Tag Archives: fantasy adventures

Oatmeal- Breakfast of Fantasy Champions?

You are wise to consider such a synthesis, Solemn. There are many worlds, but only a single nature.

-Final Judgement, The Eye of Kog

Probably my most eclectic look into the Alleged Real World yet, and certainly the most appetizing. Annie Douglass Lima, who has graced these pages more than once, has a new book out and the subject caught me totally by surprise. It’s an oatmeal cookbook. I had to know more, so girding my literary loins I brought her in for questioning.

Will: Are you saying this is the food of fantasy? Do we have any information that people before the modern era ate this stuff?

Annie: I’ve heard that people have actually been growing oats for food for over two millennia now. But when prepared right, oatmeal has the potential to be so fantastically delicious that I believe it belongs in the most magical of fairy tales and legends! I hope that by using this cookbook, oatmeal enthusiasts of all literary tastes will feel as though they have been transported to a world of culinary enchantment!

Will: Sure, fine, but could the people of, say, the Krillonian Chronicles, have made these recipes with the techniques and ingredients available to them?

Annie: Absolutely. They have most of the same ingredients available to them as we do, thanks to a thriving trade among all the provinces in the Krillonian Empire. In fact, one of my characters in The Collar and the Cavvarach (Steene, a martial arts coach and fitness expert) really does make healthy but delicious oatmeal containing nuts and different kinds of fruit. His recently acquired slave and trainee, Bensin, benefits from this new healthy diet as he works to improve his athletic stills with the goal of winning the empire’s most important tournament.

Will: What do we know about the overall diet of people in your world? I know that

historical peoples ate FAR less meat and sugar than we do now (we have the diet of kings, which explains a lot about our waistlines and insulin sales). Do even the rich in your world eat their oatmeal?

Annie: Raymond, a spoiled rich kid who plays an important role in The Student and the Slave, turns up his nose at oatmeal at first. He prefers his chocolate chip pancakes and extra-cheesy eggs. But Steene manages to convince him that a champion athlete, which is what Raymond hopes to become, doesn’t live on chocolate and cheese. Raymond is pleasantly surprised to discover that Steene’s oatmeal actually tastes good.


Here’s just one of the recipes in Annie’s book, for Blueberry White Chocolate Oatmeal. Seriously, what kind of barbarian wouldn’t eat any of those three things anyway? And now you’re telling me it’s a monster-beating breakfast too!

There you go; how far your fantasy heroes get in the arena, in the slave galley or at the dragon cave may depend on what they ate when they got up that morning. And every morning before that, of course… Roman gladiators ate a high protein, high fat diet thought to build up muscle mass and especially to give them an extra layer around the middle (to protect a bit better against glancing blows). They quaffed a “power drink” which included volcanic ash dissolved in vinegar among other things: personally, I think I’d prefer the gladiatorial combats, but there was strontium in there for better bone health.

Authors should consider the differing diets of their characters, and help bring their readers into the world so they can smell the cinnamon and feel the heat of porridge as it warms the core on the snowy mountainside.

Who actually lugs cinnamon up a snowy mountainside is your problem.

Once Upon a Bowl of Oatmeal

New Book by Annie Douglass Lima

Are you tired of high-sugar, low-health-value instant oatmeals in tiny serving packets full of artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives? Once Upon a Bowl of Oatmeal contains 70 hearty recipes packed with natural ingredients and brimful of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. All are gluten free, assuming you use gluten-free oats, and vegan (or they come with a vegan option). Most require no salt so are perfect for a low sodium diet. Almost all of these recipes can be prepared in ten minutes or less, saving you time in your busy morning.

Oh … and no more math! Whether you’re cooking just for yourself, for a family of six, or any number in between, every recipe comes in the form of a handy table that shows exactly how much of each ingredient you’ll need for however many servings you want.

Tasty enough for kids to crave, but wholesome enough to appeal to health-conscious parents, these mouth-watering recipes will give you plenty of energy for your day while pleasing your taste buds too. Download Once Upon a Bowl of Oatmeal now and say goodbye to artificial breakfasts that don’t fully satisfy.

Take a peek at a few of the fun recipe titles (with pictures courtesy of photographer Denise Johnson).

Ready to grab your copy? Click here to download the ebook for your Kindle or to order the paperback cookbook. And if you enjoy the recipes, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or Bookbub!

About the Author:

Annie Douglass Lima considers herself fortunate to have traveled in twenty different countries and lived in four of them. A fifth-grade teacher in her “other” life, she loves reading to her students and sparking their imaginations. Her books include science fiction, fantasy, YA action and adventure novels, a puppet script, anthologies of her students’ poetry, Bible verse coloring and activity books, and now a cookbook. When she isn’t teaching, writing, or experimenting with new flavors of oatmeal, Annie can often be found sipping spiced chai or pomegranate green tea in exotic locations, some of which exist in this world.

 

Connect with Annie Douglass Lima Online:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/anniedouglasslima

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Sign up for her mailing list so she can let you know when new books are available. When you sign up, she’ll send you a free copy of one of her fantasy books! http://bit.ly/LimaUpdates

 

 

 

 

Classics You’ve Never Read, Part One: Why Pretend?

Classic: a book that people praise and no one reads.

-Mark Twain

I hope you enjoy my attempt to create a series of blogs around great works of heroic fiction that most folks haven’t read. Several of these I have mentioned before in one forum or another but now I want to try and do several things: amuse you, get you interested in checking them out, and perhaps find a window into the writer’s craft through these past works that resonate with us so well in other forms.

There’s no shame in seeing the movie, let me hasten to mention that. In nearly every case I can think of, I found the book to be better, but usually that was only after seeing the tale. When a classic is redone, it’s interesting to see whether the basic inner stuff of it has changed. I find, most often not; even Hollywood doesn’t always screw that up!

This Question of Disguises, Now…

For my first theme, I want to look at two great classics that share one such common idea. Their heroes, set in almost the same time period but halfway around the world, do the same thing when faced with evil. They adopt a secret identity. This raises a great question, one that classic heroic and epic fantasy seldom touches on- why pretend?

Most folks know why Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent took on a mild-mannered alter ego- freedom to act and the need to protect loved ones from harm. But Superman and Batman, it turns out, were far from the first.

The Scarlet Pimpernel is widely thought to be the first hero in history to have a secret identity. It’s also one of the first heroic fantasy tales authored by a woman, the Baroness d’Orczy in 1903. There’s definitely something up with that, and if I say much more I’ll be accused (with justice) of chauvinism. But I’m here to tell you, guys aren’t nearly as interested in hiding their powers as women are in believing this dope before them truly has hidden talents. Deep water here, and I don’t swim well…

Tiny flower, BIG action.
Tiny flower, BIG action.

This is a gorgeous tale of death and danger in the blackest days of the French Revolution, when the Reign of Terror was eating people by the hundreds. Faking his disinterested, foppish life as a useless English dandy, Sir Percy Blakeney conceals from everyone- including his beautiful new French wife- that he secretly commands, as one of his followers puts it, “nineteen men who would lay down their lives” for him. Guided by his brilliant mind, the Pimpernel and his gang outwit the horrid, cruel, secular (!) French soldiers and agents to save dozens of innocent French aristocrats from the guillotine’s embrace. Then he returns to English society sporting the latest fashions, on the arm of his wife making witty remarks and annoying everyone- especially her- with his “inane laughter”.

The Best Intentions

We discover as the story moves briskly along that there has been a terrible misunderstanding crossing the main characters, one that probably won’t be happily resolved and which could lead to Blakeney’s death. He had only started his career of rescuing French nobility when he married the gorgeous Parisian actress Marguerite, whom he secretly still worships. For her part, Marguerite defended her beloved brother Armand by speaking down about a leading aristocrat, and her denunciation led to the death of that entire family- staining her with suspicion of sympathy for the Revolution. Blakeney adopts the guise of a flaccid fool, always honoring his wife and giving her every luxury but never letting on that he could be the mysterious hero capable of leading such daring and intelligent escapes. She is stung by the change in her husband and resorts to sarcasm, making fun of him in an effort to rouse the man she thought she knew. All this makes her look even more guilty to Blakeney’s heartbroken view. And when the dastardly French agent Chauvelin gets wind that Marguerite’s brother Armand may be helping the Pimpernel, he blackmails her with the young man’s life in order to enlist her help in exposing the enemy of the Revolution.

"Chicks dig that romantic crap!"
“Chicks dig that romantic crap!”

One remarkable aspect of this secret identity theme is that the hero is so obviously torn; he dare not let Marguerite know the truth because she appears to side with the enemy. Yet Percy is hopelessly in love with his wife still. After a moonlit encounter on their veranda where Marguerite implores him to be more truthful with her, he holds firm as the lazy, disinterested dandy until she turns to go. Then he throws himself to the tiles and kisses the ground whereon she walked. I’m telling you, chicks dig this stuff!

But the other aspect that may be of interest to the writer is that this situation compels us to see almost nothing directly from the hero’s point of view. For at least three-quarters of the story, you search for the Scarlet Pimpernel along with everyone else (you do better than they do). Nothing is told from Percy’s perspective until close to the end; there is a level of remove where you don’t read what he thinks or feels, only what he says and does. This increases the tension and reveals his character beautifully, whereas an omniscient third-person view would struggle hard not to seem maudlin or cute. Much of the heart of the tale is really from Marguerite’s point of view. The moment when the awful truth finally breaks down the doors of her mind- when she realizes that she has already led her husband, the man she always loved, into Chauvelin’s death-trap- is the height of the story.

What Hollywood Made of It

Hugh Grant did well enough in the movie-version I would say, but the earlier flick with Leslie Howard (who played Ashley Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind”) sticks in my head. Ironically, it was Howard who immortalized the phrase “Sink me!” coming from the dandy Sir Blakeney; yet in the first book of The Scarlet Pimpernel Blakeney never uses that phrase. Also Merle Oberon perfectly matches my image of Marguerite.

Sink me! Nice cravat, wot?
Sink me! Nice cravat, wot?

In summary, we have a tale in which the hero adopts a secret identity specifically to prevent his plans from being overset and to keep his men from even greater danger. And he takes this foppish guise chiefly to keep the tale away from his beloved- not because he fears harm to her, but because he suspects she is his enemy. This sets up tremendous pathos and conflict in every scene they spend together, and d’Orczy exploits this original idea with fabulous prose that cuts to the heart of the scene each time. Her descriptions, dialogue and turns of phrase are uniformly apt and convey the emotion without slowing the pace too much. I think like any reader, I had moments where I “got it already” and was a bit impatient when she lingered on an image or reinforced an emotion, but there was nothing here to take me out of the tale for a second. I would rank The Scarlet Pimpernel as classic Heroic Fantasy (using my Fantasy Solar System taxonomy), shading towards Cinematic mood in places, particularly where Percy adopts an ingenious disguise despite his enemies knowing what to watch for.

Final bit of trivia- it was first put up as a stage play and evidently struggled, but the novel was published in the same year and did wonderfully right away. And I would rank The Scarlet Pimpernel as one of my top three ever Broadway shows- “Into the Fire” still makes me stand up and cheer out loud.

Read it For Free

I downloaded The Scarlet Pimpernel for free to my phone from Amazon Kindle Classics- this is a wonderful value for me because I’m often traveling or without my laptop and can still read quite easily on the phone. I can change the background and font-size to suit my failing eyes, and the only feature I miss from the laptop version is the automatic dictionary. The free versions do suffer from imperfect formatting and there is the occasional mis-spelled word or even repeated phrase, but it’s nothing to pull down your enjoyment of the tale. Here’s another site to get it as an e-book, and you can also listen to it as an audio-book.

So, which tale is set at the same time, but far away and also makes use of a secret identity? Stay tuned for Part Two! And let me know how you reacted to any version of The Scarlet Pimpernel you may have seen or read.