Rambling Thoughts About T.S. Barnett’s “Left Hand Path”

I love modern fantasy. Not things like “Vampire romance” so much, but things that bring that hint of magic back to a mundane world. I love stories that take things like witchcraft and fae folk and mysticism and place it into a real world context. I especially love it when it’s not even sequestered in some far away land hidden by land and acknowledges that there are people who don’t care about any rules that say they’re supposed to keep it all on the down low.

Left Hand Path, by T.S. Barnett is such a book. In it, you find the standard “we should hide our abilities” folk, but also examples of an entire undercity of people who frankly don’t care. The only thing that keeps them in check is the rest of the lamer good guys that want to hold them back. Or at least, that’s how they see things. Besides, nobody likes a helicopter parent, and that’s what all these law-abiders act like. Worse, it’s not like their enforcement of said rules are gentle. Who needs an old fashioned witch trial when you’ve got mental torture chambers?

Of course you’ve got your good guys too, which have perfectly viable reasons for not wanting the others to step out of line. Mostly because when they do go rogue, it tends to involve taking advantage of or outright hurting someone. I’m sure these guys wonder why people can’t break the rules with a benign yet mind blowing awesome charity concert or something. It’d make their lives much easier. They’re just trying to keep some relative peace in the world. Most of them genuinely want to do good.

The book, naturally, has a representative of each camp, and the main character finds herself being pulled in both directions. Cora is new to all the magic stuff (and without an en masse propaganda institute that spirits you away from any one remotely influential you’ve ever known before puberty) she’s left to try and make her own path through the magical world and it’s rules. She’s also older than your standard child learning of another realm, so she brings different ways of perceiving the goings on around her. Namely, she questions things.

She’s not entirely unbiased when she starts exploring however, her tutor (or Mentor, as this first book in the series is called) happens to be one of the most notorious magical criminals on the list. Probably a household name among people who follow the magic world’s equivalent of John Walsh.

It’s a reputation he’s earned through years of hard work. Granted, he never tried to take over the world, but the trail of victimized and dead he’s left in his path probably puts many serial killers to shame. This is one of the great aspects of this book. Many magic and fantasy novels tend to take the issue of victims kind of lightly. Not intentionally, but because once you get to ‘world conquering baddie’ it’s just… presumed you have a host of victims under your belt. No one really goes into the effect of the climbing body count.

This book’s villian, Nathan, is less magical Hitler and much more mystic Robert Maudsley (the real life inspiration for Hannibal Lecter). Still decidedly evil, but on a somehow more personal level. Likely because he personally commits the crimes himself. He kills people, not because of a vendetta or paranoid conviction or master race plan, but simply because at the time it became prudent. This blurs the lines a little between the usually high contrast good/evil presented in other stories. After all, what’s the difference in someone who kills because it’s expedient and the good guy who takes people out because they ‘had no other choice’?

Speaking of wayward good guys, in the other corner we find Elton, carrying on with an almost Ahab like obsession with catching the notorious killer. The Batman to Nathan’s Joker, Elton goes not only out of his way to hunt down the villain, but off the books, beyond the law, and outside anything like a normal life he’s ever built to be the one to take this baddie down. He’s genuinely good in a very “Sometimes I want to kick you in your perfect teeth” way, and when he sees Cora under Nathan’s wing, he decides that he must be the mother duck to her duckling and protect her at all costs and treat her well to show her the Good Ways of magic.

Just kidding, he places a curse on her to get Nathan to cooperate with him. Yep, he’s not above that.

Actually, he kind of does both. He’s truly at odds throughout the book, and it makes for some delicious story telling, as well as ample fodder for Nathan to taunt him with. If that’s not enough, it’s… kind of his fault that the story even happens in the first place. Sort of. You’ll have to read to find out.

I love the inclusion of various cultures in this story, and the way they’re so woven in to Nathan’s history. It makes sense that someone like him would have such a colorful history and it gives the whole thing it’s own unique flavor, aside from the awesome dynamic that is Nathan and Elton trying to work together and Cora trying to survive it. I love the stories of Nathan’s past partners, and I wonder what tales there might be in there. Lots of heartache for sure, but lots of whirlwind encounters as well. How many more stories are in his past? How many stories are in Cora’s future as his protege? I don’t know, but I’m excited to follow the trail and enjoy the ride.


Into The Woods

So this post is a bit different. I just got excited about being out in my very first Spring in my new home located in a pretty rural area. It’s a new experience for me, so I felt like rambling a bit. It’s not my first time exploring the area. I went out quite a few times during some of the milder winter days, but it’s my first time here in this season. So without further ado, I present a post pieced together from my social networking accounts in one article, rather than the spammed bits of paragraphs those close to me received!

I went out in the woods today finally! It’s been a while. Being sick and bad weather really set me back, but I finally got to check on the trail I’ve been making! I even progressed it a bit further.

It’s still pretty sketchy to be calling it a “trail” yet, but I’m getting there. I think I spied the fenceline i’m aiming for today! Hooray!

Then I just have to turn the trail back towards the open field, and I’ll officially have a nice long “lap” I can jog/walk through. If I can make the trail find the Big Tree, I might even have a nice relaxing hidey spot where I can sit outside and do creative things! I am loving this. It feels good to be working on making a thing with a purpose like that.

I’m trying to not disturb TOO much tree growth. Some of it can’t be helped, but for the most part I try to bend branches to encourage them to grow away from the trail instead of breaking/cutting them, or target the ones that feel weak and brittle or are already just barely hanging on by like a shred of bark. I don’t want this trail to be like… a super straight line through the forest (I don’t intend to place concrete or anything like that on it). I’m letting it curve around places where the growth is very thick, letting it meander and gradually make it’s way through things.

I also spotted hella more signs of life out today. I found what I’m pretty sure are deer tracks. Apparently they like to come through the property at night and graze there or pick fruit off the vine/tree/bush. They’re never there in the morning, but it’s not the first time Preston or I have seen their prints. I’d really love to spot one. Maybe it’d even stick around so I could watch it a bit before it took off. That would be SO cool. Actually, a while back, Preston and i spotted a dark shape in the distance in the field. It took off before we could get a close look and went straight for the forest, but we were almost positive it was either a lamb or something or a fawn. A melanistic fawn, judging by how dark the fur was. And then, a couple months later, just a few weeks ago, I swear I thought i saw it by the road while we were driving, standing alert. Both times were so quick, I honestly can’t be sure it even actually happened, but I like to believe it did.

We’ve been spotting rabbits along the road quite a bit lately. None so close we were afraid we’d hit them, thank goodness, but as someone who grew up mostly in suburbia, seeing actual wild living rabbits in the fields is a nifty experience! I point them out every time, almost like I do with the horses our neighbors have.

The purple martins have come in and now there’s like a hundred birds nesting in the back yard in the special tall posts with birdhouses on them that Preston’s dad made. I’ve been starting to identify more bird sounds. Martins make a lot of different sounds, which surprises me, although it shouldn’t. I guess I still have the preconceived notion of each bird having just one signature sound they make. I have learned to pick out the very distinctive sound of a Red Cardinal though!

The blueberries are starting to blossom, and I’ve found a few that have made their way out into the forest area. Wild blueberries!
The grape vines and pear trees are also starting to blossom/take off! I’m learning tons of new stuff that’s probably meaningless or commonplace to others, but I’m fascinated by it.  Did you know that the petals on a blueberry bush like, expand around the berry as it bulges out of the center? I did not know that. They don’t open fully, or at least, they haven’t yet, they’re just like cradling the little new green berries!

Squirrels make a hecka bunch of noise in the forest. One decided to ditch it’s tree while I was nearby and go scampering for a different one along the ground. I thought it had to be like a dog or something because it sounded so loud!

There’s some spots along the fence that had been dug under and I’d blocked them, but something has gotten past the block and also left little sandy brown tufts of fur caught in the bottom fence links. Preston is thinking “fox” because “coyote” is probably too big, but I’ve seen some scrawny coyotes and the fur is definitely more beige in color.

The spiders with the larger, prettier webs are starting to weave now, which is always awesome, because I love seeing how many shapes they come in. Other spiders started weaving too. Preston, who grew up around here, thinks we spotted a black widow web. He warned me not to mess with big tangled cobwebs in corner-looking areas. He says they don’t show up a lot, because they’re not native, but that he’s seen them from time to time.

He also gave me more advice on taking nature walks, because he says that this is around the time we might start finding snakes and such staying out and sunning, and there are, of course, a few venomous species. It wasn’t like a “stay away from the woods, it’s horrifically dangerous” talk, it was just “Yeah, just kinda poke ahead of you, they’ll usually move. If it doesn’t, just walk away. Don’t mess with it, it won’t mess with you” standard stuff.

I gotta say, it’s not much, but I really do like living out here where I can see all this stuff happen.

Top Five Friday: Character Pairings

Wait, are we going with canonical pairings or fan pairings or… whatever, I’ll go with both. Both is usually the preferred option over ‘either’ or ‘none’, unless the question is some form of ‘which of these unpleasant experiences would you like to partake of’. Although I suppose if you enjoy unpleasant experiences then it becomes a bit more complicated…

So today’s Top Five is all about character pairings, as the title suggests. I have it pretty easy this time, I think, as most of my favorite pairings usually end up hinted at or confirmed by the media I find them in, which means that I have ample official depictions of said couples around me to remind me I like them more than others. This is important, because my memory is like the recycle bin on your computer.

HEAVY WARNING: There WILL be ample spoilers in this. Do not read if that distresses you. I have further spoiler warnings about the very end of each series, as I wanted to include whether these various couples end up together at the end or not.

Media included is as follows:
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Xena: Warrior Princess
Sailor Moon
Golden Compass (His Dark Materials)

Don’t forget to check out my friends pages!  T.S. Barnett , K.M. , and Lindsay! Without further tangents, or any sort of order, allow me to present the pairings as follows:

Continue reading Top Five Friday: Character Pairings

Starving Interview: T. S. Barnett, author of The Left-Hand Path: Mentor

J. B. Garner - Musings of a Starving Author

This week, we deliver seconds on our big first from last week!  That’s right, our second live interview is now done, as we break bread with T. S. Barnett, the chef who whipped up this week’s Local Author Blitz subject, The Left-Hand Path: Mentor.  Listen and enjoy.

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Book Recommendation: Those Words I Dread by Tess Barnett


Those Words I Dread by Tess Barnett

Modern fantasy gay romance! This is one of those books that I kept being tempted to read ahead in, but didn’t dare because I didn’t want to spoil it for myself. It’s one of those books you want to pause in and savor the characters happy moments while they last. I have a new pair to add to my list of favorite fictional couples because of this book.

The author does a fantastic job of giving characters voices and accents you barely ever need description about to hear. The struggle between the character’s personalities is great and well defined, and adds spice to the sweetness, and the amorous scenes are definitely more than I was expecting, considering the genre isn’t my usual cup of tea. They’re both sensual and romantic, in a way that still falls squarely into ‘masculine’ feeling, which is hard for me to pinpoint, but very distinct and important overall. Does that make sense? I’m not sure it does. In other words, it doesn’t feel like one of them is a girl traded out for a guy, which I’ve seen written in such a way before. It reads like two men.

Plus it has illustrations. Did I mention it has illustrations? In a gay romance? Very nice ones? Yeah, you should definitely check this out.

Story Shards: Final Message

Story Shards are little pieces of writing I was inspired to write that may or may not fit into some other project eventually. They’re bits I was inspired to write that don’t have a home. Eventually, I might work them into something or they might stay as a separate stand alone thing.

This one I’m calling “Final Message”
Continue reading Story Shards: Final Message