Hmm, and while I’m on the subject of free books, the Portal to Fantasy Winter Reading Giveaway is still going strong. Why not check it out if you haven’t already?
And heck, while you’re at it, you might as well mosey on over to the New Year? New Worlds Fantasy Giveaway as well.
Regular followers of my posts may have noticed that I was AWOL last week. Alas, it was not because I was devoting the time to my new, semi-secret contemporary suspense project (pick up the free ARC and sign up for my other newsletter here). No, it was because, after a week of marked improvement, in which I even walked my dogs! Down the street!!!!! Okay, it was only half a block, but that’s half a block more than I’ve done in a year and a half–where was I ? Oh, yeah. I got better…and then I crashed. Last weekend was spent in bed, when, that is, I wasn’t wondering if I needed to take myself to the ER. My crashes can be pretty scary sometimes. In fact, as the caretaker to a dog with Addison’s disease, I now recognize them as being quasi-Addisonian crises. Which sucks, in case you’re wondering. There’s a lot of suffering and fear involved in these crashes, alas, like there is in everything else involved in health problems. That’s why they’re health problems: because they cause ridiculous amounts of pain and misery, and there’s no way to hide from them. Suffering is terrible, full stop. Try to cause less of it.
On the other hand, as a Buddhist and a Russianist, I recognize the benefits involved in suffering. Suffering can break you down, but it can also lift you up and make you a wiser, more compassionate person. If, that is, you have the strength to make it do so.
This seems like a good segue into my discussion of The Midnight Land. While one of the key inspirations for the story, other than medieval Russian literature, was the question we feminists have to ask ourselves of “How on Earth did we let men get so out of hand?” somehow this morphed into a meditation on sensitivity, compassion, and how to make the world a better place, one with less suffering in it.
Obviously these are big topics, but my heroine Slava’s answer to it circles back to the concept of yin and yang and finding strength in your opposites that I wrote about last time. In the beginning of Part I Slava frets about how ill-behaved the men around her are, but does nothing but fret and fail to stand her ground. (Spoiler alert: that’s how my heroines think we let men get so out of hand).
SPOILER ALERT!!!! MAJOR PLOT REVEAL!!!!!
If you don’t want to know something of what happens to Slava at the end of TMLII, skip the following excerpt!
over the course of the story, Slava manages to transform her sensitivity into compassion, and her angst into courage. This leads her to the following realization, from the end of Part II:
“A piece of irony, indeed,” Slava agreed. “Or perhaps it was all the will of the gods.” The fact that her reign rested on what some might call masculine treachery and inconstancy was an irony not lost on her, and one that was, as Olga had pointed out, rather worrisome. Or perhaps not. Perhaps this was what all those aunts and grannies had meant when they had patted her arm and told her, with many a salacious look and leering grin, that she needed to take in a “bit of a man.” Perhaps she just needed to act a bit more like a man from time to time, or at least accept the misdeeds of the men she had encountered throughout her life, because without them, without all their thoughtlessness and cruelty, she might not have gained the rule of Zem’. Perhaps without all the wrongs that had been done her, she would never have been given this opportunity to do right. Perhaps there was a reason for all of it, or, most likely of all, she realized, this was her opportunity to turn all that foolishness and futility into something that was neither foolish nor futile. She could transmute the dross of pain and petty human problems into something more, if she could find the courage to do so.
Slava comes to the important realization that pain is, to a certain extent, what you make of it. Not that it can be wished away, but that it can make you bigger person, if you are willing to accept its thorny gifts. Sadly, that’s easier said than done, which is why Slava is a hero. Most people want to be heroes, but only real heroes can take the pain that everyone goes through, and turn it into something worthwhile.
And with that bracing thought, I’ll leave you with those links again:
The Midnight Land I (free Jan 20-24, and always free on KU)
The Midnight Land II (99c Jan 20-24, and always free on KU)
The ARC and newsletter signup for my semi-secret suspense project