Today Working for the Mandroid is hosting author Resa Nelson on her blog tour for the Dragonslayer series. Make sure to stick around to the end to see how you can receive a free mini e-book of "Dragonslayer Stories" and how to enter to win copies of the first two books in the series, The Dragonslayer's Sword and The Iron Maiden. You can learn more about the Resa and the Dragonslayer series at her website, www.resanelson.com. Take it away, Resa!
How Physical Research Helped Me Write a Specific Scene
by Resa Nelson
In addition to doing library research for my 4-book Dragonslayer series, I did a good amount of physical research. Because my main character is a female blacksmith, one of the most important things I did was take a course in blacksmithing. During my 10-week course, I took notes about everything I saw, smelled, tasted, heard, and touched. I paid close attention to the changes a fire goes through while you're building it. I absorbed the different colors iron takes while it's heating and what those colors mean. I embraced specific details, like the fact that when you hammer iron, something called “slag” flakes out of the iron. Slag is an impurity within the iron and it emerges in a seemingly magical way when you hammer iron. But I had one very specific blacksmithing experience that I called upon when I wrote the first book (The Dragonslayer's Sword) in my series.
Our teacher gave us an assignment that would take two classes to complete. It's common for blacksmiths to forge their own tools, and we were told and shown how to make a pair of tongs. You use tongs to pick up a piece of iron out of the fire, place the iron on the anvil, hold that iron on the anvil while you hammer it, and plunge it into water to quench it. Tongs are like a pair of scissors in that there are two pieces riveted together so you can open and close them. During the first class I forged the first half of the tong and felt thrilled with the result. It had come out exactly the way I'd envisioned it. Happily, I looked forward to the next class where I'd forge the second piece and then rivet the two pieces together. How exciting that I'd then be able to use a tool I'd made myself!
But the next week nothing went right. It started with the fire. Usually I have a good touch with fire. I'd learned how to build a good forging fire and keep it going. But my fire was … well … weird. It burned inconsistently and didn't seem to get hot enough, no matter what I did. I'd put the bar of iron in and let it heat for the time it needed to get to a good forging heat, but when I'd pull the iron of the fire it wasn't hot enough so I'd have to stick it back in the fire and let it keep heating. After doing this several times, I felt irritated. So I left it in much longer than usual, determined to get it to the right heat.
When I pulled the iron out of the fire, it glowed yellowish white and threw off sparks like a 4th-of-July sparkler. My heart sank. Our teacher had warned us against overheating iron and had described the warning signs. I knew immediately that my iron had overheated - it was ruined. Useless. All I could do was throw it away. And it was too late in the class to get started on a new piece. I had not only ruined the day's work - I'd ruined the entire pair of tongs. I felt heartbroken.
Long after my course ended, I was working on the first book in the Dragonslayer series and needed my main character to feel frustrated and angry and hopeless while she worked. Immediately, I remembered my ruined tongs. One of the chapters in The Dragonslayer's Sword begins with my main character overheating and ruining a piece of iron, and that scene comes from direct experience.
Ironically, I think sometimes it's more important to fail than succeed. If I'd made my pair of tongs easily and effortlessly, I never would have had the experience of overheating iron and would have struggled to come up with a scene where my main character gets upset because she fails.
During this blog tour I'm telling lots of stories about the research I've done for my Dragonslayer series. You can find out where I've been and where I'm going next by checking my website (http://www.resanelson.com), my Facebook page (Resa Nelson & The Dragonslayer's Sword), or following me on Twitter (ResaNelson).
If you'd like to sample my work for free, you can download a free “mini” ebook called “Dragonslayer Stories” from my website at http://www.resanelson.com/files. No cost, no obligation, nothing to sign up for, no information gathering. I like giving away samples of my work so you can decide for yourself whether you like it or not. If you do, you can enter to win a copy of the first two books in my series, which I'll give away at the end of this tour on Feb. 14. To enter, just send email to ResaBonusGifts@aol.com. (I won't keep your email address - this just makes it easier for me to keep track of entries.) I'm also doing a book giveaway on GoodReads, so you can enter to win there at http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/19270-the-dragonslayer-s-sword.
Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.
Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Her first novel, The Dragonslayer's Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award, the highest honor in science fiction and fantasy. It was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll.The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in a 4-book series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was recently published. Book 3 is scheduled for publication in Summer 2012.
Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."
In real life, Resa is a fan of chocolate, travel, summer, museums, ballet, movies, and Broadway musicals (her favorites are Les Miserables and Wicked). She lives in Massachusetts.
About the Dragonslayer series:
For Astrid, a blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers, the emergence of a strange gemstone from her body sets in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy her life. Her happiness is shattered when her lover--the dragonslayer--disappears without a trace, and the life that she knows and loves implodes without warning.
Astrid lives in a world of shapeshifters whose thoughts have the power to change not only themselves but others. Everything Astrid knows to be true is called into question when she learns the truth about her past and the mysterious family from which she was separated as a child.
Reality turns inside out as Astrid gradually learns the truth about the people she loves as well as those she disdains. With the fate of dragons, ghosts, and slaves in foreign lands resting on her shoulders, Astrid faces the challenge of deciding who she is and how she will stand up inside her own skin. Will she withdraw and hide from the world that has disappointed her so much...or will she rise to lead others to freedom and peace?
Astrid is reluctant to travel the winter route beyond the Northlands, even though it's her duty. She'd rather stay home in her village, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Ignoring the bonds of tradition, she decides to spend the cold winter months in the warmth of her blacksmithing shop. Why should she leave the comfort of her cottage to serve and protect foreigners who might raid and harm her native Northlands?
Everything changes when a traveling merchant steals Starlight, the first dragonslayer's sword Astrid forged and her last link to her sweetheart DiStephan. Having no time to alert her friends, Astrid races in pursuit of the merchant, determined to reclaim Starlight as her own and return home in time for dinner. Instead, her quest leads her to new lands, unexpected friendships with foreigners, and a harrowing encounter with the damage done by the followers of a new god that considers women as nothing more than servants to men. All the while, she must be ready to face any dragon traveling the winter route.
In Book 2 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid must learn that deciding who she is isn't a decision she can make just once. It's a decision she must make every day.