Tonight’s the Night: Allaigna’s Song Launches!

Allaignas SongIt’s been a long time coming … I started writing Allaigna’s Song: Overture (well, just Allaigna really, because I didn’t have a title and I didn’t know there were going to be three books) over a decade ago.  It went through about 13 drafts before I started serializing it in Pulp Literature and since then its been edited, copy-edited, proofread, and generally tinkered with many more times.

So yeah, this is it — the day I release it to the world in its final form.  Set in paper, if not in stone.  No more changes.

Which means its time to party!

The launch is being held at Steamworks Brewing Co. in Gastown, beginning at 6pm.  Come hungry because the food is great … as is the beer!  We’ll eat and drink first, socialize a bit, and then have some readings from several Pulp Lit authors including Issue 15’s Brenda Carre, and our poetry editor Daniel Cowper.  Then there will be signings and DOOR PRIZES!  Be sure to print your free RSVP ticket to enter.

I hope you’ll come out and celebrate with me tonight.  I’m looking forward to that first beer immensely, and the second one even more.

Pulp Literature Summer Launch
Monday 10 July, 6 – 9pm
Steamworks Brewing Co. 375 Water St, Vancouver
Free to attend, but please RSVP

Eventbrite - Pulp Literature Summer Launch

Pulp Literature Issue 15 and Allaignas Song

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On the Mark(ings)

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Green Spur, or first rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Identification

Part II: Points, Colours and Markings

Last week we looked at breeds and types, which is the most general way of identifying horses.  This week we’ll narrow down and look at more specific identification.


Your horse’s anatomy forms an important part of his identification and is helpful in communicating with others.  You might have to tell the vet over the phone that your horse has a cut on his near hind gaskin, just above the hock; or you might  make a note on his identity sheet that he has a few white hairs behind his poll on the off side.  For Level 1 we asked that you know 20 simple points of the horse.  For Level 2 you’ll need to know them all, including the external parts of the hoof.  They can be found on the frontispiece of your Manual of Horsemanship, and by searching ‘equine anatomy’ online.  To test yourself, take a few quizzes, like this one:

Colours & Markings

For Level 2 we don’t expect you to know any more coat colours than necessary for Level 1, but we do want you to add markings into the mix.  Markings are white areas on the legs and face, black spots within those areas, and black areas on a non-black horse, known as points (not to be confused with anatomical points, above).

Face Markings

Star, strip & snip

A blaze & white lip

Star: a patch of white on the brow which does not extend down the face.

Strip or Stripe: a thin line of white running down the nose, which may or may not be connected to a star.

Blaze: a wide swath of white running the length of the face, approximately as wide as the nasal bones.

Snip: a small white patch on the muzzle

White lip: a patch of white on the lower lip, sometimes from a blaze that continues all the way down the muzzle

Bald face: white that covers the front of the face past the width of the eyes.

Leg Markings

In general leg markings are called socks, but they are further defined by their height.

Coronet: a band of white hairs just above the hoof

White heel: white on the bulbs of the heel only

Half-pastern: white which does not reach the fetlock

Sock: white which is at least as high as the fetlock, but does not reach the knee or hock

Half-cannon: a sock which goes approximately half way up the cannon.

Stocking: a sock that reaches at least in part past the knee or hock.

Unlike human hosiery, horse’s socks have irregular tops, so what may appear to be a half-cannon on the inner surface of the leg, may actually be a stocking on the outside.

Ermine Spots: black spots on white leg markings.

This Selle Francais stallion has a sock and stocking on his forelegs, and half-cannons on the hind. You can see his black legs above the socks, as well as his black mane, tail, ears and muzzle.

Colour Points

These are the black areas which help define horses like bays and buckskins, and are often present on young greys as well.  The five colour points are: tips of ears, muzzle, mane, tail, and legs.  Not all bays and buckskins will show black in the muzzle and ears, but mane, tail and legs will always have black.  Some horses will also show a dark dorsal stripe, which is a continuation of the tail colour, running along the spine.

Defining markings is never cut and dried, and what is a sock to one person is a half-cannon to another.

Colours are also slightly vague with variations like rose grey, strawberry roan silver black, seal brown, etc.  However, I find the genetics of coat colour fascinating.  This is not a requirement for any of our Horsemanship levels, but if you are interested in learning more about coat colours and genes you can play with this fun colour calculator:

 Next week: routines of the horse

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A review in the hand is worth …

What does an author need as much as whiskey, solitude, and a spouse with a steady income?


In today’s market, books live and die based on the eyeballs that chance across them online, and the more reviews a book has — good, bad, or indifferent — the more eyeballs will bounce that way. Eyeballs translate to sales, and sales translate to more whiskey, which translates to more books.  It’s a win-win situation for reader and author alike.

If you’ve read and liked a book, do the author a favour and leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.  Even if you don’t have time for a written review, a simple star rating is a huge help.  You’re also doing fellow readers a favour by letting them know where to find their next great read.

The Favour

So here’s the favour I’m asking.  If you’re one of the many people who have been reading Allaigna’s Song as its been serialized in Pulp Literature I would be extraordinarily grateful if you could leave a review on Goodreads.  It can be a 1-star, 5-star, or anything in between.  (Be honest!  You won’t hurt my feelings.  Honestly!)

The book launches July 10th, and having early reviews will really help it get up and running fast.

And while you’re there, take a minute or two to review some books by other authors.  We all thank you for it!


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A Breed for Every Need

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Green Spur, or first rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Horsemanship Level 2: Identification

Horses come in many shapes and sizes; display strange colours, such as chestnut, bay, buckskin and skewbald; have exotic body parts, such as pastern, stifle, dock and chestnut (no relation to the colour); and have other interesting markings such as black points, ermine spots, snips and stockings.

This is not just trivial knowledge used to impress your horsey girlfriend.  Being able to verbally identify a horse is important for clear communication, and vital if reporting a lost or stolen horse.  Colour, markings, and breeds are the simplest forms of identification.  You can pick a horse out in the field by these qualities without having to check the undercarriage for sex, or the underside of the lip for a tattoo.  A knowledge of horse breeds and types lets you know in advance what type of work a horse may be suitable for.

In Horsemanship Level 1 we asked you to identify colours, the near and off side, and  twenty simple points of the horse.  For Level 2 you will need to be able to:

2. Name and describe breeds, points, colours and markings of horses

This week we will look at Breeds and Types, and finish off the topic next week with points, colours and markings.

Breeds & Types

You don’t need to know all the breeds of horses in the world, but you should be able to identify several breeds of each type of horse.  Below are a few examples of each.  Look them up in a good breed book or online and familiarize yourself with their general characteristics and uses.


These are the draught breeds, used for pulling wagons and farm work.  Their ancestors were often used as warhorses, though most have been bred to be heavier and are now larger and less suited to riding than their forebears. Examples: Percheron, Clydesdale, Friesian, Belgian etc.

The Godolphin Arabian was one of the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred


Traditionally there are only two hot-blooded breeds, the Arabian, and its descendant, the Thoroughbred.  Both are fine-boned, athletic and often considered fiery.  Arabians are renowned for longevity and endurance, and Thoroughbred racehorses are the fastest horses in the world.  These breeds have been used extensively to improve other breeds.  Other breeds which are sometimes considered hot-blooded are the Akhal-Teke, Marwari, Kathiawari and similar older breeds of hot-climate horses.


All other horses except draughts, Arabians and Thoroughbreds, are considered warm-blooded.  This should not be confused with registered Warmbloods, such as the Hanoverian, Dutch Warmblood, Canadian Warmblood etc, which are controlled types with regulated studbooks.  It was once thought a warm-blooded horse was descended from a draught and hot-blooded cross, but this has not been proven true genetically.  Examples: Quarter Horse, Morgan, Appaloosa, Warmblood breeds, etc.


A Shetland mare and foal

The term ‘pony’ is a height classification as well as a type.  Any horse under 14.2 hands high (a hand is 4 inches), or 145cm is considered a pony. This means a small Arabian or Quarter Horse might be classed as a pony.  However, there are specific pony breeds as well.  Examples: Welsh, Shetland, Newfoundland, Pony of the Americas etc.

Light or Riding Horse

Any hot-blooded or warm-blooded horse.


What appears to be a Friesian Horse, 1568.

These are the breeds most directly developed as and descended from warhorses.  They tend to have an uphill build, made for power rather than speed, a cresty neck and flowing mane, and were often used as carriage horses and light draught horses as well.  They are visually impressive and often used in movies as well as haute école.  Examples: Lippizaner, Andalusian (Pur Raza Espagnol), Friesian, Canadian Horse, Knabstrupper, etc.

As you can see there is a fair bit of cross-over within types, just as there is variance within the breeds themselves.  At our barn Jolie, Jack and Flavie are all Canadian horses, but Jolie and Jack are more Baroque in their build and carriage, while Flavie is more of a light draught or riding horse.

next week: points, colours and markings

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Meet Brenda Carre’s ‘Gret’ in Pulp Literature 15

I’m delighted that Allaigna’s Song will be sharing centre stage with Pulp Literature Issue 15 at the Summer Launch on July 10th.  Not just because of S Ross Browne’s stunning cover painting The Huntress.  (Though I confess I might be jealous if Melissa Duncan hadn’t painted an equally stunning portrait of Allaigna).  No, it’s because the feature author for Issue 15 is Brenda Carre and I love her titular character Gret almost as much as Allaigna.

With ‘Gret’, Brenda Carre gives us the unique voice of a talented young vagabond who will risks her soul against magical forces to save a world that’s been anything but kind to her.  Here’s a sample …

My mam always told me there’s three ways to prosper best and all begin with L.

Location’s one. No prospering’s ever done by thief or witch if the job begins in the wrong place or time.  Lissome tongue was next.  No matter how much wisdom a gal had to her, good learning didn’t go far if she couldn’t talk her way out of a bad deal.  And last was Lightning touch. That meant the effortless sliding of nimble fingers in-and-out of pockets without being cotched.

With pithy observations like “Pirates’ll rut with a post if there ain’t no goats aboard, and the goats breathe easy if there’s girls,” and “Could’a put my heart in a sling and used it for shot,” Gret is one tough character you can’t help but love.

And I’m doubly sure you’ll love Brenda Carre when you meet her and hear her read.

Join us!

The Summer Launch of Allaigna and PL 15 is on Monday July 10th from 6 – 9pm.  The evening will begin with dinner and socializing before moving on to readings, signings, more socializing and more beer!  Be sure to RSVP and we’ll both look forward to seeing you on July 10th at Steamworks!

Eventbrite - Pulp Literature Summer Launch

Pre-order your books below to save a copy, and we’ll buy you a beer …

Pulp Literature Summer Launch

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Horsemanship Level 2: what’s old is new

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Green Spur, or first rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Our Horsemanship curriculum, like the Canadian Pony Club system it stems from, is designed to deepen and expand students’ knowledge in the key areas of horsemanship with each progressive level.  What starts as simple identification of colours, breeds and markings in levels one and two, becomes measuring and identification in level three, and conformation, teeth and aging in levels four and up.  We ask you to build upon your base of knowledge as you progress, which is why we often check that your foundation is strong.  Therefore the first item in the Level 2 Horsemanship checklist is:

1. All the level one requirements

“What!” you say, “I have to test level one all over again?”

Not quite.  If you did your level one and have been active in the program we will use the mark from your level one test.

If you are challenging level two, which many people with prior horse experience do, we will simply test levels one and two at the same time.  Many of the items on the list are similar, but we expect a higher degree of confidence and competence at this level.  For example, at both levels you will groom and tack up your horse, but at level two you need to be able to do this without any assistance from the examiner.

In either case, it is of benefit to review the level one material before heading out to your level two assessment.

Level One Horsemanship Review

1. Identify colour, near and off side, and twenty simple parts of the horse

2. Enter, approach and safely halter horse in stall or paddock

3. Lead horse out of stall or paddock, lead at the walk

4. Tie a quick release knot

5. Groom horse using basic grooming tools (dandy brush, curry comb, hoof pick)

6. Identify simple parts of saddle & bridle

7. Tack up (may be assisted)

8. Untack & clean bit

9. Basic feeding: succulents, grain, roughage & water

10. Stabling:  needs & habits of the horse

11. Demonstrate safety and common sense when working around horses

Next week: Points and markings

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Allaigna’s Song launches July 10th!

I hope my local peeps will be able to join me at Steamworks brew pub on the evening of Monday July 10th.  Not only will we be celebrating the launch of Pulp Literature Issue 15 (15!! How did that happen already?), I will at last be releasing Allaigna’s Song: Overture into the world in full-length novel format.Pulp Literature Double Launch: Pulp Literature Issue 15 & Allaigna's Song: Overture

It’s been a long but happy journey getting here, and now that she’s at the printer it’s like pregnancy month 8 all over again.  However, the nice thing about giving birth to a book rather than a baby is you don’t need to worry about what’s in your breastmilk, and I will be able to celebrate in style.  I plan to have more than one drink — after the readings are over of course — perhaps even three.  It would be great to see you all there and clink glasses with you!

Pulp Literature Double Launch
Allaigna’s Song: Overturen and PL Issue 15
Monday 10 July, 6pm – 9pm
Steamworks Brewing Co,
350 Water St, Vancouver
Free! but please RSVP

There are some deals to be had:  pre-order your copies of either Allaigna’s Song or PL Issue 15 on the Eventbrite site and we’ll buy you a beer (or drink of your choice) to help celebrate.

Eventbrite - Pulp Literature Summer Launch

If you can’t make it to the launch, there are consolation offers from Pulp Literature Pressin the form of $2, $5, and $10 off pre-orders between now and July 10th.  You can check those out on the Pulp Lit Book Launch page.

Whether in person or by mail, I can’t wait for you to hold my new baby!


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The Blue Spur Curriculum

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Green Spur, or first rank of the Mounted Combat program.

Having completed our blog tour through the Green Spur, it’s time to move on to Blue.

Blue Spur candidates are able horse-keepers with basic equine first aid knowledge, and are riding at a level that includes cantering, small jumps, and a secure and confident seat.  Swordplay from the falsemount and horse are part of regular training, and spear is added to the repertoire of weapons.  Accuracy and control are tested in mounted games, and Blue Spur candidates will have the opportunity to display these skills in public tournaments.

The Blue Spur Requirements include:

  • Horsemanship levels 2 & 3
  • Riding levels 2 & 3
  • Swordplay from the Ground
  • Swordplay from the Falsemount
  • Spear Fundamentals
  • Mounted Games
  • Reading of Xenophon

How long will it take to get my Blue Spur?

As with all ranks, this varies from student to student, and depends on how often you ride and train.  For a student attending on the Integrated Program, which includes two Cavaliere Classes and one Mounted Combat workshop per month it would take about a year to cover all the curriculum material, which breaks down like this:

  • Horsemanship level 2: two months (4 classes)
  • Horsemanship level 3: four months (8 classes)
  • Riding Level 2: six months (12 classes)
  • Riding Level 3: six months (12 classes)
  • Mounted Combat checklist: approximately 8 workshops

Achieving Riding level 3 is probably the most difficult part of the requirements if you haven’t been riding a long time prior to starting the program.  There is no substitute for time in the saddle, and a rider working towards her Blue Spur should expect to take advantage of as many Open Barns, Games Practices, and additional riding opportunities as possible.  Part leasing a horse, or taking additional riding lessons is also highly recommended.

Over the next few months I’ll cover the Blue Spur requirements in greater detail.  You’ll be able to find these articles under the tags “Blue Spur”, “Horsemanship” and “Riding”.

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Allaigna’s Cartography: mapping the Ilmar

Map of Narnia by Pauline Baynes. I still have this poster.

I love maps of all kinds.  Old maps and new ones.  Perspective, topographical, nautical, astronomical, representational, decorative, and functional.  My dog-eared London A-Z, the iconic tube map, and the amazingly detailed 17th century perspective drawings of the city all form part of what is ‘London’ in my mind.

But the earliest maps I fell in love with were maps of other worlds.  When I was growing up, the geographies of Narnia, Middle Earth, and Pern were more familiar to me than that of my home planet, thanks to the maps I flipped back to endlessly, and those that hung as posters on my bedroom wall.

So when Mel Anastasiou agreed to take Scott Fitzgerald Gray‘s wonderful map of the Ilmar and interpret it in classic fantasy-map style I was excited.  Now that I’ve seen it, I’m beyond thrilled!  Here’s a little piece of Allaigna’s homeland.  I can’t wait to show you the whole thing when Allaigna’s Song: Overture is released in July …

I hope you’ll be able to join me on July 10th for the dual launch of Allaigna’s Song and Pulp Literature Issue 15.  RSVP here!

Allaigna's Song: Overture











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Striking From the Saddle

This post was originally published on Academie Duello’s blog in April 2013, and is part of a series detailing the requirements for the Green Spur, or first rank of the Mounted Combat program.

The final item on the Green Spur checklist is:

Describe the mechanics required to keep your seat when striking from horseback.

Cadre NoirAnd here we come back to that Independant Seat once more.  It keeps cropping up because it is probably the most important component not just of mounted combat, but of all your riding endeavours.  Riders at the famous haute école riding schools such as the Spanish Riding School and the Cadre Noir spend two years on the longe-line developing their seat before they are allowed to touch the reins.

With a balanced seat you can do almost anything, from airs above the ground such as the courbette performed by the Cadre Noir on the right, to stabbing targets over jumps like the  tent-pegger below.

tent pegging 1920s

The secret to keeping your seat when delivering sword blows is the distribution of weight in your saddle.  When we ride, we don’t sit in the saddle — we merely rest our seat bones there.  Only 40% of your weight should be in your saddle’s seat (or less, when in light seat, and none at all in two point positon).  The remainder is divided evenly between the balls of your feet.  An even better seat would have 10% of your weight in each seat-bone, and 10% in each of your inner thighs, spread evenly throughout the saddle.

With your hips directly above your heels, and your knees above your toes, and your ankles flexed so the heels are down, your lower body is now in perfect mechanical balance.  From here you can use your shoulders and arms freely, delivering cuts in all directions, without disturbing your seat.

This image of a melee from the battle of Crécy illustrates leg position beautifully:  with all the chaos around them, and the fact one combatant is about to stabbed in the back of the head, the riders never lose their leg position or base of support.


However, many illustrations also show riders with their legs pushed forward in long stirrups, with their seats braced against the high cantle, as in this picture of England’s Henry VI.

Henry VI

According to Duarte, this appeared to be a matter of personal preference and regional custom.  The braced seat, while useful when jousting or charging with a lance, provides much less balance and flexibility for delivering sword blows. The fact this position appears more often in highly stylized illustrations also makes me wonder artistic preference tended to exaggerate it.

I have found when teaching beginners that some people have a naturally balanced seat, while for others it takes much more work.  The good news, however, is that with enough practice, everybody can develop an independant seat.  If you don’t have the opportunity to spend time in the saddle every day, don’t despair: there are ways you can improve your seat with nary a horse in sight.

  • Stand with your feet a horse-width apart on the bottom stair or a doorsill, with just the toes balls of your feet resting on the step.  Bend your knees and find your balance.  This is exactly the position your legs need to be in when riding.  Practice it ever chance you get.
  • Sit backwards on chairs, with your heels beneath your hips.  If you have yoga blocks or phone books, put them under your toes so you can lower your heels.
  • ‘Ride’ a large exercise ball or a barrel. Practice lengthening your inner thigh along the surface of the barrel and feel your weight distributed evenly from seat-bone to knee.
  • Visualize.  The brain is an amazing organ that can train your muscles without moving them.  Even lying in bed and thinking about the feel of your body in the saddle will help your adopt a better position next time you get on a horse.

This concludes the series of posts that walk you through the Green Spur.  To review the material you can search under the tags Horsemanship 1, Riding 1, and Green Spur.

next: The Blue Spur Curriculum

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