IWSG and A to Z Challenge: My Bucket List! – Past, Present, and Future: F is for Flying!

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

I don’t really have any new insecurities right now, so I will go to the IWSG question for this month: Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn’t planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Well, I’ve tried to write short stories, but they always seem to turn into novels. I write in the fantasy genre because that’s what I love most to read, and fantasy novels tend to be long and sprawling, so maybe that’s why I’ve never been good at short stories. My characters refuse to be bridled.


Now on to the A to Z Challenge!

I’m taking the long way around with A to Z this year. My plan is to post every couple of weeks, so I will have time to visit other blogs in between and still have time to write.


F is for – Flying!

One thing I had always wanted to do was learn to fly. I wanted to soar on the wind currents like the hawks circling over the meadows and forests where I grew up. I remember watching them when I was a kid and thinking how peaceful it must be up there, high above all the chaos and commotion below.

There were two small airports within a couple of hours from where I lived that gave glider rides. Gliders have no engines and are towed up into the sky and then released to ride the thermals and updrafts, with the only sound being the whoosh of the air over the wings.


Taking off with the tow plane

I’ve been on rides at both places and they were fantastic! The best part was when the pilot let me take the stick and fly the glider myself. Pure joy.



This link has some basic info about gliders and a couple of really short videos showing take-off and landing for anyone interested in learning more.


Gliders are the best, but I also wanted to try my hand at a single-engine plane. Another airport closer to me gave flying lessons in a Cessna 152. The lessons incorporated both ground school and in-the-air learning. Over the course of several months, I delved into flight guides, aeronautical charts, navigation, weather prediction, radiospeak, and the rules of the air.


Cessna 152


Controls for both the student pilot and the instructor

As a part-timer, fitting the lessons in around my job, it took me about a year to finish the course. On my first solo flight I was so nervous, but everything went fine. I took off, flew around the practice area near the airport, then landed without a hitch. After that, I got to do solo cross-country flights to regional towns and cities. Those were a lot of fun.


The scariest part of learning to fly is spin practice, otherwise known as learning how to get out of a spin if you accidentally put yourself in one. You have to intentionally put the plane into a spin — pull the stick back to lift the nose of the plane until it stalls, then floor the rudder, and over the plane goes, straight down in a corkscrew, rushing toward the ground. The first thing you do is NOT PANIC!

Image by Ciarán Ó Muirgheasa from Pixabay

Image by Ciarán Ó Muirgheasa from Pixabay

I did manage to successfully pull the plane out the dive, but I did NOT enjoy it. However, I was glad to know how to not crash the plane.

I earned my private pilot’s license in 1984. I flew locally for a while after that and gave rides to family and friends who dared to get in the plane with me. But it’s an expensive hobby. Plane rental and fuel are not cheap, so eventually I moved on to other things. I’m so glad, though, that I went for it and realized my dream of flying. Now when I see those hawks soaring on high, I smile because I’ve been up there with them. I know the peace and freedom of the open sky. I’ll never forget it.


And now for the Writing Update:

June and July were a wash as far as my WIP, Trouble Times Three, goes. Just too many things going on. But they were important things that needed to be done. Life and family take priority. Always. We’ll see what next month brings.


Anyone else have any bucket list items beginning with F?




© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2020. All rights reserved.




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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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