Happy 2019, everyone! How is it 2019 already?
My 2019 is starting off well-ish, in part because I’m on medical leave. That’s not normally a positive, and I’d much rather *not* have to be on medical leave, but since I do, I might as well look on the bright side. And one of the bright sides is that I don’t have to go into work when the semester starts up next week. Although I’ll miss my students (there was a lot of angst and sadness on all sides when I announced I wouldn’t be around next semester), debilitating illness really puts a damper on what might otherwise be fun activities. Plus it seems that it might be my workplace itself that is a major source of the problem, as part of the mold saga. Stay tuned for more breaking mold headlines as this story unfolds…
Anyway, it’s January, which is about as wintry as it gets, so I thought I’d start gearing up for a promo for The Midnight Land, the first mini-series in my overall Zemnian Series.
That’s a magical Arctic fox fading into a snow storm, in case you’re wondering.
I was going to write about how I was inspired to start the series by reading A Game of Thrones and falling in love with the northern landscape depicted in it, and how I wanted to write something similar, but with a Russian slant, and more woman-friendly, but it’s supposed to get up above 60 degrees tomorrow here, so I’m not really feeling like winter is coming at the moment. I’ll save those posts for later. Next week it’s supposed to get down into the 40s, or something frigid like that. Of course, since I can’t tolerate even the slightest amount of cold, I should probably be grateful.
Anyway, with the recent vagaries I’ve gone through with my health, I thought that now might be the time to contemplate ups and downs and how vulnerability can turn into strength and vice versa, which is really what The Midnight Land is all about, or at least one of the things it’s all about.
My heroine, Slava, is a kind of anti-heroine, not because she’s bad, but because she’s sensitive and vulnerable. Which has made her kind of bad, or at least self-centered and hysterical, at the beginning of the story. Her vulnerability is mainly emotional, but she sees it in physical terms:
Sometimes Slava wondered if the gods had created a certain amount of skull material that was supposed to be shared equally, but somehow something had gone wrong, and other people had ended up with hers, so that their heads were thick and unfeeling, while she was left with no protection at all. That was how she felt: as if there were nothing shielding her from the outer world, so that other people’s thoughts and feelings could enter into her whether she willed it or no, while her own thoughts and feelings were brushed aside without hesitation, like falling autumn leaves. Or sometimes she saw herself as carrying a glowing sphere of light where her head should be, while other people were dark lanterns whose shutters could not be opened and whose light could not be released. Only if that were the case, then her light should be able to shine on them, only it seemed as if it never did. They all wore heavy armor, while she had no skin at all. Although, it seemed, plenty of arrogant selfishness…why did she always end up brooding on the flaws of others, when she should be doing something about her own…why, why, why…
Why indeed. Brooding on the flaws of others instead of your own is so seductive, isn’t it? I’m currently trying to limit my own indulgence in that sin to, oh, a mere five or six hours a day, instead of all day, every day. It’s a nice, high-minded New Year’s Resolution to fail at.
But–spoiler alert!–of course Slava’s greatest weakness is also her greatest strength. In the beginning, she often wishes she could weaponize her feelings and force them on others. When she gets her wish, though, it hurts her companions almost as much as their enemies. It is only when she embraces her vulnerability that she is able to come into her true power, as a protector of others:
Someone has to! said Slava.
So true, agreed the cold wind. And that someone, it seems, is you. For not only will you scream, but there is, perhaps, a faint chance that others will hear you. Perhaps you have been given this task because you might, unlikely as it is, succeed where others have failed. Tell me, little daughter: does it make you happy to be chosen for this honor?
No, said Slava, and yet…
And yet you do it anyway. Why?
I have to, explained Slava. I can’t help myself.
No, no doubt you can’t, said the cold wind. It is your purpose in life, or so it seems. Did you know, little daughter, that everyone—leshiye, the creatures of the forest, even you city-dwelling humans—is born with some skill, some special ability that only they possess? You are all different, after all, and that is why. All of you have a purpose, if only you would realize it. And your purpose, as you have sensed, is to protect others.
Slava’s weakness and vulnerability makes her more aware of the vulnerability of others, and quick to defend them. If she were a “strong” person in the traditional sense, she wouldn’t be able to become the hero she becomes. Throughout the series, all my heroines discover the same thing: their flaws are their strengths, and their strengths are their flaws, with the two intertwined like a yin-yang symbol.
So maybe keeping your New Year’s Resolutions involves harnessing your flaws for the good, or not letting your strengths get out of control, or…in general, accepting the mix of good and bad that we all possess, and turning the bad into good without turning the good into bad. It’s a big task, but I’m sure we’re all up for it.
And I promised you free books, so here we go! This week’s selection of giveaways includes the Where Women Rule Giveaway, for fantasy featuring female protagonists, the New Year? New Worlds! Giveaway, for those who made a resolution to explore in 2019, and the Portal to Fantasy Winter Reading Giveaway, if you just want to indulge in something wintry.