Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hard Fantasy

If you'd like to read some snippets of For Want of a Piglet, I have two up on Unicorn Bell: first page here and the first meeting with the antagonists here.

One of the critters at Unicorn Bell asked what Hard Fantasy is. Fair enough -- it's not a well defined genre. Once could argue it hasn't been defined at all. I'm going to refer you to this article at Tor again because I think it's a good place to start.

We all agree on what Hard Science Fiction is, yes? Hard SF adheres to known laws of physics (and solid theories) as much as possible. It accepts those limitations and works with them -- no convenient "artificial gravity" and no "inertia dampeners" to let people accelerate at bone-crushing speeds. The genre has a history of spending more time on the gadgets than the characters (which is unfortunate.) Exceptions are sometimes made for alien technology or harnessing wormholes. The line between Hard SF and other science fiction genres is blurry -- all genre lines are.

Realism doesn't have to be a liability.
Courtesy of the SCA. Photo by Ron Lutz.
Hard Fantasy is the equivalent. I would argue that Hard Fantasy adheres to the known laws of physics and whatever exceptions are allowed for magic have their own rigorous laws, limitations and (importantly) consequences. I would also argue that magic will probably keep a low profile in the story. There may be magical animals, but they will obey the rules too.

Hard Fantasy is also aware of economics, anthropology, sociology, and psychology, and is built accordingly. These are, admittedly, far more flexible than the laws of physics. Geology, climatology, and ecology should come into play too.

When I was thinking about this post, I went and looked up Poul Anderson's "On Thud and Blunder" (which everyone should read.) It was written a long time ago and I think that in general writers have gotten better about doing their homework -- with the internet at everyone's fingers there is little excuse anymore. But it's still an excellent evisceration of tropes and an argument in favor of Hard Fantasy, I think.

Examples of Hard Fantasy: like all genres, it's going to blend into other genres around the edges and there's nothing wrong with that. A fantasy novel could be "fairly hard" except for those fire-breathing dragons or whatever major exception the writer made. (A hard-science fire-breathing dragon is tough to build. I've only seen a few attempts.)

George R.R. Martin' Song of Fire and Ice comes to mind, of course -- dragon exception and all. Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series comes to mind. L.E. Modesitt's The Magic of Recluse has been mentioned, but I don't think I've read that.

Brent Weeks' Night Angel trilogy is on the hard side, though magic does come into play.

What comes to mind for you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book report: Broken Slate

I haven't done one of these in a while, but I recently joined Goodreads and they give you the option of copy-pasting your review into your blog, so here goes:
Broken Slate Broken Slate by Kelly Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First rating on Goodreads... I feel obligated to say something.

I debated how many stars to give this. The characterization is intense, the world-building is solid and the dialogue flows smoothly. And the text is clean, so far as grammar and typos -- something I've come to value a lot since I started reading free e-samples.

But the plot. It moves at a rather glacial pace. At the end, it feels like this has all been set-up for the next part of the story. Which I would not mind seeing, by the way, dear author...

I read the free sample, which was a generous first half of the book, and at the end of the sample I could not have told you what Martin's goal was, aside from physical survival (which should not be under-rated, admittedly.) Yet I bought the second half, and I don't have much of a book budget these days.

No regrets. As I said, the characterization is intense. So I'm giving this four stars and hoping to see more from Ms. Jennings.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Worldbuilding: Castles

Since I've finished Part I and I have some time before the Viable Paradise workshop, I am working on the outlines for Parts II and III and the world-building needed to fill out the space.

Anime: not known for its realism, but it looks great.
Namely, the castle. A fantasy needs a good castle. There are some famous, beautiful ones in the classics -- and generally the prettier they are, the less realistic or historically accurate. I've been brushing up on my readings about the real thing.

A History of Private Life has been around for a long time and you ought to be able to find it in your public library. It's on the dry, academic side, but if you only read one volume of it, read Volume II. And if you can only stand to read one chapter in Volume II, read "Civilizing the Fortress: Eleventh to Thirteenth Century." (Though it would be a good idea to read the next chapter after concerning the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries too)

Langley Castle, the finest in 1350's
defensive architecture
In summary: castles were for defense first and foremost, and gradually acquired niceties (such as windows and bedrooms) as they became places to live full-time -- until the nobility realized that they still weren't all that comfortable or convenient and moved back out into palaces and manors. Castles then returned to being military installations until they were rendered mostly obsolete by modern warfare. That's a huge generalization of almost a thousand years' worth of history, though.

The books aren't about castles per se, it's about how (European) people thought of their privacy and by extension their homes, how they organized them... well, as much as we can piece together in hindsight, at least. Castles were one of many stages in that progression.  

So the main question about a fantasy castle is: what is its primary function? Fighting off enemy armies? Hosting huge parties? Protecting the town below from the magical laboratory inside it? (That would be interesting, wouldn't it? If you build one, I'd love to hear about it.)

If your castle is primarily for military use, it's a good idea to do some research on lines of fire, controlling access to the gates, and traps like murder holes. If your castle is primarily for parties and social functions, you'll want to think about how to manage lots of people moving around inside it -- both guests and the servants bringing them refreshments.

If it's somewhere in between, as it often is, how does this impact the people living there? I know I read about how castle stairwells were tight and spiraled in a particular direction to give defenders the advantage -- but then I tried to move a mattress up my straight, simple, poorly defensible staircase. How would you do that on a tight, twisty stair?

If the tea's hot when you leave the kitchen but you have to carry it up three staircases and down two hundred feet of hallways, will the king ever have a hot cup of tea?

Here are some other real-world questions that castles need to worry about: where does their drinking water come from? How do they deal with sewage? How many ways in and out are there? (Note that the more doors there are, the less secure the place is.) What would happen if a fire broke out inside?

What are some of your favorite fantasy castles? What purpose do they serve in your story?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Versatile blogger award!

I've been tagged with the Versatile Blogger Award -- twice! -- by Writing the Other and by Chris at The Kelworth Files

1. Thank the person who gave you the award and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself
3. Pass this Award along to 15 recently discovered blogs and let them know about it!

OK, seven (new) things about me...

1. I don't understand why zombies are so popular. I just don't find them interesting.
2. I love music, but rarely go to concerts. My first concert experience was going to the Boston Pops with my parents. The Pops performed part of the score to Raiders of the Lost Ark and it was AWESOME.
3. I'd love to see some of my favorite trance DJs perform, but I'd probably look strange sitting in the back of the rave trying to write. Drunks/druggies tripping over me. No thanks. Guess I'll have to wait until I can afford to hire Armin van Buuren myself...
4.The most recent concert I went to was Tan Dun conducting the National Symphony Orchestra. They performed music from three of his movie soundtracks: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero and The Banquet.
5. Because I'm a fan of wuxia movies -- those lush, kung-fu period pieces from China.
6. I was also manga and anime fan for a long time, but the last series I really enjoyed was Samurai Champloo.
7. Haven't read any manga or watched any anime for a while, though. Got too burned out on the tropes. But if you want to recommend a title, please do.

Passing the ball to 15 fellow bloggers:

1. The Bluestocking Blog - #1 because I knew right off what she's referring to.
2. Claudie A.
3. Still Writing
4. Paradoxy
5. Lucy V. Morgan
6. In the Shade of the Cherry Tree
7. Krista Lynne Jensen
8. Libby Heily
9. Die Laughing
10. M.K. Hutchins
11. Polished Bones
12. Really? I'm blogging?
13. The Hat Rack
14. The Adventures of a Stale Mind
15. See Jess Write

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

First Page at Unicorn Bell

I sent the first 230-something words of Piglet over to Unicorn Bell for a crit -- while you're there, check out the other first page submissions and post your feedback in the comments.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Worldbuilding: mountains and weather

One of the advantages of building a fantasy world from scratch is that you can tailor the geography to fit your aesthetics. Want a dramatic coastline with natural sea arches like the Oregon coast? No problem. Amazing river valleys like the Three Gorges region of China? Drop it right in.

I want my carefully designed landscape to make some sort of real-world sense, though.

In the fantasy world I've been overhauling, geography underwent major changes. I had some definite requirements: relatively secluded but large enough to sustain a small kingdom, and a New England-ish climate. Why New England? Because I grew up there and I still love it. After sketching a lot of maps, I settled on a wide valley flanked by high mountain ranges. At the southern end, the mountains funnel it down to a relatively narrow and steep outlet, through which the major river flows.

Champlain Valley as seen from New York (looking eastward.)
Imagine those mountains rugged and snow-capped year round,
that's what I want for this story
The best way to start, IMO, is to look at similar areas in the real world. In my case, the closest thing overall is the northern end of the Great Appalachian Valley -- the area around Lake Champlain in Vermont. But I want the valley to be much wider than that and the mountains much higher than the Appalachians.

Consequences of higher mountains

Setting aside how the mountains formed in the first place -- though it's important and I'll get to it later -- one of the immediate effects of high mountains is the rain shadow on their leeward side. Simply put, when clouds run into mountains, they have to rise to go over them. That pushes them into colder air and their moisture will fall as rain or snow as they rise. When they get to the other side, there's nothing left. Some of the most intense deserts in the world are in rain shadows.

Big question: which side of my mountains is "leeward?"


In New England, weather generally moves from west to east and sometimes big storms roll up along the coast from the south. So my valley will be leeward of its western mountains, and could be creating a rain shadow on the neighbors with its eastern mountains.

I don't want my mountain valley to be a cold desert, so I need to get some weather in from another direction. So I installed a coastline to the south, outside the valley, like what's south of New England. My little kingdom will still get nor'easters and the occasional tropical storm in the summer.

I also added a northern coastline for more wet air, though that's going to be some cold, wet air. I don't know if my characters will ever get up to that northern coast, but I would guess it will be something like the Hudson Bay coast.

Thumbnail sketch of the weather in my valley: generally dry air comes over the mountains from the west and runs into cold, wet air from the northern coast, carrying it into the eastern mountains and forcing it to drop its precipitation on the way east. Major storms bull their way up from the south -- blizzards about once a winter, the remnants of a tropical storm every other year or so. Hurricane maybe once a decade, and would be a real disaster.


The rain on the eastern mountains will result in most of the rivers being on the eastern side of the valley. They'll drain down to the lowest point and then flow either south (toward the mouth of the valley) or north (toward the coast.) I bet there's a lake at that turning point where the water decides to go either north or south.

For reference on the southbound river, I'll use the river that actually does drain most of New England -- the Connecticut. I'll be adding a series of rapids at the mouth of the valley to reduce upriver traffic (seclusion was a prime criteria in building this) and gauging from the size of the Connecticut where I used to drive over it from New Hampshire to Vermont (near Brattleboro), those could be some spectacular rapids.

What kind of geography did you add to your world because you think it's gorgeous? What did you add in order to shape the story? And how did you explain it, if at all? 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Moving target: fantasy genres

I drafted a short pitch for my WIP for the crit blog Unicorn Bell and got to the end where you put the title and the genre and I had to stop and wonder... what subgenre of fantasy am I writing? There are so many. And so many lists, it turns out.

Pick a shelf, any shelf...
I am definitely NOT writing: 

Bangsian Fantasy: fantasies based primarily in the afterlife. Some lists cited The Lovely Bones, which I know nothing about. I thought of What Dreams May Come.

Comic Fantasy: Xanth and spoof fantasies.

Arthurian Fantasy: based on the traditions of King Arthur. Many worthy titles in this subgenre. 

Urban/Contemporary Fantasy: hardly needs an introduction anymore.

Fairytale Fantasy: I've enjoyed a lot of short-form re-tellings and re-imaginings of traditional fairytales, but not the novels.

Prehistoric Fantasy: Clan of the Cave Bear with magic, I suppose. This is a genre I don't know much about. 

Steampunk: Fantasy? or science fiction? Either way, my WIP is not steampunk.

Alternate History/Historical Fantasy: I often see it shelved as science fiction, though I've always thought of it more as fantasy. Maybe the confusion stems from high-tech elements that often turn up in the stories.

Sword & Sorcery: a venerable subgenre, home of Conan the Barbarian and my beloved Fafhrd and Grey Mouser -- but no, I'm not writing an S&S.

Low Fantasy: Definitions disagree over whether this involves the real world with magic (wouldn't it be Urban Fantasy?) or a secondary world with little in the way of the supernatural. I've got too much magic in my WIP to qualify, I think.

Near misses:
Heroic Fantasy: Quest-based fantasies. There is a short quest in my WIP, actually, but it was just to get the ball rolling.

Dark Fantasy: the horror/fantasy hybrid. While I do get graphic with the blood and gore, it's not my intention to frighten the reader.

My possibilities include:

High Fantasy: many definitions cite a "good vs. evil" theme, as seen in The Master's work, Lord of the Rings. Some only mention an alternate world where magic and mythical beasts are standard issue. I do have magic and some mythical beasts, but it's not a good vs. evil, have-to-save-the-whole-world-from-darkness situation.

Medieval Fantasy: Wikipedia's definition puts this on a level than encompasses other fantasy subgenres, which makes it more of a flavor than a sub-genre. Other definitions make it sound more like a type of alternate history. My WIP is heavily based on medieval research because I wanted realism, but it's definitely Not Earth.

Romantic Fantasy: Emphasis on Romantic, and generally sold as such. I'd have to be an idiot to overlook the romance element of my WIP, but I'm not a fan of the Romance Genre (not to be confused with romance in general) and I'm not writing for it.

Magic Realism: Listed as a sub-genre in some places and defined as a style in others. I'm inclined to go with the latter. Realism is a hangup of mine, you may have noticed, and it carries over to magic too.

Epic Fantasy: the definitions I've found sound a lot like a combination of the definitions of High Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy. Personally, "epic" refers to length. LOTR is epic. Winston Churchill's five-book account of WWII is epic.My WIP may be epic in length when the dust settles, but it's not Heroic Fantasy and not entirely High Fantasy.

Hard Fantasy: YES (I thought at first) and read this. OMG YES. But then I looked at the titles Wikipedia cites and they're all either SF/F hybrids or alternate histories. Blah, not what I wanted. Some other places cited George R.R. Martin and Jacqueline Carey. Now we're talking.

That is the kind of attention to detail I'm striving for in all my writing, whether science fiction or fantasy.  Spaceships must observe the laws of inertia. Shapeshifters must obey the law of conservation of mass. Magic with scientific rigor. Why haven't I heard more about this? (Because I need to read more, yes, I know. Bad writer.)

Hard Fantasy. I'm declaring my allegiance. It's not a contradiction in terms.

Later, maybe I'll add Hard Erotica -- which is not a contradiction, it's merely redundant. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I'm a narley ninja :D

I usually post on Thursdays but today I am a narley ninja at the dojo!

Tune in tomorrow for either a worldbuilding post or to see me figure out what flavor of fantasy I'm writing. I haven't decided which to post. Cast a vote in the comments, if you've got a preference.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Character Conversation: Dame Kate Carpenter

If you read my First Campaign Challenge flash fiction, you've met Kate a little bit. She provides the first-person narration in For Want of a Piglet. I created Kate a long time ago and as part of her overhaul I needed to make her a more standard heroine, in some ways.

Because a main character who suffers from your own depression isn't sympathetic. When I reread the original monstrosity, even I lost sympathy at certain points. And in general, depression is not a problem that people sympathize with -- paralyzing fear and doubt do not lead to things getting done. As anyone with depression knows.

But still, Kate needs an edge. I'm trying to make her more proactive, more "spunky heroine" (eyeroll) material, but I can't have her turning into a Mary Sue. Nobody wants a cookie-cutter "spunk."

Kate's reference, so far as appearance goes.
You were glad when that piglet died and the betrothal was called off. You wanted to get back to the Order and become the master physician's apprentice. Things are starting to happen, now, that you didn't expect. What didn't you want, out of all of this?

I didn't want anyone looking to me for rescue when I've little experience or enough strength in kir (kir is the magical essence of this world) for the task.

The first thing Master Parselev showed me was that healing's far more dangerous than it seems. Others believe that when the physician takes out needle and thread and cleansing charms, it's falling back for lack of kir. In truth, it's the safer route. For a reason, my master hasn't let me far from his side until now. Thus I haven't killed anyone in trying to heal them.

And you've been kicked out of the nest early, so to speak. You're afraid of failing. 

Forgive me for not wishing to watch a man die under my hands. And yet, my master said it must be me on this mission.

What happens if you fail? If you kill a patient?

I read my apprenticeship papers, as Father could not. They may dismiss me, if my potential proves to be lacking. Send me home.

What's wrong with home? (She looks away, pressing her mouth shut) Originally, your father had died by now, but if he hasn't -- are you afraid of him? I knew he was strict, but I didn't think he was violent.

Father would be angry, that's true. But more than that... I spent two years learning to read and write at the Order, and now two years apprenticed. There's hot food every night, I can read in the library whenever I like and when it's cold I can share a bed with Rika. They've given me new wool socks every winter.

For a peasant girl, it's luxurious.

(She looks miserable, though) Is it so wrong to want to stay? There's those who think I've no place drawing my master's attention, but most have been kind to me.

You haven't tried to deny you're a peasant girl, though. 

It was hard to hide, at first. And it still turns up at times. I'd never been on a horse, before the mission.

At least Sir Anders got you untangled when you fell off. What are you thinking of him, at this point? 

He's been honorable enough since he left off flirting. Sir Anders has his work, I have mine and there's little else to it.

And the prince? Are you worried that he'll tell your master about your failures?

(She swallows hard) I've done the best I could, and I hope he sees that.

I don't want Kate's fears to control her too much, but it will influence how she reacts to things that happen in the course of the story. This interview's brought up some new ideas for me, and I'm not sure how far she would go to protect her position for fear of being dismissed. Would she lie? Try to cover up mistakes? Balk rather than take a risk? Or, worse, take risks and then try to bury her failures? 

It's not something a cookie-cutter spunky heroine would do. Heck, I'm already trying to talk her out of it, but maybe I shouldn't. 

What do you think about "spunky" heroines?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Character Conversation: Sir Anders Bockmann

If you're a recent follower, Character Conversations are little interviews with characters from my WIPs. When it comes to character development, those questionnaire-style character creation forms don't help me much. When I look at them, my brain just spits out run-of-the-mill answers. I get better results, especially for abstract questions like "What parts of you don't fit the hunky hero mold?" by chatting with my characters.

Now, I know this character well enough that I instantly got a smirky, X-rated response to the above question. And that response is, in itself, part of his less-heroic makeover-in-progress. My WIP is a massive re-write of a previous work, you see, and one of the problems tagged for fixing was that my hero boys (both of them) were too nice. To idealized. A little too tame.

In this character conversation with Sir Anders Bockmann, I wanted to address how the makeover is going now that we're halfway through part one (of three parts) of For Want of a Piglet (volume one of... I'm hoping three, not five? why am I doing this, again?) Like all conversations, it wanders off topic a bit. My side of the conversation is in italics.

Some character reference photos are for attitude, some for appearance.
This manages to be both. This is the delicious Alex Skarsgard.

I noticed you've picked up a bit of Jason Stackhouse (from True Blood, I haven't read the books) in the makeover. I could've lived without that. That boy is dumb as a sack of hammers and I won't have that in my heroes.

Did you not cast me as a 'horndog' without considering the why, when we last told this story? And then expected the leopard to change his spots overnight?

I'd be more the fool if it wasn't willful. Rather than a fool, I'm one who choose a dangerous game.

How willful? 

They've gone to such lengths to brand me the bad boy, should I not oblige them?

Your prey didn't do the branding, it seems to me. 

No. They put their wives and daughters in my sights, and me in theirs. If anyone wishes to call for a duel on it, they're welcome to. I didn't win the jousting tournament twice on my looks.

But what happens after five or ten years of being a bad boy? Do you think a thirty-year-old knight will still be winning jousts and sleeping in a friend's hayloft? (Anders is barely twenty, at this point in the story.)

Thirty? He shrugs. The cavalry will work knights till they drop, they won't turn me away. There's always the Order and training squires, if I'm not fit for duty.

Think those who branded you will trust you with their sons? Not make bad boys of them? 

Even I couldn't teach pigs to dance. The one who will dance aren't likely to be stopped.

So why can't you just be, as Kate said, the kind knight who untangled her from the stirrup when she fell off her horse?

He takes a minute to come up with an answer. Kate has no part in any of this. I've no quarrel with any outside the city walls, and she was peasant-born.

She knocked herself right out of your sights when she said that to you. 

The flirting was force of habit, no more. Ladies have their maids, and maids are a sure way to get close to the lady.

You thought she was easy meat. 

He shrugs again. And was mistaken. She's a disciple of Saint Qadeem and they're known to be odd ducks.

Denying interest, yes, that always works. How does Anders not fit the hunky hero mold? He's made a "game" of seducing girls and young wives (and maybe branching out into cougars) as a way to get back at those who have dismissed him as a bad seed. He's not thinking about his future or what consequences there might be for the women (unwanted pregnancies, domestic violence, STDs?) I think it's safe to say there's a self-destructive streak buried in him, as well as deep insecurities.

I think that's a good place to end on for now. How does your hero not fit the mold?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Campaigner Challenge

Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title. It can be in any format, including a poem. Begin the story with the words, “The door swung open” These four words will be included in the word count.

If you want to give yourself an added challenge (optional), use the same beginning words and end with the words: "the door swung shut." (also included in the word count)

For those who want an even greater challenge, make your story 200 words EXACTLY!


Flash fiction is not usually my kind of thing, but this snippet of backstory from my WIP (For Want of a Piglet) fit the bill so I've taken a stab at it. And I managed to hit all three conditions! I hope you enjoy it. Don't forget to vote for your favorites on Rach's linky list. I've voted for a couple already.



The door swung open and sudden silence made me look up from stoking the fire under the kettle. Father stood silhouetted by morning sun, the piglet hanging dead in his hand.

His growl chilled me. “Kate, did you do this?” Mother and my siblings’ eyes joined his on me.


“I spent weeks arranging your betrothal.”

My tightening throat choked my voice. “On my life, Father, I didn’t.”

“It was the dower that finally convinced Schwartz to agree!” Father threw the piglet down. He slammed the door, rattling our hut. “What am I to do with you now? No — why shouldn’t I throw you out on the street if you’re so willing to betray me?”

“Show me the wound.” My voice rose even as it quavered, fearing he could show me a stab or a bruise. “Show me, or do you think me able to strangle a pig?” I held out my hands, strong for a girl but not big enough for such a job.

Father was many things, but he was ever a logical man. He glowered and picked up the piglet again. “May as well butcher the damn thing.”

I sighed in relief as the door swung shut.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Worldbuilding: alpaca

Maybe you read my Worldbuilding: wool post but you're itching to do things a little differently in your fantasy world. Sheep are a distinctly European critter and you want something more exotic to stock your background pastures with but still provide warm fiber for your characters to wear.

May I suggest the alpaca?

Alpacas are native to South America, specifically the Andes. Their close cousins include the llama (which are a bit larger,) the vicuna and guanaco (both smaller.) Alpacas (and llamas) were domesticated long ago by the Andean natives. They can be shorn and the fiber processed in a similar manner as wool is. Natural colors range from ivory white to natural black, as well as many shades of brown. They are bigger than sheep -- the top of their head is going to be about shoulder-high on a medium-sized person.

I bet they are edible, too, but you don't hear much about that. 

Undyed alpaca yarn by Cascade Yarns
Alpaca as a fiber is similar to wool in many ways. It's a little stronger than wool once it's spun and it's noticeably warmer. It can insulate when wet. It's softer and has much of the same elasticity and memory advantages of wool. Alpaca has more of a "halo" and the resulting fabric will tend to look fuzzier than wool.

What's the down side? In my experience, it pills pretty fiercely, probably because of that fuzziness. You spend $80 on the yarn, a hundred hours knitting the sweater, and by the time you've worn it a few hours it's covered in pills under the arms and on the sleeves where they rub against each other. Frustrating. 

So if you put alpaca on your royalty, count on some chambermaid spending time shaving off the pills...

However, bear in mind that (European) royalty in our world were not wearing alpaca. The Spanish brought it back from Peru, but it didn't catch on as a fiber until much later. Apparently weaving with straight alpaca doesn't work so well and it took a while to figure out what to blend it with.

Alpaca can be knit and blocked into lace, though it comes out fuzzier than wool.

Alpacas are raised in many parts of the USA, these days, and if you look online you might find a ranch near you. You will not believe how soft these critters are until you pet one. And with that long neck, they're just... fascinating. In general, they're mild-mannered and make all kinds of interesting noises. They'd make an intriguing replacement for sheep and maybe small beasts of burden in a fantasy world, I think. I'd be curious to hear what you come up with!
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