Posted in Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Stream of Consciousness Saturday, Weekend Coffee Share, Writers' Resources, Writing in Freedom

Writing in the Weather: #weekendcoffeeshare and #SoCS

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m very happy you’re here, because both the weather and my writing are unsettled. We’ve got thunderstorms and a tornado watch active on this first day of July. A bit less than three hours from now, that will expire, but we’ve had three thunderstorms already. The first was the fiercest – it came with hail nearly the size of ice cubes, and rain that made seeing to the end of my backyard impossible.

My daughter doesn’t like thunderstorms, and, due to the rotation of the storm and our basementless house, I felt it was wise to wake her, although she’d been up all night and well into the afternoon, when we were listening to Hamilton together.

I packed a bag with essentials, in case we needed to head off to emergency shelter.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that this post began its life scribbled in a notebook that will fit easily into my computer bag. I decided to delete the last page or so, but, even though its now late Saturday evening, and it’s taken me longer to get back to this than I wanted or expected. That was due in part to the storms. All that turbulence led to a disruption in my rhythm that was followed by neighbors setting off fireworks. After all the thunder and lightning, I thought there was more weather chaos happening.

And then I’d tell you that I feel like it’s been too long since we visited like this. I’ve been writing, and plotting, and planning – not so much blogging. That always seems to be the thing that gets left behind when the creative surge tugs at me. I miss being here, chatting with you. Eventually, I’ll work things out so that I can both indulge my writing passion, and the one for connecting with others.

If we were having coffee, I might show you the notebook that currently holds all the relevant materials for my current novel-in-progress, The Far Shore. I might show you my emerging character work for the next novel on my agenda, Tsunamis. I’d tell you that, once these are added to A Rising Tide, which I finished drafting last week, that makes six novels drafted for my Kifo Island Chronicles series. It’s a solid start toward my goal of having the first dew novels ready to publish within a few weeks of one another, with more in various stages of production.

I’d tell you that I’m getting much faster at the writing phase of this venture. Now that I’ve done some research into story structure, and experimented with open-ended plotting methods, that part is moving along more efficiently, and I’m even getting faster. I try a new method for each year’s projects, and keep the best of each for my own. So far, I’ve explored Rock Your Plot, which I’ve kept quite a lot from, and The Snowflake Method. I’ve adopted a little from that, but, on the whole, it wasn’t a good fit for the way my mind works. I don’t see that as a waste of time; learning what doesn’t work for me is as important as learning what does.

This year, I’m loving my work with The Writer’s Coloring Book. I’m going to be keeping a lot from this – maybe nearly all. I love the way it engages both sides of my brain, and I get to play with color-coding, which I absolutely love. Like RYP, there’s a lot of layering, and a strong focus on developing characters before plot. Since everything I write is character driven, I find that approach intuitive and delightful. And both are open-ended enough that, although I end up with a solid outline and understanding of the story’s “bones,” I’ve got lots of room for the story to unfold and evolve, so there’s still plenty of surprises.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that the part of the process that takes the longest, right now, is revision. I don’t know as much about it, but I’m learning. I’m gradually rough-editing Sea Changes, the first installment in the Kifo Island series, so that I can submit it, scene by scene, to my local critique group. After that, I’ll compile all the notes, and devise a revision plan I’ll be working on in the early months of next year (I’d like it to be sooner, but time is a finite resource…)

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that writing is not an avocation for sprinters! It’s more, even, than a marathon. It’s more like a decathlon!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that I appreciate your letting me rant a bit before I dive back into the writing. I’d also tell you that this post is both part of Diana’s #weekendcoffeeshare over at The Part-Time Monster Blog, and Linda G.Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday -an unedited stream of consciousness piece that ties into the weekly prompt: ‘long,’ used any way we like.

I’d also ask you to forgive me if I wander off into the worlds in my head. Feel free to finish your coffee; writers just do these things, sometimes…and sometimes we post random Hamilton clips, because it’s Independence Day Weekend, and because, well…Hamilton!

Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Writing in Freedom

I Was Just Thinking….Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa, and let’s converse!

And thinking and thinking, and then thinking some more. And yet, if you ask me what I’m thinking, I’d be very hard-pressed to express what, exactly, I’m thinking. Much of it is beneath the level of language…like I’m standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon on a moonless night, aware of the ledge and the vastness beyond, but not able to describe the shape and size and scope of it.

Something’s changing; shifting inside me. I feel a depth of possibility opening in front of me. I’m oddly excited, for reasons I can’t quite name. I’m anticipating whatever’s to come, at the same time I feel a little apprehensive at how I’m going to change…

Because I know that I am. I can feel it coming. Hiding from it would only make me miserable.

Have you ever felt this way?

I can’t say much more than this- that I’m on the brink of something, something big. I may go quiet for a while; this blog might change and shuffle. I may make changes- small and larger – in my life. Almost for sure, my priorities and focuses are going to shift.

I can see the shape and shadow of it now. In time, it’ll solidify into a bona-fide reality.

From the nebulous, the concrete.

Maybe it’s a December thing. I’ve been reviewing my quarterly and annual goals, and considering what I’ve accomplished, what remains, what still matters, and what can be let go or set aside until a more opportune time. I’m begining to formulate a rough plan for next year and beyond. I’ve also been doing some intensive research and learning on several topics, and that’s feeding into what’s shifting in me and the way I see these things.

When I was younger, I tried to rush these times. As soon as I had the feeling, and it pointed toward a certain direction, I’d fly off that way, without further thought, unwilling to be dissuaded, even if I knew I was utterly unprepared. And, more often than not, I would fail, and tell myself that I wasn’t meant for anything more or better than that.

Now I wait. I stand on the shore, ans watch the tide of change rising. I keep learning, even when I start to see the direction I’ll be moving. I use that vision to clarify what I need to learn, and then I plan some basic steps that will prepare me to move forward – the same way an expert surfer waxes her board, dons her wetsuit, and checks the weather conditions before she gives herself to that perfect wave…

I’m poised, but not idle. I’m watchful, and energized, and making ready.

If you’ve had that sense of coming transformation, what do you do? Do you dive in? Turn around and go back to your comfort zone? Lose yourself in preparations? Something completely different? Drop a comment in the box below, if you’re so inclined – I’d love to chat!

 

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Challenges and Contests, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing, Mindful Monday, NaNoWrimo, Novel Excerpts

More Than Enough for Mindful Monday

How much is enough?

I asked that question the last time I posted this feature, way back on October 27 (has it really been that long?!). I thought then that I would be able to post here every other week, maybe plumping things up with a reblog or two, or combining it with Coffee and Conversation.

Well, that didn’t happen. Not the bi-weekly posting, as a stand-alone or in combination with another post. Nope, no reblogs, either.

What happened?

Well, I was pulled into a whirlwind of writing and life. At the end of October, we were still dealing with a family-related issue. The children and I were preparing for a  Halloween trip to visit friends in Central New Jersey. I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo: Sea Changes, the third (but chronologically first) of my Kifo Island Chronicles novels, was only an open-ended plan waiting to be birthed into a rough draft.

Sometimes, being mindful means being absent.

I know, I know. It sounds more than a little oxymoronic, but there it is. In order to give myself to my writing, and to my beloveds and the life we share together, I needed to let some things go.

I chose to  focus on the creative, light, and upbeat. There was something soothing in that, since the family issue raised strong emotions, and the novel dealt with intensely emotional and maybe polarizing topics.

Now the issue has been resolved in our favor, and my emotions are calming into new convictions and a preparation for action. I’ve finished the drafting, and won’t begin editing until January, so that the story can simmer.

And I’m back, a little sad to have been away so long, but also happy that I can return from a mindful, fertile, reflectively restful place. Because when I try to take on too many things, all at once, I end up feeling like Kaivaara does, in this excerpt I just discovered while rereading my Trueborn Weft Series fantasy novel-in-progress, Foul Deeds Will Rise:

Do you remember my ciphers, Shentaa?” The inner Huntress vanished, as Kaivaara assumed her outer form, rising to walk to a place where two large trees arched down to form something of an entrance, and, within, there were stonework benches for sitting, and a still small reflecting pool made of the same blue stone as that which formed the walk. Now, it gave back the image of Everdeep filled with its blazing gems.

I remember them, Kaivaara. They brought you comfort, it seemed, in a time when there was little enough of that to offer.”

I used them, to find the balance in my life, Shentaa. But, in this life, among these people, there are far too many variables. Each time I settle one, it multiplies exponentially.”

“I’m sorry, Kaivaara – I have not the understanding of that -“

It means that for each problem for which I Hunt an answer, and take my prey, there will be perhaps a hand more presented, and I must Hunt anew – but when I take those answers, there is a fourhand of difficulties – and then on, and on, and on – mayhap there will never be an ending to it.”

Shentaa laughed, and the Trueborn started, just as she always did – she had not a clear grasp of humor, mayhap because of her childhood of silence. “Ah, Kaivaara – you have discovered the nature of being grown. Ever it is so, for all of us.”

Then – there is no ending to it?”

“There is the Endhunt. Before that, none that I know.”

Then how do I go on, when all I do continues to set me further behind?”

You do what you are able, and leave the rest as though it were naught but a reflection in that pool.”

I think Shentaa gives good advice. Maybe, as often happens, I was really giving myself advice, when I wrote that passage…

And that’s one reason why, sometimes, I disappear a little from this blog. Sometimes, the things I most need to be mindful of are revealed to me in my fiction…where my subconscious mind often comes out to play hide-and-seek with me.

Are there things you need to let go of, when you seek to grow more mindful?

Do you have any hobbies or passions that clue you in to your own inner life?

I’d love to hear more about

your experiences!

Radiant Flowers on Table

For more Mindful Monday, please visit Silver Threading.

 

Posted in Blogfest Entries, Coffee and Conversation, Life Writing, Parenting

Let’s Talk About Bullying, Part Two: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa (we’ve got coffee, tea, milk, and water today), and a snack (little chocolate covered donuts, Wheat Thins and a variety of cheeses; grapes, apples, peaches, and oranges, today).

Comfy? OK, let’s get to it, shall we?

Have you noticed that here are all manner of anti-bullying messages in the world right now?

Last week, I began a conversation about bullying, and invited your responses (it might not have been the best idea to begin on an American holiday weekend that followed Canadian Thanksgiving. Note to self: Check calendar, before beginning a multi-part blog series!).

If you’d like to catch up, the link above will take you to last week’s post, and the premise for this seven-part series. It’s also fine to jump in here, if you’d rather. I’ll post a running list of previous posts each week, as well, so that you’ll have options.

My goal is to initiate and engage in a meaningful, respectful dialogue about bullying – what causes it, where it fits into our culture, and what we can do to eliminate it.

I welcome diverse or dissenting opinions. My one caveat:

We’ll be discussing bullying here, but not bullying one another. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Usually, these are based upon life experiences, personality, priorities, and maybe our mood when reading and responding. I welcome that – we can’t learn from one another if we won’t consider one another’s perspectives.

Please express your opinions with respect – as you wish from those who don’t agree with you. Comment moderation is turned on for new folks, and deleting of comments is a right I reserve, and hope not to need.

Last week, I talked about my personal doubts about the effectiveness of the anti-bullying campaigns that have sprung up in recent years. I ended by saying that addressing bullying itself ignores the roots of the problem, and that I think we need to be doing more. This week, I continue with some thoughts on the causes and effects of bullying. So, back to that question:

What causes bullying, and what can we do about it?

Bullies often are, or have been, bullied themselves.

  • They may feel invisible or powerless in their environment. When someone’s home environment is too controlled, or where there is an absence or lack of affection and regard, they may attempt to compensate by forceful acts that demand attention – even if that attention is negative. Bullying can bring a sense of power and importance, especially if a person doesn’t know any other ways of filling these needs.
  •  They’ve learned that those who have or snatch away power can wield it to get their own way – by insult or force or threat if necessary. They’ve felt the sting of blows, insults, and threats, and they’ve learned their lessons well, as a matter of self-preservation.

  • They may lack empathy, or an understanding of how their actions affect those around them.  Without this awareness, they may bully others throughout life, with no true understanding that that’s what they’re doing (Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory is a prime example).
  • They may lack the coping skills or impulse control to deal with strong emotions, so that they burst forth in unintended attacks on others. The heady rush of exhilaration that results from releasing  hostile emotions and  impulses they’ve kept cooped up can make even a normally mellow person feel invincible, and that can be a seductive experience.

When someone has been the victim of such treatment, or not helped to develop adequate preventive social skills, they may carry it forward throughout their lives.

Damning bullies, without acknowledging the causes of their behavior, does nothing to address the underlying issues that created the problem.

Complicating the bullying landscape is the fact that not every person will  become a bully in the situations described above. Some people are groomed and indoctrinated (whether intentionally or not) to perpetually become the victims of abusers.They’ve been told they’re getting better than they deserve so many times that they’ve absorbed the judgment as their own, and seek out connections that support this assessment, and their need to be punished and controlled – by partners, others in their lives, or by life circumstances.

Sometimes, what results is a dangerous combination of the two – a person who is a bully with those who are more vulnerable than them, and a victim of bullies themselves.

Consider the child bullied at school, then goes home and torments a younger sibling or a pet. Or an abused child who grows into an adult who is abusive to their own children, but,at the same time, extremely vulnerable to being dominated in social situations with other, more forceful, adults, including their own parents, with whom they may still have a dysfunctional relationship.

Whichever point on the bullying spectrum an individual occupies, it’s not the type of social dynamic that can be easily reshaped with a few hours of training, slogans, and public-interest advertising campaigns.

Maybe we need to start noticing what’s happening, in our own relationships and in the wider world, if we want to shift our culture from this type of interaction. Maybe we need to do better at recognizing bullying when we see it – not only the obvious and overt, but also the more subtle forms that might not easily be perceived as bullying, except to the one being dominated, who feels helpless, and has little or no power to do anything about it.

That’s what we’ll be exploring next week…until then, please enjoy your refreshments, and join in the conversation – it’s better with you than without!

Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Life Writing, Parenting, Unschooling

Let’s Talk About Bullying, Part One: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me.

I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So come on in, grab a cuppa (we’ve got coffee, tea, fresh-pressed apple cider, milk, and water today), and a snack (the kids and I were fantasizing about maple-bacon cookies a while ago- let’s just pretend we have some, OK?).

All set? All righty then – let’s converse!

Have you noticed that there are all manner of anti-bullying messages in the world right now?

Each is purportedly designed to protect children from bullies, and to prevent their becoming bullies. Personally, I don’t think they’re especially effective, long-term, for many reasons.

Over the next weeks, I’ll be sharing these reasons, and inviting your responses. My goal here is to engage in a meaningful and respectful dialogue about bullying – what causes it, where it fits into our culture, and what we can do to eliminate it.

I invite you to join in, even (maybe especially) if you have diverse or dissenting opinions.

My one caveat?

We’ll be discussing bullying here, but not bullying one another. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Usually, these are based upon our life experiences, personality, priorities, and maybe our mood when reading and responding. I welcome that – we can’t learn from one another if we won’t consider one another’s perspectives.

Just please express your opinions with the same respect for those you don’t agree with as you wish from those who don’t agree with you. Comment moderation is turned on for new folks, and deleting of comments is a possibility even for frequent and valued visitor-friends (though I think my bloggy peeps are an awesome and considerate group who really won’t need any moderating).

OK, so, now that all that’s been said, shall we talk about bullying, and why I have reservations about the current batch of anti-bullying propaganda?

Anti-anything campaigns are, by definition, fighting against something. That’s not only a waste of energy that could be put into finding solutions, it’s also, in this case, feeding the hostile us vs. them dynamic that creates bullies in the first place.

Mother Theresa was quoted as saying: 

“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

She knew a few things about getting things done. She knew that being against something shifts the focus to a struggle to get rid of it. She knew there was a better way – looking past the thing she wanted to end – in this case, war – and seeing what could be created to address the problem at its roots, before it could spread.

Working toward a peaceful world will limit wars. Working toward creating more peace in our own lives, and encouraging others to do the same, will reduce bullying. Anti-bullying campaigns, on the other hand, are focused on the actions and attitudes that fall under the umbrella label ‘bullying’ – and, sadly, they often seem to miss the deep roots from which the problem grows.

This isn’t going to be an anti-bullying series.

I think we need to do a lot more than equipping kids with tools to defend themselves and others against bullies, or defining what types of behavior are bullying, and telling kids not to engage in them.

Because what we’re saying, when we tell kids how to deal with bullying behavior, or how to advocate for others about bullies, is that bullies are a fact of life, and must be dealt with, one way or another. We’re accepting bullies as part of our collective culture. At best, we’re giving kids a fire extinguisher and the knowledge to use it effectively.

What we aren’t doing is being sure they can use it, in that moment of panic that accompanies an attack on themselves or someone else. Like the person who freezes, holding the extinguisher and unable to trigger it and aim it at the base of the flames of an uncontrollable fire, we’ve given chldren tools that may not be at all useful in the moment they most need them.

We’re also giving the children who bully a few hours of ’empathy training’, in an effort to encourage them to see the other side of bullying, to understand how their actions are affecting those around them, and to then stop their bullying behaviors.

But, again, these campaigns act as though bullying is the root of the issue, and as though a day long assembly, complete with handouts, guest speakers, and role-playing, can eradicate the circumstances that have led to these behaviors. As I said, I think more – maybe much more – is needed.

What is that more?

Well, that’s what the rest of this series will be about. A hint: it goes far deeper than the moment where someone targets someone else for bullying…

What do you think about anti-bullying campaigns? Do you have children in school? Have they participated in an anti-bullying campaign? What was their opinion of it, if they did? Yours?

I’ll pour your refills, pass round those imaginary maple-bacon cookies, and listen.

Posted in Coffee and Conversation, Life Writing

The Miracle of “Making-Do”: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.

What do you do when your needs outstrip your circumstances?

“Making-do” was a point of pride in American culture during the Depression and World War II years. People scrimped and saved whatever bits and pieces they could, reusing and repurposing, bartering, repairing and applying that once-famous American ingenuity to make what they had do for what they needed.

Somewhere along the way, much of that spirit has been lost. Our current economy encourages disposing of the broken, upgrading the scuffed and not-quite-latest, and consuming the new and shiny, delivered straight to our doors, in two days, with free shipping,.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like new and shiny – at least, for some things. My family’s Amazon Prime account pays for itself annually in just the shipping, and, since we live in a rural area ten miles from the nearest department stores, it also saves on gas and time spent in actual brick-and-mortar acquisition of needed or desired items (especially handy when my Accomplice was dealing with unexpected car repairs!).

But I also love items that come with stories. My wedding rings came from a pawn shop, my wedding dress from a consignment shop.  I later gave it away on Freecycle. I’ve never wanted a new car. My current chariot is a 1998 Subaru Legacy Outback wagon with over 278,000 miles – enough to drive to the moon, and be on the way home again!

Our house is filled with make-do items. My father’s childhood dresser holds bathroom supplies, and my grandparents’ hoosier cabinet serves as a work station in my study. There’s the repurposed – doors hung as shelves and turned into a worktable. My Accomplice built all of our beds.

He’s the executive chef at a small local restaurant known for its diverse array of artistic and from-scratch Southwest fusion dishes. It’s a quality menu, with daily specials…all created in the tiny kictchen of a building that used to be a pizzeria!

That he creates what he does in such a tiny space is nothing short of miraculous. I’m not exactly objective, where my beloved blue-bearded chef is concerned, but I’ve also worked with him, so I have a wider-than-wife perspective on his skill and resourcefulness..

It’s a way of being that extends beyond that kitchen to our home life. His ability to make do as a chef supports us, and his ability to make do as the family carpenter, mechanic, and general handyman makes that single income go a lot further than it otherwise might.

I’ve had a lot of recent practice in making-do. As regular readers here will know, I’m working these days from an elderly laptop which uses an operating system several generations older than that fresh, flexible new Windows 10 I was loving a few weeks back.

My Lenovo Yoga- the shiny new laptop of my dreams – is currently incapacitated, and we don’t have money in today’s budget to repair it. Not this week, not next, and not, likely, for at least a few more to come. With winter on the horizon, there’s heating fuel and firewood to purchase, taxes to be paid, and some other household things that need to be seen to first. The children keep growing, outgrowing clothes and growing into new interests..

Life happens, and, for my right now, this little old machine is my connection to you.

Sometimes, making do can rise to an art form…beauty created from entropy.

It wasn’t made for the uses I’m putting it to. It was intended to be a portable work station for construction sites, excavations, law enforcement – In its previous life, it was docked in a sherriff’s patrol car. It doesn’t have a battery (well, more accurately, the battery, such as it is, is Elsewhere), so, if it’s unplugged, it turns off immediately, taking anything unsaved with it. I’m more locked into working from one place than I was.

It’s meant to be a means to make an internet connection and do bookkeeping. It’s not intended as a writing machine; it can’t handle the volume and variety of projects I typically indulge in, and, as for the Internet – well, I’ve been known to run the Lenovo with over 20 open tabs; here, I’m pressing my luck with five, and six simply will not work.

Like my Accomplice cooking an extensive menu in a pizzeria kitchen, I’ve had to adapt my goals, my pacing, even the way I write and work.

It could be enough to defeat me – or, it can be an exercise in making-do, and experiencing the benefits of increased productivity and creativity. I can use my imagination to do as much as I’m able with this little machine, and I can practice acceptance of my current limitations, and shift some of my focus to areas of my life that aren’t computer dependent, and know that, once I’ve resolved the issues, and have access to modern computing again, I can move forward more efficiently, with some Other Things cleared off my project list. I’ve got more time to spend with my beloveds, building connections and memories in ways large and small..

That’s what I’m doing, as much as I can. Because I’d rather put my energy into making do with what I have than making a fuss about what I don’t right now. That doesn’t mean I’m not itching to get my shiny, capable, and just-right-for-me laptop back up and running. It just means that I’m making do and making progress, until the day comes, rather than putting everything in abeyance until the situation is ‘perfect’.

And, along the way, I’m growing, using my imagination, expanding my capabilities., paying attention ..little miracles born of this time of making-do.

Do you relish the challenge of making do, or dread it? Have you had to make do lately? What have you learned along the way?

I’ve got a fresh pot of coffee, and it’s a lovely early autumn evening….tell me all about it!

Posted in Book Reviews, Coffee and Conversation, Guest Posts - Your Soapbox Awaits, Just for Fun!, Life Writing

The Coinblade Chronicles: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own.That’s what Coffee and Conversation is all about – whatever’s top-of-mind. Settle in, grab a cuppa, and let’s chat!

What do you look for in a fantasy hero?

My parents kept a bookcase directly across from the doorway of my childhood bedroom. These weren’t kid books; they were grown-up reading material, and, as soon as I was able, I started pulling interesting volumes from those shelves.

Through them, I was transported to another world – one far less volatile and threatening than the one that existed within the walls of our home. Reading was escape, a way to expand my horizons, and I did it ravenously, using that bookcase as my personal buffet.

I was about twelve when I read Lord Foul’s Bane, by Stephen R. Donaldson, and my idea of what ‘hero’ meant changed forever.

Thomas Covenant is not your average good guy. Leprosy in the modern age robbed him of some fingers, a sense of ease – and his wife and young child. Life has become an endless round of checking himself for new damage, being ostracized from society, and physical limitation.

When he’s inexplicably transported into a fantasy realm where he is almost instantly healed, he – well, he doesn’t respond in a way that anyone could call heroic. Not in the least, as a matter of fact. He thinks it’s a dream, and he rapes a young girl.

I’d never read anything like it before. Thomas Covenant was my first anti-hero. I was fascinated by the fact that, while I hated the things he was doing, I also understood why he did them. He was a damaged person, suddenly freed from the facts that had governed his life – but he was still damagd, and he reacted from that place in every action he took.

Decades passed. I grew up, moved out of that volatile home and away from the wonders of the bookshelf (by that point, I had long since consumed everything I found interesting upon it). 

And then, last year, a new antihero, every bit as interesting as Thomas Covenant, and then some, slunk and swaggered his way into my life in a most unexpected way. I’d joined WIPpet Wednesday, a group of blogging writers who share excerpts from their works in progress. One Wednesday, Driev Talbert leapt out of author and WIPpet Mistress K.L. Schwengel’s blogpost and took up immediate and contentious residency in my imagination.

The child of an abusive father, Driev spurned s life of privilege to become bound to the Shadow Guilds. But tragedy has sent him into a downward spiral, and he’s renounced his oath, doing his best to lose himself in a haze of drink and women. He’s more comfortable in the gutters of the Runoff than on the high side of the Gilded Wall. He wants a life of relative anonymity – if he wants to live at all. Sometimes, he’s not so sure he does..

But anonymity might not be possible. He’s bound, after all, and, when his old life comes calling, Driev is ensnared, forced to return to a world he spurned.

In the process, he’s also driven to examine his life, the paths that led him to this point, and where he will go, from here. He’s balanced on a blade’s edge, with danger in every direction. It’s impossible to keep living as he has been – but every action seems to lead him further into conflict, controlled by opposing forces and wills. Some he knows  all too well, and others pose threats he’d never considered.

Driev deals with all this in a manner that’s absolutely not heroic. If you’re looking for a big strong savior  filled with virtue, who always does the right thing – well, he’s not your guy. Big and strong, yes, but wounded and sometimes hostile, Driev is more likely to drop everything to tumble a comely woman (or two, if they’re willing) than he is to save a damsel in distress. He’s looking for trouble, even when he tries to convince himself and everyone else that he isn’t. The thing is, more trouble than he wants is looking for him, too…

A beautiful sight! Image courtesy of K.L. Schwengel.

I had the pleasure and honor of beta-reading this novel a little over a year ago. Driev led me a merry chase, right from those first drunken steps along the icy Kin’s Road. I cursed him, and wanted to hug him. I held my breath for him more times than I can count.

As antiheroes go, Driev is a delightful mess. He’s a broken man still trying to get something that’s absolutely unobtainable. He’s not sweet, or kind – but he is, deep down, decent and as fair as he knows how to be, despite himself. If you like complex and flawed characters struggling through life in trial-and-error fashion as they breathe on the page, it’d be hard to do better than Driev.

The Coinblade Chronicles: Bound in Shadow will soon be available for everyone. I’m trying to wait patiently – I know the book’s going to be even better now, even though the idea that it could be better rather boggles my mind.

If I’ve piqued your curiosity – stay tuned. I’ll post updates and ordering information as I have them. For now, you can head on over to K.L.Schwengel’s website, and/or sign up for her newsletter (Driev isn’t the only fascinating character she writes!).

Here, allow me to refill your flagon, while you do that. It’s not exactly the Tart, here, but I try.  And, by the by, if you have a favorite character or story to share, I’m all ears!

The City of Mossrae. Image courtesy K.L. Schwengel.