Kinds of Love

Many long years ago, I read a novel called Kinds of Love, by May Sarton. It is about exactly what the title implies – so many different ways to love: love of friends, love of a spouse, love of wild things and the land, love of children, love of place, and how all those things combine to create belonging. It was one of those books that stayed with me: not the details of it, but its wisdom and its truths.

So on this day that has become synonymous with celebrating love, I’m thinking about how May Sarton’s book influenced mine – all five (soon to be six) of mine, because while they are not romances, different kinds of love also anchors all my books.

Love is at the heart of the key conflicts of the books: love of place conflicting with love of a person; love of a person conflicting with love of family; love of an ideal sometimes conflicting with both. In the name of love, compromises are made, sacrifices offered, lives voluntarily restricted to meld with another’s. The deep love between friends is as important as sexual love; the love of family – both found and biological – creates both tension and peace.

Children are conceived and born, changing lives, bringing yet another sort of love. People die, and death rocks and challenges relationships, and questions if love is worth the pain. Love is sometimes for an idea, or an ideal: the greater good, the world that could be; sometimes it is for the minutiae that makes up lives: the familiar, mundane moments. Love is sometimes at the edge of relationships, the intrigue of what might have been; sometimes it is past, gone, remembered fondly or with regret. Love is sometimes rejected, sometimes fought against, rarely simple.

Because isn’t that what love is? Not the romance associated with February 14th, not red hearts and roses (although they have their place), but the complex intertwining of lives, needing patience and forgiveness, sharing and space, always a balancing act.

In the work-in-progress, Empire’s Heir, four of my main characters have been together for nearly twenty years, through war and its aftermath and the creation of a new peace. But life is not static, and as challenges both political and personal are changing their lives again, whether they can find a new balance will be, once more, a question of love.

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Featured Image: Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

Finding Inspiration

Trying to maintain writing discipline while packing, arranging for (and checking on) tradespeople, and doing all the other things involved in moving house after twenty-two years, is, to put it mildly, difficult. I’ve done my best to keep up with my blogs (three of them now – one of which I started in the midst of all this, for some reason….) but work on Empire’s Hostage has been non-existent. That’s only in part due to the move, and in part due to, basically, writer’s block.

But this last week I’ve been reading – in small chunks, usually at lunch or when I really need a break from something – Malachy Tallach’s book 60 Degrees North: Around the World in Search of Home, a book I chose to read in part because, I thought, it might give me more insight into life ‘north of 60’, as we say here in Canada. I’ve been there, in Canada and the US, but not otherwise. As Empire’s Hostage takes place largely in what might be ‘north of 60’, in a land that more or less parallels northern Europe, it seemed a potentially useful book to read.

It was. Yes, I’ve learned some things that I may or may not use. But it was one passage – a descriptive one, not factual – that suddenly sparked a scene, a setting to begin the next section of Hostage, one accurate to the landscape and mood of the story. I can feel the relief, a lifting of the nagging tension that I wasn’t going to find a way forward. But now, of course, I have to find time to write….

Books of Influence: An Occasional Series

This is the first in an occasional series of posts about the books – mostly classic fantasy and science fiction – that have most greatly influenced my own writing and world-building.  First among these are The Chronicles of Tornor, by Elizabeth A. Lynn.

The Chronicles of Tornor, published in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, consist of three books: Watchtower, The Dancers of Arun, and The Northern Girl. All take place in Arun, a land of city-states and northern keeps, grasslands and mountains, a land where certain psi powers, dance and warfare as two faces of one discipline, and a wider acceptance of differing forms of sexuality and love evolve over the several hundred years separating the three books. The first book in the series, Watchtower, won the World Fantasy Award in 1979.

Hailed at the time of publication as “an adventure story for humanists and feminists” (Joanna Russ) author Elizabeth A. Lynn’s spare, evocative prose and finely tuned characters made me long to be in Arun, but more importantly taught me how less is more in writing. The facets of sexuality revealed in her characters in this trilogy (and in two other of her books from the same general time, The Sardonyx Net and A Different Light), while common-place now, were still challenging readers at the time they were published. Important to her world (and ours), the sexuality of her characters is not an issue; it is an unremarkable part of the society and culture of Arun.

Each book can stand alone, but all are linked by the land in which they take place, the lineage of the characters, and a set of cards resembling Tarot cards. While there is physical action in all three books, it takes a back stage to the psychological and emotional change and growth that happens in the protagonists; it is these battles that are the focus of the stories, and hold the meaning. Lynn brings the story full-circle over the three books, beginning and ending at the northern keep of Tornor.

I first read this series in my early-to-mid twenties – now over thirty years ago- and of all the books I have read and will write about in this occasional series, The Chronicles of Tornor had the most direct influence on my own fictional land and some of the themes explored in the Empire’s Legacy series.  My paperbacks are tattered and torn, and one is a replacement, but they are books that will always have a place on my shelves.