Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Paks chapter 29-30

Book update: It's coming. I'm still not comfortable announcing a date yet, but it's nearly there. Like a matter of a couple of days.

Sorry about not blogging as much lately. I'm dealing with some nasty personal shit, and it's been either write and edit, or blog. And I haven't wanted to blog much.

So, paks.

The next day they go back to the camp where they rescued Cal and find their own people. Dead and/or mutilated, though in the case of "or" death isn't too far off. This isn't modern times, and there's not much you can do for multiple amputations (AKA torture) and a belly wound when the best thing you can give somebody is something called "numbwine". They bury all the dead, make promises to kill the sons of bitches who did this, and move on.

Paks has decided she is looking very much forward to when they kill the Honeycat. Which ought to be rather soon.

They chase the guy around his country for a while, discovering yet more atrocities in the process. There's a couple of pretty haunting passages that are beautifully done, including one where Paks discovers a dead body and stands there for a minute before she gets someone to help her bury it. It's very, very briefly described, and most of the description is of paks's reaction, not the body, but the context is all you need. A seasoned veteran who has seen as much as Paks, including the mutilated bodies of her own friends, has to pause over the body of a stranger because someone else's cruelty has just exhausted her.

One of the corporals gets knocked out of combat, and Paks gets tapped to take over. She's very uncomfortable in this position, but she does her best for a few battles. The corporal who got wounded asks her how she likes command. She makes it very clear she considers it all temporary and the other two just laugh at her. If she was doing a shitty job she'd have been replaced, and if she's doing a good job that probably means she's going to get an official command slot of her very own, very soon. They then tell her stories about how they went through their first command slot and navigated the teasing and hurt feelings from those passed over for promotion. One story involves a prank one of the corporals pulled involving a magic sword that glows in the face of evil--and how he burned his hand on it because you don't fuck with magic swords. This is the same sword that got hauled out when Paks was dealing with the magic spider necklace many, many chapters ago.

Next chapter, they finally, FINALLY get the Honeycat pinned into a "city". I say that in quotation marks because it's really just a ruin that's so bad, nobody can tell what it is. But there's a flagpole in the middle of it with the Honeycat's flag, so they're calling it a city. That is mostly deserted, with very few troops inside. Nobody is happy about this. That's the kind of set up that screams "trap".

They mount an assault and, eventually, breech the wall. Not too hard, given that there's nobody guarding it. The Duke somehow winds up with Paks's company, which means we're probably going to see how things resolve instead of just getting the usual summery in the wounded tent.

Paks spots the ambush before anybody else, and there's a nice general brawl where all the bad guys try to get the duke and all the Duke's men try to get between them and the bad guys. One of them is carrying poisoned blades, something Paks only discovers when she clashes with the moron and he cuts himself on his own dagger. His dying words are to call her a bitch.

The Duke makes sure that nobody else got cut by the poisoned blades, compliments Paks on her sharp eyes--not too hard, the guy's colors are yellow and black, and you kind of see that from a few miles off--and they move on. Eventually the Honeycat flees the city entirely and they have to start marching again to follow.

On the road, Paks begins to feel Canna's medallion weighing her down. She feels so tired, she starts looking in random directions just to distract herself...and she sees another ambush before it has a chance to spring. The Duke's company can't fight their way out, so they square up, shields out, and the enemy basically gets to stand there and look as their enemy turns into a gigantic turtle. Sucks to be them.

And then it starts raining, so sucks to be everybody.

The Duke makes the exciting choice to--sit in the rain and wait for their re-enforcements to come. Which is the smart move, as they've sounded the alarm and they know their buddies are nearby, and the enemy isn't doing diddly-squat to fight them. Somebody finally shows up in the case of literal cavalry arriving, and the Duke uses the moment to bash through the enemy line and then make hash out of everything he sees in yellow. Again, they retreat into the woods.

At this point they begin wondering just how many men the Honeycat has left. It can't be too many, but they could have sworn he had too few men to spring an ambush like that.

The corporal Paks replaced is fine and dandy now, so she greatfully gives up command and resumes her place as a file leader. End of chapter.

Thursday, April 24, 2014


POV cuts over to the guy Paks and company went out to rescue: Caliam "Cal" Halveric. He's captured, bound, and taunted into cursing at his captors, who threaten to both geld him and kill his sons. His daughters are not brought up--one of the very, very few benefits of a sexist society, I guess. Your daughters get a better chance to run--but he does take the time to worry about them. So there is that. He gets beaten into a pulp, basically, and shoved into a very small box.

He takes a moment, while in the box, to think about Paks's Duke, whose full name is Keri Phelan, and who served his father as a squire. Apparently the Duke is very, very, very scarred up from some kind of childhood abuse, and Cal's dad told him very firmly not to ever ask Keri where those scars came from, or to complain about them.

He gets dragged out of the box by rescuers, who confirm that the Honeycat's agents made good on their threat to geld him. You know, I really would not want to be that moron right now. There's stupid, and then there's stupid, and this kind of ranks up there as Darwin Award level stupidity.

We hang with Cal through the rescue, his companions and saviors mostly unidentified, until we get to the Duke's tent. Cal is mortified, now that his life is pretty much secured, that he's been gelded. The text is not clear exactly how much the Honeycat's people took, but given how ashamed he seemed to be I'm gonna go with "all of it". He also spends a lot of time figuring that he'll never get to command again, once word gets out that he's been "unmanned".

His dad shows up--and for the record, both he and the Duke look like they want to kill several things--and sets those fears at rest pretty damn well:

"Ask Aesil M'dierra if she ever needed balls to run a company--ask with a mile's head start, and the best horse in my stable--you might make it home."
Yep. Can't really say that balls count when a quarter of your best troops and allies never had any. Dad then promises to give Cal "That bastard's balls on toast" if Cal doesn't get there first.  Then both the Duke and Daddy Halvaric order the surgeons, clerics and mages to get Cal on his feet and functional today. Probably because the longer Cal thinks about what he just went through, the harder it is going to be for him to keep going. They protest, but neither the Duke or Daddy are having any.

Finally, Cal is left alone to eat and get dressed.

I would not want to be the Honeycat right now. End of chapter.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paks--chapter 27

Book news, my lovely book-readers: First round of edits are done. I'll be doing a second read-through and edit today and tomorrow, and will be shooting for an early may release.


Now, on to Paks

Given that Paks has collapsed twice, has a severe concussion, and has mysterious god-things happening around her, everybody decided the best thing she could do while the Company is marching is get in a wagon and not get out of it until it stops for the night. One of her "newbies", who aren't really newbies anymore, drops by to tell her what happened while she was unconscious. We find out that the Honeycat's favorite color is gold, and that he put the stuff everywhere inside his place. He also tattooed his servants so they couldn't run away. Nice piece of work, that.

The Duke, meanwhile, has his hands full keeping some of his allies from setting everything they come across on fire. EVERYTHING. Paks is utterly horrified when she's told some of them are chopping down orchards so they can torch the wood. Again: This is why you don't be a shit-head during war. When your enemies finally catch up they do shit like this. The Duke tells them firmly to knock it the fuck off. Allies state that these are only peasants--and that's about as far as they get before the Duke and his commanders collectively dog-pile the morons and explain that you do not do this shit to people.

We also meet yet another mercenary company commander, Alured the Black. He feeds people while they're in his woods but doesn't seem committed to doing much else.

Then some of Paks's friends and some of the allied commanders start disappearing. A handful get dismissed as deserters by the same idiotic allies who were raiding, but Paks knows these people. They wouldn't disappear. The Duke finally summons her and a few others and tells them they're gonna go on a secret mission to save the captured. They don't have to go in the camp--there's already agents there--but they have to drag the wounded back. And they have to do it quietly.

Paks and her cohorts go out in a boat. She spends most of the ride worried about what's going to happen when they make it to their destination. But they're only met by somebody with a very, very, very wounded man. It's the surviving eldest son of one of the Duke's primary allies. She and another soldier help get the injured party to a boat.

End of chapter.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Paksennarion--thoughts on the subject matter

I'm gonna deviate from the chapter-by-chapter review real quick, and just talk about some of the stuff I've been reading lately. Mostly because the character in that last link makes for a really beautiful comparison with Paks, and...well, I'd like to get some thoughts set down before I move on with the reviews.

Most of those links go to critiques on a movement defined as Christian Patriarchy, a word that I never thought I'd be using to define anything. It's also known as "quiverfull". And it's fucking terrifying. It's also the world that I grew up in. The second-to-last link is to a book written by one of the board-of-directors for a magazine called Homeschooling Today, which pretty much ruled my childhood. Now, I was extremely lucky. My parents either disagreed with a lot of that nonsense, or else they were never engaged enough in that world to put a lot of emphasis on most of it, but I still got a lot of it via osmosis. Especially what some of those linked blogs call "Purity Culture". I had a promise ring, I was taught that sex before marriage was morally wrong, and when I was raped the very first thing a family member assured me was that the act was not a sin because actual penetration did not occur (this was also one of the reasons it took me a solid fucking year to even call what happened rape)

I also wound up working for a family. In the interests of not pissing off a lot of people, I'm going to call them the Matthews. Their real names are highly recognizable in the homeschooling/quiverful/Patriarchy movement. And working for them was...interesting. They had an extraordinarly large family and ran a tea room slash bookstore, originally staffed by the family but, as the business grew they employed a lot of people who weren't family and who weren't involved in their movement at all. One of them was an atheistic professional wrestler who kept the rest of us sane. It was a very frilly, perfect, pink world and he did not fit in at all. I did, mostly because I was raised on the fringes of that world, and my homelife was so very very fucked up I was eager to belong anywhere at all.

I did meet several of their daughters. One of them--I'll call her Megan--seemed to make several attempts to connect with me. There was a lot of pressure, both from the Matthews and from my family at home, to conform to a standard of behavior that I had effectively outgrown several years prior. The Worst Thing I Ever Did On The Internet happened during this time period. For the record, I still hate that I did that, wish I could take it back, and regret ever having that attitude. The only thing I can say in my defense was that I was desperate for any kind of positive reception, both from my family and from the Matthews, and one thing I knew very well was that any association with something as controversial as LGBT material would cause every "responsible" adult in my life to reject me, further criticize me, and continue to heap a lot of negative feedback on me. When you're raised in that lifestyle, you are constantly fed a diet of conditional love and live in a near-constant fear of rejection. You are told that your spiritual life is conditional on being exactly right in every thought--you're not allowed to even think about deviating from what the authority figures decree as acceptable. Everything about your life is controlled. Every. Single. Thing.

I have absolutely NO idea why I didn't buy it all hook, line and sinker. Especially because the face the Matthews presented was very, very attractive. Two loving, thoughtful parents, a whole bunch of brothers and sisters who (as far as I knew) never fought. A successful, extremely pretty business that was everything I'd ever wanted to run, and all I had to do was conform to their ideals to be accepted.

I think one thing that saved me was my mother's complete indifference to my reading material. Another was probably my faith. It's a weird idea, that a Christian's belief system can save them from a Christian belief system, but that's what I credit it to.  I went through a very long spiritual experience when I was a teenager about my love for fantasy books, and how much I wanted to write them myself, that basically ended with God dragging out the clue-by-four and making it very clear that he had no problem whatsoever with elves and fairies and dragons, so would I please get over myself already. So I came into the Matthew's world with a fort built out of Tolkien, McCaffrey, Lewis, Weber, you name it. Some of these weren't the best material in terms of feminism or politics, but the resounding awareness that God didn't care made any attempts at thought control bounce off like rubber bullets. One of the more telling incidents I had with the Matthews was when I asked why The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe wasn't among the books offered. I thought it was a natural, (The Princess and the Goblin was very much in evidence) but they explained that they found Lewis's theology to be heretical, and that too many of their customers--all of whom went to the same church--felt that the talking animals were demonic.

But the incident that makes me connect the Matthews and Quiverful with Paksennarion involved a John Ringo novel. There are many reasons why an eighteen year old girl shouldn't be reading a John Ringo novel, and many, many things that a Christian of any character would find objectionable, but the thing that Ms. Matthews disliked about the novel I had brought into her business was the cover. This cover.

I didn't understand what was wrong with it. The boobs are a bit prominent, but it's not risqué by anyone else's definition. The dude behind her is in exactly the same BDUs. I brought my books in covered by a paper bag, and just remained very puzzled. Why, oh why did Mrs. Matthews dislike this image so much, she threatened to fire me if I brought another picture just like it into the business?

And now I finally get it: It's a woman in BDUs. And for once, she's not an object of titillation (at least, not in my opinion). Instead, she's forceful, she's determined, she's competent, and she's going into war because she needs to. It's the kind of cover that I look at right now and go "DAMN I'd like to be her". And it wasn't that perfect, pink, prissy Victorian image the Matthews valued in their girls. This was a woman who would do things for her world and herself...and not one whose responsabilities to the world (and, for that matter, ambitions reguarding that world) ended at the front door of her home.

The image the Matthews wanted to portray to the world is best summed up by the Elsie Dinsmore Series, something that they sold in their bookstore as part of the "Life of Faith" book and toy line. Yes, toy line. Each set of books (about a different good, dutiful, faithful Christian girl) were paired with a doll, like the American Girl series. Only the books were bigger, the clothes were more frilly, and the contents between the pages were absolutely fucking toxic.

I've re-read the first two books in that series. Elsie is a little girl who is neglected by her father, dumped in with her plantation-owning extended relations, who also neglect her when they're not verbally abusing her. Her father comes back, extends the verbal abuse to emotional and, IMHO, physical abuse--withholding and restricting food. Elsie is also a very legalistic Christian. Saved, of course, but she also applies every single rule in the Old Testament to her lifestyle (something that most denominations agree renders that whole crucifixion thing null and void; there is absolutely NO discussion of Grace in these books) This leads to a showdown between Elsie and her father, who asks her to read a worldly book to him on a Sunday, while he's sick. She refuses because it would be dishonoring God, and he withdraws all of his affection, love and support until she agrees to obey him over God. This escalates over the course of the second book until he has removed her black nursemaid--the nearest thing to a mom this little girl has--to another plantation (Yeah, I'm not even going to start touching the racism in this series). Eventually the little girl gets sick--the book heavily implies it is from a broken heart--and the father stays away until she's hours away from dying, at which point he comes home, sees what a terrible asshole he's been, gets saved, and tells his daughter he will never again oppose God in her heart. Snuggles abound. If I remember right, the little girl then goes on to marry her father's best friend when she is sixteen and he is nearing his forties. And this doesn't even begin to touch the emotionally incestuous relationship between Daddy and Daughter. Nothing about this series is healthy. Not the spirituality, not the father-daughter relationship, not the husband-wife relationship that comes later.

The original publisher of the reformatted Elsie books and dolls is now defunct (the owner and operator got caught with his pants down, literally, and the entire operation folded last year) but they are still being marketed and sold by a different company. Which means there is a generation of girls being brought up to believe that devotion unto death to an abusive shit of a dad is best--and that God is exactly the same as Daddy.

The contrast between Elsie and Paks is pretty damn interesting, because (if you ignore the made-up paganism) the two characters both display the behaviors praised by everybody in the Quiverful movement. Both Paks and Elsie are virginal. Both Paks and Elsie are competent, dilligant in doing good (by their own definition) honest to a fault. Eventually Paks does take on a spiritual commitment, and displays the same devotion to that that Elsie does to God. And both do go through a trial of martyrdom (which isn't exactly the PC high point of Paksenarrion, either). But there's a very strong difference between the two, that makes Paks's story relatively healthy and Elsie's so fucking toxic it's unreal.

First, there's the purity angle, which really hasn't come up in Paks's story, and continues to stay under the radar for like, 90% of the rest of the story. Elsie is a virgin until she weds because...well, that was the culture of the age and that was "doing what was right". It wasn't a choice she made so much as something that was strictly enforced. Paks is a virgin because Paks doesn't give a shit about relationships or sex. The irony here is that there's an oft-quoted verse in Corinthians that, according to Quiverful people, commands women to marry so they are not tempted to have sex before marriage. In my interpretation (and, IMHO, reality) that verse is basically saying "If you want to have sex, get married. I would really rather you not, as it's easier to consider spiritual things when you don't have somebody else--especially children--in your life, but people have biological drives and if you're one of them, get hitched so that nobody can criticize your faith." The point of that passage, and a lot of the passages in the New Testament, is that you police your behavior, not because you're trying to earn forgiveness, but because you don't want to be a bad example and lead people away from Christ by being an idiot. It's not a commandment to get married. Paul very clearly says that it is better for someone who doesn't have a sex drive to just not have sex--mostly because you don't want to have sex--and that the people who do have sex drives should get married first because that way they'll be above criticism.

Then there's the devotion angle. Paks is devoted to her commanders, her comrades and, eventually, the form of spirituality she adopts. Elsie is devoted to her father and her God. Elsie is devoted to the point that it is domineering, obsessive, and very unhealthy. Elsie is an extraordinarly unhappy little girl. When she is happy, it is because someone has given her kindness--usually that her father has displayed his love for her physically. The emphasis on the physical relationship between father and daughter in this series is utterly fucking nauseating. Elsie is always throwing herself on her father, covering him in kisses, begging for a "caress", yearning to be kissed by her father, wondering aloud if her father would ever love her, and is frequently described as being desperate for her father's love and physical affection. Contrast with Paks, who was ordered by her father to enter into a physical relationship she didn't want to have with a man she didn't like. She held her dad off with her grandfather's sword and ran the fuck away.

The religion angle is trickier to debate. The religion surrounding Gird greatly resembles Christianity (the image of a god-man/saint) but the religion in the book is basically paganism. Imaginary paganism, but paganism. There's a universal polytheistic viewpoint that is not presented in the Elsie Dinsmore books. Instead, religion is universally Christian, and is the Protestant Evangelical Christianity of the early 1900s, when the novels were originally written. But the way they can be compared is in the effects on the women's lives.

Paks, for example, is raised without religion. She is aware of it, but has no devotion towards it. In the story so far, we've begun to see a slow movement towards it. At the risk of spoiling the entire book for you, Paks will continue to move towards a religious point of view. She feels called to it and responds to the call as best she can, knowing nothing about it whatsoever. Religion in her life is a positive influence, giving her strength to endure the difficult times and joy when she isn't having a particular struggle. But it's consistently presented as a choice, not an obligation. She eventually chooses a pantheon and follows its rules. But she does so, not out of a sense of obligation or a fear of punishment here or in the afterlife, but because she values the religion and the god(s) she chooses to follow. In a way, it is treated very much like a healthy romance. Paks never surrenders her autonomy or her right to choose. She consistently makes the choices. That these choices are usually in favor of her gods and sometimes not in her favor is, in itself a choice that she makes with full understanding. And this, in turn, provides the religion she follows with a fullness and reality. It makes her religion into something a person would choose to die for, not out of a sense of obligation or a fear of punishment, but because it's just worth that much.

In contrast, Elise is raised by a Christian slave and a Scottish matron to reguard religion as a duty and an obligation. She has to be Christian if she wishes to be good. And the form of Christianity Elise is expected to practice is overwhelmingly toxic. Old Testament verses are very frequently quoted, and the confrontations between Elsie and her father all hinge around doing things on the Sabbath--something that Christ directly addressed in the New Testament, in such a way as to make the entire argument moot even without the doctrine of grace. Which is not present anywhere in the Elsie Dinsmore novels. Every single page is about how you have to follow all the rules perfectly, or else. For those of you who are not Christian and have no idea what I'm talking about, it's the religious equivilant of being given a bone marrow donation, and then continuing to take blood transfusions because you're afraid the new marrow isn't enough, even though every single doctor tells you that the new marrow has you covered. Most of Elsie's actions are portrayed as a lack of choice: She is religious because she is presented with no other option. She is good, because a lack of goodness means a loss of favor. She loves God because she fears rejection and hell. When her father draws the line and demands she agree to follow him over God--in an extraordinarly improbable and convoluted series of events--Elsie effectively throws up her hands and decides that she's going to die instead. At no point does Elsie ever make a choice beyond the status quo.

Also: She's eight when this is going on.

The most telling moment, however, is the prerequisite martyr scene. I'm not sure we'll ever get to that scene in Paksenarrion, but I'll attempt a spoiler-free summery: Paks is asked to trade her life for the life of an important figure. One of them, either Paks or this figure, will be tortured for two days and two nights in a religious ceremony for a dark God. Paks makes the trade, we get about a chapter of utterly horrible stuff, and then God shows up and fixes everything. During this period, she takes everything they give her, continually prays for them, and never once lashes out at her tormenters in anger...though when it's over, she pretty much goes to town on the asses of anyone dumb enough to admit they were there. I still have not decided how I feel about this scene...but I've never been put in a position where I have to make a choice like that. It's a choice that is literally life and death, both for Paks and for the kingdom she's attempting to aid. But for all that, the one positive I see in it is that this is a political move, not a religious one. Ultimately, it is a choice that Paks's type of character would make, reguardless of religious beliefs, and it is treated, not as a display of obligation or duty, but as something a hero would do, above and beyond the call of duty. She does not need to do this. She's doing it because she can't do anything else.

Elsie Dinsmore's "martyrdom" scene is not over someone else's life. It's over her refusing to read a book to her father on the Sabbath. Somehow this manages to go from "Go sit in time out" to a religious ultimatum--follow either God or Daddy--and Elsie's action is basically to stand perfectly still, pray that God will change her Daddy, and wish to die before she gets shipped off to Catholic school. The advice adults give her--ADULTS--is to sit still and keep praying, and maybe God will fix things. Nobody ever tells her that her father is being abusive to her, and she is constantly and consistently portrayed as defending her father's behavior. Finally, in what is probably the single worst scene in the entire series, she becomes deathly ill for no reason other than emotional upset (Literally. The doctors in this book literally say this) and is sitting on death's door having terrifying halucinations about evil nuns. Daddy comes home, sees his beautiful daughter raving in the grips of a terrible illness, and repents, gets saved, and promises never to get between his child and God again. Elsie is literally brought back from the dead by her father's repentance. The book is literally saying that if you hold fast in the face of abuse, eventually your suffering and pain will make your abuser stop hurting you and everything will be roses. It makes all the sunshiny-rosey scenes with Daddy later all the worse, because nothing says that Daddy won't backslide. The abuse of Elsie continues, cumulating in her marriage to a man twenty years her senior who has known her since she was a little girl. It's less Pride and Prejudice and more Humbert Humbert.

This series is being marketed right now to very young girls.

Spirituality can be a good thing. Christianity is my choice, and it's one I've made without reservation. yes. I was raised in it. It's still my choice. But when it is presented with this level of toxic mind control, it's a highly negative, life killing factor. And it should always be practiced in a spirit of joy, not a sense of obligation or duty. If it's creating that sense, there's a problem. And if it's restricting your choices, it's either time to reassess theology or just jump ship entirely. God's big enough to be patient while you get your life in order.

Let's just say if I ever have daughters, they'll be reading Paksenarrion, not Elsie Dinsmore.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Paks--chapter 26

Not part of the review: I'll be posting updates re: upcoming books and such later on this afternoon. My personal computer is FINALLY on its way to the shop...and for some reason unknown to god and man the other computer decided it wanted to work yesterday. I have no idea what's wrong with it, why it wouldn't reboot itself for about a month, or why it spontaneously decided that TODAY IS THE DAY TO BOOT UP, but I am back in business (for now. It could decide that tonight is the night it doesn't boot again, because FUCK IF I KNOW. Electronics in my life have all the logic of an Anita Blake book)

The news I can give you: Edits on Liberty, the next Starbleached novel, are progressing well. The art should not take too long to do (assuming one of my fucking computers back home continues fucking working because FUCK IF I KNOW) (Seriously. WHY DIDN'T IT WORK LAST WEEK? WHY IS IT WORKING NOW?)

Okay. On to book.

We jump from Paks' POV to the command tent--which makes sense because Paks is in the infirmary. AGAIN.

It's kind of interesting to me that Paks ending every fight by passing the fuck out doesn't bother me half as much as it does when it's Anita doing the collapsing. It does still bug me, mostly because it's repetitious as fuck and it means Paks usually misses the climax of whatever fight she nearly died fighting in...but that's kind of the point, and the difference between these two characters. The macro plot ATM has absofuckinglutely nothing to do with Paks' personal story. In the overview of the story, Paksenarrion is a bit player. A cool one, but she doesn't even hold minor command rank. Yes, she usually misses the end of every single battle, but in her personal story, she meets her climax, does a good job, hits human limits and that's that. She is a VERY limited character from a certain POV, because she's got no pretensions to superhuman strength or endurance. Humans can endure a lot, but everybody's got a point where their system goes "Alright. We're done", and in a medival setting without ANY KIND OF PAIN MANAGEMENT WHATSOEVER (just...think about that for a second, kids. THINK ABOUT IT. No morphene. No Percocet. Not even Tylenol. You get a headache? Deal with it. You get a toothache? Sucks to be you. ) that limit is pretty damn close. Paks rises to the occasion when she needs to...and she pays the price immediately afterwards, that price usually being a prolonged period of unconsciousness.

To compare that to Anita Blake...the difference is that AB DOES have pretensions to superhuman ability. Superhuman strength, superhuman healing factor, magic up the yin-yang and back. She survives shit that would have killed someone like Paks. So having her go out seems less "human limit" and more "Fuck, I don't want to write any more of this." Also: Anita Blake once passed out because she couldn't handle her own orgasm.

(That said, the surgeon taking care of Paks this time around should really have freaked a bit more when Paks went out from that concussion. She didn't fall asleep. That's losing consciousness and that is NOT good.)

So anyway, we're in the command tent. The Duke and the High Marshal are there, as well as a bunch of other faces. The High Marshal explains that his interview with Paks was to see if she was a good guy or a bad guy. He explains that sometimes people survive blows from the servants of dark gods because the survivor serves the same god as the attacker...and that these servants like to wear the symbols of the more people-friendly gods in a spirit of mockery.

The High Marshal then gives a long speech about Paks, and Gird, and the possible connection between the two, that can best be summed up by "fuck if I know". He then tells the Duke, who has "no love for the fellowship of Gird" that it's possible something will call Paks away from him, because the fuck-if-I-know is strong with this one.

The Duke takes it about as well as you'd imagine. Eventually, though, he gets to the point: Paks has served her first enlistment, she can leave whenever she wants to. Also, apparently the Duke thinks Gird is a greedy son of a bitch who wants every fighter in the world to be his, and a bunch of other unflattering things. Dude has issues with God, is what I'm saying

The High Marshal praises the Duke. The Duke tells the High Marshal, effectively, to pull the other one, it's got bells on. The Marshal offers to travel with the company as far as Volja and the Duke says he wouldn't mind the Marshal coming, but he'd be uncomfortable with the marshal leaving, seeing as how the Honeycat still has a lot of agents around, and the High Marshal is a pretty fine target.

The marshal leaves. One of the folk in the room, Dorrin, tells the Duke about the incident in Rotengre when Paks tried to save a family and the "family" attacked her with a poisoned dagger. The duke lets people speculate, then shuts the conversation down. She's his soldier as long as she wants to be, so either tell him that something else has happened with "that blasted medallion" or leave the subject alone.

Dorrin begins complaining about another commander. The Duke assures him that dude is gone by the end of the campaign.

End of chapter.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Paks--chapter 25

So Paks and co finally make it to one of the Honeycat's main citis, Silibi. Or something like that.

We get a summery of the siege that manages to be exciting at the same time. It takes two days for Paks and the others to sneak a siege engine up to the walls in the dead of night (it's a different engine each night. The effects of rain on a battle field are pretty interesting). The bad guys are lobbing fire at them during the day. They can't see shit at night, which is good because neither can Paks. Finally they get everything in place and make the assault.

Paks fights very well, but gets clobbered on the head by something that severely dents her helmet. Then she gets hit in the arm and leg. There's a spectacular light show as "clerics", a word that has not appeared before, fight each other. Paks only finds this out later, at the med tent, where she passes out as soon as they get her helmet off. The docs are worried, but not overmuch once she wakes up.

She recovers enough to go back to battle the next day, though the doctors make her wear a larger helmet, at least. She gets advice from the others, discovers that there are "clerics" everywhere, and then gets her first good look at a paladin of Gird. And of course, he's a knight in glittering mail riding a literal white horse across the battlefield with light streaming from his upraised and powerful fist, and Paks has never seen anything so awesome in her life. And she fantasizes for a second that maybe she could be in that glittering outfit, on that magnificent horse. And then chastises herself for being silly and goes back to real fighting.

Finally, the Phelani and the other Companies make an assault on the defender's temple, which is when folk from every religion mentioned so far turn up and stand shoulder to shoulder and start doing battle with people who, quiet honestly, look like they were rejected from a death rock band for being "too metal". Paks' own fight gets closer and closer to the paladin, and finally she finds herself in place just when the bad guy makes a swing the paladin can't counter. Paks steps in, raises her sword, there's a great flash of light, her sword shatters, she falls into the bad guy because she's blinded (and probably still concussed) and she passes out while someone kicks her (probably because someone kicks her because concussion)

The surgeons take care of her in the tents. I have to assume most of the fighting is over, because the High Marshal of Gird is there, rather than at the front lines. He starts peppering Paks with questions about what she believes, and specifically why she's resisted the attempts to convert her to Gird. She says one, she can't believe a man can become a god, two, she doesn't think that a God that likes fighting will be protecting much, and three...the two best girdsmen she knew, Canna and Effa, are both dead from wounds gained in battle when they damn well ought to have been protected. What kind of God does that?

The High Marshal corrects her with his version of the story of Gird: That he was a farmer who taught other farmers how to fight, they overturned their ruler at the time, and instead of becoming a king Gird made his followers take care of the helpless instead. He fought the forces of darkness and was taken up in a cloud of glory, and the Girdsmen reguard him as a saint, not a god. Then he explains that the axemen Paks clashed with was a preist of Liart--a god that thrives on torment--and that his weapon was enchanted, and that Paks damn well ought to be dead right now, so it's very interesting that her medallion of Gird flared up at just the right moment to save her ass, given that she doesn't believe in him AT ALL.

Paks agrees, less because that's interesting to her and more because she's concussed with a burned arm and an awful lot of primitive painkillers in her system.

The Marshal withdraws and Paks goes back to a monitored sleep.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Starbleached: Fortitude---BOOK SAMPLE!

Alright, my lovely book-readers, here's a long awaited sample of the next Starbleached book! (Long awaited, mostly because your humble writer-friend is a lazy ass. Sorry, my lovelies)

Note: Still in the process of editing this, but I wanted to get off my sorry duff and give ya'll something so you know I am working.  ETA is mid april or early may, depending on when I get my computer up and running again.

Enjoy, my dears.

Bryan closed his eyes when the lights came on. 
They had given him control of the room's lighting system. Just another disturbing kindness humans seemed capable of. Wasn’t it in their best interest to keep something as dangerous as himself disabled? And Human lights were so blinding. Not nearly as bad as starlight, but a burn by a wild fire is just as painful as lava. Past a certain point, one lost one's tolerance for pain. A human room at full brightness was like being trapped in a room full of Brightminds, or worse, being made to kneel at the feet of the Eldking himself. 
Overseers would have done so. He would have done so. 
But humans weren’t like that. When they had decided to keep him, they gave him his own room with the environmental controls where he could reach them. They could override those controls if they wanted to, and frequently did, but he could make the room dim as a proper compartment. This room was cool and humid as it ought to be. He was even able to set the bed controls to fit his rather generous frame. What right did they have to be so kind? 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Paks--chapter 24

Paks spends the first day of their new siege watching the siege work. She's torn between being glad she's not doing it and being bored out of her mind. A rider shows up and heads for the Duke. She tries to get close enough to listen in, which means she's close enough to be picked to go get the leader of the Halvarics and drag him back to the Duke's tent for news. It turns out the guy remembers her as the soldier who almost didn't give her parole.

Nobody finds out what the courier brought, so it must be important.

Several days later, one of Paks' recruits tells her he spotted someone coming over the city wall. Paks uses this as a Teaching Opportunity, specificially on Why We Do Not Talk About Things. They haven't had a chance to camp in a peaceful city, so Stammel hasn't had his chance to give the "Don't get drunk and blab" speech, or to beat the concept of operational security into the newbie's heads. Paks quickly explains that winning usually means having a surprise or two up your sleeve, and if you blab to the wrong person--and you never know who the wrong person is--you lose your surprise. The new person is alarmed and even a little insulted, but he gets the point.

About a day later an entire group of people breech the wall from the other side and go to talk to the Duke. Two of 'em get shot by the defenders, so the rest defect. There's a lot of fighting going on within the city, even though the Duke's people haven't make it into the city yet. Sounds like the city itself doesn't like the Honeycat anymore.

The inside people pull the Honeycat's colors down and fly the colors of an unknown party, but it's gonna be either the Duke or the Halvarics, and either way that means Paks and company have friends on the inside. Eventually her troops make it inside, but by then most of the fighting (for the Duke's people) has ended anyway.

After assisting a boy with a lost puppy--no, really. Kid lost his puppy--Paks gets to catalogue the warehouse. Fun. One of her recruits got to raid a jeweler and allows Paks and the other newbies under her to pick a decent helping of sparklies from his haul. Nice of him. The same recruit also wants Paks to pull strings to get him back to fighting. Seems he broke his arm and he wants the surgeons to put him back into play. Paks won't go for it, and Stammel shows up to back him up, then pulls her aside. Apparently they took on new people, and Stammel wants Paks to watch them. And he means watch, not just shepard. They could be good men, but they also could be plants.

That means Stammel really trusts Paks. Not just her fighting strength but her head. You don't give the potential spy to somebody who's got fewer brains than a turnip.

And of course Paks newest charge is a sexist idiot. His first serious question to Paks is "Are you sure you aren't a cook?" to which Paks says "yes" and nothing more. Probably because we don't want to kill him until this plot plays out. Idiot.

I do like, however, how very, very little sexism there was up until we started hitting the southern areas. Yes, there was the Korryn incident, which was really shitty, but everybody came down on him like a load of bricks. Up until this point, women have been treated like fighters. So much so that it hasn't called attention to itself. Paks is here to fight, and that's all. It's only now that she's got something she has to prove, and it shows very well how absolutely unfair that attitude is. Paks is a veteran. She's survived multiple tours on the front line of battle. She made the run from Dwarfwatch to Rotengre and told the Duke what happened. She's the goddamn reason the Duke is down there in the first place... and this little piss-ant is daring to insinuate that Paks is less of a soldier because of her gender.

He also mouthed off in front of Stammal, and it's probably another display of his high opinion of her that he didn't pop the idiot the second he did so. He figures Paks can sort out her own problem. And I think popping stupid would less be a "Protect the woman" gesture and more of a "you do NOT disrespect my friend"...thing.

She takes New Stupid to see Siger, who takes one look, asks a couple questions, and decides that Paks is just the one to put him through his paces. This is probably going to be fun.

It is.

Siger has Paks form a shield line with him, and lets all the newbies line up opposite them. The newbies are all like "it's not fair, it's just one old man and a girl." And the newbies hold their own for a while, until New and Stupid almost gets a touch on Paks and grins at her. Then she cleans his clock for him and gets the "You're not bad...for a girl" speech in return. New Stupid isn't going to improve.

And that my darlings is how you do a girls-can-play-with-boys sort of scene. No dick measuring, no bravado. The girl's got nothing to prove, and she just does her job and does it well and does not give one flying fuck about your opinion. Ah, Paks, how much I do love thee...

It turns out that the Honeycat likes to keep women fighters as a hobby--show them off at feasts, and then do the predictable with them--and that's part of why New and Stupid is so disrespectful of Paks.

Paks spends the last few chapters thoroughly quashing his ideas about the proper role for women, including the fact that she doesn't want to marry...ever, and never has. She adds in that a quarter of Duke Phelani's company are women, which I think is the first time a concrete number has come up.

Idiot accepts this, and the chapter ends.