The Gathering Storm, Part IV

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, Liesel at Musings on Fantasia is  your host. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments. Make sure to swing by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers for logic and tiny, tiny violins (on occasion).

This week, we covered the Chapters 22-28. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. We finally learn Rand’s logic for swapping Bashere and Ilturalde. Do you agree with his logic? Will it work?

I think so. It’s not the first time in epic fantasy or in history that a big-time ruler has assigned underlings to major posts outside of their home countries for the very same reasons Rand has. Though I think Bashere has been with Rand long enough now that he deserves a bit more trust. But, alas, Rand is over burdened, a little insane, sleep deprived, and quite frankly doesn’t have the luxury of time. I think if the Last Battle was scheduled to take place in 10 years, then Rand would have time to use more finesse in his maneuverings of the rulers of Randland and the invading Seanchan. But with the time pressure, he has to push people into positions they are not 100% comfortable with.

2. Rand balefires Semirhage, then banishes Cadsuane. He says he has become “cuendillar” but Cadsuane sees darkness around him. What do you think it is? Is this a good thing? Will it help or hinder him in the Last Battle?

This is a messed up situation. First, Cadsuane is not given to worry about small things. So if she is seeing a darkness about him before he took up the True Power, then there’s a darkness about him. Semirhage was not surprised by this new-to-Rand power itself, although she was surprised that the Dark One would grant the power to Rand. So, I believe this is probably another tainted power source and is likely responsible for Moridin’s black dots in his vision.

Perhaps this is where Cadsuane will have to use some subtlety and teach Rand either how evil this new power source is (and how to let go of it or block it) or how to cleanse it. We know he has experience cleaning power sources. I think this will have to be done before the Last Battle otherwise it could overwhelm Rand and make his a toy of the Dark One.

3. Gawyn reaches Gareth Bryne where he IDs an Aes Sedai in hiding, and is told the truth about his mother, Elayne, and Egwene’s situation. Even after he sees Egwene, do you think he’ll go to be at Elayne’s side, or stay to be Egwene’s warder? Do you think he’ll ever accept that Rand wasn’t responsible for what happened to Morgase? What will the discovery of Shemerin do for the rebels?

I think a lot depends on Egwene. If Egwene goes from being the White Tower’s prisoner into another immediate danger, she may be quite glad to have a Warder as adept as Gawyn. But if all the dust settles after the Seanchan attack the Tower and Egwene has the Aes Sedai united, then she may well tell Gawyn to go protect Elayne, who is after all, pregnant with Rand’s kids.

I think Gawyn won’t ever believe Rand unless one of two things happen. 1) Morgase shows up again (total possibility) and personally slaps some sense into Gawyn (which I would very much like to see); or 2) He Bonds with Rand and then he will be able to easily see that Rand is telling the truth. Since Rand is already Bonded to so many people, adding yet another to his head may be too much to ask for (but it would amuse me greatly).

I think Shemerin’s tale will unite more of the ‘rebel’ Aes Sedai against Elaida. Those who have started wavering will think again about just what life under Elaida would be like….and they will shudder and decide that such a life would suck.

4. Yup. It’s official. Sheriam is a Darkfriend. Were you surprised? Does it bring any clarity for you of her past actions? Do you think she’ll be successful at stealing the dream ter’angreal?

I was surprised. I think it was because we recently read the prequel and saw Sheriam as a younger woman. Uh…. she had past actions? OK, I know she did, but there are so many side characters in this series that often trying to recall what one character did or didn’t do is beyond me. I think when I give this a reread in a few years, knowing that Sheriam is Black, I will pick up on such details then.

Because she has such a short time frame, and that it will become obvious they are missing when even just one of the regular users can’t find one, then I expect she will get caught. And remind me, is Nynaeve walking about T’A’R on her own or does she surreptitiously borrow one of the ter’angreal for her meetings with Egwene? Either way, this will bullocks up Sheriam’s plans.

5. Aviendha gets her honor back and we finally learned what all the punishments were about. What did you think of the Wise One’s tactics? What will Aviendha see in Rhuidean, and what’s next for her?

I think the Wise One’s would make good dog trainers as this tactic so reminded me of the doggy towel test that I described a week or two back. And yeah, I see their point – you have to be ready to take up the mantel of being a Wise One and no one but you can decide when you are ready for that. Self-worth is important. I just wish they had had some sort of further test for Sevanna.

I am not sure what Aviendha will see in Rhuidean. Min had some Viewing that Aviendha would end up with 3 kids not her own, right? So maybe she will see something that gives her more information about this. Perhaps she will be given a view of some betrayer among the Wise Ones (there has to be more than Therava among the ranks, right?) or perhaps the location and disguise of a Forsaken.

6. The cockroach incident was pretty gross. It was definitely a dark omen. What do you think this incident is foreshadowing?

The cockroaches appear at a meeting in which Lelaine and Romanda were doing yet more maneuvering, right? And Sheriam was there, so if I believed in portents, I would say that the rebel Aes Sedai have some major housecleaning to do – do away with the Black Ajah and politicking. Or such large cockroaches are merely another set of eyes and ears for the Dark One and his touch upon the world was releasing another bubble of them to go forth and collect data. In such a case, it was probably good that they were exterminated. Though the smell of that many burning cock roaches (and remember, they explode) was probably revolting.

7. Hinderstap. (Oh good heavens!) What do you think that was all about? And what does it mean for Mat?

This is yet one more messed up situation that Mat has stepped into. Ugh! The Wheel of Time version of zombies! But to be aware the next day of what you have probably done while you were a brainless, violent fiend has got to weigh upon the soul. Again, I think another bubble of evil surfaced and affected this particular community in a different way than we have seen previously.

I am really hoping that Mat can do a side adventure and cure this town of this evil enchantment/bubble/whatthefuck. But I fear that it will take defeating the Dark One to put this town to rights again. In which case, the town needs a pep talk about how cool Rand is and how he has all this help in prepping for the Last Battle and he will deifnitely triumph so they just need to hold out a little longer and don’t drink themselves stupid each day and tend their sheep instead.

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

I have to say that part of me was glad to see Cadsuane humbled by Rand’s banishment. So many folks have been treating Rand like a bumbling 20 year old man with too much power and not enough wits. Well, Cadsuane, Nynaeve, Min, Elayne, & Egwene are not without flaws and their arrogant handling of the situation (thinking to bully or steer Rand) is becoming a hindrance instead of a help.

I like that the common washer women tried to protect Shemerin and let her fade into the background, as she wishsed to do. Any one of them could have gone running to any senior Aes Sedai with the news, and would have probably been rewarded for the info.

It’s been many, many books since we last saw the fighting prowess of Mat and I liked seeing it in zombie town. He always seems to be mildly surprised when someone continues to come after him when he just knocked their buddy in to the mud.

The Gathering Storm, Part III

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, I am your host. Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, can be found in the comments. Make sure to swing by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers for logic and tiny, tiny violins (on occasion). Stop by Liesel’s at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

This week, we covered the Chapters 14-21. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) When get a little more quality time with Semirhage. Cadsuane seems to have come up with a way to get under her skin. Do you think it will be enough to get answers from Semirhage? Cadsuane believes it is important to keep Semirhage alive in order to learn useful weaves from her. Do you agree with this logic? Or are you all for killing her?

I think that Cadsuane’s first victory with Semirhage was partly due to the surprise factor. It has probably been millennia since someone spanked Semirhage (there is a lot of spanking in this series, don’t you think?). But I expect Semirhage will get over this initial shock and the ladies will have to come up with more insidious ways to disrespect Semirhage. What could be worse than being spanked in front of servants and eating your green beans off the floor? Well, the Aiel are pretty good at degrading people, so I expect Sorilea will play a part in breaking Semirhage.

I don’t agree with Cadsuane about keeping Semirhage alive in order to learn weaves from her. We have some Aes Sedai who are 1) very strong in the power and 2) have been developing new weaves and rediscovering old forgotten weaves. I would sleep easier knowing Semirhage was dead.

2) Moridin and Rand have a heart to heart. Rand seems to understand the two of them are connected somehow. Do you think he will make use of this information? Upon waking from this chat, Rand confesses to Min about Lews Therin. Will Min tell others as she told others about Rand’s time in the box? And would that be a good or bad thing?

Rand has a lot on his plate right now and I don’t think he will put too much thought into the fact that he is tied to Moridin. I expect that this little fact won’t occur to him again until some critical moment where either someone damages/kills Moridin and it sends Rand into shock or Rand needs Moridin taken out and decides to put a sword through his own foot to distract Moridin.

I expect that Min will tell someone at some point. Perhaps Cadsuane real soon in order to explain to her why Rand is snappish. Perhaps she will tell Elayne or even Aviendha later in order to explain why Rand is trying so hard to keep them all at arm’s length. In this particular case, I don’t think it would be a bad thing, though if Rand were to feel a little betrayed by Min being chatty, I couldn’t blame him either. This struggle with Lews Therin has been very private and very personnel for several long months.

3) Egwene matches wits with three White Sisters (Ferane, Miyasi, & Tesan). And then she is forced to match wits wits with Elaida in front of the Sitters. Will there be harsh punishment for Egwene, beyond the beating Elaida gave her? How will the Sitters react to this? Or will we still have to wait for the Seanchan to invade before the Aes Sedai get their act together?

Oh yeah. I expect that Elaida may even order Egwene Stilled. I think this is my greatest concern for Egwene right now. If Elaida ordered her killed, I believe too many of the Tower Aes Sedai would object or even outright smuggle Egwene out. Of course, Egwene can show others Sisters Traveling and be out of the Tower that way too. But Elaida could order her Stilled and Egwene might not have the time to escape that punishment.

I really, really want the Sitters and the rest of the Aes Sedai to rise up against Elaida but I expect we will need the Seanchan to come boiling over the Tower walls before the Aes Sedai decide Elaida is too stupid and arrogant to lead a paper doll making class. So I expect the Sitters will talk amongst themselves, maybe even among the strongest of each of their Ajahs. Perhaps they might even start making plans, drawing up draft letters to Elaida asking her to step down, etc. But I wouldn’t expect any of them to take action right away.

4) The rebel Aes Sedai have word that the White Tower now has the art of Traveling. Do you believe Elaida is aware of this weave? Or is it just a handful of Red Aes Sedai testing it out? And what do you make of Lelaine’s latest actions? What can Siuan do from this point on in holding the Aes Sedai together?

I don’t think Elaida is aware of this weave, nor does she know how to do it herself. If she did, she wouldn’t be able to hold back from throwing that fact in Egwene’s face. I this it is the Black Ajah that has finally learned it and is testing it out while gathering tribute. The rebel Aes Sedai would be wise to check with their folks on the inside of the Tower to see if any gates have opened behind the walls or if there is talk about this new miraculous weave.

Lelaine is an idiot. She won’t be seen as the hero of this mess that she helped create. Of course she thinks by encouraging chaos and panic that she will be able to step in and be the voice of reason. But things won’t go down that way. Of course, I have a bit more knowledge than she does – like Egwene’s current conflict inside the Tower and also the Seanchan plans to invade the area.

Siuan is taking the correct actions- making sure the camp is as secure as possible. Of course, when the Seanchan show up she will still be surprised, but at least the camp is already on full alert. As to holding the camp together, I expect more Novices will be coming to her to help carry her laundry, bringing her info and listening to her advice. But Egwene needs to hurry up!

5) Tuon holds court in Ebou Dar. Did you find her offer to Beslan fair? Now that she has seen the heads of trollocs, creatures she believed to be of myth, do you think she will be more open to listening to Randlanders?

OK, I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the Seanchan when they first appeared and it has taken like 10 books for me to start to like them as individuals. Tuon’s high-handed take with Beslan just ticked me off once again. Beslan was given 2 choices – swear fealty or be executed (with honor). That’s it. And Tuon made it sound like both were favors. The Seanchan don’t understand why the Randlanders resist them so, continue to uprise, don’t take the Seanchan oaths seriously and it is because of this kind of thing. Tuon did not show respect for Beslan’s culture nor for his sovereignty. Leaving him in place to rule under the Seanchan is a convenience for them. I think Tuon needs a spanking.

I really hope that she takes on a Randlander as a consultant, even if it is Mat. Having trolloc bodies and heads as examples should give her pause the next time a Randlander says something about ta’verens or bubbles of evil, etc. It might be easier to convince her Truthsayer/Speaker and then have her convince Tuon that she needs to put weight behind reports of such things.

6) Mat opens by comparing women to goats. Did you find his behavior to be ‘husbandly’? Was his own ta’veren-ness working against him in keeping the Aes Sedai with him or was it his own goat-like behavior?

Ha! Well, for Mat, yeah, he was acting a bit protective of Tuon. I guess I need to see him in a tavern, a little toasted, with plenty of flirtatious young ladies around to see if he is truly acting husbandly.

I am guessing that Mat will run into some trouble soon and that the Aes Sedai will come in handy. Therefore, I think his own ta’veren-ness kept him from sending them off with 20 horses and being free of them. Perhaps he will need their help getting off to his super secret mission to rescue Moiraine.

7) Perrin returns to the dream-wolf world, promptly insults the wolves, and is tossed out. Will he be able to conquer his own fears? And if he does, what will he do with the wolves then? Faile has yet more secrets from Perrin. Do you find this good or bad?

Perrin has set his mind to conquering his fear of his inner wolf and I expect he will do just that. Perrin takes a while to consider and decide his course of action. but once he has made that decision, that is what he does.

I expect that we will see Perrin using his inner wolf and the willing wolves around him as scouts at first, but then as soldiers. In the end, I am pretty sure they will be at the last battle and once that is all done, I expect Perrin will have to howl in grief as he buries their numerous bodies. sniffle

I think Faile is silly to keep the secret of Masema’s death from Perrin. But I can see why she would find it difficult to tell Perrin about Rolan, how it protected her even as he flirted with her, how Perrin killed him. For now, I say let her have her privacy in this matter but I expect their relationship would be the stronger if she shared this tale later, perhaps after Tarmon gaidon.

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

You know how some movies and books do body counts – the total number of dead by the end of the story? Well, WoT needs a spanking count – total number of characters spanked, and yes, if a character gets spanked more than once, we can count each individual spanking. Swats to the bottom while being carried through snow by an Aiel counts too.

We have several arrogant groups who all try very hard to hold to their ideas of honor and justice; the Aiel, the Aes Sedai, and the Seanchan. I could toss in the Sea Folk but we haven’t heard much from them this book yet. I sometimes find myself wanting to smack all their heads together. Each seems convinced their way is the best way and to hell with learning about the others.

Everyone wants the Dragon Reborn to kneel at their feet – the White Tower (even Egwene!) and the Seanchan in particular. I find this notion very amusing. Rand, kneel. Ha!

The Seanchan still want to enslave all the women who can channel! Argh! I can’t root for these folks no matter how organized they are, no matter how likely they would be the ones to actually get the job done of uniting Randland.

The Gathering Storm, Part II

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, is our host and can be found in the comments. Make sure to swing by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers for logic and tiny, tiny violins (on occasion). Stop by Liese’sl at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

This week, we covered the Chapters 7-13. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. Questions are being raised about the loyalty of the Aiel, and that Rand keeps misusing them. What are your thoughts? Could we really see another Shaido-like uprising?

Once again, we have culture clash. While the Aiel feel they have worked hard to teach Rand proper Aiel etiquette, few have tried to learn wetlander ways. And, really, they have only had several months, not several years, to get to know each other, and under stressful circumstances. Normally, I would say slap them all upside the head and tell each of them they each have to meet the other partway. But in this instance, Rand really does need their backing and he has been rather callous in several ways. But Rand probably doesn’t need yet another slap upside the head. He needs a life assistant with some political finesse.

I don’t think we will have another Shaido uprising. After all, can there possibly be two Aiel as stupid as Sevanna in a role of power? I think, if anything does happen other than Tarmon Gaidon, it will be that some Aiel choose to quietly leave, melting off into the night, returning to their land of sand.

2. Siuan and Bryne have a heart to heart. Do you see this relationship finally blossoming? Everyone still thinks Moiraine is dead. What impact do you think she could have on the story when she returns?

Well, as slow paced as this relationship has been, I think they might not actually get around to kissing until after Tarmon Gaidon. But, yes, I think they will make quite the formidable team, whether in a time of war or in a time of peace. And I was a little surprised that Bryne had not put together at least the underlying reason Siuan and the rest  put their oaths on pause and ran away. He has known Siuan for some months now and can clearly see she is a serious person, with all her swearing about fish guts, etc.

While I believe Siuan and Moiraine were once upon a time lovers, I don’t think Moiraine’s return to the land of the living will endanger Bryne’s chances with Siuan. I do think that plenty of people will be astounded, maybe to the point of turning into quivering jelly (like Lan) and then the hunt for Lanfear will begin anew.

3. Perrin is belabored by refugees, but is still reluctant  to take on his lordly duties. Will something more have to happen here, before Perrin achieves his “final form” before the Last Battle?

Maybe someone needs to tell Perrin a little white lie, like Faile. And that lie is that Perrin only has to be Lordly until the final battle is said and done and then he can go back to forging, sheep, and carrots. Now, us world savvy people know that is highly unlikely to be the case, but I think if someone with an honest face lied to Perrin he would believe them and get on with being lordly for a bit.

Though I do like his style of holding court. At least he is getting something worthwhile done while telling everyone ‘No, are you an idiot?’

4. Ituralde is delivered from his death trap and is sent to Bashere’s homeland, while Bashere is in Ituralde’s. Would it perhaps have been prudent to switch places? If a shadow invasion of the Borderlands really is imminent, wouldn’t it be good to actually approach the Borderlanders instead?

Once again, I think Rand is just trying to juggle a lot of things and some of them, he doesn’t juggle well. He is rather handicapped in some ways, and I am not talking about his missing hand. He has very little experience dealing with world leaders, and most of that has been under less than pleasant circumstances. He doesn’t know what the final game board will look like. He has all these independent thinking and acting entities, some actively working against him some accidentally acting against him. So, I think he grabs a friendly, usable piece and puts them where they are immediately needed, and then doesn’t bother to switch things around later.

Besides, If either Bashere or Ituralde had to stay behind to keep their country safe instead of honoring a call from Rand, I think that is exactly what they would do in their homeland. And Elayne might very well be pissed at Rand for scooping up the Borderlanders and putting them back in the Borderlands, since she is using them to shore up her own crown.

5. Egwene’s infiltration is gathering momentum. She’s talking to sitters as a near equal and has even been in contact with the Black Ajah hunters. Meanwhile, Lelaine is winning the political war on the outside. Should Egwene start hurrying? Having earned the respect of these sisters, what would be her next step?

Of course I want Egwene to hurry, but these are big reptile squashing tomes for the final 3 books. Really, as much credit as she has garnered from the Tower Sisters, I still think that Elaida will have to do something stupid before they really take Egwene’s side. And then there is that prophetic dream Egwene had back in Book 11 or Book 12 – about the Seanchan washing over the Tower. It would be funny if Rand asked the Seanchan to give Egwene an assist…..

As for what Egwene should do next….Well, I think she needs to start a knitting or sewing circle where novices, Accepted, Sisters of any Ajah are welcomed. There would be biscuits and forkroot tea, of course. She does want to start breaking down all these barriers between Ajahs and this seems like something simple that she would be able to do quietly.

6. Gawyn is finally on the move, but where? Egwene does not want a rescue… do you expect him to listen or will he just make a mess of things?

In many respects, Gawyn isn’t an idiot so I expect he will get clear of the Younglings and the White Tower Aes Sedai before he tries to head for Tar Valon. And, yes, I expect him to bollucks up his ‘rescue’ of Egwene.

I need to consult a map. Is there the slightest chance that while he is dodging the Younglings, he will run into Perrin and Faile, and hence his mom? Because that would take one major task off his list (Kill Rand for killing Morgase). Of course, if Egwene doesn’t get off her high horse about Asha’men bonding Aes Sedai, she may send Gawyn after Rand’s head herself. Egwene will at least have sense to wait until after Tarmon Gaidon, right?

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

It was fun to watch Cadsuane bring Rand up short in that meeting with the Aiel and have Nynaeve thinking she was just about to do the same thing. Though I don’t think it would have had quite the same effect since Nynaeve has been bossing Rand around for years, whereas Cadsuane just does it when he needs it.

I know Lelaine and Romanda think they are the only two vying for power, but they really have over looked Siuan. She is playing them off each other, buying Egwene time, and holding the ‘rebels’ together. Oh, and has time to do laundry, and do it well.

I think Ituralde took it pretty well, having the Dragon Reborn swing by for tea, a chat, and a magical gate opening to relative safety.

As with so many drugs, can you build up a tolerance to forkroot? The imp in me is hoping that Egwene will be the first one to notice this and put it to good use.

Gawyn’s final chat with the older Warder was chilling. I wasn’t sure Gawyn had a friend there or not until he turned and left Gawyn to saddle his horse.

Interview: James Maxey, Author of Bad Wizard

MaxeyGreatshadowHeldigFolks, it is with great pleasure that I have James Maxey visiting today. I have enjoyed several of his books such as Nobody Gets the Girl, Hush, and Greatshadow. His latest book, Bad Wizard, is also pretty freaking awesome. Interviewing him was truly entertaining for me and I expect you shall be entertained as well. Enjoy!

Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for  unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting  human cultures today and how?

You only have to turn on the TV to see that fantasy is permeating our culture. I mean, ABC has an oxymoronic “fantasy reality” show called The Quest. It’s jocks and models running around pretending to be paladins and talking about how to fight dragons. High fantasy has definitely moved out of the geeky, nerdy niche it used to occupy into the mainstream. That said, I think there’s a distinction between fantasy fiction shaping popular culture and enduring fantasy beliefs still deeply rooted in our core culture. The elves and goblins and witches of past eras have morphed into the Men-in-Black and ETs and psychic advisers of the modern age.

MaxeyBadWizardIf you could, what book/movie/TV series would you like to experience for the first time all over again and why?

This is a terrific question because, as it happens, I’ve been going back in recent years and reading a lot of classic novels that I first experienced as a child or teenager. Sometimes, my differing perspective now that I’m 50 years old lets me see the true power of a work that was perhaps lost on me when I was younger. Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea meant nothing to me when I was 15. Now, I get it.

That said, I sometimes wish I could travel back in time and regain the sense of wonder I had when I first experienced some of my favorite works. For instance, in my late teens/early 20s, when I first read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, I thought it was the best comic book ever written. When I reread it recently, though, I was surprised at how simplistic and one dimensional it seemed. The reliance on talking heads on TVs to deliver page after page of backstory was kind of grating. This isn’t to say that The Dark Knight Returns wasn’t an absolutely amazing and groundbreaking comic in it’s time. It’s just that part of the power was it’s freshness, the fact it hadn’t been done before. But after three decades of people imitating it, it’s lost it’s power to amaze me on a reread.

MaxeyNobodyGetsTheGirlOver the years, are the changes in society reflected in today’s villains and heroes?

There are obviously traits a hero might have possessed at one time that would render him creepy now. Randal McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was an idealized free spirit who couldn’t be made to conform to a corrupt society. But, reading the book today, the horrible misogyny of the character makes it difficult to root for him. And if you ever go back and read the original Tarzan books, the underlying racism will leave you cringing. On the flip side, at one point it was acceptable to hint that a character was homosexual if you wanted to make him seem villainous. Now, you’d be more likely to see homosexuality presented as a sympathetic trait.

Of course, the biggest change is probably in the proportion of male and female protagonists. Female protagonists were once restricted to romances and children’s books. Today, a book like The Hunger Games can give us a complex female action hero who has a role to play in the world other than falling in love.

MaxeyHushWafflesWhat biographies of the creators of your favorite genres do you want to  read? Are there lesser known creators that still need a biography?

Hmm… I honestly don’t read that much about other writers and creators. Until this moment, I don’t think I’ve even noticed it as a gap in my education. I’ve always engaged with authors through their books. Their personal histories, politics, etc., don’t hold much interest for me.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?

Bill collector. Ug, that was just horrible, hounding people for money. It doesn’t compare well with writing. It doesn’t compare well with anything. Back when I was a bill collector, I stopped at a fast food restaurant and as I was leaving an old man in dirty clothes came up to me carrying bags of fast food and asked if he could get a ride back to his house, since he’d just picked up dinner for his kids. I said sure. When he got in my car, he said he was happy to be in air conditioning, that the sun had been killing him all day. I asked what he did for a living and he said he swept parking lots. He asked me my job, and I told him I was a bill collector. He wrinkled his nose, shook his head, and said, “I would never do that.”

MaxeyBitterwoodWho/what are your non-writer influences?

Music plays a huge part in fueling my creativity. The Mountain Goats, Rasputina, The Dresden Dolls, The Decemberists… I’ve always got a soundtrack running through my head. Keen readers will be able to spot song titles and other references woven into my books and stories.

My biggest non-writer influence, if I may be a bit pretentious, is reality. Seriously, I absorb every odd little fact I can find about biology, geology, archeology, history, politics, food, art… you name it. I’ve read books devoted to the history of salt, and came away with a greater understanding of the world. For me, all good fiction–especially fantasy fiction–has to be built on a foundation of knowing as much as possible about the real world.

What reboots (or retellings) of classics have you enjoyed? Are there ones that haven’t worked for you?

I have the same answer for both! The greatest example ever of classics adapted and given new life has to be Alan Moore’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The worst example ever of something adapted and utterly mangled has to be the movie version of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

MaxeyWitchbreakerIf you could go enjoy a meal in a fictional world, where would that be, and what would you eat?

Easy! I’d go to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe and nibble on whatever food came by to offer a taste.

If you were asked to create the syllabus for a college class in SFF literature, what books would be on there as required  reading? As passing discussion?

I could do an entire semester on H. G. Wells. The Invisible Man, The Time Machine, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr. Moreau are amazing books that stand up well to modern literary tastes. Wells was an amazing visionary, and even though he was working from a lot of flawed assumptions (for instance, thinking that Mars could support life), you still see his fundamental grasp of how the world works. It’s not a cop-out that microbes defeat the Martians in The War of the Worlds. He understood that humans weren’t the true pinnacle of earthly life–single celled organisms are the earth’s true dominant life form.

MaxeyDragonforgeCare to share an awkward fangirl/fanboy moment, either  one where someone was gushing over your work…..or one where you were  gushing over another author’s work?

So, back in 2012, I was invited by Orson Scott Card to help teach one of his writing classes. Of course I said yes. As it happened, my novel Greatshadow had just come out, and I thought, hmm, I’ll take him a copy and maybe he’ll read it and say something nice about it eventually. But, when we got together, he’d not only already read the book, he’d already given it a glowing review online! That was a big thrill.

I would say that one of by biggest geek out fanboy moments came when I met John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats. He’d just done a concert and I was leaving the venue and, suddenly, there he was, just standing on the sidewalk out front. I went up and told him how much I’d enjoyed the show, asked him a few questions about some of his older albums, and left feeling a bit magical. I felt as if I’d just run into a unicorn or something.

MaxeyDragonseedWhat is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

Oh lord. From the age of 11 to sometime last week, my cousin Tony and I could argue endless about who was stronger, Thor or the Hulk, and sometimes take the argument to another level by bringing in Superman.

But, by far, the geekiest thing I’d ever heard discussed was in the hall at ConCarolina’s. A group of geeks were discussing their favorite podcasts, and one of the guys said that such and such show was his favorite World of Warcraft podcast. This caught my attention and I said, “Favorite implies you listen to more than one. Just how many World of Warcraft podcasts can there be?” Dozens, I was informed. But most weeks he only listened to three. I consider myself a pretty big geek, but, damn, that’s hardcore.

Places to Stalk James Maxey

Goodreads

The Prophet and The Dragon blog

Jawbone of an Ass blog

Amazon

 

The Gathering Storm, Part I

JordanGatheringStormBannerWelcome everyone to Book 12 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. You can find the schedule to The Gathering Storm over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week,  Sue at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers is the host. You can catch Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, in the comments.  Stop by Liese’sl at Musings on Fantasia. There’s plenty of cool non-spoilery fan art.

Once again, sorry for posting late. The last four weeks have been super intense for me and I was a vendor at this big weekend show and just simply came back exhausted physically and socially.

This week, we covered the Prologue-Chapter 6. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1) Rand has sent a message to Tuon via a released damane, but it seems that it might be some time before she hears of his invitation. Do you think that this delay will make a difference? Will the Seanchan be too distracted by the newly arrived Trolloc hordes and Rodel Ituralde’s army?

No matter how Rand sends a message to Tuon, I still think her connection to Mat will be key in making the much-needed peace. And Rand was an idiot for not taking the Seanchan hierarchy into account. I know he doesn’t have much experience with it, but he does have a lot of experience with various countries/races/beings at this point and could heeded the damane’s words about propriety, etc.

And, yes, I expect the trolocs and Ituralde’s army will slow the Seanchan down a bit. Already, the Seanchan are showing respect for Ituralde’s battlefield prowess.

2) We had only a short glimpse of the Forsaken in this section, but there were some tantalizing hints. Given Graendal’s thoughts about Demandred, where do you think he has made his base of operations? What do you make of Moridin’s issues with his left hand?

I keep looking at Mazrim Taim. I always picture him in black, rubbing his hands together, and snickering quietly to himself. He has an army, of sorts. But I also stumbled across an unmarked spoiler months ago that makes me think that Taim is not Demandred. My brain dead cells aren’t coming up with another possbility, though knowing the Forsaken, it will be someone incompetent and lacking team player skills.

In Book 12, we had some hints that Moridin and Rand were some how connected. Now they each have fidgety left hands. I fear we may be up for a Harry Potter moment at the end of the book, where Rand has to actually die in order to kill the last vestiges of the evil Moridin/Dark One. But then Rand will be resurrected for that happy ending.

3) The Prophet finally met his end, but not before we got to spend a little time inside his highly disturbing mind. What do you make of his vision of the Dragon? Do you think that his death will remove the Dragonsworn as an organized force?

Oh, I forget what Masema was rambling on about before Faile shoved something pointy into him. I was a little surprised that Masema was taken out so easily, with very little lead up to it. I was not surprised that he believed that Perrin had to be taken out.

Since the majority of the Dragonsworn were forced into this mad army, I expect we won’t see a major force of them again. There may be a few that feel the need to keep the ‘dream’ alive and try to build some messed up church with very strict rules in Rand’s name later. And there may also be several thousand folks who feel Rand owes them something for the evil done in his name. I would be more worried about those folks.

4) We see Egwene go through some serious changes this week, as she realizes why the Aiel laugh at pain. Do you think that she is correct to think that Elaida’s rule would come to an end soon even without her own efforts? What do you make of the severe disruptions that are occurring in Tar Valon: are they worse than the ones we are seeing elsewhere?

I think Egwene’s demeanor and thoughtful comments are pushing things along. Yes, given time, Elaida would dig her own grave. But there is this looming time limit with the end of the world scheduled to happen in a few months. So someone has to move things along in order to have time to tack the Tower back together long enough to do some badassery fighting against evil…instead of innocents and other well-meaning folks.

That whole scene with the dungeon cell going all gooey was extremely disturbing! Still, I don’t think this is any worse than the ghost city that swallowed part of the caravan that was with the circus party a few books back.

5) Poor Aviendha is off counting tiny seeds whilst running across country. Can you offer any suggestions about what she has done wrong in the eyes of the Wise Ones?

I think this IS the final test. Yes, I believe it is fuckery by the Wise Ones to test Aviendha’s patience, mettle, and problem solving skills. Have you ever done that blanket test with your dogs? You take a blanket or towel, toss it over your standing dog, covering their head and see how long it takes them to get out of it. It’s suppose to be an intelligence test. Most of my dogs can toss it off within 5-20 seconds. But I did have one dog who would simply lie down and go to sleep.

I think all this BS from the Wise Ones is the blanket and they are counting to see how long it takes Aviendha to get out from under it.

6) We finally touch base with Gawyn in his efforts to disrupt the rebel siege. Can you think of anything that might make him finally see sense and join the rebel cause?

Well, I think if Gawyn saw Egwene’s breasts while she ordered him to join her side, he would do just that. ;)

But that isn’t likely to happen in the waking world any time soon. So I think he needs to see the bad guys do some truly bad guy things, like killing kids, squelching puppies, peeing in churches, etc. Gawyn has a head on his shoulders, but he also has a very loyal heart. So he needs something to slap him upside the head to break that loyalty.

7) Cadsuane and a few other Sisters are trying to get information out of Semirhage. Do you think they have any hope at all of succeeding, or will we have to endure many more creepy stories about how she can do truly diabolical things to peoples’ bodies?

I believe Cadsuane is correct. Physical torture would not undo Semirhage. She would just catalog her own reactions, noting what was of interest. And the silly psychological torture they are running isn’t going to do it either. So I look forward to seeing what Cadsuane comes up with to break Semirhage. What would break Cadsuane? Perhaps the threat of infinite boredom. I wonder if there is some large ter’angreal that would hold someone in stasis with no input from the world and yet leave their mind to spin in circles? Hmmm…Stasis Box anyone?

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Other Tidbits:

Did I hear that right? Ituralde’s first love was a soft-handed prince with a jeweled sword grip? Ituralde is turning out to be one of my favorite side characters. I could go kick this bejeweled prince in the arse for him.

Can’t Rand use the Power to make a flaming left hand, or one out of glass or mist? Perhaps that takes more concentration than the poor lad has at the moment.

Faile swears her folks to secrecy over killing Masema. Oh, yeah, right. Like keeping secrets from Perrin has worked out so great so far!

May I slap Rand? He doesn’t want Semirhage tortured because she has a vagina? If the Dark One can pull the gender swap, surely the most powerful Aes Sedai can come up with something along the same lines!

New Spring, Part III

JordanNewSpringBannerWelcome everyone to Book 0 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan which is a prequel to the series set several years before Book 1. You can find the schedule to New Spring over HERE. Everyone is welcome to join us!

This week, Liesel at Musings on Fantasia is the host. You can catch Eivind, our WoT encyclopedia, in the comments.  Stop by Sue’s at Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers, a place for deft reasoning.

This week, we covered Chapters 17-END. Spoilers run rampant for this section and all previous books below!

1. What do you think of the fact that Moiraine met Cadsuane. I don’t think we knew that before. What’s Cadsuane up to? Do you think Moiraine’s eventual conclusion that she’s Black Ajah is valid? Logical?

I think that most of the Sisters eventually meet Cadsuane, so it was a nice touch that Jordan tossed her in this book. As usual, I think Cadsuane is searching for false Dragons, and perhaps even searching for the real Dragon.

No, I don’t think Cadsuane is Black Ajah and I think Moiraine’s reasoning is faulty. She and Siuan are both real new to the Shawl, but also to the reality of the Black Ajah. I think that both of them are still in ‘aghast, reaction’ mode and haven’t had time and opportunity to collect enough facts about the Black Ajah at this point.

Though to call Cadsuane blunt is to be kind. So I can see how Moiraine, who is still attached to being treated with the deference due a high born lady, would find Cadsuane rude and crude and may think vile thoughts about her.

2. Do you think Tamra was killed by a Darkfriend? Do you think the new amyrlin, Sierin, is Black Ajah? If so, why, and what do you think will happen next?

Since we don’t know how Tamra was killed (did she die of a fall or illness or a knife to the chest?), I waver between Darkfriend and Black Ajah offing her. If it looks like she died peacefully in her bed, then I would be inclined to say someone with the power killed her.

I don’t think Sierin is Black Ajah simply because the Blacks seem to use nitwits in power and control things from the shadows. Also, we learned from Eivind last week that Sierin doesn’t last many years before suddenly dieing. And we all know that eventually Siuan is raised to the Amyrlin Seat.

3. We saw the scene with Lan, Moiraine, and the lake that was mentioned briefly clear back in book 2. What was your reaction to it? Did it play out the way you’d imagined?

This was a great scene! I was laughing out loud. Of course, Moiraine is suspicious of the three men for her own reasons, but then so obviously following them, and then Lan alone, into the woods – I wanted to slap her upside the head! But then she tried to take Lan’s sword away, the simpleton! So I was quite happy to see her flying through the air and splashing down into the lake. But then she tries to pull Lan in! This is one of those times where Moiraine’s tenacity was not working in her favor. I loved the imagery of Moiraine dangling in the air from Lan’s arm.

4. Someone tried to assassinate Lan. He was an idiot who was told to kill Moiraine first, but didn’t. Who do you think the attack was aimed at and who was responsible for it?

This scene confused me a little bit. Lan, Bukama, and Rhyne recognized the dying would-be assassin. But this man also had been told that Moiraine was an Aes Sedai. Now Moiraine is still new to traveling the world and new to keeping her identity secret. So I am sure she did reveal her Aes Sedai nature 101 ways to the observant person. So this means that at least some of those asses trying to kill Lan could have ordered their minions to kill the Aes Sedai first.

At least, that is what sense I could make out of it.

5. What did you think of the Lan-Edeyn relationship, and all of Edeyn’s plans for Lan?

Fucked up. But I shall elaborate. Lan is bound by custom (because he is an idiot) and Edeyn is taking great advantage of that custom. If the roles were reversed and Lan was taking such advantage of his position over Edeyn, we would be cheering on those would-be assassins. But Lan is a full-grown man and has a lot of choice about where he puts his penis. I can see custom dictating that he show Edeyn some affection. But later on, we see him without his shirt and will all sorts of crazy monkey sex love marks on his back. So if he isn’t into Edeyn, and seems actually repulsed by her plans for him to marry her daughter, than why would he put on such a stunning performance in her bed? Does he have such pride in his sexual prowess that even in such a situation he feels he must perform to the utmost of his ability?

I was not looking forward to Lan marrying Edeyn’s daughter. I feared we would see one of those most awkward threesomes down the road consisting of Lan, Edeyn, and her daughter. *shudder*

6. In the end, a Black sister is revealed, and several innocents die. The fight scene was pretty epic. Thoughts? Feelings? Regrets?

Wow! I wasn’t expecting such death in this book. I think New Spring may be my favorite Jordan book just because there are so many intense scenes. It was hard to lose Bukama, and so suddenly. Then to have the Black sister tossing hosts over the railing was pretty awful. While Moiraine says she is just as guilty of Edyen’s daughter’s death as Meren (spelling?), I think she is wrong. Moiraine needs to realize that her actions, while they failed, were noble.

7. What did you think of final scene that led to Moiraine bonding Lan? Did you like it? Want more? Think it was legit?

I am very, very glad that Lan did not run away from a stupid marriage via the Warder way. Instead, Moiraine had to humble herself by chasing after him, and then had to be genuine by telling Lan the entire truth. I was very satisfied with how this all came about.

Other Tidbits:

I think, from numerous hints tossed around in this section (especially by Cadsuane), that Moiraine and Siuan were casual lovers while in training.

Moiraine used her super secret Blue Ajah powers to coax ants into Lan’s small clothes! If I was Blue Ajah, I would be in constant trouble from pulling such pranks.

Is Lan a minor ta’veren? Moiraine & Siuan speak of the Black Ajah systematically taking out any male who shows any hint of being able to Channel. But I don’t think Lan is a Channeler.

That evil inn keeper with her special spiced wine got a harsh kind of justice indeed.

The Gathering Storm Read Along – The Schedule

Squatch being cute.

Squatch being cute.

Hello folks, we are about to embark on the final 3 books of The Wheel of Time series, written by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Below is the schedule. Anyone is welcome to join us at any time. If you want to be on the weekly email list for the discussion questions, just leave me a comment with a way to contact you.

Enjoy!

Week 1: Oct. 5th, Prologue-Chpt.6 (103 pages), Hosted by Coffee, Cookies, & Chili Peppers (CCCP)
Week 2: Oct. 12th, Chpts7-13 (105 pages), hosted by Eivind (our Nordic WOT encyclopedia)
Week 3: Oct. 19th, Chpts. 14-21 (110 pages), hosted by Dab of Darkness (DoD)
Week 4: Oct. 26th, Chpts. 22-28 (105 pages), hosted by Musings on Fantasia (MoF)
Week 5: Nov. 2nd, Chpts. 29-35 (105 pages), hosted by CCCP
Week 6: Nov. 9th, Chpts. 36-42 (113 pages), hosted by DoD
Week 7: Nov. 16th, Chapt. 42-End (103 pages), hosted by Eivind