Lucas K. Law and Derwin Mak – Where the Stars Rise

At When Words Collide 2017, I heard about this book but I didn’t have much interest in buying it. However the thought of it must have percolated in my memories over the next year because at When Words Collide 2018, I bought it. The gorgeous cover, by Samantha Beiko, helped.

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I’m so glad I did. The fantasy and science fiction in this book is good, really good. I feel for the characters in these stories and the imagery, one story after another,  was fresh and exciting (for me, anyway).

With so many characters to choose from, it was hard to pick only one. However,  the character’s voice that echoed the most for me was Paris Azarcon from Karin Lowachee’s story Meridian.

Being abandoned has a profound effect on us. We lose trust, our sense of security and love. Through no fault of their own, Paris Azarcon’s family abandons him when they are killed by raiders. He fights, literally and figuratively, through that loss, rejecting those around him before they can abandon him, until he finds himself in a place where they won’t let him reject them.

Once he regains this sense of family, security and belonging, he finds a measure of peace, until news comes that disrupts that peace.

He then has a choice; seek out the answer in that news and potentially invite abandonment or stay with the status quo.

I wonder how much influence our past hurts have on our present day decision making. That must be why young people are more willing to take risks. They’ve had less bad experiences to measure the risk against.

As a young man, Paris has the opportunity to take a risk or preserve the status quo. I cheered him on so read his story to find out what he did.

Story Making While on the Move

Story making while on the move

Physical activity and writing intersect in surprising ways. Steve Jobs was renowned for taking a walk to problem solve and Brandon Sanderson has talked about plotting out his novels while at the gym. I started actively using my exercise periods as problem solving sessions this year and I have been able to come up with some great twists as a result. I can sit there all day and not see a way to fix my story problem but if I’m on the move, I can see the solution or come up with a new story direction or plot out the next scene.

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Don’t believe me? Check out this article.

I find it interesting that the studies have shown meandering walks are the best for creativity while cycling is worse. However, in my own personal physical activities, I come up with my ideas when I’m walking and less so when I’m running so my own experience supports these findings.

For example, I figured out the career for the main character of my current work in progress, Desert’s Daughter, while on a walk. That career will be as a influencer but in a place without computers.

When you’re stuck on a problem, go for a walk!

Alexandra MacKenzie – Marlen

As an immortal, you would have to give up your family and friends when they died and you didn’t. In The Trouble with Mages: Immortal Quest by Alexandra MacKenzie and published by Edge Publishing, one immortal mage named Marlen has been pursuing a relationship with a mortal named Nick. Each time Nick dies, he is reborn but forgets his previous life until Marlen helps him remember it. Sometimes they have a relationship together and other times they don’t.  

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I scoff at romantic notions like a relationship that lasts on and off again over five hundred years. Yet, Marlen pursues this relationship so sweetly and clumsily, only because he loves this one person, that even my heart melts at this story. He could do anything with all of time available to him, yet the only thing worth pursuing to him is this one relationship, from page 193:

“I know you happen to believe that I’m a lazy, good-for-nothing fool, but what you don’t know is that I’ve spent my five hundred good-for-nothing years trying to do the one thing I thought had any meaning in this world. I tried to love someone.”

Marlen’s devotion sets him apart from the modern era, in which this story is set, and from the other characters in this story. His scatter brained activities, putting everyone in danger by releasing a powerful mage and keeping information from Nick, could make Marlen only an obstacle to Nick but his love and devotion actually elevate Marlen.

 

Having a Dog

Our dog is a Border Collie Newfoundland cross but she is really more Border Collie. Her energy some days appears endless. After running five kilometres in the morning and then another five kilometres in the evening, she still wants to chase stones, play with her toys or have training.

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So there is no escaping at least a daily walk with her but more likely two or three walks with her, rain, sun, snow, minus 20 or plus 30. To do less is to let her down but also to invite chaos in our house as she tries to find something to occupy herself.

My natural state of being is inert so her energy grabs at me and pushes me out of the door. I can’t resist her open mouth smile and soft brown eyes. She humbles me though because I know that if I didn’t take her out, she would still love and forgive me, even if I didn’t deserve it.

I would now always live with a dog because on days I absolutely do not want to leave the house for a walk, I have to and I always feel better afterwards. She keeps me committed to my own wellbeing, as well as hers. And walking and chatting with your family while the sun begins its descent in the evening reminds me why I go to work every day and why I love writing.

Barb and J.C. Hendee – Leesil

Who can’t root for someone looking for redemption? When we are first introduced to Leesil, he engenders very little sympathy. He steals from peasants with his partner Magiere, and then uses the money to drink, not thinking beyond that night.

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Then we learn that he has skills with knives that enable him to kill, steal, and fight in relative secrecy and he becomes interesting. How did he come by these skills?

The guilt that drives him to drink is a result of betraying his mother and father because he couldn’t be what they needed him to be. He is at heart a decent person who just wants to get along with people and help them. It’s this decency which led to his betrayal and his guilt.

He had to make a choice between continuing to destroy himself or destroying his family. He chose to destroy his family and in doing so, began a new path to destroying himself.

That, of course, is where Leesil begins in the story. I haven’t finished reading the series, but now that he’s started on a new path to redemption, does he continue?

 

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.