The Emperor’s Edge series by Lindsay Buroker — a review

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Imperial law enforcer Amaranthe Lokdon is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. But when ravaged bodies show up on the waterfront, an arson covers up human sacrifices, and a powerful business coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed.

Worse, Sicarius, the empire’s most notorious assassin, is in town. He’s tied in with the chaos somehow, but Amaranthe would be a fool to cross his path. Unfortunately, her superiors order her to hunt him down. Either they have an unprecedented belief in her skills… or someone wants her dead.

Thus kicks off a seven book series (with an assortment of ‘in between’ shorts and an eighth book that’s related) which follows Amaranthe, Sicarius, and an assortment of unlikely companions as they do their best for emperor and country . . . and if doing their best results less in reward and more in bounties on their heads, surely that’s just misunderstandings, right?

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I am so happy to have discovered Lindsay Buroker’s writing. I came across her work first in the Nine By Night bundle, which contained the first book in her Rust and Relic series. I snagged Emperor’s Edge in December, after reading the available Rust and Relic books, because I needed more of her writing; I was expecting to enjoy this series. I wasn’t expecting it to become my favorite of her work thus far. Lindsay handles a wide cast of characters with seeming ease. While Amaranthe and Sicarius are the main main characters, the rest of the team gets a decent amount of screen time, and the chemistry between them all is believable. Her mastery of pacing and tension is a delight to read, and she weaves connections between the characters with a skilled hand. I cannot, cannot recommend this series highly enough. What do you have to lose? The first book is available for free, still, so you may want to hop on that.

Mistwalker — Saundra Mitchell — a review

Oh, this book. This book, y’all.

I don’t go browsing shelves that much these days, preferring to do my browsing in the comfort of my home, but there’s something to be said for ducking in and checking out physical shelves now and again. It’s an engagement of chance, of happenstance, and sometimes the best discoveries are made this way.

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Saundra Mitchell’s Mistwalker is one of those best discoveries.

First things first: sometimes covers really do their job well. Catchy, somewhat spooky title? Young woman staring up at a fog-enshrouded light house? Yeah, that alone is enough to rope me in. But then, oh, then, the blurb:

When Willa Dixon’s brother dies on the family lobster boat, her father forbids Willa from stepping foot on deck again. With her family suffering, she’ll do anything to help out—even visit the Grey Man. Everyone in her small Maine town knows of this legendary spirit who haunts the lighthouse, controlling the fog and the fate of any vessel within his reach. But what Willa finds in the lighthouse isn’t a spirit at all, but a young man trapped inside until he collects one thousand souls. Desperate to escape his cursed existence, Grey tries to seduce Willa to take his place. With her life on land in shambles, will she sacrifice herself?

Is this not the perfect book for me to want to read? Why, yes, yes it is, please let me devour that, thanks.

This is a heart-breaking story, and from page one I was with Willa as she struggled to deal with the grief of having lost her younger brother. Worse, to feel responsible for his death, Willa has a weight dragging at her that she cannot shake lose. All around her family and friends are continuing with their lives, but she watches the ramifications of a tragedy  which she’s put in place, and she knows — she knows — that it’s all her fault. Her heart longs for the comfort of the sea, to be out on the open water, to escape from this hell that her whole world has become, and in this yearning, she becomes someone the Grey Man can reach out to. She is pulled, more and more, to the haunted light house that stands sentinel over her island home.

The Grey Man — or, Grey, as we come to know him — was not always the monster he is now. He was not always a prisoner of this curse that chains him by a sea he despised during his lifetime. No, once he was a foolish man who made a foolish promise, and now he’s caught, forced to capture a thousand souls or forever remain trapped in the light house, alone, not dead, but not alive. That is, unless he can get someone to take his place . . .

Mistwalker is romantic, not so much in the ‘will they jump each other’s bones?’ sort of way, but in the classical, tense-ridden, yearning for so much more than just physical contact sort of way. It is a dance between freedom and enslavement, a dance between right and wrong, between the mystical, the magickal, the unseen, and the very, very mundane. It’s a story filled with the superstitions of the sea, the history of people living life at the sea’s mercy, of human courage and human failings. This is a beautiful book written by an author who has a mastery of setting. I’ve longed for the east coast, during the reading of this book, like I haven’t in quite a while. I did not just read about a small fishing town in Maine. Mistwalker picked me up, transplanted me, and stuck me down by the docks while I watched this story unfold. I loved this book. I can’t wait to gobble up the rest of  her books — though I suspect this one shall remain my favorite.

 

 

Currently reading, and last five?

Just because I like to take a peek into other people’s bookshelves/towers . . .

I’m currently making my way through the Percy Jackson books (I’m on my second go of Sea of Monsters). These are ending up being fun, light, bed-time reading, though I’m starting to read them to Corbie as we go, because he enjoys story time, and he prefers boy protagonists. Am not sure how he feels about the god angle, but he’s not a super fussy audience.

I’m also reading (a lot more slowly) The Myths of Narasimha and Vamana, which is a study of, well, the myths of Narasimha and Vamana, two avatars of Vishu, what their lore and worship-history looks like, how they differ in their approach to problems at hand, and how two such different beings could be, ultimately, the same at the source. The writing is very approachable, and the author does a great job of making sure even people with a very superficial understanding of the Vedic sources *waves hands* has an idea of what she’s talking about. So, yay for that.

My last five reads? The Lightning Thief (reread #3); Osun Across the Waters; Dead Heat (the newest Alpha and Omega book, and oh my god, do I love Anna and Charles? Yes, yes, I love Anna and Charles); Bringing Race to the Table: Exploring Racism in the Pagan Community; after that it gets jumbled. There have been a decent amount of nonfiction, enough that I’m craving another fiction splurge . . . Which is nice enough, because I’ve got some fiction waiting for me . . .

What are your last five?

Chapter Three will be going out in a couple of days! Also, some babble.

Just a reminder on that! Remember, if you’re interested in signing up and getting the previous two chapters, you can! Just leave a note when you’re paying and I’ll send those along, too.

Remember how I said I’d be curtailing my social media presence in February in order to buckle down? Remember how I said I really wanted to meet my (albeit self-imposed) deadlines? Remember how I’ve talked about realistic goals, and knowing thyself, and all that crap?

Yeah.

So, to recap: going in to 2015 I recommitted to Writing All The Things. All the things in this case was: get the Marriage trio (need a serial name!) written (three books, roughly 50k each), using the 1st which is halfway done as the Story Subscription to give myself cushion to finish it, and get going on the next two. I also wanted to get Poseidon: A Narrative print ready. And I wanted to maybe find some time to write some short stories. Full time job, part time job at Fiberwytch, and the Story Subscription alone is a part time job, too. (An AWESOME part time job. My favorite job right now.) To that I wanted to add a second full time job, writing.

And maybe that was do-able. Maybe it still is. I’ve failed at my mini-goals, my deadline to get the first book’s rough draft done by the end of February, but the big goals for the year are still attainable . . .

Except, I’ve opted to participate in the Pagan Experience blog project this year, and I’m enjoying it, and I want to keep doing it. Beth and I have made significant headway into a book we’re writing together which, tragically, has required some research done and extra, unanticipated reading *cough*.

So, on the one hand, I failed at my mini-goal to have A Marriage of Land and Sea completed by tomorrow, but on the other had, I have met my word-count goals. I’ve also remembered something really important:

I hate writing every day on the same project. Deciding I’m going to write at NaNo pacing for the whole of the year on one project is worse than silly — it’s ignoring what I know about myself, my writing habits, what works for me, what doesn’t, and it’s making sure I fail before I’m even out of the gate.

What works for me? While I’m working full time at a day job, having some evenings home when I can veg out, knit, or read works for me, so it’s important that I have two days set aside to get large amounts of writing done. Having a goal of 10k for two days is a tad on the high side. 8-9k seems more sustainable. Part of the joy of working for yourself is making your own schedule, right? Who says you have to spread your work out over a whole week? Writing 1-2k a day on something 4-5 days a week bores me to tears, and by week two I just don’t want to see it anymore. Why set myself up to not want to write? I love writing.

Not over-committing myself works for me, too. This is frustrating, because I want to get more wordage out this year, I want to see a few projects through to completion, and I love fiction writing. I don’t have a huge blog following, and I’m not looking to becoming a blogger-name, but I’m owning up to the fact that writing blog posts count as writing and, more to the point for me right now, I really like writing nonfiction, tooWriting theological, spiritual, or even mundane nonfiction helps me internalize, reflect, and grow. It makes sure that I’m not just sitting and not engaging. It’s important, as important to my well being as writing fiction is. So committing myself to nothing but fiction? Not a good idea. I’m glad I committed to the Pagan Experience. Part of me knew this, because as soon as I said, Fiction Year! I came across the project and jumped in. There was some internal scramble to help me save myself from myself.

So, to re-prioritize these goals. I want to have A Marriage of Land and Sea done by the end of April. If I give myself one day a week to work on that and one day a week to work on the non-fiction book, I’ll be happy. (I suspect). And, obviously, I can tweak that as needed. But deciding at the start of the month that i’m going to write every day, 4-5 days a week, on a project? Psychs me into being tired of that topic before I even start. I suppose I could muddle through it and sacrifice the enjoyment I get in writing, in letting the next chapter or next scene steep in my mind for days until I sit down and let it go like a flood released from a dam, just so I can say I have discipline . . . but why? I don’t want discipline beyond upping my wordage and producing material. How that looks day to day doesn’t matter so much, and I’d rather be disciplined in knowing what my strengths are and then working with them, rather than against.

I have, over the course of last year, thanks to Beth and also to Shauna, admitted that writing nonfiction still counts as writing, even when it’s my own writing.  This year? This year I need to admit that I do know my strengths and it’s time to work with them toward my goals. I’m standing in my own way. Again. MOVE, Jo.

(I also need to stop deciding that easing off FB browsing will mean I can’t interact with people I only interact with on FB, or mostly on FB. Once I said I’d be backing away to focus on the writing. I was all I MISS YOU!!!!! and on even more. Feh.)

 

Story Subscription has gone out!

If you’re signed up for my Story Subscription, chapter two of A Marriage of Land and Sea ought to have landed in your inbox by now. It left late, and my apologies about that. I knew February was coming, I knew the end of January was in sight, and I still . . . just . . . I don’t know what happened.

Now that February is here I’m going to be tucking in to the writing, as I’ve got deadlines looming that i’m not quite ready to face. I hope everyone has a good month, and I’ll see you again in March!

Chapter Two will be hitting inboxes in a couple of weeks!

Just a reminder that the second chapter in A Marriage of Land and Sea will be going live on February 1st! If you signed up and didn’t receive your first chapter, I hope you’ll let me know. I did switch to a different email account for this, and there were a few (operator caused) snafus in the process. (My apologies!)

If you missed chapter one, it’s not too late! Just send along a request as well as your preferred format with your payment choice, and I’ll send that out to you within 24hrs. Also — and this is for chapter one only at this point — if you’re signing up for chapter two and you’ve got a friend who you think might be interested, send their email and preferred format along and I’ll send them out chapter one, at no cost to you or them! My thanks for your contribution already and, yes, a desire to get my work to more people! (I’ll be honest: currently staring yet another big vet bill in the face, and I don’t like the looks its giving me.)

Spread the word, talk my writing up, get to send a sample chapter to a friend! And, of course, have my gratitude, because you already do.

Writing takes work — writers should be paid.

So, my day job is not exactly a high paying day job. I watch the controversy (?!?) over minimum wage being raised, and over workers being paid living wages (again I say ?!?) and how some assholes think that just because you’re doing a menial job that it’s okay that you work full time and still have to resort to governmental aid to be able to have a roof over your head, have healthcare, and be able to feed yourself and your family. I don’t actually make minimum wage — but I do make less than a dollar more than my state’s minimum wage, at a job I’ve been doing for a decade, and at a place where people have been hired to do the same job I’m doing off the street making a dollar more than me, if not more. I frequently do the “what if” game. What if something happens to Beth? Could I maintain the apartment and the needs of the animals and still feed myself? (the answer? I’d be biking a lot more, because bye bye bus pass, and I’d be eating a lot less, because, you know. Food.) I’d be able to swing it if I was eligible for food assistance. But it would be tight.

Now, imagine we had children instead of cats and a dog. (I’d rather the cats and the dog, but they don’t need as much in the way of food. They don’t need clothing. They don’t need school supplies). This is what I think about when people bitch about people getting paid to do their jobs.

And that brings us to art, to artists and makers and creators and writers. Doing work. Artists and makers and creators and writers are just as important to a healthy, thriving society (oh, wait) health care professionals and teachers and trash collectors and service workers and people who flip your fucking burgers. Basic needs are the same. People need shelter. They need security. They need food.

So, this post? Shouldn’t infuriate, because it’s not a new thing at all, that writers are expected to get paid crap to write. Asking for $11 an hour to live on? Not. Rolling. In. It. Depending on where in the country you are, that’s barely a living wage. Why the hell should any be criticized for asking for that much? People, she wouldn’t be having $11 an hour of profit, of free money. That’s bills and rent/mortgage, that’s groceries and gas and car insurance. It’s people wanting to get paid to do their job. And, you know, you’re not obligated to pay authors or artists whose work you don’t enjoy. That’s fine. I want people who enjoy my writing to read my writing. But, if you are going to enjoy the art of others to the point of owning copies of it, support your artists. Don’t expect to get it for nothing. Not being able to afford it and not* going through authentic channels (like libraries, or used bookstores/not pirating) is utter shit and is, in a nutshell, a good example of what’s wrong with our culture. We lack empathy. We lack a willingness to humanize our fellow humans. We are taught to act as consumers with everything, and we follow as we are taught blindly too much.

Pay your artists, damn it.

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edited because oh my gods did I forget a very important ‘not’ there. Libraries rock. Use your libraries. Don’t pirate. Do proof read your posts before hitting post.