Walking

My recent fitness commitment started with having to walk our dog. Because our dog is crazy active, we need to make sure she’s doing something. In the beginning, that was three walks a day, one in the morning before work, one during the day and one after work. My husband and I took turns and we were able to make this work for a long time, although it took up large portions of our day. To give ourselves more time, my husband was able to teach her to chase a frisbee (never a ball though).

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Walking was a great starter exercise for me and helped launch me back into being fitter. If done properly, walking can have the benefits of more strenuous exercises like cycling. It takes longer to get those benefits but they are there. The main idea is to get your heart rate up so that is the best measure on whether or not you’re walking brisk enough. You have to walk at a pace of five kilometres per hour or in my case, uphill. Up big hills. The biggest ones in your neighbourhood. I benefited from having a large hill just down the street from me.

Some research appears to indicate that intensity in exercise matters and experts currently recommend moderately intense exercise for 30 minutes a day. Exercise experts recommend setting a pace of moderate intensity where you would be able to talk but not sing, just on the edge of breathlessness: 

Ultimately, because I combine walking with running and weightlifting in a week, I walk at a relaxed stroll and don’t worry too much about pace. If it was one of my main forms of exercise, I hope I would strive for a faster pace, but maybe I wouldn’t…

 

Kevin Hearne – Atticus O’Sullivan

I first heard about Kevin Hearne through Twitter as a casual mention and then saw that he was attending the Creative Ink Festival in British Columbia. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the festival. When I saw one of his books, Hounded, at a used book sale, it was a perfect opportunity to check out this author and am I ever glad I did.

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Atticus O’Sullivan, despite his paranoia, is a fun character. His friends reflect this, including his dog Oberon with a goofy sense of humour and the old widow who likes to enjoy life with a glass of whiskey in hand. For example, here’s Oberon speaking to Atticus on page 152:

“You know, Atticus, that turning into a crow business is pretty slick, but that’s not her best godlike power by a long shot. She can sense when specific people are approaching in time to avoid them! Wouldn’t it be cool if you could automatically avoid assholes for the rest of your life?”

He’s out only to enjoy life and at the same time be a steward of the Earth, something our modern era could use a lot more of.

His paranoia, although extensive, is justified since it has kept him alive for over 2000 years and of course, throughout each book, any lapse in paranoia is rewarded with conflict and mayhem.

Especially in science fiction and fantasy, much of what we read is end of the world, high stakes, heart pounding fiction so it’s refreshing to have a character that will make fun of gods and goddesses, that will help out old ladies just because and make sure his dog is rewarded with french poodles when he’s been extra helpful.

At the heart of it all, despite his better judgement, he tries to help those around him, which is something all of us would like to think we do. If you choose to read The Iron Druid Chronicles, I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 

Biking

That first moment when the snow melts and the temperatures rise above zero is when I start to think about cycling to work again. I’m a fair weather cyclist – no cycling through minus 20 for me. I tried it once at minus two and realized the air is even colder when you move quickly through it.

Cycling to work is forced exercise. In the morning, it’s not hard to jump on your bike and go to work – less traffic, a cool briskness to the air, and birds chirping. When you get to work, you’re more alert and ready to face the day. On the way home, it’s your only mode of transportation so you have to cycle home.

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It also makes you a better driver. I was always the person who drove into the crosswalk to see so I could turn right. After cycling,  I stopped that as I realized what a hazard it was for cyclists and pedestrians. Because I have to watch other drivers constantly while cycling, I now watch everything while driving – sidewalks for people about to cross, cyclists that look like they’re about to go and cars that wander.

Once you have the gear you need – a good rain jacket and pants, bags for your clothes for work and a safe lock for your bike, or ideally a storage locker – biking becomes possible. After you’ve done it a few times and have the routine down, it even becomes a part of your day you look forward to.

I like planning a route that involves the road as little as possible. I’ve ridden mostly on the road but now that I live in a city with extensive bike paths, I find those enjoyable compared to the life and death stakes on the road. On the first day, give yourself lots of time to get to work. Plan out what bus you would have to take to get to and from work if something happens to your bike. Then, get on your bike, take a deep breath and enjoy.

 

Barb and J.C. Hendee – Magiere

What does one do when he or she doesn’t believe in vampires but everyone around them does? Magiere chose to become a vampire hunter in Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee. With the help of her associate, half-elf half human Leesil, they travel the countryside taking money from small villages to get rid of vampires. Leesil acts as the vampire.

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It’s not often anymore that the main character of a novel starts off as an outright con artist and ultimately thief with no reason noble for it such as feeding their siblings. I suspect nowadays this novel’s beginning would have been edited to make the main characters more sympathetic. Yet somehow Magiere stuck with me even many years after reading it the first time. When I saw it as a used book, I snatched it up and re-read it.

Magiere wants to move on, start again and run a legitimate business. She’s tired of being on the road and wants a place to settle down.

Why switch? Why abandon her con-artist ways? Her practicality. She has an essential practical nature. If someone is dumb enough to believe old tales, then taking their money from them is natural, just like eventually it isn’t practical to be on the road anymore.

That adherence to practicality then makes it hard for her to accept that she is a Dhampir and that there are actually vampires when her teeth elongate and a killing rage happens within her. It is even harder for her to accept that there are vampires.

What I like though is that she doesn’t get any redemption for her past transgressions against the villagers in the first three books. I have yet to read book four or five. She lives with her past actions, guilt creeping in for her previous practises, as she gets to know the people in her town and sees the impact her actions would have had on her victims.

Humans do bad things and there’s no one there to give us redemption. We have to live with those actions.

Hiking

When I first took a trip out to the mountains with my family, after we had lived on the prairies for awhile, I was awestruck at the clear night sky, the moon that seemed just out of reach of my fingertips, and the heavy aroma of pine. My eternal restlessness subsided. I made many holidays out to the mountains after that.

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Helen Lake

I thought that when I moved to the foothills, I would go out to the mountains a lot more than I do. The reality of spending three hours in a car every weekend after working a full week squashed that.

But now that we have a child, we will have to go out so that our child can understand that there is more to life than lights, noise and concrete. That wild places are where our souls can be free, even if just for a short while.

If you choose to hike, there are many excellent resources out there including:

Nerd Fitness

Hiking for Beginners

MEC – Hiking for Beginners

As a reader, being out in the woods and reading means that no one can interrupt me. At least, this was true when I hiked alone. Now, it’s about sharing these experiences with the people in my life. As a writer, even though I am hiking with people, I have plenty of opportunity to write, even if it’s just working out problems or brainstorming in my head. Being away from the chaos of city life makes those big story problems into tiny ones.

My favourite hike is Helen Lake and if you find yourself there, please enjoy it (also, watch for bears).

Faith Hunter – Thorn St. Croix

One of the reasons I love reading is that characters often embody the ideal human. When I was younger, I thought the ideal human – fair and noble and always did the right thing – was what all people strived for. Unfortunately, it’s been a long time since I believed that but that makes reading about these characters all the more enjoyable.

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Thorn St. Croix of Faith Hunter’s  Rogue Mage series is noble, putting herself in danger to help the townspeople, even when they reject her, as noted in page 43 of Seraphs:

“Out front of the old building a throng of people milled, split into two factions…We would have to walk between the two crowds to gain entry. Well, in one way that was symbolic of what I had done to the town: Divided it utterly.”

 Looking at the world we’re currently in, where racism and exclusion reign supreme, this series and Thorn St. Croix’s struggle has never seemed more relevant when it should be much less relevant.

Could I do what she does? Help the very people who want to kill her just for who she is? I’m not sure anymore. But when I read these books, Thorn makes me want to believe that I could. She believes in doing what’s right, in protecting the people around her, because it’s what we should all do, even if we don’t. Maybe we need to see the ideal to keep striving for it.