Author Archives: david staniforth

Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Humour, wit and character conversation: Number 6 David Staniforth

Any humour that is to be found in my writing is usually spread over several chapters, the grounding for a situation presented, as it is here in the excerpt from Alloria. Glebester Reibnach has learned that there is to be a vote and has gone to great lengths to sway the result.

* * *

“Ah, Glebester,” said council member Tosgrinja as he took his seat. “Thank you for the wine. A lovely gesture. Unfortunately, I had a touch of indigestion, so I didn’t partake. Not to worry though, my guests thoroughly enjoyed it.”

“What!” Glebester almost leaped from his seat. He looked around, desperately trying to suppress his anger. The length he had gone to. All the trouble and time and effort spent infusing the wine with magic. Having such little magic, the task had proved phenomenally difficult – weeks of research and devotion; cashing in every favour he could think of. Even then, it was only a stimulus to make others agreeable to his way of thinking. No guarantee of success, but hopefully enough to have helped send Ymarid on his way. With only thirty six having had the wine the vote could go either way. . .

* * *

A chapter later, following a series of proposals and speeches at a meeting of council representatives, the situation then develops. For me the humour is in the dramatic irony: the reader being privy to certain information of which certain characters are unaware.

* * *

Grand Elder Asperandt looked at the other councillors before returning his gaze back to his grandson. “That is my opinion, Ymarid. As always though, we will put it to a vote. Unless that is, any other council member has anything to add?”

“I would like to voice an opinion. Voice an opinion, you know.”
Ymarid closed his eyes and released a long sigh. He didn’t bother to turn around. Glebester had been a supporter of Vrengin. If anyone was going to try and block his proposal, Glebester was the most likely.

“Yes, Councillor Reibnach,” said Grand Elder Asperandt, a hint of annoyance in his tone, “What have you to say on the matter?”

“Grand Elder Asperandt.” Glebester nodded respectfully and expelled a wet rattling cough into his hand before continuing. “While I am certain none of us holds First Wizard Ymarid responsible for the tragic loss of the amulet of passage. Nor for the tragic events which surround it. One can sympathise with his wanting to put matters straight. That he is prepared to sacrifice himself, when his family has already seen such tragedy, I personally find quite overwhelming. Overwhelming, you know.” Glebester made a big show of wiping a tear from his eye. “I find his proposal to be magnanimous in the extreme. It is my opinion that we should allow First Wizard Ymarid his wish. Furthermore…”

Ymarid couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing. By the look on their faces, nor could thirty six members of the council who were each shaking their heads in disagreement. The other thirty six appeared to be in full agreement and were nodding in full support of Glebester. A small group of invited guests sitting on the rear seats also seemed quite over enthusiastic in their support of Glebester and called out cries of, hear, hear, much to the embarrassment of councillor Tosgrinja, as they were his guests, and he looked to be firmly against the proposal.

Glebester looked around the council members as he slicked back a few fallen wisps of hair. “I would like to add an offer of my own. As you are all no doubt aware, I myself am not greatly blessed with an adornment of magical power. I do, however, have experience in universal matters. Experience, mark you. Should Yrion wish to draw on my experience, in an advisory capacity; should he wish it, you understand, I am happy to put myself forward. As a guide, you understand, nothing more. With my personal assistance, Yrion’s gift should be powerful enough. There is, therefore, a good chance that the most despicable foe behind our… unfortunate, errr, predicament, can be… eradicated. Eradicated, yes?”

Murmurs of agreement and disagreement battled for voice around the room. Tosgrinja’s guests whistled, whooped, cheered, stamped their feet and clapped in delight. Glebester allowed time for the uproar to settle before continuing.

“Grand Elder that concludes my thoughts on the matter. I say we grant First Wizard Ymarid his opportunity to… rectify matters.”

Grand Elder Asperandt raised his eyebrows, which looked to be a terrible burden considering all the loose flesh they had to lift. “Thank you, councillor Reibnach. Most… enlightning.” He glanced around the circle of seats, his eyes pausing to take in the visitors who were standing and still clapping. “Has any other representative anything to add.” After a suitable pause, Grand Elder Asperandt continued. “Very well. All those against the proposal.”

Thirty six members raised their hands.


The remaining thirty six members raised their hands. All of them looked a little flushed, either from embarrassment or too much wine at dinner and seemed a little puzzled as they looked at their raised arms.

Looking into his lap Grand Elder Asperandt shook his head. “It would seem then that we have a tie. As you know, Ymarid, the casting vote falls to me. You already have my opinion on the matter. However, I will endeavour to prevent my own feelings from clouding my judgement and will deliberate my answer at length. When I have come to a final decision I will let you know.


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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Peril and tension: Number 6, David Staniforth: Peril

This is the first excerpt I’ve posted on the Gumbee blog from my novel “Alloria”. I’ve found peril a difficult topic to address as every piece I selected appeared to be a massive spoiler. The passage below is quite close to the beginning of the book so hopefully avoids that issue. Even then, I have had to end it halfway through a paragraph. For me peril has to have a strong element of tension, and therefore has to be experienced from the point of view of the character that is in peril. There has to be, for the reader and the character, a genuine belief of immediate and certain danger. I believe I achieved that here, but that’s for you to decide.

Too afraid to turn around and take a second look at the man-beast heading towards them, Alloria locked wide eyes with Nathan. She heard the huge sword smashing into the ground behind her. Despite the momentary glance, his face was fixed in her mind: the ripped cheek, the look of contorted anger in the good eye, the weeping puss around the bad eye, a heavy slab jaw with jutting canines. Nathan’s colour drained and she watched with dread as his eyes rolled and he fainted.

The man-beast was huge, not quite a giant from one of Papa’s tales, but massive all the same. As he flew past, her heart pounded. He brought the sword down on Nathan but missed. He then stepped to the right, swinging his weapon in all directions, spinning around, going back and forth, his sword whistling through the air and striking the ground with an eruption of soil as he skirted the edge of the clearing. Maybe he’s blind, Alloria dared to hope, until he stopped dead and fixed the open eye directly upon her. The ground thumped as he raced in her direction, his mighty sword held aloft.

Alloria curled into a ball, squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the killing blow. When the ground behind her shuddered she opened her eyes and turned. He’d leapt over her and was furiously whacking the ground, his sword a blur of flashing steel, the muscles in his arms flexing as he swung the blade back and forth.

Crazy, she thought, edging close to Nathan, intent on rousing him and sneaking away. Silence forced her to glance over her shoulder. The man-beast was standing still, looking directly at her, the tip of his sword pointing to the ground, his massive chest heaving as he breathed heavily. She sat motionless, only her eyes disobeying her body’s refusal to move.

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How Gumbee Fantasy Writers’ characters interact with their worlds: Number 7, David Staniforth

For the topic of characters interacting with the world I have selected an excerpt from “Fuel to the Fire”. For the passage to make sense I should explain that the principle character, Davran, has spent her entire life disguised as a boy in order to avoid being taken as an adult female by the despotic ruler, Saurian. At this stage in the story Davran finds herself in a parallel world that was once connected to the place she has grown up in. Therein, the world shares the same language, but as time has moved on so has the language in regard to open class words (nouns and verbs). As closed class words are so slow to change, I did not have to worry too much about general communication, and concentrated instead on identifiers that mark differences in the two worlds.

“Davran is it?” Felicia flushed. “Well don’t you go minding me; I’m just a foolish woman whose mind’s not in control of her tongue. Isn’t that so Brant?”

Davran managed a smile as Brant squeezed her shoulder.

“Our Kale got stuck on the same ledge, didn’t he? After bird’s eggs he was. Boys, honestly. That what you was after, was it?”

“No, I wer reaching fer… I… I don’t know.” Davran bit her lip. Held her tongue. He has eyes and ears everywhere, she reminded herself.

Felicia waited for an answer and Davran sensed her eyes beginning to water. She had never seen anyone so clean. That wasn’t true. Saurian had been that clean. He was the only one. Felicia’s skin was without blemish. Her dark hair glistened in the lamp light, reflecting glimmers of gold. Davran felt a strange sensation. For the first time ever, though she had no name for the feeling, she felt shame. Such a thing had never existed in her conscience before. There had never been anyone to feel inferior to. There had been only pride in her life: pride in finding food; pride in surviving.

She glanced at her arms, at the Fifteen years’ worth of grime which covered her skin.

“Would you like a bath?” Felicia offered, stepping forward, her tone rather commanding.


“Kale just got in, so the water’ll still be nice and hot. He’ll not mind you jumping in with him. Tell you what, leave your clothes on the landing and I’ll run ’em through for you.”

Bath? In with him? Whatever bath meant, in with him surely meant together. Hot water? Felicia surely meant, take off your clothes and sit with my son in hot water. Naked!

“No, I… I can’t.” Davran back-stepped, her eyes wide with the possibility of discovery, the door in her sights.

Brant’s hand gripped her shoulder.

Keep the secret at all costs. “No! I… I don’t wanna.”

“Want to,” Felicia corrected without pause for thought. “It’s alright dear. Nobody’s going to force you.”

At that moment Kale padded into the room, a rough looking, gleaming white cloth around his waist, wet footprints on the floor behind him. He was slightly shorter than Davran, perhaps a year or so younger. His chest jiggled with an abundance of flesh. The meat on his arms, flushed red, looking sparkly clean, made Davran feel like a dirty bone. She placed the phrase hot water with the word bath and realised it must mean removing dirt from your skin. The boy glanced at Davran, scowled, sniffed and shrugged his shoulders, as if the appearance of a scruffy stranger was perhaps not such an unusual sight. He snatched a green ball from a bowl, bit into it, and, with his mouth full, grunted a greeting of sorts before exiting.

“Looks like the tub’s vacant,” said Brant. “Will you take a bath alone?”

Davran looked into Brant’s eyes, at the smile formed creases and the ruggedness of his complexion. Smiling back, she nodded.


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Gumbee Fantasy Writers’ ‘do’ Emotion: No. 2, David Staniforth

In searching through my writing for a passionate scene, I have selected this one from “Ruler’s Desire” (the second book in the “Fuel to the Fire” series, and discovered that like the fighting scenes, my narrative style seems to be about avoidance. I’m certain a psychologist would find something interesting to say about that, but the avoidance here is essential to the plot. What made an interesting dynamic for me was the fact that both characters wanted each other passionately, but Ronyn alone knew why they couldn’t have sex. I can’t say any more without making it a spoiler. I wanted the scene to make the character’s bond all the stronger and hopefully send a message to younger readers that sex and love are not the same thing.

The stone floor, cold and damp, stank of urine and defecation. It reeked of death. The air was violated with the metallic stink of spilled blood and the aroma of rotting flesh. People had died on this very spot. How many? Their flesh split like tender fruit, oozing until life was extinguished.

She must remain pure.

Ronyn focused on the filth, the stench, the horror of it all in an attempt to dampen his passion. If they had a chance, any chance at all to escape, to come out of this unharmed, it was all the more likely if he followed the Keeper’s instructions. She must remain pure, Hesperus wouldn’t have written it if it hadn’t been important.

“I love you Davran.”

“I love you too. That’s why…”

Ronyn placed his forefinger to her lips. “Love deserves more than this. Look around. Smell the air. Think of all that’s happened in this place. I want to make love to you too. But making love is not this. Making love is safe surroundings, gentle music, clean sheets, or woodland, even. Or a meadow bathed in dappled sunshine with the music of crisp running water.”

Ronyn placed a hand to her chest and then her forehead. “Truly making love is in here and in here. I’ve been doing that since the day I met you. If we have sex in this place those memories will be tarnished.”

Ronyn enveloped Davran in his arms, his strong chest supporting her head. She leaned back and looked up into his eyes, and they shared a soft kiss. It felt special, somehow, more powerful than the previous kisses of passion. It was warm and soft and sent a jolt to her heart. It seemed to tug on cords deep within her being. The kisses before, when she had wanted him inside her, were forceful, powerful and exciting. This one, this tender, lingering kiss was magical. With this kiss he truly was inside her, deep, deep inside. It was a kiss which carried the bond of true love and formed an impenetrable connection.


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Gumbee Writers’ Fight Scenes, Part 3, David Staniforth

After much scanning I find that fight scenes in my writing are not too numerous. There are many instances of fight avoidance (I must be a pacifist at heart) and what scenes I do have are often set against impossible odds. The one I have selected here is from “Fuel to the fire”. To set the scene, Brant is attempting to train a black-dragon, the most dangerous of the species, and from another world. For reasons that will become apparent to anyone who reads the story, things have not exactly gone to plan. I’m not going to reveal if Brant survives or not, and if he does, how he manages to overcome such a formidable foe.

In writing this scene I wanted to give an impression of the dragon’s strength and ferocity, inject an element of pace and give the reader a sense of Brant’s dread. I leave it to the reader to say if this was successful.

The original draft was almost twice as long and contained a lot more detail: describing how things looked and sounded, as well as delving into Brant’s thoughts. I felt this slowed the scene down too much and prevented the reader from using their imagination. I tend to do this a lot: write a scene and then look back at it and think: not, what can I add, but what can I cut.

The inspiration came from an instance when I was around eight years old and was out hiking with family. I had crossed a style that my parents had yet to cross, when a wild horse came galloping down a path that was closed off by hawthorn bushes to both sides. I ran and found myself cornered by this snorting creature that towered over me. I wasn’t as slick as Brant, and can’t for the life of me think what happened next, but I do recall how scared I felt.

Anyway, Here’s the excerpt:

Stone fragments exploded into the enclosure amid fingers of flame. From the resulting hole billowed acrid smoke, and coughing, gasping for air, Brant hurled himself through. He rolled to the side, his shoulder grinding on splintered rock, as a further portion of the wall crashed to the ground. The dragon followed, its lithe neck coiling back, its spread wings blocking the sun. Its chest expanded as it drew air through flared nostrils.

Backed into the corner, his hands flat to the brick walls, Brant could go no further.

The service yard, forty-five feet square, seemed to shrink as the dragon’s wing claws scratched the brick walls on either side. No hiding place. Brant had his cloak but knew it would only deflect a small amount of flame: one blast at best. It would not save him. Still, he whipped it from his shoulders and held it aloft like a flimsy shield. Behind it he cowered as tongues of fire roared over him. The cloak had deflected the blast this time, but it would not hold out much longer, nor would it deflect the creature’s bite which would certainly be its next choice of attack. Brant struggled to draw breath, the oppressive heat delving deep and stripping his lungs of moisture.

The dragon inhaled, preparing for another blast. The cloak ruined, smouldering on the brink of collapse, Brant threw it aside. “Stupid fool,” he cursed, thinking about the case he’d left at the far end of the room. The dragon took a step closer, brushing against walls, splintering the bricks. Brant huddled, covering his head, awaiting the inevitable.

“What’re you doing?” He shouted out, as if observing himself.

His cry seemed to momentarily confuse the dragon. It tipped its head sideways, as if weighing up the threat. An impassable barrier, it stood between Brant and the hole in the wall. Squinting through the falling dust and swirling smoke, Brant quickly judged the distance, calculated gaps, possible routes of escape. There was only one, and it was not without risk. He was not as quick as he used to be.

Quicker than a black dragon? Probably not. Maybe there was a chance though. Over a small distance, from a standing start, a man can beat even a horse. It’s not over, yet. In this tight space her movement is constricted.

Standing there thinking about it was suicidal and, Brant could tell, as the swirling fumes coiling like ribbons into the creatures nostrils began to slow, that the creatures lungs were almost full. He had to make a decision, and quick. To produce a good heat she had to hold her breath for around thirty seconds. Her wings were already dislocated and she was vibrating her flight muscles to generate the energy. At present, committed as she was to generating fire, she could not fly. It was his window of opportunity. This very moment. It was his only chance.

Brant sprang forward, heading directly for the dragon’s jaws. As the creature snapped her jaws, he suddenly darted right, in the direction of the hole. He then dodged left and snaked between the dragon’s front legs. The creature’s jaws snapped at the point where he had changed direction. Had he continued heading for the hole she would have had him. Her snake-like neck followed him under her body. It was going as Brant had planned. There was no way she could strike with speed or force now. Her balance was off. Brant immediately dodged right and threw himself with full commitment toward the hole. Behind he heard the dragon crash to the ground.

His foot landed on loose rubble which rolled, twisting his ankle, throwing him sideways. Pain ripped up his leg. He twisted in uncontrollable agony as his knee buckled. His chest hit the floor, the pounding thud exploding air from his lungs. He grunted, expelling strings of spittle and blood, shards of flint shredding his flesh and cutting deep into his ribs. Adrenaline masked his pain, as in a movement that seemed fluid, carried by momentum, Brant regained his footing. Limping he hobbled forward, howling with each step. In the far corner, tormentingly distant, was his case. He fixed his eye on it and struggled forward. Pain coursed through him, each step firing a shot of gut-squeezing-torture.


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