Snippet: Keep Your Eyes on the Road

Posted: January 20th, 2014 under snippet.

Even an experienced, normally alert person can be thinking about something else when heading home along a familiar route…but lapses in situational awareness can be dangerous even there. 

Who: Dorrin Verrakai

Where: Vérella

……………………………………………………………..start of snippet

Busy with her thoughts, she did not see the attackers until her horse flung up its head and snorted.  One grabbed for the reins; the other tried to push her off the horse with a pole.

Dorrin leaned back, shoved the pole upright with one hand and drew her sword.  Her horse, battle-trained, crouched and jumped forward; she heard the crack of a breaking bone and a cry as it landed. The one with the pole tried again, but Dorrin ducked, thrust under the pole and the attacker dropped the pole and fell.  She heard footsteps coming into the lane behind her; she lifted the reins, clucked, and her horse reared, turned, and charged toward the street, knocking down the third attacker.


Her horse, with better night vision than she has,  had noticed something and pricked both ears forward,  arching its neck a little,  a clear signal if she’d been alert–even if it was too dark to see the ears.   She ignored the change in the horse’s posture, simply adjusting her seat to it.



  • Comment by David Watson — January 20, 2014 @ 10:50 am


    May readers and writers don’t realize how effective a well trained war-horse can be in a tight spot. Better than a squad of infantry!

  • Comment by Eir de Scania — January 20, 2014 @ 12:05 pm


    Too many writers doesn’t realise horses are animals, not machines…

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 20, 2014 @ 12:56 pm


    Yup. Judith Tarr and I once gave a big presentation on “real horses” at a WorldCon (can’t remember which one, alas) in which at the end I recruited “horses” from the audience to show why someone can’t “throw the harness on” their four horses and gallop their wagon away when thieves show up. I had made for the purpose a set of reins, properly cross-tied, for a four-horse hitch, so the people could hold a dowel in their hands, and the driver could try to drive them in a figure 8 in the front of the room. Audience and “horses” were in stitches as two of the horses, given a hint to be difficult…were.

    We covered horse colors (no “beige” thanks), the care requirements, the effect of terrain and weather on speed, etc. But some writers…I’ve had writers ask me for advice, spent hours giving it to them, and then they STILL did something really stupid in their book. One woman wrote me asking for advice–turned out she already had an impossible plot (young girl tames a wild stallion with love and rides it to victory…in the Kentucky Derby no less) but refused to read up on horses, or go visit a stable and learn to ride, because “I hate horses, but girls like to read about them.” I have no idea what happened to her idea. She’s not the only writer who told me they didn’t have time, or didn’t want to, get near actual horses, let alone do some stable work or learn to ride. For some it was “they smell bad” or “they’re dirty” and for others it was “I’m too busy–just tell me what I need to know.”

    I know Judy and I and other writers who DO know horses have had some effect, but ignorance is bigger than knowledge.

  • Comment by John McDonald — January 20, 2014 @ 5:26 pm


    I haven’t been on a horse in 20+ years, and that’s part of why my Mid-Winter tale included a dog; for I do know K9s.
    For something I’m working on now, I found a useful book. “Horse Packing: a Manual of Pack Transportation” by Charles Johnson Post, was originally published in 1914, and republished in 2007 by Skyhorse Publishing. The author discusses how to properly pack a horse or mule, care for one, and how much a horse or mule can carry for varied distances at what speed. It helps me get the details just right.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 20, 2014 @ 6:59 pm


    I don’t own that one, but did find a paperback Sierra Club guide to packing (decades ago) that had info for horse, mule, donkey and llama(yes, llama.) Yours sounds really good too. The oldest book on packing, riding, and driving in rough country is a book written by Ernest Thompson Seton’s wife as a guide for women who want to travel out in the west with their husbands. She covers everything, including having designed a riding habit that allowed her to ride astride because, she says, lady or not, it’s not safe to ride sidesaddle on mountain trails and most of the horses you run into will freak out if you try. She describes a harrowing drive over a rough mountain pass, in which half-broke horses and a rough trail made a very…tiring…trip. But she loved being out in the mountains, loved the riding, learned to shoot and hunt, and appears to have been at least as observant as her more famous writer/adventurer husband.

    The Western Horseman used to have–probably still does have–good articles on packing, by packers, and also books about (they were also my source for a wonderful book on draft horses by Telleen; later I found one on drafters in England by a British writer.)

  • Comment by GinnyW — January 20, 2014 @ 8:17 pm


    Dorrin? Daydreaming? It is a good thing the horse was alert.

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — January 20, 2014 @ 9:59 pm


    I strongly recommend the late Diana Wynne Jones’ “The Tough Guide to Fantasyland,” and specifically its entry for horses:

    “Horses are of a breed unique to Fantasyland. They are capable of galloping full-tilt all day without a rest. Sometimes they do not require food or water. They never cast shoes, go lame, or put their hooves down holes except when the Management deems it necessary, as when the forces of the Dark Lord are only half an hour behind. They never otherwise stumble. Nor do they ever make life difficult for Tourists by biting or kicking their riders or one another. They never resist being mounted or blow out so their girths slip, or do any of the other things that makes horses so chancy in this world.”

    “Tough Guide” is wonderful for its own sake, but the entry on horses is spot on…

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 20, 2014 @ 10:13 pm


    “Tough Guide” is indeed wonderful…our copy is dog-eared from the re-reads over the years.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 20, 2014 @ 11:09 pm


    And Dorrin wasn’t day-dreaming. That’s when you imagine that someday you’ll have your very own P-51 Mustang and be the best pilot thereof in history and take off into the big (no pollution back then) blue Texas sky and do all those loops and barrel rolls and Immelmans you’ve read about and then come down and taxi nonchalantly back to the hangar that just appeared without any warning right where you needed it, and climb out of the cockpit and then from the wing of the the plane into the saddle of your gorgeous palomino (or black) stallion and gallop away while my faithful crew cares for the airplane (and some other faithful crew brought my horse, saddled and bridled, to the airport and then led him up to the wind)…that’s a daydream.

    Dorrin was immersed in her thoughts, but it was more like “So let’s see, how am I going to get the grocery shopping, the mail, picking up kids and getting them to soccer and dance and…o rats, I just remembered that today is the day I’m supposed to meet with Angie Taylor about the voter registration rally–it can’t be this weekend already…!” Except no grocery stores, post offices, kids, soccer, dance, or voter registration. But serious kinds of things to think through and arrange.

  • Comment by Sherri Campbell — January 22, 2014 @ 2:22 am


    I haven’t ridden in a while, but still notice when a writer comes up with something odd. One book had a rider flexing his thigh muscles on his horse’s flank, and galloped away… (Dunno, seems a bit strange…). The other one that caused me to throw the book was riders driving ‘a herd of majestic heifers with their calves at their sides’. How hard is it to check a definition…?

  • Comment by Celina — January 22, 2014 @ 2:59 am


    Im curious, how does bareback riding really work in reality? It’s very popular apperently for elves/faeries etc to ride that way. I seen some show videos of it at the web, but would that work for long distances? And where does the rider put all his/her stuff when there is no saddlebags?

  • Comment by Richard — January 22, 2014 @ 3:11 am


    Horses – enough of an excuse to belatedly deliver my report on HORSE FANTASTIC, including our Author’s Dream’s Quarry, that I read in the autumn.

    HORSE FANTASTIC is – “was”, since it is out of print? – no, second-hand copies are there to be found, especially online, so “is” it shall be – HORSE FANTASTIC is a collection of 17 short stories by as many authors, for anyone who has ever kept a horse, ridden a horse, bet on a horse or merely “known two things about the horse”. You just have to like stories, from the whimsical to the powerful. (Horse of her Dreams, had Elizabeth written it then, would have fitted in well.)

    I’ve already mentioned that Dream’s Quarry, the Paksworld story, shows us something of the horse nomads (and of what it
    signified when Saben mentioned his uncle’s family dancing to Guthlac). It sits alongside Judgment and Gifts as being about a young person striking out alone, though in DQ the protagonist’s temporary (provided all goes well) exile is normal for her culture and one for which she is well prepared. Or so she thinks. The story could equally well have been entitled “Hunter Hunted”. That is about as much plug as I can give without spoilers.

    One nugget: horsefolk do not consider Torre to have been one of theirs, whatever others may think – the nomads do honor her, but more for the horse that came to her than for her deeds.

  • Comment by Richard — January 22, 2014 @ 3:23 am


    Celina, what stuff? Aren’t an elvencloak, a bow, a quiver of arrows, a long dagger and a packet of waybread all an elf needs to survive indefinitely? What does the Tough Guide have to say?

  • Comment by Celina — January 22, 2014 @ 6:16 am


    Hah, of course, how could I forgot :p

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 22, 2014 @ 8:22 am


    Sherri, Celina, Richard: (laughing) This calls for two stories.

    1) Rancherfriend (m) had a day job and hence promotions and hence gave a “promotion party” at the ranch; it was spring, with wildflowers. I went over to help Rancherfriend (f), his wife, with the serving of food and cleaning up. Guests brought their families, and one woman asked Rancherfriend (f): “When are you going to milk the bulls? I promised the children they could watch.” While Rancherfriend (f) was trying to think how to answer that one, I stuffed a dish-towel in my mouth to keep from hysterical laughter. (This is even funnier if you know that the colloquial term for collecting semen from bulls for A.I. is called “milking” them. We both did. We can still start laughing if one of us brings this incident up.)

    2) My first horse, Ky, needed remedial training when I first leased him; he was a big, strong show jumper/eventer who got hyper the moment he was in the ring. “Hyper” including bolting uncontrollably and jumping everything in sight. One way to calm him down (I discovered) was by riding him bareback. I wasn’t good at it when we started, but eventually got to where I could ride well, and he eventually got to where he didn’t explode the moment someone got on him. Under saddle we did a lot of work at the walk (a less excitable gait) on a loose rein, and I worked on getting him responsive to leg, to my back signals, then gradually rein signals as well. (Eventually, I could stop him from a gallop by stiffening my back, on a loose rein, but not at the time of this story.) Partway through this process, when I’d progressed to riding him out in a several hundred acre field bareback at walk and trot, my mother came one morning to watch us. He had been calm and cooperative for days, and in the ring he would now canter quietly, circling jumps, doing figures of 8, etc. I had even cantered him a few strides in the open bareback, and under saddle he was behaving much, much better, including in the open.

    You see this coming. Full of pride (always a risk around horses, esp. horses with much hot blood in them–he was half-Arab, half-Saddlebred), after showing off his calm and obedient behavior at walk and trot, I took that bridge too far and asked him for a quiet canter depart from walk. I got three strides of perfectly calm, steady, obedient canter on the correct lead and then…ZOOM. Straight into an accelerating gallop. Now–if you can ride, a gallop is smoother than a canter. The thing is…ahead of us, at the end of the field perhaps a half mile away, was a four-lane highway with plenty of traffic and no fence (not that a fence would stop that horse.)

    I sat there thinking the usual “O sh….” braced my knees just behind his shoulderblades, and set my hands, asking for a decrease in our increasing speed. He flicked an ear, and humped his back a little. Horse language: “Do that again and I’ll buck.” OK, then. Not wanting to hit the ground at that speed, even plowed ground, I relaxed back and legs, maintained only light contact with his mouth, and we continued departing our starting point (and my mother) at full charge, straight down the side of the field. When he leveled out, no longer accelerating, I signaled again with my back, and just a little touch with the reins, and said “Easy” in as calm a voice as I could manage. (Shaky, but not a yell.) He slowed a little. Asked again. He slowed a little more, accepted leg and rein signal to turn. Then the “Whoa” worked. We stopped. I turned him around. He pranced–neck arched, tail up, the very picture of a horse delighted with himself–back to my mother. Who looked at me and said “Was that planned?” I said no. She said “Very pretty, though. Bet it was fun to ride.”

    Ky was, for a horse, intelligent and even witty. He and the late Illusion were alike in that–both of them were mature geldings with a strong focus on people. Both played tricks on people and seemed to get a kick out of it. Ky discovered that he could sneak up on my husband and breathe down the back of his neck–and my husband would jump. (It happened the first time in the dark…R- said it was the scariest thing he’d ever felt…something obviously taller than he giving him a long hot breath from above in the dark.) Illusion liked sneaking up behind people and taking the brim of their hat in his teeth. Just holding it…and then they’d try to walk off and either lose the hat (if it had no tie) or be “caught.” He did that to me–you could not feel anything as he took hold very carefully–so it was always a surprise.

    Both had a perfect understanding of gates, fences, where the oats were kept, and a considerable understanding of human psychology, and there are many stories about both of them. Ky was “my” horse before I bought him; Illusion was Kathleen’s horse until the day he died–I was merely caretaker step-mom, often the wicked step-mom. Ky never dumped me; if he got over-excited and I felt unsafe, I could just say “Ky!” in a pleading voice and he’d stop. He had dumped, and continued to dump, other people, especially men. Illusion dumped me repeatedly, and very unpredictably, with no remorse at all. But with a child aboard, he was reliable. So was Ky.

    Both are buried on the place.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 22, 2014 @ 8:54 am


    A note on bareback riding: What’s disconcerting about riding bareback if you’re used to riding in a saddle is that everything under you moves with every movement of the horse. You can feel the long back muscles tighten and relax as the horse’s head goes up and down at the walk. You feel the horse’s sides bulging first this way then that at a trot. You feel the sideways shove and bulge of the side at the strike-off phase of the canter stride. To stay balanced, you need to keep your pelvis (and upper body) centered over the horse’s spine, while “giving” with the other movements, and much of that response happens in the lower back. You can’t be rigid, and you can’t be floppy.

    When you can do that (and I wouldn’t bet that I could do it now) on a responsive, fit, trained horse, you and the horse move with the least restriction or resistance–even less than the same horse under saddle–and it is a wonderful feeling. You aren’t hanging on…it’s more balance and relaxation than grip. I never did bridleless with any of mine, though I did take Ky down to halter and shank for a month, to relax him (he’d been in a very harsh bit for years and reacted with fear to any bit pressure, even of a smooth snaffle.)

    For a beautiful example on a western-trained horse doing reining patterns while bareback and bridleless, with commentary by the rider later: For a stunning example of a bareback, bridleless performance over big fences:

  • Comment by Suburbanbanshee — January 22, 2014 @ 8:33 pm


    Tough Guide to Fantasy is excessively tough on cloaks. In general, they are very practical garments.

    However, sleeping with nothing but a cloak is Not Recommended; it’s a hardship sort of thing. I (inadvertently, thanks to losing my sleeping bag) experimented with this at Pennsic one night in the chilly, damp Pennsylvania hill air, when the temps decided to drop to the 30’s. It got so freaking cold that I ended up leaving my tent, going up the hill to slightly less damp and cold territory, and sitting up all night in a restroom with all my clothes on. Nuff said.

    But it wasn’t a winter or fall weight cloak; it was a summer cloak meant mostly for keeping warm and dry on rainy days. A winter weight wool cloak can be very very warm and dry, albeit there are reasons that fur coats were invented.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 22, 2014 @ 11:24 pm


    Suburbanbanshee: I once owned a big, full-length tweed cape (heavy tweed) half-lined with fleece, with a stand-up collar. It was a great winter outer garment over just about anything, worn with my winter fleece-lined waterproof boots. Its only flaw was that–being a cape–it had a lot of surface area, and–being heavy tweed–it sort of angled out. There was no way to gather it close to the body. One day I drove up to the nearest shopping center, which was on top of a hill, the parking lot fully exposed to whatever the weather was doing, and discovered that some of the parking lot. And the wind was blowing. And the cape was a fine sail…it blew me (my boots having zero traction on the ice) about three yards when I stepped on the invisible ice–then I bumped into another parked car. Laughing like a loon the whole time–it was SO ridiculous. I don’t have the cape now–it might be cold enough to wear it one day a year down here. In Virginia, I wore it many days. Wind did not penetrate that tweed. I didn’t ever sleep outside in it (I had a little tent, and on winter camping trips didn’t even take the cape along.) But in my youth, I slept on the ground on a tarp, sometimes with a blanket on the tarp, and the tarp folded over. I think that cape would have been as good.


  • Comment by Gareth — January 23, 2014 @ 3:38 am


    Love your mother’s comment – sounds like the sort of comment my father would have made.

    In today’s culture we are in danger of becoming risk averse rather than risk aware. Encouraging children to try things armed with the knowledge of how to not get hurt (much) and learn is so important. Letting them try things but not go too far out of their depth – sounds like you had built up the skills to give you a very good chance of getting out of trouble.

    I see too many people not trying because they might fail rather than trying because they might succeed. Two short poems (grooks) of Piet Hein say it better than I can…

    ‘The road to wisdom?—Well, it’s plain
    and simple to express:
    and err
    and err again
    but less
    and less
    and less.’


    “Here is a fact
    that should help you fight
    a bit stronger

    Things that don’t
    actually kill you outright
    make you stronger.

    Put up in a place
    where it is easy to see
    the cryptic admonishment

    When you feel how depressingly
    slowly you climb
    it’s well to remember that
    Things Take Time.

    Problems worthy
    of attack
    prove their worth
    by hitting back!”

  • Comment by Eowyn — January 23, 2014 @ 5:01 pm


    I would have LOVED to have seen that demo of the hitch. It must have been a hoot.

    Stacy and Roxy were a beautiful pair. I was lucky enough to see them a few years ago. That mare was gorgeous.

    Regarding Ky, isn’t it wonderful how a horse can decide to take care of you even when being a little naughty? A friend of mine had a horse that generally didn’t like her to fall but was perfectly willing to get her off balance on a semi-regular basis. My old Dancer was NOT going to be muscled around but drop the reins, go into two-point and say walk and she would stop whatever she was doing and slow to a walk … very useful when she had a buck-and-bolt going.

  • Comment by Catmadknitter — January 23, 2014 @ 10:02 pm


    Comment #1- trying to take down a combat veteran on her own horse? Next time book-hop and grab Admiral Serrano or Captain Suiza. You’ll need them.

    Comment #2 “I hate horses, but girls like to read about them.” Stabbity. In my Girl Scouting career I drove campers to horse riding lessons. As we drove on property the other s were happily going about the horses. My moment? Charming a pair of barn cats into accepting skritchies then impressing the stable owner by correctly identifying the breed of the barn cats (polydactyls).

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 24, 2014 @ 12:24 am


    Gareth: It’s difficult for parents to let children fail–besides the natural desire to care for one’s kids, many categories of “learning experiences” can now be seen as culpable neglect, especially if the parents aren’t wealthy and white. There’s every chance that if the wrong people had known I let our autistic son jump off the garage roof…I’d have been in trouble. I knew him, and the dangers, and…he jumped off repeatedly without harm because he was very careful. I knew he’d grow and get heavier, and explained about F=ma and the consequences if he was too heavy for his bones to take it when he landed. Explained that before that happened, he might feel he was landing harder, and that was a good time to quit. One day he hit the ground harder than usual, enough to “sting” as he put it. He quit jumping off the roof. But…this wasn’t happening in a crowded city playground.

    Eowyn: Lucky you to see Stacy and Roxie in real life. The videos are amazing, but I’m sure it was better to see them up close. SO sad that the mare died so young. Ky–yes, an extraordinary horse. With better training and handling in his prime years, he could have been national if not international level, but that wasn’t his fate. And I’ve never have had him, of course, if he had been in better hands. He was a people horse–he liked people, he liked to show, he was smart and talented. A lot of fun to ride, a lot of fun just to be around. Taught me a lot.

    Catmadknitter: The people who tried to take Dorrin that night thought they had the advantage: darkness, surprise, numbers, and their own skills. And money is a great motivator for their kind of person.

    I would have ignored the cats to get close to the horses…I was that kind of kid. And teased about it by adults and other kids both. (I used to get “Do you STILL like horses?” in the same tone that I now get, from some people, “Are you STILL writing?”…it was something that, if you had it, you were supposed to outgrow as soon as possible. HA!)

  • Comment by Sharidann — January 29, 2014 @ 9:34 am


    Nice snippet.

    About kids, you are right, they need to learn by themselves and parents are just there to give them the tools to understand and – hopefully – correctly appreciate danger so that they don’t get hurt too much.
    Must admit, having a toddler at home doesn’t make for relaxed moments from the moment he begins to crawl till he begins to understand explanations…. 🙂

  • Comment by GinnyW — January 30, 2014 @ 6:48 am


    Sharidann – Children often develop their tools for understanding as they develop their muscles through investigation and practice. I sometimes think that we stifle them more than help by dismissing or ignoring those first (poorly articulated) attempts to understand, and by limiting their engagement with the “adult” world. We cheer the first attempt to stand (even it involves holding onto something), but tend to dismiss the first attempts to understand or gather information as not appropriate or correct.

  • Comment by Sharidann — January 30, 2014 @ 10:16 am


    @GinnyW: could you expand on the last sentence I am not sure I quite follow you and being a young dad, I am happy for every tip and advice I can get.

    I know I will do wrong in some respects, I just try very hard not to do too much wrong. 🙂

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 30, 2014 @ 11:05 am


    I’m jumping in here, on the topic of kids and understanding and stuff (having a kid with developmental disabilities teaches the parent a LOT about development–they stay in one stage longer, so you really notice it.)

    Every child is different, but even the most different ones do go through predictable stages of cognitive development. Parents are also at different stages, depending on their own background (IOW, not all adults get beyond being teenage-brains, even when wrinkly.) Child development books give ranges in which a kid will be in various stages, but it’s a guess for any individual kid–a guess that can be confirmed or ruled out on the basis of close observation.

    Learning is both individual (what kid does and figures out on her own) and social (what kid learns while interacting with someone–not necessarily being formally taught.) The average child’s brain is a learning machine–the child is taking in multisensory information every waking moment. The environment in which they learn (positive or negative) puts a marker on the things parents mostly call learning (learning names of things, attributes of things, locations of things, rules) so that learning those things is either marked “pleasant/rewarding” or “aversive.” On the education side, many parents and learning places (kindergartens, schools) are not aware of the effect of the total environment in which a child learns X on the child’s attitude towards X and towards learning X-related things.

    Observation and note-taking at a fine-grained level helps parents adjust general advice to the individual child. What does the baby like to look at? What colors, what size pattern (large shapes, small shapes, simple or intricate? What music does the baby like–and more helpfully, what music helps the baby calm down and which does she find exciting (kicking legs, gurgling) and which does she find upsetting (squinched eyes, square-mouth, etc.) Knowing what your individual child likes and dislikes from day one gives parents the tools to help the child learn to self-regulate emotion (a skill more universally useful than calculus, useful as calculus is.)

    One beneficial thing parents can do is use as little aversive teaching as possible (to save a child’s life, it’s reasonable, but not to save the parent annoyance) and as much positive reinforcement as possible. Once again I wave the flag for Karen Pryor’s _Don’t Shoot the Dog_ as an excellent primer for positive reinforcement techniques that are broadly applicable across children and situations.

    On the pure cognitive side, this means making learning to think better rewarding, when the child is young enough that the natural rewards of better thinking aren’t yet available. And coming back to GinnyW’s comment, this means rewarding a child’s curiosity about what adults know, in a way that invites the child to develop her own ability to make connections.

    Model your own thinking out loud, at the language level of the child (this gets easier as the child’s language advances.) Speak a little slower than you usually do, and act out what you’re talking about: Ball is lost…where IS ball? Let’s look for it. Under the bed? No, not under bed. Behind the chair? No, not behind the chair. Under the chair? No, not under the chair. In this box? Yes! Ball is in the box?

    You can set up games like this…or respond to any household situation. “Oops! I spilled soup! What a mess…what do we do with a mess? Find a paper towel (or whatever you use) to wipe it up. Wow…it takes awhile to clean up. Now some clean water…oh, that’s slippery. Need to dry it. There…clean and dry. No slipping. Good.” So the next time the child spills something, the parent can say “Oops–you spilled it. It’s a mess. What do we do with a mess? Here’s a paper towel…I have one…let’s wipe it up. What’s next?” (wait to see if child can answer–wait three beats longer than you think necessary–the child will still be upset, worried about the spill. If no answer say, “Water? Maybe water?” and continue from there.

    Pretty soon the child knows the person who makes a mess is the one who cleans it up–with help at first of course–and has some idea how to do that. (Pretty soon varies among children.)

    Questions get answers, at the child’s level. No “You don’t need to know that until you’re older”…the child is making a model of the world and how it works, and may in fact need the very thing you say he doesn’t. The answer can be very simple to start with. The three year old does not (most of them) need the full explanation of gravity. But may need that word, and may be able to grasp that really big things, like planets, pull other little things to them, like people, chairs, and glasses of milk.

    OK, enough of this (for now)–you can see the possibilities, I’m sure.

  • Comment by Sharidann — January 30, 2014 @ 11:58 pm



    many, many, many thanks.

    I foresee myself reading and rereading your post again and again and again.

  • Comment by GinnyW — January 31, 2014 @ 12:31 pm


    I had a couple of things in mind. I taught/teach Sunday school sometimes for various ages, sometimes alone, sometimes in a team. The point of the lessons is to get the children to engage a particular Bible story or sometimes “church” activity. What I found was, they readily engage the stories, but the points of contact are not what I would expect. But when I let them take the ball and run with it – these “off-topic” (to me) issues made sense to the other kids. One example: We were reading Isaiah’s prophecy about the lion lying down with the lamb in a 4-6 year old class. So I was reading, and all the kids were snickering. When I was done, I asked why they were laughing. I got almost a dozen answers about how lions eat lambs, snakes are poison, and other aspects of animal behavior. Including how the family dog treats the cat. What the cat does. They were involved in understanding how different animals behave. But it was a combination of observation, imagination, and some silliness, too. The point is – if I had insisted on my “lesson”, I would have missed out on their engagement with their own world.

  • Comment by elizabeth — January 31, 2014 @ 12:46 pm


    GinnyW: Agreed. Observing & listening to those you want to teach–to find out what they know and how they use it–reveals a lot about where the students are, and suggests approaches to get where you want to go. Or, sometimes you find out where you want to go isn’t going to work for that kid at that time, so…find someplace else to go. I like your example.

  • Comment by Sharidann — February 6, 2014 @ 12:06 am


    @GinnyW: thanks for the explanation, the example is very good and it is sound advice.

    @ Elizabeth: like a story getting a life of its own and going places you didn’t expect from it ?

  • Comment by Sully — February 9, 2014 @ 6:15 pm


    Other than the fact this isn’t a comic book, why doesn’t Dorrin just freeze the ambushes with magery? Reacting with a lifetimes instinct without magery, Falkian ethics, Tsaian law, what?

    Though I admit, Dorrin being functionally invulnerable to everything but magery, wizards or clerical/deity intervention wouldn’t be a compelling read.

  • Comment by elizabeth — February 9, 2014 @ 8:17 pm


    One of the reasons would be a spoiler. I think it will be clear when you read the entire sequence in which this snippet is embedded. The others include the nature of magery, her relative lack of experience with it, her awareness that her society still fears it and distrusts even right use (especially from her), and her long experience with handling physical attacks physically. Most simply, it’s not in her repertoire of immediate responses to attack by non-mages. Bashing them is.

  • Comment by Sharidann — February 10, 2014 @ 1:13 am


    @ Sully

    I think the important thing is that she is surprised and when you react to a surprise, it is usually your instincts which kick in…
    Dorrin’s instincts are the instincts of a soldier, not of a mage. She can work magic, true, but she needs to concentrate… Reacting physically otoh is second nature to her, after twenty+ years as a Knight of Falk and as an officer.

    Just my 2 cp.

  • Comment by patrick — February 14, 2014 @ 5:05 pm


    The description of the attack is interesting and multiple plot possibilities can be derived from it. The attackers are not trained bushwackers or they would have used a crossbow or throw a net or something more to disable or hinder what they should recognize as a trained warrior (big horse, sword, armor, not a young person, carrying themself with confidence). Perhaps having a loaded crossbow would be too obvious in the streets. The third attacker was late. Not by much, but enough to not help in the initial attack and then it was too late. Typical of ruffians who haven’t practiced for this type of attack or who underestimate their target. I am curious as to their motivation to chose Dorrin as a target, but I’ll save any speculations for spoiler space.

    As for using magic when ambushed, unless you are really well practiced to the point of acting by reflex, in combat conditions your response won’t be timely. Dorrin was pushing that pole aside and drawing her sword before she consciously considered her response, in a fraction of a second. Plus excess use of magery may have unknown costs that Dorrin prudently does not care to risk. And, it’s all so strange, who knows when it might not work. 🙂 All the more reason to avoid magery unless it clearly is called for.

    Looking forward to the next book arriving.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment