Coming of Age…Eventually

One of my favorite moments at an SF con was when someone asked Lois McMaster Bujold about some conspiracy theory or other, and she said something like, “The longer I live the more I realize that no grand conspiracy could ever work, because people just aren’t that competent.  There are no grown-ups, we’re all faking it, and no one is in charge.”

I tend to agree about the conspiracy part—how many people do you know who really keep secrets?  Yeah, a few, maybe…but what percentage?

However, I’m not so sure about the “there are no grown-ups” part.  Mind you, when young adults “come of age” they haven’t actually grown up—they just move to a station in life where they’ve got more freedom to make their own mistakes.  And that’s as it should be.

But for myself, I find there is an age when you’ve gained enough experience that you start feeling genuinely grown-up.  A bit less like you’re faking it all the time.  Or more accurately, even though life still throws you plot twists, you’ve learned enough about how the world and people work that you’re at least a bit better at coping with them.  I’ve named this phenomena “Crone Power,” because it was around my late forties or early fifties when I finally started to feel like I was beginning to get things figured out.  People who don’t understand the symbolism of the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone don’t get this name…but since the biggest part of Crone Power comes from knowledge, I have no real problem with that.  By the time they get to be Crones, maybe they’ll have figured it out.  And it’s a very real power.  Your body pretty much sucks (menopause, arrrgh!) but your greater experience actually begins to compensate—and this is something nobody ever told me would happen, and I didn’t expect it.

So anyway, I think there is a time in life when we finally come of age…it’s just a lot later than people usually assume.

Bell_Thief_cover-12-16Hilari Bell is the author of many coming of age novels, and they’re all about teens and new adults—is she a hypocrite, or what?


August Indulgence

A free post? I can write anything? Brief flash of joy, followed by total brain freeze as I consider every topic I ever wanted to write about and reject them all. How do I ever manage to write novels…novels…hmm.

So I ultimately decided that if I can do anything with this post, what I wanted to do most was to share a snippet of one of my favorite scenes from my work in progress, Scholar’s Plot:

The death of one plan should hatch another. I gave up a couple of tricks I should have taken, throwing several pots into Stint’s hands. We all agreed, amiably, that the luck seemed to be turning—except for Pig, who growled. Squirrel begged him not to let it upset him. Kathy assumed a sympathetic expression, but her misty eyes were sharp and bright.

When Stint rose, complaining about how fast tea went though you, I said that ale did the same and followed him out. The privy was in the yard behind the tavern, and while I’ve seen and smelled better, I’ve also seen worse. I waited till he’d come out, buttoning up the front of his britches, before I spoke.

“I think our friends are signaling.”

“What, the bully and that poor little mouse? She’s so fearful, she’d… Hm. But they’re losing.”

I shrugged. “What can I tell you? He pats his stomach, he has all the rounds in the deck, practically. If it’s horns he rubs his nose. When she plays with her necklace, she’s long on leaves.”

Then I went into the privy, leaving him to do what he willed with this. When I came back into the warm, beery fug of the tavern, Stint was speaking to the tapster. And the fresh pot of tea that followed him back to our table could have accounted for it. But it didn’t surprise me that the tapster, and the two maids who passed through the room serving the other tables, were now paying more attention to our game.

Master Stint should be kindly inclined toward someone who’d exposed a cheat. Maybe even kindly enough to answer a few questions…though if he played like this all the time, it was no wonder his landlady said he won more than lost. If he needed money, he could pick it up at the card table. He had no need to—

“Hey!” The tapster darted out from behind the bar. “I’ve seen that signal three times now, Master, and I want you to show your hand. If it’s long on daggers, then you’re cheating. The game will stop, and you and your partner’s stakes will be…divided…”
His steps slowed in time with his words, for as he spoke Pig had risen to his considerable height.

Belatedly, I remembered how the Pig and Squirrel con is supposed to run. As Kathy would say, Oh. Dear.

“Who called me a cheat?” Pig rumbled, in a voice that turned heads all over the room. “Who told you I’m cheating?”

It would have taken a stupider man than the tapster to refuse. He pointed to Stint, who promptly pointed to me. Where was I supposed to point? At Carmichael, who was sixty if he was a day? At Kathy?

I sprang to my feet, leaping to put the table between us. Pig solved that problem by putting one hand under the edge and flipping it like a tin plate. It probably weighed fifty pounds. It fell with a loud crack, followed by the rattle of falling coins, but I was too busy running for my life to watch Squirrel at work.


Scholar’s Plot (working title) is the fifth book in Hilari Bell’s Knight and Rogue series, and The Last Knight is the first.