it do justice to the Bible to consider any one little part on its lonesome, discombobulated from the whole. You wouldn’t do that to anyone else’s book; why would you dissect the Bible in this way?

We also don’t get to pick and choose which parts of the Bible God views as important or historical, or accurate.

Some parts are poetic, true; but the Bible makes it clear which books are more poetic and intended to be taken not quite as literally, and which books are literal and historical fact. Regardless of writing style, the entirety of the Bible is a historical whole; a single document created for our edification.

Oh, and I love that word; edification! It’s the spiritual equivalent of eating healthy food.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 affirms that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

When God set out to communicate with us in a living document whose writing spanned centuries and the lifetimes of more than 70 different authors, He wasn’t interested in providing us with spiritual junk food. You won’t find “feel goodism” anywhere in the Bible. You won’t find any fluffy sentiments, either!

God shares a lot of hard to swallow truths with us in His Word about where sin came from; how sin warps our perception of Him, ourselves, and the world we live in; what we need to do about our sin problem which separates us from God; and how, even when we have accepted Him into our lives and are seeking to follow Him, that life is never going to be a bed of roses.

He also shares with us the good news that by accepting this path that leads us onward and upward, often at a high cost, we lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, and gain a place for ourselves for eternity with Him. He uses the authors who wrote His message down for us to encourage and exhort us to daily look to God for strength and healing, and seek to be the best that we can be at all of the virtues that God prizes.

What does this have to do with my books and writing?

A lot, as it so happens! I write fantasy and science fiction from a Christian perspective. This means that I do sometimes quote the Bible in my books, and reference biblical concepts and ideas. When I do this, I make an effort to quote in context, and to accurately reflect the meanings and principles contained in those passages, as consistent with the entirety of the biblical text.

*The Protestant Bible includes 66 books. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles include all of those books, plus the Apocrypha; and the Greek Orthodox Bible includes several more books in the Apocrypha than the R.C.’s do. Each of these versions also contain additions to several books that do not appear in the Protestant version.

I’ve made it a point to read the Apocrypha so that I could discuss them intelligently. I understand why these books are considered uninspired by Protestant churches, and are not included in the Protestant Bible. While they are historic documents, containing certain historic accounts for which they are the primary source of information, the quality and clarity of the writing displayed in these documents does not measure up to the rest of the Bible.

Creatures of Astarkand: The Fleuder


Fleuder: a brittle-haired (fictional) creature with six stubby legs commonly found in Astarkand, which looks somewhat like this.

Reposted from May 21, 2013:

I was rummaging through my hard-drive looking for old, random files to delete when I came across this photo my friend, Heidi Kortman, was fortunate enough to take a while back of a fleuder.

If you have read my books, then you are already aware of the odd little creatures named fleuders.

Here are a few facts about fleuders that you might find interesting:

Bjorn has never seen a fleuder anywhere else except in Astarkand.

Fleuder anatomy is highly unusual, consisting of six stubby legs supporting a lump of a body about the size of a round loaf of bread, covered in brittle hairs. A fleuder’s mouth is located centrally on its belly. No one so far has been able to find its eyes or nose. It appears to understand its world primarily through its senses of taste and touch.

Fleuders make several variations on an odd, grumbly-grindy noise, mostly heard as expressions of alarm or disgust.

They eat leaf detritus, and are often seen scrabbling about under the decaying leaves of the northern cabbage palm, but they aren’t particularly picky. While they do quite well in captivity, most folk agree that the only almost-interesting thing a fleuder does is scrabble about in the dirt. Most pet fleuders end up living in their owners’ gardens under a convenient bush…

Rumor has it that fleuders weren’t an original part of creation, but were created from other sources by the black sorceress Gunhild. They might have been one of her earlier efforts; a mad sort of combination of sea urchin, star fish (for the extra legs), and guinea pig.

Whether or not they were created by the sorceress, fleuders appear to be wholly harmless aside from their tendency to breed like rabbits.

Fleuder terms:

1 fleuder
2 fleuderkind
fleuderma (female)
fleuderpa (male)
fleuderlings (baby fleuders)
an ingratitude = a group of fleuders
an exodus = a significantly sized group of fleuders bent on crawling or falling into moving water, especially the sea.

Adventures With Crutches

Reposted from May 17, 2013:

I’m not a very big fan of loud noises, bright lights, or a big crowd. This is a good thing, because I have chemical sensitivities, and tend to have negative medical reactions to the toxic chemical concoctions people wear on their hair and bodies, and wash their clothes with these days…and I should probably not mention cigarette smoke…

But my life is FAR from boring!

Take last night, for instance…

What was supposed to be a quick break between stacks of homework for my daughter (and a break for me from writing and other tasks), for a picnic in the park with a small group of family and friends turned into a trip to the emergency room complete with x-rays and the need to find a pair of crutches!

It could have been worse. I expected the waiting room to be full, but it was empty. I expected we would be sitting there until the wee hours of the morning, but we were in and out by her bedtime (a personal record at that particular ER), although logistics at home still pushed lights out to later than I would have liked.

Life’s just like that when you have kids! It’s impossible to keep them out of trouble. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing; if there is a disaster to be found, they will find it! Parents try to keep their kids safe and healthy (and in one piece), but we also know that too much coddling is unhealthy. Besides, if we don’t let them learn where they’re likely to get into trouble, our kids don’t add to their experience or learn the need for taking care when our backs are turned.

I expect my daughter to eventually grow out of this stage of being so disaster-prone.

Meanwhile, I have said she has to pick her climbing trees a little more carefully from here on out. And yes, fishing would have probably been a much better idea. (but with our luck, we might have still wound up in the ER on account of a fish-hook).

And somewhere, somehow, I am going to write my daughter’s many escapades into one of my books…

Writing Assignment

Reposted from May 13, 2013:

A cicada shell makes a great metaphor for a car–

My daughter sent me a creative writing assignment to print (her computer and the printer don’t like each other). This little story was so good, that I thought I would share it with you.

First comes the hesitant entering of the giant’s rusty square mouth. You can see the giant’s drool spurting upward as the bug that contains you shyly creeps into the awaiting jaws. The bug is suddenly jerked forward, and the metal lips jam shut behind you. The bug stops in the semi-darkness. The bug’s glass eyes are cold to the touch.

Something before you starts moving. Spittle washes over the metal exterior of your bug, and you scream. Then, a tongue with long, thin, rubbery tentacles slaps the eyes and body of your bug. Everything stops. The bug, still alive, crawls forward, carefully, inch by inch. An opening appears ahead, flooding the darkness with light. The bug quickens its pace, and is instantly blasted with warm air. The bug leaps for the opening, jolting you inside it. It shakes off the spit and scurries away, frightened as much as you. Another adventure, another day ended.

Wasn’t that fantastic writing? If you like it, please leave a comment. Thanks!