The Holden Stone

Reflections of a Fantasy Writer

  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size
Home About the Author

thanks for visiting my world!


"A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct." -- Frank Herbert, Dune

So, hello. I'm stepping into the blogosphere, one tiptoe at a time. For those of you who don't know me yet, I'm a fantasy writer (Singer of Norgondy), an editor at the online magazine, New Myths, and...(insert evil laugh) a puppetmaster. My characters often yell at me for leaving them dangling on a string, but they're so delusional; I only use hand puppets in real life. No strings attached. In addition to my fantasy novels (see, I'm hoping to write and publish puppet plays of fairy tales and fables for kids, parents and teachers, and then later translate and adapt Medieval and Renaissance puppet plays and help bring that tradition back to life. So I may mention my stories or puppet plays here sometimes. But my intent for this blog is to mainly talk of odd tidbits from history that I've needed to research for my novels. And to start here's info on--
Magic lanterns

If you guessed a magic lantern is what Aladdin used, guess again!

--invented in the 16th century
--used to "raise dead spirits" and to summon ghosts by conjurers and magicians 
--called the lantern of fear
--first ones used candles or oil lamps
(figured it out yet?)
--when mounted on a trolley, it could make the devil float around the room in mid-air -- to be more precise, make the image of the devil projected onto a gauze screen fly around the audience, often creating panic in the city and nightmares.
--by the 1800's the showmen used mechanical slides and several magic lanterns to make the images move throughout the audience in large darkened theaters 
--the tinker Crel in Singer of Norgondy makes a magic lantern of tin cylinders with animal-shaped holes punctured into the outer cylinder that slid around glass slides on the inner cylinder as his masterpiece. ;) Knowing how to make one gives him an idea that he uses as his weapon in the final battle scene.

yep! you guessed it, a magic lantern used to project moving images of light onto walls during the Renaissance was the precursor to the movie projector. You can still see some early 20th century ones used to show (shh) risque striptease slides in some museums around the country. But oh! the use of magic lanterns during "phantasmagoria" shows in the Renaissance can bring such a goldmine of ideas to a fantasy writer!
Question for the day: Who led Amazons to the Crusades?


--She was a queen of France.
--She was then a queen of England.
--Her own holding was richer, more powerful, larger, and more cultured than either France or England.

any guesses yet?

--She once escaped abduction and a forced marriage by scaling down a tower wall in the middle of the night. 
--She led three of her four sons into a war against their father.
--She was the mother of Richard the Lion-hearted and Prince John.
--At the end of her life, living as an Abottess, she was recognized to be one of the most powerful, wisest people in all of Europe. 
--She was only partially portrayed in the movie "The Lion in Winter."

Do you know her name?

As a young queen, she led her ladies of the court on horseback and dressed as Amazons to the Crusades, alongside her first husband, the sainted king of France.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

She was one of the most fascinating women in history, and one of the most fun to read about. Merind's personality in Singer of Norgondy was modeled partly on her story. But the more I researched her, the more incredible her story became. Incredible in the true sense of the word -- harder to believe real than most heroines in movies.

check her out!

read Singer of Norgondy (World of Colonium) by Susan Shell Winstonand tell me what you think of Merind.
•  flag
• 1 like · 
Published on May 23, 2014 10:53 • 19 views
Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) post a comment »
dateDown_arrow newest »

message 1: by James

JamesI think she inspired the movie The Lion in Winter, where an aging Katherine Hepburn played her masterfully, in her later years. 

message 2: by Susan

Susan Shellyes, that's a great movie! But there's so many more stories that haven't been told yet about her, so many more movies and legends she could inspire. 

message 3: by James

JamesHistory conspires to minimize the exploits of women unconnected to their husbands or children. It's a topic that greatly needs illumination.
a recipe from the late 1500's fit for a king:

To make pies that the birds may be alive in them and fly out when it is cut up

Make the coffin (piecrust) of a great pie. In the bottom thereof make a hole as big as your fist... Let the sides of the coffin be somewhat higher than ordinary pies. Fill the pie full of flour and bake it. When baked, open the hole in the bottom and take out the flour. Then put a smaller pie the size of the hole in the bottom of the large pie. Around that small pie put as many small live birds as the outer piecrust will hold just before sending the pie to feast table. When the great lid of the pie is cut open, all the birds will fly out to the delight of the company. And then the guests "be not altogether mocked," the small real pie is served.

This recipe can be found in Reay Tannahill's Food in History , a great source for fantasy writers.

Singer of Norgondy is now available at Amazon!


The witchwoman Merind told the young singer Verl that he could create a god and enslave a multitude of believers.

But should he?  He had the power now to make people believe they were seeing a god.  He knew where to touch the god-spot in their minds.  But at what cost?  How many would die because of him this time?  Could he ever play music again?

His boyhood friend, Crel, wanted the life of a tinker. Merind’s people needed vengeance against the new queen. Could Crel give up his dreams and become the Bear God avenger her people needed?   Should Verl help them create these new false gods?

CROSSJACKS! the card game of cutthroat betting and high strategy played by the miners and guardsmen of Colonium is now availabe at Amazon!

as played at WorldCon!





Susan Shell Winston, novelist

Susan Shell Winston, novelist