Strassur the Red Panther

Toughts of a Reader and a Writer

Watch “Audio Short Story, Added Scene to the Patriot” on YouTube

I narrated one of my short stories that I had to write for my graduate program. I added a scene into the movie the Patriot with Mel Gibson and Heath Ledger. My scene shows the love of Benjamin and the aunt, Charlotte, starting to blossom after the death of one of his sons. Enjoy and let me know what you think. Cheers

Audio Short Story, Added Scene to the Patriot:


Writing Prompt for Next Episode

I am about to publish my next episode of Audio Fantasy Knowledge.  I thought I would give the writing prompt early and see if we can get some of your stories on the air.  If you want to write a paragraph or two in response to the prompt, as long as it is medieval or fantasy based, I may read it on the air and publish it here as well.  And of course, I will give you shout out.

Here goes the prompt:

Let the battle begin!

That’s it.  I like to keep them short so where you run with it is less restricted.  Can’t wait to hear.


The Wife of Bath’s Tale

The Tale begins by talking about the old days of King Arthur and the fairies and supernatural beings that walked among the land.  The narrator mentions an evil being like no other, “Ther is noon other incubus but he” (886).  It sounds like Arthur dispatched a young knight to search for the evil creature, but instead he became distracted by a maiden that was seen in the woods.  After raping her, Arthur sentenced the knight to death.  The queen begged Arthur to spar the knight, which he finally agreed.  She asked him, “What thing it is that women most desiren” (911).  She warned to think hard and if he does not know, he will have twelve months to find the answer.  The knight took his leave and searched everywhere, relying on God’s grace to guide him to the answer, but nowhere could he find two responses that agreed with each other, “Some saiden women loven best richesse;/ Some saide honour, some saide jolinesse;/ Some rich array, some saiden lust abedde” (931-933).

He eventually sees twenty four women dancing in the forrest.  Hoping to gain some insight to the Queens question, he rears his horse to discover all but an ugly woman remains, “A fouler wight ther may no man devise” (1005).  She makes a deal to give him the answer he needs, based on her experience up to being an old woman, but in return he must marry her.  The young knight returns to the court and tells the queen his answer, “Wommen desire to have sovereinetee (dominion)/ As wel over hir housbonde as hir love” (1044-1045).  The old lady tells the court of the knights promise and the two eventually marry.

The remainder of the poem is very long, but essentially the old lady is upset that the knight thinks she is ugly.  She asks, would he rather have a loyal wife, or one he would doubt, “To han me foul and old til that I deye/ And be to you a trewe humble wif,/ And nevere you displese in al my lif,/ Or ells ye wol han me yong and fai,/ And take youre aventure of the repair” (1226-1230).  The knight responds that it is her choice, which she loves his answer.  She asks for a kiss, and when he builds his courage, he turns and discovers she is now a young and fair woman.

Do you think Chaucer is saying women are underappreciated or possible seen only on the surface?  Is this a cautionary tale?

Chaucer, Geoffrey. “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. A. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 282-310. Print.


 The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale (Cambridge School Chaucer)

The Wife’s Lament

The Wife’s Lament is a poem of exile and suffering that is believed to be narrated by a female, or as the title suggests, a wife. The sex of the narrator is believed to be female because of the reference to “my lord” which according to our text, the Old English pronouns have grammatical gender and refer to “my lord” as a husband. She initially talks about her husband leaving his people after a dispute, then causing her to leave in a “friendless exile” (9). She then talks about hearing that her husband is also down on his luck, or exiled, as a result of murder, which weighs heavy on his heart. The remainder of the poem talks about how powerful and enjoyable her marriage was, and how now in the absence of him, it feels cruel and uncomfortable.

What’s interesting about this poem is in the beginning, the narrator talks about the exile, then explains how she misses her husband and the affect his absence has on her. What follows is what sparks questions. She then begins to teach the reader how to deal with his situation and advises to essentially stay positive. “If ever anyone should feel anguish, harsh pain at heart, she should put on a happy appearance while enduring endless sorrows” (42-45). Being in exile, the narrator has had time to reflect and create alternate solutions to the problems she faced that resulted in her banishment. It almost feels as though medieval exile was a permanent form of our modern “time out” system we may use with small children.

Do you believe exile was used so the community would never have to deal with the subject again, or a long term method that forced the subject to nearly experience the stages of grief and ultimately see the errors of their ways?


Works Cited:

“The Wife’s Lament.” Trans. Alfred David The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. A: The Middle Ages. New York: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 120-122. Print

The Norton Anthology of English Literature (Ninth Edition) (Vol. Package 1: Volumes A, B, C)

A Westeros Confession

I have a confession. I just recently started watching the HBO adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.  For anyone who knows me, my delay in seeing these shows is insane since I love all things medieval and fantasy.  I just finished season 1 and so far am loving it, and hating it. Hating it because of the characters I want to reach into the screen and choke, like King Geoffrey.  I am sure most share my feelings, and if justice comes later in the series, please try not to spoil it for me.  Loving it because the characters are great, the setting is breathtaking, the pacing is a great mix of actions, political power plays and long forgotten honor.  

The emotional roller-coaster the show puts me through reminds me of Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.  The book was amazing, and even though it was long, the same feelings GoT delivers is what Pillars brought.  You cheer, you cry, and you shout in anger. So far, Game of Thrones has made me experience the same feelings and I look forward to seeing the remaining seasons.

 When school slows down a bit, I must read the novels as well. I have read other Martin stories and they delivered as expected.  Can anyone advise if the GoT books prove worthy?

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)

George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones 5-Book Boxed Set (Song of Ice and Fire Series): A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and A Dance with Dragons

The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (Kingsbridge)

Character or Plot? Who will be the victor?

When it comes to importance, Character is the key. A plot is needed to begin your process, but a character is what drives the plot. We have all most likely watched a movie because one of our favorite actors or actresses are in it, or because it is a sequel with a character we loved. I loved the old Conan movies starring Arnold, so of course I had to watch Red Sonia because it had basically the same character in it. The traits of a well written character are what makes us as the reader or viewer relate or feel emotion towards them. If aliens are attacking a city, it’s exciting to watch, but without someone there we care about then it is just destruction, not drama.

I like a quote in Seymour Chatman’s book, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, “The character plays a role of connecting thread helping us to orient ourselves amid the piling-up of details.” (Page 111) By being in the mind of the character, or seeing events through their eyes, we as readers are able to understand what is going on, or to only see what the author wants us to see until the right time. The character is the perfect tool to keep us on track and in the desired direction. Now, there has to be a reason why we are reading the book, so plot is important, but characters are the ones we remembers and love.

Final score:
Character 1
Plot 0

What’s your opinion?

Book or Film? That is the question.

I was recently asked whether I preferred books or films, and if I could name an awesome one in each, and the question was a little more difficult than I thought.  Like most, I generally feel that a book is a more descriptive medium than a film because of the time limitations that movies have.  One movies that I found better then the book was Rambo: First Blood.  It’s possible that this is due to me seeing the movie when I was very young and reading the book, First Blood by David Morrell many years later.  I like the way the director portrayed Rambo in the film, more of a victim of society due to his status as a Vietnam vet.  Sylvester Stallon did a decent job playing the part that showed a man just passing through, being driven to the point of his violent reaction by the Sheriff.  I think the film does well in showing his confused emotions and PTSD like behavior.  In the book, Rambo is much more of an asshole that almost deserves the initial conflict.  Both are great pieces, but the film drew me in much more. 

               For books being better than films, the list is long. I am a huge medieval and fantasy genre fan, but to stick with the war type stories, my top choice is Blackhawk Down, by Mark Bowden.  Both the book and film were well done, showing the leadership challenges and frustrations of the conflict in Mogadishu, but the book dove much deeper into the perspective of the Somali people.  The author actually interviewed many people who were there during this time frame, and described how some Somalis wanted to stay out of it. One scene talks about a pharmacist who intended to staying indoors, but became angered when this friend was struck by a stray bullet, which he blamed on the US soldiers.  This angered him and encouraged him to take up arms and join the fight.  A movie simply does not have the time to get into lore, back story or even character development as much as a book does.

               Character and conflict can still be created in film, but a well written book seems to make you love or hate the people involved much more.  A huge benefit of film, however, is the time investment.  You can essentially watch an abridged version in 2 hours and still grasp the main story and message.  Books can take much longer, especially those 800 pagers like Pillars of the Earth or Sword of Shannara.

Poetic Themes of the Romantic Period

I was reading some poetry from the early Romantic Period when I began to think about the difference in poetic theory amongst some of the more famous writers.  William Wordsworth’s theory of poetry was to display actual events through poems in a language that we actually use.  “Tis true had gone before this hour, the work of massacre in which the senseless sword was pray’d to as a judge” (The Prelude, Book 10)  He speaks of the Revolution in simple terms and in the above passage, talks about the violence where the sword is the ultimate judge of man.  I feel like he believes in a time of war and revolution, mob rule and violence takes priority over God and politics.  The time for speeches and prayer to induce change is over, now man is judged by way of sword.

Samuel Coleridge mirrors the theory, but added more emphasis on imagination.  Imagination with a little symbolism, such as the albatross in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which is bad luck to kill.  The story as a whole is based around the result of the mariner killing the symbolic bird.  As such, the mariner must travel the earth and retell his tale.  Both Coleridge and Wordsworth write in ways that are easy to read and rely more on painting a great scene then displaying fancy words.

Percy Shelley seemed to be on the more extreme side in his poetry.  He was expelled from Oxford after writing a short piece on atheism.  I found a poem that he wrote titled The Masque of Anarchy which is considered the first modern statement of nonviolent resistance.  He would be a protestor of violence in any civil war or revolution.  Perhaps this style of writing would be the most effective in the revolutionary sense because it can be more controversial.  Good or bad, publicity gives the piece more exposure which spreads quickly.  Should Shelley’s life had been longer, he could have continued to write on matters that sparked his passion under his extreme craft and continued to make waves against his opposition.  Wordsworth and Coleridge may have been read and understood by more people, including those on a lower literacy level, but may not have had the same powerful impact.

Parkour Your Way To Fitness

  I recently have been experiencing a growing passion for Parkour. For those who haven’t heard of Parkour, it’s an exhilerating method of running, jumping and climbing to most efficiently overcome obstacles. It requires lots of balance, strength and mental confidence to perform, but can be started by anyone at any fitness level. I am not in as great of shape as when I was in the Marine Corps years ago, and with life being very busy, good old fitness can easily be pushed to the back burner. Parkour has rekindled my desire to get back into shape and get outside.  

I have been running 4 days a week now and started some Parkour training a few times per week, which for me includes presicion jumps, balancing exercises and lots of calasthenics. I love watching Youtube videos by the Tapp brothers and by Ronnies Shalvis. Those guys are amazing and inspiring. A vault box may be near in my future for home training as well.  

I will keep you all posted on my progress and even post some pictures or videos as I go, but any feedback or advice is gratefully accepted. I may never get to freerunning and large drops, buts presicion jumps and awesome vaults is a great way to encourage my fitness.

The Journey (Short Story)

Elkar stood near the makeshift wooden table holding a blazing torch.  He was in his polished and most ceremonious armor, shinning dully under the full moon.  The flames of the torch danced on the gold emblem portrayed in the center of his breastplate and reflected the tears that slowly rolled down his cheeks, stopping only to be absorbed within the dense whiskers of his well groomed mustache.  The symbol on the warriors chest of the panther’s head seemed to breath with every flicker of the torches flame.

On the wooden table lying amongst the small branches and decorative flowers was the lifeless body of Dorian.  His gloved hands were folded across his chest and covered with a silver and gold buckler that housed the same emblem depicted on Elkar’s armor.  Tied neatly around his waist was the familiar brown sash that represented all infantryman.

Elkar could remember when Dorian was selected to train the new Panthers.  He was so excited because Kyle, their mutual childhood friend, had also been selected.  The three had made a name for producing quality soldiers that could effectively wield deadly weapons, and had the heart to continue fighting beyond the point of exhaustion.

They had built so much together over the years, all to be destroyed by a nightmare of a patrol only two days prior.  Kyle and Dorian had been winding through the Skytop Pass when they were ambushed by a large group of the Bultov Riders, an organized and intimidating group of thieves that were terrorizing the outer trade routes.  The two warriors fought back to back as their fellow Panthers dropped around them, unable to defend against the endless stream of attackers.  Elkar remembers responding from the walls of Thylark to the sound of the trumpet that all patrols carried, followed by a platoon of infantry.  Horses were driven hard to the area where the last sound had faded, over a mile up the steep grade.

As Elkar rounded the first turn his nostrils began to burn with the recognizable smell of death as the wind poured like a funnel through the pass.  The warrior slowed to a steady gallop, careful not to fall into the same fate as his comrades, as he could only imagine the worst.  He had crested the first peak when his stomach dropped, nearly knocking the breath from his lunges.  In front of him was nearly two score of the hated Riders, victims of the well trained Panthers.  Humans had been flayed open and extremities were detached from the furious strikes of sword and axe.  Well placed arrows protruded from the gaps in armor of the helpless Rider who found themselves in the sites of the deadly green Panther archers.  Among the dead, Elkar also saw the familiar brown and green sashes of his own people.  Anger flushed over him as he stared at the end result of an ambush, with neither side being the victor.

Elkar quickly snapped too, realizing where he was.  “Jarel,” ordered the commander, “take your team and push forward a ways.  See what you got then set up security.”

“Copy,” replied Jarel, as he came back to reality.  The weather beaten team leader began barking orders to his men as they cautiously rode up the pass, looking for signs of the Riders.

“I’ll take flank security,” stated Morgan, reading his commanders mind.  Elkar simply nodded at the second class infantryman as his men already began to move.  Elkar turned to discuss with his third team leader how to transport all the dead men back to the city.  Frustration still clouded his mind as he stood, saddened by the death of so many great warriors.  He watched as the two healers attached to the platoon began searching the slain Panthers in some great hope that there may be life.

“Jarel!” a shout came from a distance.  “Come quick.”

Elkar heard the excited shouts and the thunderous sound of horses running.  Quickly, the warrior drew his sword and started up the path in a full sprint.  ‘Not again, not while I’m here.’ he whispered to himself.  Now, it was Elkar’s turn to taste blood.

     Back at the northern gate, Panthers waited impatiently, as another group of reinforcements were about to deploy up the pass to aid their comrades.

“As soon as that last team of archers gets here, we will ride,” yelled Sergeant Pravius, commander of a heavy cavalry company.  Approaching the end of his days as a Panther, the silver haired veteran was already holding his long handled axe in his powerful hands.  The worn blades still shinned even after years of abuse by the experienced fighter.  His aged face continued to peer out to his destination, as if he was looking for a sign, or signal.

     Reaching where the commotion has been, Elkar immediately saw what the yelling was about.  Lying on the ground was Dorian.  The warrior labored his breathing, struggling to force every inhale of life into his body.  Elkar ran over to his friend and discovered his neck had been lacerated and was bleeding badly.

“Healer!” he yelled.  “Someone get me a damn healer.”

Elkar sat in the dirt cradling Dorian’s head.  The soaked ground was replaced with Elkar’s thigh, quickly absorbing what remaining blood drained from Dorian’s body.

“Hold on there, Dor,” he choked out, holding on to what little control he had.  “The healers are coming.  Gonna fix you right up.”

Dorian tried to respond, but only formed sounds of struggle within his throat.  His breathing continued to slow and fade to an unrecognizable level.

A healer arrived fast, her long legs covered the ground quickly.  She skillfully grabbed a wad of rolled cloth and pressed it firmly onto Dorian’s throat.

“You have to help him, please.” plead Elkar, his voice barely above a whisper.

“I will, sir. I will do everything I can.” the healer responded, her face shadowed by sadness and the recognition of Dorian’s status.  Grateful for the cover of her long brown hair, the healer tired, but could not stop Dorian from slipping away.

Elkar sat quietly as the shadow of guilt and pain loomed over.  His friend Dorian took his last breath.  It was not the healers fault, it was not the leadership and protection that failed.  It was just the business of freedom.  Freedom for a land Dorian had always said he was willing to die for.


Back at the ceremony, Elkar touched the torch to the sticks and hay below the table that served as a hasty cremation station.

Holding in his tears, Elkar turned and addressed the remaining members of their small party, the flames behind him jumped to life, popping and cracking as the accelerants began to roar.

“Cremation is the quickest way for Dorian to meet his maker.” Elkar began, his voice deep but soft.  “This is the fate he wanted, the dream he spoke of for years.  Dying for a realm that always gave back to its people.  The people he vowed to protect.  Unfortunately,  there are those who do not share our values.” Elkars voice began to rise.

“The values of our land, and the values of the Panthers.  You will be missed, Dorian.” The warriors head raised, he looked towards the sky.  “I will miss you.  I only wish you did not have to make this journey alone.”