Welcome to the Christian Fiction Scavenger Hunt! If you’ve just discovered the hunt, be sure to start at Stop #1, and collect the clues through all the stops, in order, so you can enter to win one of our top 5 grand prizes!
• The hunt BEGINS on 3/18 at noon MST with Stop #1 at LisaTawnBergren.com
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• There is NO RUSH to complete the hunt—you have all weekend (until Sunday, 3/21 at midnight MST)! So take your time, reading the unique posts along the way; our hope is that you discover new authors/new books and learn new things about them.
• Submit your entry for the grand prizes by collecting the CLUE on each author’s scavenger hunt post and submitting your answer in the Rafflecopter form at the final stop, back on Lisa’s site. Many authors are offering additional prizes along the way!
I’m Carla Laureano, award-winning author of contemporary romance, women’s fiction, and historical fantasy! It may not seem like those genres have a lot in common, but my favorite thing is showing how people react to and overcome adversity, whether it’s the loss of a job in the real world or finding out they have magic in a fictional one. You can find out more about me and my books here on this site, or you can visit me on Facebook, Instagram, or BookBub for additional information. My newest release is the Celtic fantasy series starter, Oath of the Brotherhood. Here’s what it’s about:
In an island kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a musician and a follower of a forbidden faith—problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.
When Conor is sent away to a neighboring kingdom to secure a treaty, he learns that his ability with the harp is a talent that traces back to the magical foundations of a once-united Seare. But his newfound home is soon placed in peril, entangling Conor in a plot that has been unfolding since long before his birth.
Only by leaving both kingdoms behind and committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—including the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?
This book incorporates three things I love dearly: Ireland, romance, and fantasy fiction. If you’re a newcomer to the genre and don’t know if it’s your thing… or you’re not even sure where to start, you’re in luck. I’ve compiled a super easy, super abbreviated reference guide so the next time you’re staring down that Fantasy & Sci Fi section in the bookstore, you’ll know exactly what to look for!
Carla’s Super Simple Fantasy Guide for Beginners
My first published books were contemporary romance, so most readers are surprised to find out that I’m also a fantasy writer. The comment I hear most often is not “I don’t like fantasy” but “How do I even know if I might like fantasy?”
I get it. The genre can be intimidating, simply because it spans a wide spectrum from historically plausible to completely invented, from recognizable to utterly foreign.
So, if you’re one of the newcomers to the genre and you’re not sure where to start, here’s a handy-dandy guide to fantasy genres to guide you on your way.
High fantasy is a descriptor for a story that takes place in a fully made-up world with its own rules, culture, and often its own magic. It has a high amount of fantastic or fictional elements. This is the form of the genre that most people think of when they talk about fantasy.
Examples: Lord of the Rings, A Game of Thrones, The Mark of the Raven, Oath of the Brotherhood
Low fantasy, in contrast to its counterpart, high fantasy, is a story that takes place in our recognizable “real” world, whether it be modern times or a historical time period, in which fantasy or magical elements intrude or co-exist. It has a low amount of fantastic or fictional elements.
Examples: Harry Potter, Twilight, City of Bones, Storm Front
Epic fantasy is often conflated with high fantasy, but it doesn’t necessarily have to take place in a fully made-up world. Epic fantasy generally takes a wide-angle view, concerning itself more with big events and world-ending consequences, often involves a quest, and may follow one or very few characters through a big, overarching story.
Examples: Lord of the Rings, Tigana
Portal fantasy is a subgenre in which the characters are literally transported by magic from the real world, through some sort of door or passage, into a fantasy world. This is a very common sub-type among children’s fiction, because it allows readers to discover a fantastic world through the eyes of a character who possesses the same points of reference as their own. In some ways, it’s a combination of high and low fantasy.
Examples: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Ten Thousand Doors of January, The Summer Tree
Sword-and-sorcery is often looked down upon when it comes to fantasy subgenres, but it can be of the most fun! Books in this subgenre usually focus on the fighting prowess of a main heroic character; sometimes the protagonist possesses magic himself, but often he fights sorcery with nothing more than a sword and his own cleverness. The lead is often, but not always, male. (Actually, I could do with some more female sword-and-sorcery? Someone? Anyone?)
Examples: Conan the Barbarian, The Blade Itself, Silverglass, Xena: Warrior Princess (novelizations)
Historical Fantasy/Alternate History
I’ve grouped historical fantasy and alternate history into the same category, because often authors who write in one subgenre also write in the other. The main difference is that the historical fantasy world is modeled on an existing historical culture or uses historical events only for inspiration; alternate history uses real world history up to a particular point, then diverges from it, either because of the emergence of magic or because of supernatural/time travel/magical interference. (You can also have largely-realistic alternate history that does not fall into the fantasy genre, such as The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick.)
Examples: Sailing to Sarantium, The Dark Mirror, Oath of the Brotherhood, Clan of the Cave Bear
As you can see, several of the example books fit into several different categories, including my own book, Oath of the Brotherhood. In it, I borrowed from the real-life history and culture of ancient Ireland to create a new fantasy world in which magic and religion collide and the fate of the nation hangs on the bravery of an unlikely trio of characters.
Did you discover any new genres/subgenres today? Is there one in particular that you’re excited to try? Do you have a favorite fantasy subgenre that I didn’t cover?
Here’s the Stop #12 Basics:
If you’re interested, you can order Oath of the Brotherhood on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook, or at your local bookstore!
Clue to Write Down: and ready
Link to Stop #13, the Next Stop on the Loop: Carrie Turansky’s site!
But wait! Before you go, enter my giveaway below to win your own hardcover copy of Oath of the Brotherhood and this beautiful hand-tooled leather Celtic knot bookmark!
I’m a sucker for battle and swordplay in fantasy novels. It probably comes from my own martial arts background—I studied the Korean art of Tang Soo Do for five years and earned my first-degree black belt, then moved on to kung fu where after two years, I earned an intermediate rank in the White Lotus style. Shortly after that, I took up foil fencing at a studio in Southern California. While the studio is best known for stage fencing, I, having a bit of a masochistic personality, asked for the strictest teacher they had and ended up with a former Russian Olympic coach whose favorite word seemed to be “Again!” Between having gotten soundly beaten in my Chinese weapons training and being quickly humiliated by my fellow students in this western martial art, it became pretty clear to me that all the depictions in fantasy of farm boys who pick up a sword for the first time and show a preternatural ability with it are just… well, fantasy.
That’s why when I decided to use the weakling-to-warrior trope in my own novel, I wanted Conor’s progress to be based on something other than wishful thinking. Enter the training montage section of the book.
Sure, a lot more is going on in the time that Conor spends with the Fíréin brotherhood than just learning the sword (I’m really not giving anything away here… after all, the book is called Oath of the Brotherhood), but if I was going to have him fight some spectacular battles, I was going to make sure that he had legitimately earned the skills to do so. It’s one thing to be able to pick up a sword and defend yourself against the average landholder who doesn’t fight for a living; it’s another to hold your own against professional warriors. I gave him some natural talent with which to accomplish these feats, but mostly I gave him single-minded determination and a compelling reason to become one of Seare’s most skilled swordsmen.
While the making of a warrior might be a common theme in fantasy novels, the making of Conor into a warrior was based in sound, if somewhat brutal, reality.
Do you enjoy fight scenes in adventure, fantasy, and suspense novels? Which book has your favorite one? Comment below for your daily entry to win your own copy of the limited hardcover edition of Oath of the Brotherhood and don’t forget your extra one-time entries as well!
This week, I’ve been sharing the background and inspiration for my new release, the inspirational Celtic fantasy, Oath of the Brotherhood, as well as offering a chance to win your very own hardcover copy! (Outside US-winners will receive an e-book.)
To enter to win, simply complete the one time entries (newsletter sign-up/social media follows) and comment on any or all of the following blog posts. A comment on each individual post will get you an extra entry.
The Myth of the Magic Swordsman (live on Monday 1/18)
Get started with the widget below and then feel free to click through the posts above for your extra entries! Good luck!
While Oath of the Brotherhood is 100% fiction, I enjoyed using a backdrop of the real culture of Ancient Ireland from about the 3rd century to the 7th century for my fictional Seare. We tend to believe that the peoples and cultures outside Rome at that time were barbarians (partially thanks to the fact that most of our records come through the Romans…) but in truth, Ireland was an advanced civilization with customs and habits that are much more consistent with our understanding today.
- The ancient Irish loved bathing. – While people on the continent either didn’t have access to or were suspicious of daily baths, the Irish were extremely fastidious with their personal hygiene. Bathing was quite usual among the upper classes, and stories from the era reflect that guests were often offered the use of a bath when coming to a keep or monastery. There is also plenty of evidence that the upper class warriors would bathe while on the march or encamped during war, which suggests that cleanliness was of the utmost importance.
- The ancient Irish were obsessed with their hair. – It wasn’t just cleanliness that was important (though we’re told in many manuscripts that clean hair should be combed smooth after the daily bath), but fashion as well. Both men and women wore their hair long and in elaborate coils, which must have been done with some sort of primitive curling iron and suggests the interest of professional hairdressers. Men are also spoken of having their hair done in “hooks and plaits and swordlets.” The illuminations in the Book of Kells backs up this standard of fashion, as every figure within it, including the angels, has his or her hair elaborately dressed.
- The ancient Irish wore kilts. – We associate the kilt with the Scots after the 17th century, but drawings, carvings, and illuminated manuscripts well before the 11th century demonstrated that the garment was worn in Ireland as well. Likewise, the tartan pattern may have had its origins in Ireland, though traditionally the pattern is tied to a county or province and not a single clan. While this clearly would have been historically correct, the kilt is so strongly associated with Scotland that I decided not to incorporate into the world of Seare. Instead, men wear knee-length tunics, over which is worn a close-fitting jacket or vest and leg-coverings/trews/trousers, which is also consistent with Celtic tribes in the first millennium.
- The ancient Irish (almost) worshipped weapons. – Weapons in pagan Ireland were so important that they were sometimes treated as though they were sentient or outright worshipped. This gave rise to the practice of swearing oaths of them, a practice that I borrowed with the Fíréin and their oath-binding ceremony. Of course, the oath-binding sword was a little more special than the standard blade…and if the ancient Irish had’ve come across that in the course of actual history, it would be understandable that they’d think it had a mind of its own!
- The ancient Irish didn’t necessarily raise their own children. – There was a centuries-long tradition of fosterage, not just within the very wealthy, but in lower classes as well, where children would be sent to live with another family within the clan. They might be sent away as young as a year old and brought back at marriageable age (seventeen for boys, fourteen for girls). In the meantime, the children would be raised as a member of the foster family and be educated according to their station; sometimes this was done for love, others for payment. Regardless, the ties between foster-child and foster-parents were often stronger than those with their birth parents and considered sacred. While I’ve nowhere seen it spelled out why this is a principal feature of Irish culture, it seems reasonable that it was done to strengthen ties within a clan and outside individual bloodlines. Children could also be sent to literary or ecclesiastical fosterages, where they would be educated as scribes or priests. A number of early Irish saints were fostered in this manner, and it seems a reasonable way to educate acolytes for specialized service. As Oath of the Brotherhood begins, it’s differences on what constitutes an appropriate education that gets Conor in hot water and has him sent to a neighboring king as a hostage for their peace treaty.
While many of the other details of Seare were changed or completely invented, Ireland’s rich history and surprisingly advanced culture was the perfect canvas upon which to build a new fantasy civilization.
Did you learn anything new? Leave me a comment below and get your daily entry to win a hardcover copy of Oath of the Brotherhood. And don’t forget to complete your one-time tasks for extra entries!