Featured fantasy, dawndark, fiction, genres, idealism, realism, grimdark, hopepunk, bright stories

Dawndark Fiction: What is it?

I have decided to start calling my novels ‘Dawndark.’ Some of them will express this more than others, but I realized that it’s a perfect term to describe what my novels are. I’ve been fumbling for a long time for a genre descriptor, something that gives people an idea what to expect, in a world that seems to operate with concepts and dichotomies that fit neither myself nor my stories. While dawndark doesn’t describe everything – like the specific kind of fantasy Areaer is – it describes a lot, it describes something common to almost everything I write or see myself ever writing, and it describes something that I don’t see a lot of out there. There are novels here and there, but not many, and very, very few indeed – if any, that I have seen – that express it to the extent my stories do.

I’m an idealist. I really am. I believe in holding to one’s ideals, to one’s vision, to one’s nature, no matter what. No matter what arguments other people have. No matter what horrors life throws at one. No matter how hard circumstances seem to be trying to force one to give in and let oneself be carved into another image. I don’t think that anyone ever fully succeeds. I certainly don’t believe that the ideal is the same for everyone, or even the same at all times in a person’s life. But I believe that holding to that ideal, to that vision, is desirable, even if we find it impossible.

And I believe that this is the victory.

My words right there are very important. I don’t mean it brings about victory. I do not mean it is always, or even usually, successful. I mean it is the victory.

I used to read some of these novels that ended with everything coming together “perfectly,” all the problems solved and neatly wrapped up, everything brought to a satisfying conclusion. Everyone alive, with no death or lasting sorrow. I still find them sometimes, and I still enjoy the novels sometimes (though I’m not sure this is what I enjoy about them, but that is neither here nor there; this is not a book review). I decided that I needed to write stories that were not like that. Stories where people died. Even stories where the protagonist died. Stories that dealt honestly and rawly with the wounds and grief left behind by life and death. Stories where everything was not resolved in the end. Stories where whatever the sufferings and strivings of the protagonists and their allies achieved, it was not every problem solved, or even every problem that impacted them resolved, everything they were trying to do successful.

Life is not like that. It does not work like that. People grieve, work, fight, die, are tortured, go to prison, live for what they believe in, for change, for a better world. Sometimes, they have a huge impact. Sometimes, they don’t appear to change even a small corner of the world. They never get everything they lived and strove for. They might achieve a lot of it. They might even be “successful,” or “victorious.” But there are still problems. The struggle is not over. At least, I don’t know of a single instance in history or in my experience where that is so. Sometimes, the overt problem goes underground for a while, only to resurface later. Always, the darkness is still there to be fought. Or to succumb to.

I’m a realist. I want to deal with the real world. I don’t want to make easy, cliche resolutions to my character’s struggles or sorrows. I want to work through my ideals and my beliefs in reality. If they can’t stand up to reality, they aren’t real. I want to think through and present my vision in the context of the very real struggles and challenges life presents, where sometimes people die and you don’t see them again. Where sometimes evil seems to have won and crushed everything you believe in and everything you strove for. Where sometimes you’re left to live alone. Where sometimes all you can do is a tiny dent in the bigger problem. Where sometimes, give your life in the attempt, you can only rescue a tiny handful from their slavery, when you wish you could rescue thousands. Where sometimes people’s very minds seem to be enslaved and darkened. Where sometimes people hate and detest you for trying to rescue them. Where sometimes your own mind is enslaved and darkened. Where sometimes you’re confused and you don’t know what’s right or wrong. Or you don’t know how to do what you believe is right, or not do what you believe is wrong. Where sometimes you don’t know how to hold out against your own despair. Where life leaves wounds and scars that don’t heal, or at least not like they were before, and not just on your body, but on your heart and mind.

To me, my idealism and this realism go together. But I don’t see a lot of that. I don’t see it in fiction, and I don’t see it in non-fiction. When either presents idealism, it’s usually apt to completely ignore the darker things in the world, in the human heart, in the human experience. Realism fiction and non-fiction tends to present idealism as naïvety, or even as selfishness, as something that must break before the force of the horror and terror that this world can throw at us. I don’t mean that the characters completely stop fighting for what they care about. Very often, they don’t. But they compromise their ideals, their natures. They fight with the enemy’s weapons. And let me be very clear here: I am not talking about assassins. I don’t understand where the idea of “honorable combat” as opposed to “dishonorable combat” came from. It took me very recently to even notice that a lot of people and a lot of novels assume that it is more honorable to kill the evil overlord’s minions – or even the evil overlord himself – in face-to-face combat with “fair” weapons than it is to slip a knife into his back or poison into his cup when he is not looking. Or at least, that is more culturally accepted as honorable, even if a few privileged individuals realize otherwise.

Once again, this is not about criticizing what other people write. I like it. I have enjoyed some novels that are like this very much indeed. I would not ask their authors to change them for the world. I don’t read to see nothing but my own thoughts reflected back at me (though I do enjoy that, too). This is about what I write, what I want to write, and specifically about how it differs from almost everything I have seen, because that’s what needs to be mentioned, not the ways in which it is alike!

This is what my novels are. Idealism and realism. Victory and defeat. Fantastical beauty and unvarnished horror. Breath-taking hope in the midst of crushing despair.



Copyright 2021 Raina Nightingale

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Indie Author Blog Tag

Greetings, this Monday!

Some of you may be unaware that I am an independently published author of several fantasy novels. Others of you doubtless already know this. Anyway, I occasionally do Blog Tags, and I decided to do this Indie Author Blog Tag by R.M Archer (https://rmarcher.com/2021/11/indie-author-blog-tag-and-giveaway-winner-announcements/). I discovered it on E.G Bella’s blog (https://egbella.com/2021/11/19/indie-author-blog-tag/).


  1. Link back to the original tag (here!)
  2. Link to the authors you mention (or their books) in your answers
  3. Tag 5 other indie authors

Continue reading “Indie Author Blog Tag”

Silmavalien and Minth (Art for DragonBirth, Book One in the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy)

It’s been about a month since my last post, so here is a post for a piece of art I did quite a long time ago! Actually, I did it along with a very kind friend, who drew the picture for me, since I am not very good at drawing faces! In fact, I am horrible at it, but I helped draw the dragon, and the coloring is mine! I am currently working on another picture or two, but it’s sometimes a very slow process, and I want to catch up anyways!

Today’s – or this month’s — featured picture is of Silmavalien and baby Minth.

Silmavalien with Minth, Dragonrider, dragon, Return of the Dragonriders, DragonBirth, Areaer, Fantasy, Fiction, Raina Nightingale, Midnight Rose
Silmavalien and the dragon hatchling, Minth

Continue reading “Silmavalien and Minth (Art for DragonBirth, Book One in the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy)”

Dragonsong Vale (Art for the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy)

Hi. Some of you may have heard that I’ve been working on a coloured pencil piece for a while now. It’s not quite perfect. If I’m to get much better, I’m going to need to use slightly higher quality paper, since the paper I’m using is too inconsistent to allow for really smooth application of the pencil. It’s pretty amazing though, I think! Here, behold, Dragonsong Vale!

a dark-haired rider on a blue dragon with green wings in a tree. Background: forest fading into distance, with three dragons, one red, one purple, and one green and yellow flying over it; further back, mountains, and a blue sky with a few clouds in it
Dragonsong Vale

Continue reading “Dragonsong Vale (Art for the Return of the Dragonriders Trilogy)”

The Ice-Wraith: Art for Children of the Dryads

Hello. I have decided that, in addition to posting whatever essays I happen to write, I am going to post every piece of art I get for my novels or world, along with something about the art and its place in the novel or world. I am going to start with my latest piece of art, but when I don’t get any new ones for some time, I will do this for older ones that have already been on my site for a while.

First, the picture:

a picture of an ice wraith, also of a scene in the fantasy novel, Children of the Dryads
The ice wraith, also known as a wailing wight or the Elven Bane, that Tara-lin faces in the tunnels under Nightshade Castle.

Continue reading “The Ice-Wraith: Art for Children of the Dryads”

Guest Post: Raina Nightingale & Kingdom of Light — Mariella Hunt

Louisa’s village – and the entire known kingdom – lives in complete darkness, using crude torches for what light they must have, and sleeping and going about their work either in the poor light of the torches or in complete darkness.

Guest Post: Raina Nightingale & Kingdom of Light — Mariella Hunt

Blogging and Writing Update

Hello, everyone!

I offer my apologies for my irregular posting. I know there are a lot of you who really look forward to my religious and philosophical thoughts on a lot of things, whether you agree with the greater half of what I have to say or simply find it interesting to see my thoughts on things. I wish I was better at posting regularly. I have half a dozen (it might be more like a full dozen) posts in mind that I really do want to write sometime and share with you all, but unfortunately I’ve been having a rather hard time with writing essays recently.

For anyone interested in my fiction, that is going as well as ever. I am writing three or four novels at a time right now, and I’m really enjoying it, and I’m also working on preparing Sorceress of the Dryads, sequel to Children of the Dryads, the novel I released last June, for publication. For those who enjoy the Kaarathlon Novels, I expect to release another sequel to Knights of the Promise sometime around the summer of 2022. The novel (The Wings of Healing) is written, but such large novels take more time to edit and proofcopy, and I just released The Three Scrolls this last spring.

I hope I will pull my head out of my novels and write an essay or two for you all this month. I have so many I really want to write, but somehow I’m currently much better at writing fiction than essays. If any of you want to check out my fiction, I regret to inform you that I don’t have any free stories from the Kaarathlon Universe available yet, but you can check out my Short Stories on my Resources and Favorites Page, and I have a novella from the Areaer Universe that you can get as a PDF here, or buy as a free ebook (available also in Paperback for those who want that).

As a teaser, here’s a few of the topics I have in mind:

The rejection of the gods by the Christians

Teaching vrs. Preaching, or the difference between setting oneself up as someone who knows and ought to be considered, if not outright believed, and simply sharing one’s thoughts as broadly as possible

Being freed from both guilt and merit

Review: The Fires of Treason

I seem to be posting book reviews on here a little more regularly than I used to, but don’t expect that to continue! Once I get into the groove of writing my usual stuff again, once in a few months won’t seem so regular, and one of these reviews was meant to go up a long time ago! I expect no more than two or so a year on average. Anyway, this novel is historical fiction, one of those genres I avoid since there’s nothing in particular I like about the genre and I hate the way most people write it, without what I consider even the bare minimum care for the actual facts and mood of the era, but that might be something that’s more often done in a way to offend me in Christian Historical Fiction, which I don’t think this is. Also, while I can’t say I liked Michele’s handling of the historical fiction elements, they were not as center-stage and abhorrent to me as they are sometimes done, and I was mostly able to ignore the fact that it was historical, rather than alternate world (not timeline; I don’t care much for that one either), fiction. And there were one or two places where I rather enjoyed the way Michele’s characters responded to their somewhat historical-setting environments, so it’s not all bad. Anyway, onto the real review!

The Fires of Treason

51u4sk5eopl._sx311_bo1204203200_Author: Michele Quirke

Genre: Historical Fiction


Princess Elizabeth has always idolized and supported her older brother, but when Greg is accused of treason and banished, her loyalty to him is tested in ways she never could’ve imagined. As she leaves her luxurious lifestyle behind to join him in exile, she must learn to cope with the everyday struggles of the working class, all while keeping her true identity a secret. Facing new hardships and the looming threat of execution, Elizabeth will need to toughen up if she has any chance of surviving outside the palace walls. 

Prince Gregory spent his entire life trying to prove himself worthy of the crown until his banishment releases him of all the pressures and obligations that have chained him down. Although he has no intention of raising an army to defend his birthright, he soon learns that not everyone is content to let him walk away from the throne. With his sister’s safety and well-being to consider, Gregory must make a decision that will change both their lives forever.  Continue reading “Review: The Fires of Treason”

The Wind Song (Tara-lin – Children of the Dryads)

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Come to my aid
Come to the aid of the trees

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Fly sudden swift
Turn the arrows’ way from us

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Hear me now!
Gust and blow and swirl around!

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Come with wildness
Wild and fierce and changing oft!

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Come, wild and strong
Blow my way, gusts and torrents!

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Answer to my call
Answer the need of your dryads!

Wind of the mountains
Wind of the hills
Hear me now!
Gust and blow and swirl around!
Fly sudden swift!
Turn the arrows’ way from us
Come, wild and strong
Wild and fierce and changing oft!
Come with wildness
Blow my way, gusts and torrents!
Blow sudden swift!
Turn the arrows’ way from us.

Excerpted from Children of the Dryads, Copyright © 2021 Raina Nightingale

Released June 3rd, 2021. (List price: $9.99 USD Paperback, $2.99 USD Ebook.)

Escape from the Valor Hall: An Excerpt from Children of the Dryads

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Character Art by Angel