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Addiction

March 09, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Anthonyisms, Not Exactly Random  4 Comments

Sometimes our bodies betray us and work against our nature, but for many sorrow is an addiction.

Like happiness, it fills a void. Feeling empty is the opposite of sorrow and happiness. Passion takes on many forms, and a passionate woman full of sorrow is everything but an empty space.

Thus, depression sometimes is a form of self-defense, but, insidious that it is, it is more an abusive lover who is the only one to pay attention. It’s like alcoholism: feeling drunk is better than not feeling anything at all.

There are many ways into addiction, and half as many ways getting out. Sadness may be better than the bottomless pit, but the mountain of life is there for a reason.

Climb it or sit around at the bottom looking at the clouds. Happiness is not a choice or an obligation.

Happiness is an addiction, and the end result of looking up at the top, rather looking into the abyss.

It’s that simple.

La, la, la, Dee, dee, dee

February 08, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random  4 Comments

A quick drive by to say Im on a new contract. You know the drill—posting light as I come up to speed on the piles of work that need to be done.

Cause you all don’t want my actual writing to suffer, right? Right!

Focus

January 26, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Anthonyisms, Not Exactly Random  2 Comments

In order to gain focus, one must often lose focus.

A person at any given time is in a state defined both by who she is and who she wants to be.

This definition is everything. We can either let other people and actions or even the actions that we cause that we do not wish, define us. In order to move to where we want to be, we must let go of the things that currently define us that are negative in nature.

Losing focus is one way to do this. Growing up, the wise told us  to not let others define us. The hard slog, however, is to recognize when our definition of who and what we are is the wrong one. We often focus on the wrong things. Perhaps this thing consumes us because it is painful and needs attention. Perhaps it is unavoidable. Perhaps it is a habit.

It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t deserve focus. It may need attention, sometimes lots of attention, but it’s not who we are.

We are not pain.

We are not heartache.

We are not loneliness.

We have felt all these things. Sometimes we can’t let them go, but we can turn from them. Adversity is either a cup to hold the raindrop or the raindrop that falls into the lake. Focus is our choice.

Choose wisely.

MLK

January 16, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random  0 Comments

Violence exercised merely in self-defense, all societies, from the most primitive to the most cultured and civilized, accept as moral and legal.  The principle of self-defense, even involving weapons and bloodshed, has never been condemned, even by Gandhi … . When the Negro uses force in self-defense, he does not forfeit support;  he may even win it, by the courage and self-respect it reflects.

— Dr. Martin Luther King

Some Men

January 15, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Anthonyisms, Not Exactly Random  0 Comments

There are men who simply never leave.

It never occurs to them. They stand in the eye of the storm for so long they become the eye. They will always be there, it is a quantum certainty, their resolve woven directly in their reality.

A friend disappears. Sometimes another. They leave on clouds of bleak or simply fade away. It does not matter, though, as a man reaches out his hand and plunges it into the maelstrom. Grab on, friend. Grab on.

Sometimes a hand claps his. It is usually a feminine hand.

The man pulls. Sometimes the hand lets go in fear of the eye, but he never will. Sometimes he pulls and draws the person into his calm existence.

“I’m sorry I went away,” her eyes will say.

The man will smile, for the wind apologizing to the rock for blowing is amusing to him.

Sometimes, her eyes are bittersweet.

The man will still smile.

Here, in the center, there is the now, never the past, only the future. Regrets are for the wind.

One of Those Self-Indulgent Posts

January 09, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Not Exactly Random  3 Comments

Ten random factoids about Anthony:

1. I have bad eyes that surgeons repaired over the course of three eye operations. I am thankful it worked, but there are some of my childhood I can’t remember, at all, because of not being able to see and being in pain. With glasses, my eyes are fine now.

2. My first kiss was at a Girl Scout dance. I was a Boy Scout. The cute girl I danced with had no intention of talking. She dragged me to a dark corner and smooched me. Ho-Boy, that was awesome. When I asked for her name, she responded with more smooches. I never saw her again.

3. I took ten years of wine classes, and then developed an allergy to about 90% if the wine on the market. That sucked.

4. I met my wife at work. She was the cutie-pie new hire playing volleyball. She introduced me to her friend saying we should go out. About six months of this everyone realized all the wrong people were going out with the wrong people. And here we are.

5. After my parents divorced when I was a teen, I was homeless for a while. That really sucked.

6. I watched Mt. St. Helens blow up from 28 miles away. We were so close, the sound wave went over our heads and I only heard it after it had circled the Earth. I got sick from the over-pressurization. That really sucked too. I still have nightmares, sometimes.

7. I have a speech problem and an associated learning disability. I spent a long time in therapy, which corrected most of the problems. In many ways, English is like a second language to me.

8. My love of books came from Victoria, my first girlfriend. I was an avid reader before then, but Victoria introduced me to so many good books, it was awesome.

9. I grew up in Battle Ground, WA, named for a battle that never took place. That still cracks me up.

10. I lived in India for six weeks. Other than the getting sick part, it was awesome.

The Unfinished Song: Initiate by Tara Maya

January 05, 2012 Author: Anthony Pacheco Category: Atmosphere, Awesomesauce, Characterization, Plot, Setting, The Craft  0 Comments

For anyone new to Rehabilitated Hack Writer Recommends, I target my book reviews towards novelists (you can find my prior reviews here). I also need to point out that this is a review of the first book of a series, not the series itself.

Before we dive headfirst into the fantasy pool of epic goodness that is Tara Mara’s The Unfinished Song: Initiate, we need to take a step back and formally define what epic fantasy is in the novel landscape of 2012. The classic definition of epic or high fantasy is it’s a sub-genre of fantasy set in invented worlds.

I hate that definition.

To me, epic fantasy needs to be, well, epic. Epic. This is fun, but not epic, fantasy:

A mysterious, sexy pale-skinned sword dancer hires an infamous mercenary to find her kidnapped brother. The mercenary learns there is more to women than bedding them, while the sister learns that if she lets her quest define her life, she becomes defeated before the rescue of her brother ever begins.

Bonus points if you can guess that book, by the way.

Now this, this is epic:

The good peoples, it seemed, never defeated the evil that threatened to consume them all, only delayed the final battle. The dark and vile lord who threaten freedom everywhere wrapped his essence into a ring, and now a band of unlikely heroes must cast the ring into the fiery pit of its creation or see it reunited with its maker. Setting out on their quest with the best intentions, the task soon falls to the smallest and unlikeliest hero while the armies of evil marshal to crush everything in its path. If the hero doesn’t destroy the ring and thus the dark lord in time, there won’t be anything left to save.

Epic fantasy is ambitious. Epic fantasy is grandiose. Epic fantasy is bigger than the sum of its parts. It’s heroic, it’s classic, it’s is all-encompassing and all-consuming fantasy. There are stakes. The stakes are high. You could say that the stakes are (wait for it!) epic.

And Mara’s Unfinished Song: Initiate is an introduction into 21st century epic fantasy. Here’s the teaser:

Dindi can’t do anything right, maybe because she spends more time dancing with pixies than doing her chores. Her clan hopes to marry her off and settle her down, but she dreams of becoming a Tavaedi, one of the powerful warrior-dancers whose secret magics are revealed only to those who pass a mysterious Test during the Initiation ceremony. The problem? No-one in Dindi’s clan has ever passed the Test. Her grandmother died trying. But Dindi has a plan.

Kavio is the most powerful warrior-dancer in Faearth, but when he is exiled from the tribehold for a crime he didn’t commit, he decides to shed his old life. If roving cannibals and hexers don’t kill him first, this is his chance to escape the shadow of his father’s wars and his mother’s curse. But when he rescues a young Initiate girl, he finds himself drawn into as deadly a plot as any he left behind. He must decide whether to walk away or fight for her… assuming she would even accept the help of an exile.

Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking, wow, that sounds cool, but um, that doesn’t sound too epic to me.

Oh, my friends, pour a cup of hot tea and wait for it. Don’t let the girly frou-frou cover and character-driven teaser fool you. Behind the rich, detailed world-building lies the heartbeat of an epic fantasy tale that rises above the bounds of mythology and into a coming-of-age novel that will leave the reader yearning for more. Maya clearly dips her plot and characters in several different mythologies, yet the book has a distinctive voice that tugs at your heartstrings.

Let’s deconstruct the goodness going on here.

World-Building

Maya’s world building kicks ass. It’s unique, it’s ambitious, and it has an undercurrent of femininity that, without the advent of the interweb tubes, the story Maya is trying to tell never would have seen the light of day. It’s so different it is, and I say this with no exaggeration, a high fantasy literary bomb of mass destruction. It is not so much a filled with troupes and familiar themes as it becomes a classic example of the very idea of world-building.

How does she accomplish this? Maya’s neolithic setting latches on the magical undercurrents of the world she envisioned and never lets them go.

For example, stone-aged peoples in the real world were concerned primarily with survival. Gender roles and relations follow a path necessary for the continuation of the individual and the group.  There is a reason when an attractive woman smiles at a man she unconscionably puts her hair behind an ear, why rejection impacts men and women differently and why we are creatures of instinct despite our technological advancements.

Yet, toss magic into the fray. Magic, like technology, lends itself to the removal of the disparity of force. Maya takes this one step where few tread: it’s not necessarily what you can wield, but more what you know. Dindi’s quest isn’t so much a classic grab-onto-the-power but an unlocking of a mystery.

That moves us back to the impact of the type of magic Maya puts forth. Women, in her tribal society, have distinct roles but they are far from simple property. Women need to bear children so the society she has shaped takes that into account, but it’s not as if the magic is something that sits around in a feudal or even Victorian society as if it’s a character by itself rather than infused into the setting. It has a distinct feminine vibe without the politically correct bullshit.

This is evident from the ground up. It’s in the way characters talk. You might think ancient peoples would also have a primitive language and culture. But neolithic-era people with magic? Maya nails this. It’s in the way they dress, how they pick their mates, how they relate to other tribes, how they view politics, honor and duty. In a world where magic comes forth from a dance, where pixies, talking bears, and fae abound–Maya uses this magic as the glue to everything: setting, plot and characterization. It is the basis of her world-building and because of the creative and talented way she does it, Initiate comes off as highly original, unique and engrossing.

I’m not exaggerating here. World-building. How To. Tara Maya. Initiate. Read it.

Characterization

My number one surprise with this book is that this book has guy stuffs in it. I could talk at length how fascinating Dindi is, how she comes across as both vulnerable yet puts aside her fears to do what must be done. How she seems like she is fourteen going on eighteen one moment, and fourteen going on twelve the next. Maya pens her as tenacious and doesn’t shy away from giving her a sexuality. Dindi’s great.

My little fantasy heart, however, belongs to Kavio.

Because Kavio kicks ass.

Kavio, actually, is a tragic figure. Maya gives him nobility and youthful idealism as his moral fiber, and tosses him into situations of conflict where it becomes apparent that Kavio greatest enemy is himself. Kavio is a good guy, but he’s also a weapon of mass destruction. He follows the rules when obviously he could, quite simply, make up the rules himself with his magic. He’s like a Jedi Knight being given a ticket by a traffic cop. Press hard, Kavio, you’re making five copies. The cop has a gun and feels superior, but Kavio could turn him inside out, burn his cruiser, go to the station, and have it swallowed whole by a rent in the earth while blood pixies rip out everyone’s eyeballs through their noses making the police station scene in The Terminator look like a scene from a Jane Austin novel.

Instead, he signs.

Did I mention he’s a bad-ass?

As a writer, Kavio fascinates me mightily. I’m beginning to wonder if someone handed Maya an honorary penis because she hones in on the masculine feel of Kavio with laser-like focus. She nails what I call the Tragic Masculine Paradox: when confronted with an attractive young woman coming-of-age, the man of honor is torn with feelings of protectiveness as a father figure yet desires as a lover. You see this in fiction all the time. Rarely do you see it done with such empathy and understatement. Many writers go overboard with this, giving this a tragic (and pervy) element. Maya, however, simply presents it as-is. Kavio has bigger problems than his youthful naïveté.

Dindi’s feminine, innocent beauty, simply highlights Kavio’s main attraction: Dindi is magically powerful. Without going into the rest of the series, he’s slowly falling in love, and love, my friends, is messy. Dindi is more than a girl and then more than a young woman. She’s the catalyst to…

But I digress. Dindi isn’t the only character in a come-of-age journey in Initiate.

Plot

Which leads us to the clever, delicious plotting, and how we come full circle back to our discussion about epic fantasy.

A prevalent, and welcomed trend in speculative fiction is the come-of-age journey set in a fantastic (be it wonderful or dystopian) setting. I am a huge sucker for these types of stories, and in Initiate, Maya plots a literal come-of-age journey as Dindi goes out to become a woman, ready or not (and no, she wasn’t ready).

But epic fantasy has stakes. Big stakes. End-of-the-world (or worse!) type stakes, but unlike much of what is out there today, this book is surprisingly not a coming-of-age novel with an epic plot line to give the character’s punch and excuses to reveal their literary humanity. No, this is a book that provides the foundation for the true story: the battle with the malevolent forces out to crush humanity. It’s not exactly Clan of the Cave Bear meets The Lord of the Rings, but you get the idea.

Dindi is on a personal journey and she yearns to become a magical dancer in the society she was born in. However, if, as a reader, you’re paying attention, you can spot the epic plot that Maya is serving up like drops of water to the thirsty.

And this is where we depart the shackles of traditional publishing. Maya fearlessly has plotted out a twelve book series and each book is building  on that plot in a relentless, epic fashion. Let me be very clear, I am not a big fan of many-book fantasy series. Many of them have problems with continuity, editing, and, quite frankly, sometimes as a reader, I feel I’ve been ripped off around book four because I’m being milked rather than being cleverly entertained.

eBooks, and today’s book market, however, has expanded the types of books we can find and buy, and Maya’s greatest accomplishment as a writer is taking  full advantage of medium. The twelve book format, based on her world-building, is not only daring but also a little slice of epic fantasy goodness, and her skill at characterization draws the reader right into her world.

It’s epic fantasy by our very definition, and it’s yummy. Give me those twelve books. I’ll gladly ready every one of them. If you love a good fantasy series fix, Maya’s your drug dealer, Baby.

More Please

You can tell I’m a fan. Initiate is a wonderful, rich and diverse book and the series thus far is a fantasy reader’s fantasy series. I do have quibbles with it, but they are nits in the larger picture. I’m not a fan of the cover art. I disagree with some of the editorial decisions made and feel Maya’s talent could easily support books of larger word counts, smoothing some of the abruptness of the plot presentation.

Yet these are mere nits because from a storytelling standpoint, it just doesn’t work, it’s a slice of Awesome Toast with Bacon. I tell my non-writer, but reader friends, the Era of the Reader is upon us. Novels like Initiate proves that assertion. If you are a writer, take a step back from all the meta that goes on with writing, look at the bigger picture, and read Initiate. You’ll realize the sum of the book is bigger than its parts, and, at its heart, epic fantasy many readers want to buy, but haven’t really been able to do so.

I give Initiate four bacon strips out of five. And while this is a singular book recommendation, I’ll just drop a teaser that as good as it is, the other books in the series get better.