Chronicles and Conundrums
Blog Date 11/12/2020
It's here at last!
Forging of a Knight has its own official website! Lots of fun stuff from here will be transferred over - namely, interviews and convention/signings updates/pics, but there will be a direct shop soon for all sort of Forging of a Knight goodies, an easier way to connect with me, a blog page, and more!! It's still not fully baked, but you'll see more as I update over time. So come by and say hello...again!!
Blog Date 11/14/2020
A Gary Gygax trek to Lake Geneva, WI
I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons/Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy role-playing game created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, by my 7th grade teacher, who brought her collection of gaming manuals and miniature lead figures used for the game into her classroom to teach leadership, creativity, and how to work in a team. I became hooked, collected my own manual copies as well as various miniatures, and played both on the dungeon master side and on the player character side. Atari, comics, Star Wars, and AD&D - talk about a golden era of imagination back then!
Back in 2019, I decided to take a day to visit Lake Geneva, the birthplace of D&D/AD&D, and see if I could find some of the hidden gaming landmarks amongst the boutiques, resorts, wineries, and bistros (including the many mansions owned by such families as the Wrigleys, Schwinns, and others that a lake cruise tour can bring to one's attention). Would the quest be fruitful?
Here we have Gary Gygax's home at 925 Dodge Street in Lake Geneva. When he was just a kid, Gary and his family moved from Chicago to this stately home - the home of his mother's parents - back in 1946. Not sure who owns this now, of course, but they have obviously done a great job maintaining this residence.
In 1976, Tactical Studies Rules (TSR), the company Gary founded to produce the D&D game that both he and Dave Arneson created, takes up a house on 723 Williams Street in Lake Geneva to be their new office/hobby store location. It was known as "The Gray House." Again, its obviously currently inhabited, but hey, it's still there!
Lakefront at Lake Geneva, the Riviera.
And here it is in greater detail - a plaque honoring Gary Gygax. A hidden gem indeed!
Horticultural Hall - where Gen Con started back in August of 1968. Nearly 100 gamers and fans attended that initial gaming convention. Compare this to Gen Con's attendance in 2017 of nearly 208,000 fans who came from around the world to attend the event now located in downtown Indianapolis, IN. I wonder if any present at that inaugural day would ever have believed the growth that was going to take place?
A front view of Horticultural Hall, the birthplace of Gen Con.
This is it. In the early 60's, Gary got married and moved back to Chicago. Just a few years later he would return to Lake Geneva to rent this house at 330 Center Street. Here he builds an infamous gaming table in his basement to host various miniature wargames - and eventually this is the birthplace where the D&D game was created.
Blog Date 11/18/2020
The Price of a Kiss and the Loathly Lady
With Forging of a Knight, Knighthood’s End, there is a wonderful part whose inspiration demands to be told.
When Qualtan faces off against the Kubare’ Queen in the hopes of freeing Vanessa, the Kubare’ Qualtan has fallen in love with, the Queen forces a choice (in effect a magical spell) to prove his love. To show his love was not based solely on the appeasing form of the Kubare’, Vanessa was forced to reveal the “other” side to her form – a horrible, demonic, monstrous form. Could he still love her then? Qualtan said he could, surprising all the Kubare’ present by giving Vanessa a kiss in her uglier, sharp-toothed shape, but the Queen was not convinced. The two halves of Vanessa’s personality were permanent, the Queen insisted, and could not be separated. He would have to choose – would he wish to see her “human” form during the day for all to see, and have her more horrid form visible solely at night, or the reverse? The Queen was sure his love would falter with this forced choice…how could it not?
So as not to spoil the result, I’ll leave it to the readers who will know what happens next.
This scene was inspired by the motif of the Loathly Lady, which seems to have been a hit back in old Irish and British tales. The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle, a version of the “Loathly Lady”, is a classic example. In a nutshell, King Arthur goes off on his own into a magical forest in pursuit of a white deer (white usually meaning an enchanted creature). He succeeds in hunting down the beast, but upon slaying it, is suddenly confronted by a knight. For the offense of killing the otherworldly deer, the knight gives a question, and demands that the King must return in one year with the answer. So what was the question?
Basically, it was this…“What do women want the most?”
The King ends up encountering a particularly nasty-looking hag, who says she can help him by providing the answer to the question. In return, the King would have to allow one of his knights, Sir Gawain to be exact, to marry her. With little choice, the King informs Sir Gawain of his predicament, and being his nephew as well as an honorable knight loyal to his King, the knight agrees.
So the deal is cast, the King is saved, and Sir Gawain brings to the royal court the evil-looking hag, humped, smelly, and drooling, as his wife-to-be. When those in the court began to point and laugh, he warns them to honor her as his bride, treating the hag with all the courtesy and respect he would give to any woman.
When the marriage is completed, and the couple retire to their bedroom chamber, the hag demands Sir Gawain fulfills his role as a husband (you can figure that one out!). Sir Gawain stands by his decision to be her husband in all ways and agrees. He’s suddenly shocked when the hag transforms into a beauteous woman! She states she is under a spell, and that he must choose when she can look attractive – at day or at night? He thinks on it, and decides it is up to her to make that choice. By doing so, he broke the charm over her, and she became beautiful permanently, for he had given her what the knight of the enchanted forest had asked of the King to answer – for a woman to have the control/freedom to make choices/decisions for herself.
This representation is usually based on one of two themes – the freedom of women, or the freedom of the land.
There is a similar (almost identical) story in the Wife of Bath’s Tale from The Cantebury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. And then there is the Celtic, “Adventures of the Sons of Eochaid Mugmedon”, where a future King-to-be and his band of brothers goes off looking for a source of water. They find it, yet again, guarded by an ugly-looking hag. In order to sample the water, the price would be a kiss. All of the brothers balk, except for the Prince, who kisses the hag and gains his kingship, as the hag becomes beautiful.
There is also per Wikipedia the European tale of the pig faced woman – where in similar fashion, a women is cursed to have her face become that of a pig’s and her husband must choose when to allow her to be seen in this porcine state. The husband gives his suffering bride the choice, and the curse goes away – although apparently this story changed over time and began to be taken as literal truth with actual “sightings” and such – just check YouTube or Google on this one!
For Knighthood’s End, I thought it would be interesting to reverse the plight – rather than an obvious ugly evil hag, it was an attractive woman, and thus the rather sad plight of the Kubare’ could be seen – their beauty easily fallen for, love initially gained, but then the rejection that would come upon seeing the darker side to their face, proving the love that had been given was false. This also played into their rejection of such feelings, preferring to lose themselves in darker hungers, as a way of self-denial and avoidance of the pain they felt because of their cursed state.
That switch, and the concept of the Loathly Lady isn’t just found in old Middle Age stories. There are modern versions that are quite familiar. Beauty and the Beast (reversed to the male vs. the female) is one, where professed love to an evil looking Beast bring out a handsome Prince, as well as The Princess and the Frog (again, the modern version, since the old Brothers Grimm version didn’t offer such a happy ending) - even a certain Disney cartoon about an ogre named Shrek seems to have some roots to the Loathly Lady.
You can easily see references to feminism, to free will, or the basic adage of what’s inside being more important than what is on the outside in the themes related to the Loathly Lady, or perhaps in some of the above examples, of a Loathly Man. In Qualtan’s and Vanessa’s case, there was another aspect to the tale to be considered…one of hope, in the power that lies behind the emotion called love.
Here are some cool references to check out:
Blog Date 12/21/2020
I wanted to give a big and hearty "Thank You". With a year fraught with extreme political polarization, COVID, high unemployment, isolation, and more, it's been a challenging time for all of us. I am honored by those readers who have picked up copies in the Forging of a Knight series during this horrendous time, and hopefully they have given you some small measure of escape and enjoyment during this global travail.
Who am I thanking? Forging of a Knight received some amazing support this year, and now that we are in that wonderful week leading up to Christmas, where ol' Kris is still going to be out there making his holiday run, it's time for some shout outs:
Thank you to the folks at Lulu.com for getting Book Seven of Forging of a Knight, Against the Alliance, completed at last!
Thank you to Zyro for the ease in getting the Forging of a Knight website launched!
Thank you to the many new readers who joined the Knighthood - I had set up some aggressive sales numbers to meet this year, and despite all, Qual and his pals achieved it, selling more copies than ever before!
Thank you to the folks who were willing to put ink to quill pen and put out some reviews on Amazon and other platforms: 20+ at last count, spread out through a variety of the books!
Hopefully, we will all be able to have a better year in 2021. Blessings and virtual hugs/high-fives to all the readers out there! Here's a fun final holiday image to enjoy from Dragon Magazine, December 1980, #44, written by Douglas Loss. Dragon was a fun gaming magazine that ran from 1976 to 2007 produced by TSR (creators of the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game, among others), until TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast, eventually restarting the magazine as a digital house organ-only publication. During its run, the mag covered a variety of areas related to gaming, mostly TSR gaming products but also other company products as well - reviews, character articles, cartoons, advice columns, convention details, interviews, and more.
Take a look at the image, and you'll get a taste of some of its earlier gaming flavor...Santa Clause reviewed in terms of a ...gaming character?!
Happy Holidays, everyone! Stay mindful and safe out there!!
Blog Date 1/7/2021
Happy New Year - difficult start to the New Year with the continuing COVID dilemma, the chaos at our US Capitol and Urgsh knows what else! Makes me think its time to look forward to the New Year...in 2022!! Seriously, though, moving forward, I hope the apparent growing inability by some to be polite, debate rationally, and respect the fact we will have different opinions will use the current shocking events to contemplate that hey, it's ok if we don't agree on everything, without the need for baiting, profanity, and hate-fueled shaming. I may not agree with your position, but I can respect your view and see where you are coming from without condemning you to Those That Stand in Shadow because of it! We need to heal and bring the understanding that we are all in this thing called life together, and despite the many differences we have, it's those differences that make us all so unique and wonderfully special, not something to divide us, but to learn and take value from!
Moving from the heady stuff, so I've been asked when was my first attempt at writing something for public view? Not counting school, it wasn't Forging of a Knight - it was a letter that got published in Marvel Comics' Iron Man comic, Vol. 3, #58, October 2002 issue - for those who don't collect comics or don't plan to ever read any Iron Man from this far back, here it is in all of its stilted, overly formal glory...
Blog Date 2/10/2021
It's here! Spellfury is back!
I love this Youtube series - and not only had the first book in the Forging of a Knight advertised on it awhile ago, I also had the great opportunity to do an interview with the series creator/director Travis Gordon (which you can find on the Interviews of FOAK Friends tab, 'natch!
Season 3! Episode 1! Check it out, by Urgsh!!
Blog Date 5/18/2021
Forging of a Knight book two, Rise of the Slavekeepers, has cracked the top 100!
Where? In Amazon's Sword and Sorcery/Epic Fantasy categories, that's where (at least at the time of this blog addition, since these category rankings can change every minute, lol)! Why not see what the fuss is all about? Join the adventure - today! Tell 'em Urgsh sent ya!
ASIN : B00FM4GUJE
Publisher : lulu (October 2, 2013)
Publication date : October 2, 2013
Language : English
File size : 1313 KB
Simultaneous device usage : Unlimited
Text-to-Speech : Enabled
Screen Reader : Supported
Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
X-Ray : Not Enabled
Word Wise : Enabled
Print length : 434 pages
Lending : Enabled
Customer Reviews: 4.4 out of 5 stars 12 ratings