Category Archives: books

Book Review: A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear

I don’t usually do book reviews here, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, I’m not up on the latest releases — I’m always scrambling along a couple of years behind. For another, it’s just easier to put out a list of books on a theme with short descriptions for each.

But I recently read one that I loved so much that…well, I finished it and immediately flipped back to the beginning to start again. (I’ve only done that once before.) I’ve been avoiding writing this because it’s difficult to put into words why I loved it so much, but I have to try.

A Companion to Wolves coverThe book is A Companion to Wolves, by Sarah Monette and Elizabeth Bear. Both of them are solo writers as well: Bear is a prolific writer of all sorts of speculative fiction, while (to date) Monette has published one four-book fantasy series and a couple of anthologies. I haven’t read all of their stuff, but I heartily recommend both of them to anyone who will listen.

With A Companion to Wolves, they take several well-worn fantasy tropes — telepathic animal companions, small groups of magic-users living apart from regular society, young protagonist drawn to magic despite disapproval from his family, society under siege from magical beings — and twist until the tropes are fresh again.

If you love these tropes, don’t worry. They’re not warped until they’re unrecognizable; rather, they’re treated with reverence. Monette and Bear clearly love these kinds of stories too. They just want to know what makes these tropes tick, what happens when they are really, thoroughly explored.

They’re also interested in running quickly through the obvious to get to the interesting stuff. So yes, the young protagonist — Isolfr — is drawn to the magical sub-society, leaves home, bonds with the coolest animal, and faces opposition from some of his new companions who have been there longer. That’s all a given. What about the real questions that arise from this setup?

For example, the telepathic animals in question are wolves. They live in a pack, they act like wolves (as opposed to humans in wolf form), and most pertinent to the themes of the story, they mate like wolves. Without going into detail, this isn’t an easy path for their human companions to walk, especially for Isolfr, who was raised to believe that the wolf-bonded men were unnatural in their inclinations, but who can’t bear to reject the she-wolf — the “queen wolf”, destined for leadership — who has chosen him as her own.

(Don’t worry. It’s not as unnatural as you might be thinking. Remember how telepathic animal bonding stories work?)

Against these themes of coming-of-age and questioning of sexual identity, the bigger story that plays out is the society-under-siege plot. In this case, the society is more or less pre-Christian Scandinavia, if you squint, and the danger — the reason the wolf-bonded men exist — is from marauding trolls and wyverns from the north. Winter encroaches, the danger grows more grave, and Isolfr is put to the test.

But there’s more. I won’t spoil it, but this is one twisty book, with some masterful plotting and worldbuilding. As a writer myself, I wish I knew how the authors pulled off some of what they did, because wow.

Monette and Bear also do a truly fabulous job of showing the close friendships that develop among the men, making the wolves feel like wolves (and, at the same time, companions worthy of love and respect), and differentiating among a large cast of characters. Their sentence-level writing is beautiful and evocative without calling too much attention to itself — unless, say, you happen to know a little something about this stuff, in which case you might want to drink it all in on multiple levels.

A Companion to Wolves is the first in a planned trilogy. The second book is called The Tempering of Men, and I’m saving it because sadly, the third book isn’t out yet. I wish it were. I can’t wait to spend more time in this world.

Book Release: Black Wine by Candas Jane Dorsey

Black Wine by Candas Jane DorseyI’m signal-boosting today, with whatever power this blog has.

I’d like to draw your attention to a book I once loved: Black Wine by Canadian author Candas Jane Dorsey.  It’s speculative fiction, not easily categorized as either fantasy or SF. I read it in university, and I remember it being a literary novel, a rather difficult read both on the level of narrative and for its sometimes brutal imagery. But I persevered, and was rewarded by beauty. The author is also a poet, and it shows.

(Full disclosure: I know Candas from way back. I used to volunteer for her back when she ran The Books Collective — a variety of imprints that included the venerable Tesseract Books, now part of Canadian publisher Edge Press — and I count her among my writing mentors.)

But it’s been a long time since I’ve read it, so I’m turning to others to fill in the gaps of my memory. Cheryl Morgan, Hugo Award-winning SF critic, blogger, and publisher, has this to say about it:

Black Wine, by Candas Jane Dorsey, follows the lives of three women in three very different societies. It is clear from the start they have some connection and are therefore probably in different parts of the same world. Slowly but surely, we see how their lives are intertwined, and they unravel the secrets of their past.

The world that Dorsey has created is very interesting, being just on the cusp of becoming technological. On the one hand there are castles and taverns that make the place seem almost mediaeval. On the other there are airships which bespeak a certain level of engineering sophistication. Best of all, as the book proceeds, Dorsey uses increased evidence of technology as a signal that time is passing and that the societies she describes are evolving.

Read the rest at SF Mistressworks.

And Jo Walton, author of last year’s multi-award-winning Among Others, says this:

It’s fantasy, but it might just as well be science fiction. There are some small insignificant magic gifts. There are some prophetic cards which seem to work. It’s another planet, anyway, a whole planet with as many cultures and climate zones as you’d expect, and a moon that rotates. There’s some technology, airships, medical imaging, but it’s unevenly distributed. There doesn’t seem to have been an industrial revolution, most of what you see is handmade. They know about genes, but children are as often conceived between two same-sex partners as two opposite sex ones. Against this world we have a story of travel towards and away from, of  mothers and daughters, quest and escape, horizons and enclosures.

It’s beautifully written at all levels. The language is precise  yet lapidary—literally. The words are like stones, sometimes sharp and sometimes jewel-bright, and all of them essentially placed in the structure of the novel.

Read the rest at Tor.com

As you can see, it’s not for everyone; it requires a reader who enjoys working for meaning. But don’t let that scare you off. If you’re a fan of China Miéville or other literary-leaning speculative fiction writers, you’ll probably like this.

Black Wine won Canada’s top speculative fiction prize, the Prix Aurora Award, for best novel in English, as well as the Tiptree Award for best novel about gender, and the Crawford Award for best first fantasy novel.

It was out of print for some time. But it’s just been re-released, in paperback and ebook, by the Canadian press Five Rivers Publishing. If it sounds like your cup of tea, you can also buy the new edition on Amazon.

Guest Post by Erin Zarro: Opening a New Window

Erin Zarro author photoThis week I’m on a blog hiatus, so my fellow Turtleduck Press author, dark SFF and horror writer Erin Zarro, is here to fill in. Please give her a warm welcome!

They say that when a door closes, a window opens.  And that has never been more true than it is right now.  Long story short: in February (8 months ago to the day), I began having severe, excruciating pain in my left eye.  I was checked out, poked, prodded, and tortured by 3 MRIs (hello, claustrophobia!) and as of right now, no one can conclusively say what precisely it is.  The closest thing is optic neuritis, a painful inflammation of the optic nerve.

I’m not a wimp about pain of any kind, and I usually write through everything (including migraines and recovery from surgeries), so that was my first instinct.  Problem was, I had severe vertigo that made it impossible to stay focused on the screen.  After that went away, it was just too painful to work on the computer.  (I do have a day job, and I *have* to look at a computer screen most of my day).  Soooo I took three months off writing, and that nearly drove me insane and made me wish I were dead.  Not writing was like not breathing to me.

At some point, I determined that maybe I *could* do a little bit of writing, just not the novel revision I’d planned to do.  (Revision is tough, even under the best of circumstances).  So I thought, hey, I’ll just write 100 words a day.  When it’s flowing, and I can bear the pain, I’ll roll with it.  But surely I can crank out at least 100 words, right?

So I did.  And it felt amazing.  It was like coming home after a long time away.  It was sunshine and autumn leaves and Christmas all at once.  It was just what I needed.  But something was missing.

I’d done this for about a month or so when I discovered Holly Lisle’s How to Write Flash Fiction that Doesn’t Suck class (yes, that’s the actual name).  It was free and short-term, just 3 weeks.  I’ve always been curious about flash fiction, but never considered it because I’m a novel writer, and I write long.  How could I write a story that feels like writing haiku? I figured I’d give it a whirl.  Worst case, I suck and no harm done.  Best case, I learn something new and can use it in the future to write flash fiction.

So I signed up and waited for lesson 1 with trepidation.

Long story short: Holly Lisle is a genius.  Seriously.  She has an actual methodology for determining what to write about, what to throw at the character (s), and how to end it, usually with some type of twist.  It was broken down so easily and went so smoothly that it felt like a dream.  But most importantly, I really, really enjoyed it.  And writing 500 words in the span of 2 or 3 days was just enough to get me back to writing with purpose.  It felt amazing, and I discovered that I’m actually pretty good at those twist endings.

There was also a board set up where students can talk, mingle, and critique each other.  I met some wonderful people, and learned a lot from the critiques. My stories are so much better for it.

One of the things Holly talks about is self-publishing, and getting people to start the process — just dipping their toes in, starting small, nothing too intimidating.  And she suggested we take the flash stories we wrote in class (I wrote 7) and put them into an anthology.  I decided to put mine up for 99 cents as a gateway into my writing.  I figured no one will turn down 99 cents.  But hopefully they will enjoy it, and maybe I’ll get some sales of my other stuff, too.

Cover of In Flames by Erin ZarroIt took me about a month to get my anthology, In Flames, put together and up at Smashwords.  It was a learning experience.  I’m very happy with it, and I did everything myself, even the cover!  I feel good.  I feel like the months I spent not revising were put to good use.  But even more importantly, it kept my hand in it even when I wasn’t feeling up to anything intricate.  It saved my sanity, too.

So, if you’re curious, you can download In Flames at Smashwords at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/349458.

I’m still in pain, but I’m back to writing fully again.  I still don’t have a diagnosis, either, but that really doesn’t matter.  I was able to come back to writing, opening a window I never knew existed.  And that’s enough for now.

If You Liked… Temeraire

Naomi Novik Blood of Tyrants coverAmazon can give you recommendations, but it can’t tell you why or zero in on specific aspects of a book. To do that, you need a human (for now, anyway). So here we go…

Last week saw the release of the latest book in Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series, Blood of Tyrants. (If you’re not familiar with Temeraire, here it is in a nutshell: Napoleonic Wars with dragons.) To celebrate, I’m devoting this “If you liked…” post to Naomi Novik.

If you liked…

  • The dragons. I will assume you’ve read Anne McCaffrey. (If not, get thee to a bookstore immediately and look for Dragonflight!) Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett does something a bit different — their dragons are clockwork, in an alternate Russia, bordering an alternate China. On my TBR list are Tooth and Claw by Jo Walton and Dragon’s Keep (YA) by Janet Lee Carey.
  • The Regency setting. Mairelon the Magician and Magician’s Ward by Patricia C. Wrede are fabulous. A teenaged street urchin meets a street magician who’s more than what he seems. Shenanigans ensue. (YA, but don’t let that stop you!) On my TBR list: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.
  • The social graces (but not necessarily the Regency part). The Fox Woman by Kij Johnson is set in ancient Japan, a time and place as strongly bound by etiquette as Regency England. Melusine by Sarah Monette is a secondary-world story, but it’s still largely about court graces and politics. I believe Tooth and Claw qualifies here as well, along with Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner.
  • The ships. I’ve seen the Temeraire books described as owing much to the Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, but somehow I missed reading these…odd, given my childhood love of books about the sea and Arthur Ransome in particular. On to my TBR list they go….
  • The human-animal bond. Temeraire is highly intelligent, but he doesn’t think like a human. Still, the bond between him and Laurence is one of my favourite things about these books. For a bond where the animals are much more animal-like, I’ll put in another plug for A Companion to Wolves by Sarah Monette (yes, again) and Elizabeth Bear.

Your turn! What can you recommend for people who enjoyed Temeraire?

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy If You Liked… A Game of Thrones and If You Liked… Neil Gaiman.

 

Your Turn: SFF Writers of Colour

It’s a holiday Monday here in Canada, so instead of me talking, I’m turning the blog over to you.

I’m pretty good at seeking out SF&F by women and LGBTQ-themed speculative fiction. But I know that one area where I could be doing better is in reading SF&F by writers of colour.

So I’m looking for book recommendations. Who have you read? Who’s on your radar or your TBR list?

If you can’t think of any authors of colour, how about books that star characters of colour (main characters, not supporting characters) or that are built on mythologies and histories that are not Western? (And yes, I realize this brings up the whole question of appropriation, which is why I’m looking primarily for authors of colour.)

Let’s get this discussion going…

7 Writing Lessons from Scott Westerfeld

Cover of Uglies by Scott WesterfeldAs a writer, I’m always reading. When I can slow down enough to appreciate the art behind the book, I take mental notes. Here are some that made it out of my head…

Scott Westerfeld writes SF&F for a YA audience. His stories are fast-paced, action-focused, and very YA-minded — not at all like what I write, and not what I read most of the time. Which means they have something to teach me. So I’ve just finished reading one of his SF series — Uglies, Pretties, and Specials. (Yes, I know about Extras. More about that later.) Here’s what I learned.

(I’ll flag any major spoilers, but not minor ones.)

1. Start late, end early.

Westerfeld will often start a scene by jumping right into a conversation or an activity. The reader has to wait for a page or two to learn how his POV character, Tally, got there from the last scene or what happened in between the two. I tend to include transitions at the beginning and/or end of scenes to orient the reader, but now I see they’re not always necessary. And he’s careful to make the scenes emotionally engaging right from the beginning, so the reader is swept along instead of trying to puzzle out what just happened.

2. Use ALL the senses.

You’ve heard this before — don’t rely just on sight and sound if you want to create a vivid scene. Westerfeld is really good at this, especially touch. He’s always describing the experience of heat or cold, aching muscles, or the feel of wind against Tally’s skin. That makes each scene and setting come alive.

3. To speed up pacing, try writing scenes that span multiple (short) chapters.

You try putting a book down in the middle of a scene — it’s almost impossible. So writing chapter-spanning scenes makes a book fly by. Other tips from Westerfeld’s writing: minimize internalization and description, write short paragraphs, and of course, don’t forget the power of cliffhanger chapter endings.

4. When writing SF or F, don’t forget the “wow, that’s cool” moments and details.

Early in Uglies, we’re introduced to hoverboards — basically flying skateboards — and crash bracelets, which stop you from getting hurt if you fall off (by slowing your momentum). They’re just plain fun to read about. But Westerfeld doesn’t stop there. Hoverboards and crash bracelets come back over and over throughout the series, for different purposes and with different resonances. He gets a lot of mileage out of those two devices. At the same time, each book in the series introduces new technology to get excited about.

5. Make sure conflict has consequences.

#4 is important, but books are about characters, not cool details. Westerfeld is good at this too. (SPOILERS…) He makes Tally choose between her community or clique (represented by a friend, such as Peris or Shay) and her boyfriend, over and over again. The boyfriend usually represents the “right” choice, the moral one, the hard one. But whichever side she chooses, there are big consequences for her relationship with the other. The result is that by the end of Specials, we really feel like we’ve come a long way along with Tally.

6. Give your POV character a relatable, immediate goal, especially if there’s a reason your readers might dislike them.

(SPOILERS…) In Pretties, Tally has been brainwashed to be stupid, but she’s still worried about fitting in and being accepted as part of the group, and she keeps saying the wrong thing and being awkward — all very relatable problems. (It helps that the audience knows something Tally doesn’t: that she’s actually undercover and waiting to be rescued by the Smokies — a great example of dramatic irony.) There’s a similar setup in Specials, to great effect.

7. Know when to stop.

I mentioned earlier that I didn’t read the fourth book in the series, Extras. Why? Several reasons. (SPOILERS…) First, the end of Specials felt so final, so perfect and complete, I didn’t really want to disturb that feeling. Second, I peeked at the beginning of Extras, and it introduces a new POV character  sneaking out of her dorm, just like Tally in Uglies…and I feel like I’ve been there and grown out of that already, like Tally. Third, the situations and technologies in the first chapter seem like they’re going to revolve around different themes than the first three books, and they’re not themes that float my personal boat (YMMV). So, possible lesson here: know when to end a series (or a book). Though I will readily admit I might have stopped too soon…

(And, Extras notwithstanding, you can bet I’ve got Westerfeld’s steampunk series — Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath – on my TBR list!)

Your turn! Have you read Scott Westerfeld? What did you take away from his writing? Should I rethink my decision not to read Extras?

If you liked this post, you might also like 7 Writing Lessons from George R.R. Martin.

If You Liked… Neil Gaiman

US cover

US cover

If you’re an SF&F reader, you just might have heard that Neil Gaiman has a new book out. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is being given critical acclaim, both from reviewers and from Gaiman himself.

Sadly, I haven’t read it yet. But to celebrate its release, here’s my (personalized, human-driven) version of Amazon’s “If You Liked…” algorithm.

If your favourite Neil Gaiman book is…

  • Neverwhere. Urban British fantasy featuring a parallel “pocket universe” that exists close to our own? Try China Miéville’s debut novel, King Rat. If you’ve read other Miéville novels, you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s weirder than Neverwhere, focusing on London’s rave scene, but the vibe is similar.
  • Stardust. The land of Faerie reimagined, with its dark and dangerous undercurrent intact? Try Elizabeth Bear’s Blood and Iron. It’s set in the present day, whereas Stardust is period fantasy, but it features changelings and Dark and Light faerie courts and human mages. Bonus? There are sequels.
  • American Gods and Anansi Boys. Contemporary fantasy exploring the nature of mythology and mythical beings in a North American setting? Try pretty much anything by Charles de Lint. I’ve read Mulengro (horror-ish) and Someplace to Be Flying (more urban fantasy) and recommend them both.
  • Coraline. YA portal fantasy that plays on the fear of losing one’s parents and dares to be creepy? Try Half World by Canadian author Hiromi Goto. This one has a sequel too.
  • The Graveyard Book. YA episodic fantasy about a young boy far out of his element and being raised by strange beings? Well, The Graveyard Book is an homage to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. You may have seen the Disney movie, but have you read the original?
  • Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things. Short story collections featuring a wide variety of dark and thoughtful and sometimes creepy stories? Try The Hair Wreath by Canadian author Halli Villegas.
  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane. Big disclaimer: as mentioned, I haven’t read this yet. But some of the reviews I’ve read make me think that Jo Walton’s Among Others might be a good companion book.

Your turn! Have you read, or are you planning to read, The Ocean at the End of the Lane? What books/authors do you recommend for fans of Neil Gaiman?

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy If You Liked… A Game of Thrones.

Women in SF and Fantasy: Book Recommendations

Cover of Fey Touched by Erin ZarroI read a lot of SF&F written by female authors and/or starring women. Sometimes I forget that other people don’t. And then something happens to remind me — a friend asks for suggestions, or some sexist kerfuffle blows up in the world of SF&F conventions or fandom.

So here are my recommendations for SF&F starring strong female characters. Most of the authors are female themselves, but not all.

(What exactly is a “strong female character”? She doesn’t have to literally kick ass. There are many kinds of strength….)

Elizabeth Bear — Hammered

A prolific writer who likes to explore all corners of SF&F, Bear has written everything from contemporary fantasy about Faerie (Blood and Iron) to a sort of allegory crossed with generation ships (Dust). Her latest series (starting with Range of Ghosts) is epic fantasy in Mongolia.

My recommendation, though, is the trilogy starting with Hammered – starring an aging female ex-soldier, half cyborg, who’s dragged kicking and screaming back into a military program. Cynical? Yes…but there’s also hard-won hope and a good dose of sense-of-wonder.

Lois McMaster Bujold — Paladin of Souls

Picture this: an epic fantasy novel where the main character is an older noblewoman going on a quest and having adventures…yet she’s acting within social constraints that are true to the medieval setting. Doesn’t sound possible? Read Paladin of Souls. It’s one of my very favourite secondary-world fantasy novels, and that’s saying a lot.

Bujold is also the author of the Vorkosigan Saga, which stars strong women like Cordelia and Ekaterin. Or so I’ve heard…I’m just getting into the series, and looking forward to more.

Mike Carey, Linda Carey, and Louise Carey — The Steel Seraglio

Mike Carey works in comics, and Linda Carey has written fantasy under the name A.J. Lake. But together with Louise Carey, they wrote a lovely novel called The Steel Seraglio. It’s the story of a harem of women whose sultan is deposed by a religious zealot. They’re sent into the desert to die…but they won’t give up so easily. I’ll have more to say about this one in a future post.

Gail Carriger — Soulless

This light, fun steampunk series wasn’t quite my cup of tea, but lots of people love it. It’s got vampires, werewolves, mad science, and a fearless Victorian woman protagonist who’s ready to take on anything and anyone.

Kelley Eskridge — Solitaire

A hard SF novel where the science in question is psychology. The young woman of colour in this story has been born and raised for a role of corporate leadership, but as the story begins, she’s just been told that it’s all a lie. The fallout leads her into solitary confinement, where she confronts everything she’s done and everything she knows about herself. The writing is some of the most psychologically astute I’ve ever read.

Phil and Kaja Foglio — Girl Genius

I’ve talked about this steampunk graphic novel/webcomic series before. The spunky engineer heroine gets up to all sorts of shenanigans involving airships, robots and mechanical constructs of all sizes, a mad scientist out to kill her, the mad scientist’s handsome son, and much, much more. Her adventures are way too much fun, and full of spectacular visuals to boot.

Nicola Griffith — Slow River

This gritty SF novel follows an heiress who is forced into hiding, with no way to prove her identity. Her (female) rescuer is a street-savvy tech criminal. They begin a dangerous romance, and the rich girl finds herself changing…but she must decide who she ultimately wants to become.

KD Sarge — Captain’s Boy

KD Sarge is one of our Turtleduck Press authors. She usually writes SF about male characters, but Captain’s Boy features one of each gender. The young woman is a fiery, prickly type who gets along with nobody in the universe…except for a young man battling internal demons. When the unlikely duo sets out to rescue a boy stolen by interstellar slavers, they both have some hard learning and changing ahead.

Jo Walton — Among Others

Remember what I said about different kind of strengths? The teenage girl in this story isn’t going to kick anybody’s ass. She was crippled, and her twin sister killed, while stopping their evil mother from doing black magic. That’s all backstory.

Now she has to go on with her life — an ordinary life involving English boarding school, where there is no magic. There, looking for something to connect with, she discovers the SF&F section of the library…and a reader is born. This is a love letter to SF&F as much as anything else.

Erin Zarro — Fey Touched

Zarro is another Turtleduck Press author (coincidence? not likely…). This science fantasy novel features two sisters on opposite sides of a raging conflict. One is a genetically engineered Fey, the other a Hunter of Fey, both fierce and determined to fight for their people. But when family and community collide, only one loyalty can prevail.

Honorable Mention: Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer — Agnes and the Hitman

This isn’t speculative fiction, it’s romantic comedy/action, but it had to be mentioned anyway because it is awesome. Agnes is a food columnist with anger problems; Shane is a hitman hired to protect her. They fight crime! And solve mysteries, and spout wisecracks, and reluctantly fall in love. Oh, just go read it. You’ll love it, I swear.

Your turn! Who are your favourite female authors and/or characters in adult science fiction and fantasy?

If you liked this post, you might also like Women in A Game of Thrones.

Your Turn: Tell Me About Your Favourite YA SF and Fantasy

Just a quick post today, because (a) it’s my first day back at work after a six-month sabbatical, and (b) we had a huge rainstorm and I got caught in it on my way home, so I’m wiped!

You may have noticed that I post regularly about children’s and YA fiction…but it’s all older stuff. That’s because I’m recalling it from my own days as a young reader. Nowadays I gravitate towards adult SF&F.

But I keep hearing that this is an exciting time in YA SF&F — boundaries are being pushed, topical themes are being explored, and an awful lot of high-quality books are hitting the shelves. YA isn’t just for teens anymore (if it ever was).

I’ve read a little bit of the new and improved YA:

But that list barely scratches the surface. I’d like to read more.

Here’s where you come in. What are your favourite YA SF&F novels from the last five years?

 

Canada Day Announcement: New Fantasy Story

Canadian flagJust a quick post today, because it’s Canada Day and that means a holiday up here in the frozen north!

First: I have a new fantasy story up at Turtleduck Press. “Still Waters Run Deep” is an ongoing serial, but this month’s installment (Part 2) is written so that you don’t have to read Part 1 first. Here’s a teaser…

The shallow waters of the stream, thick with reeds, stretched as far ahead as Payut could see. He sank his paddle into the muddy bottom and pulled. His little boat slid forward along the bottom a few hard-earned handspans and stopped again.

Payut glanced up at the sun, already twinkling in and out of the thick jungle trees as it began to sink, and sighed. He’d lied to himself, thinking he could take his usual back route to the monastery through the waterways at this time of year. The monsoon wasn’t due for days.

And if he hadn’t lied to himself about his supply of earth charms in the first place, he wouldn’t be in this predicament.

You can read the rest here.

Second: Your turn! Who’s your favourite Canadian author?

Happy Canada Day!