My Favorite Bit: Valerie Valdes talks about WHERE PEACE IS LOST

Valerie Valdes is joining us today to talk about her novel, Where Peace is Lost. Here’s the publisher’s description:

Where peace is lost, may we find it.

Five years ago, Kelana Gardavros lost everything in the war against the Pale empire. Now Kel Garda is just another refugee living on the edge of an isolated star system. No one knows she was once a member of an Order whose military arm was disbanded and scattered across the galaxy. And no one knows that if her enemies found her, they might destroy the entire world to get rid of her.

Where peace is broken, may we mend it.

Kel’s past intrudes in the form of a long-dormant Pale war machine, suddenly reactivated. If the massive automaton isn’t stopped, at best it will carve a swath of devastation that displaces thousands of people. At worst, it will kill every sentient creature on the planet.

Where we go, may peace follow.

When two strangers offer to deactivate the machine for a price, Kel and a young friend agree to serve as their guides. The journey through swamps infested with predators and bandits is bad enough, but can they survive more nefarious dangers along the way? And will Kel’s fear of revealing her secrets doom the very people she’s trying to protect?

Where we fall, may peace rise.

What’s Valerie’s favorite bit?

Where Peace Is Lost is about Kel, a knight-turned-refugee hiding from the empire that conquered her people, who has to risk exposure—or possibly all-out war—by going on a road trip to save her new home from a deadly war machine that could destroy the planet. It’s set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, with spaceships and lasers and swords and robots and magitech.

One of the choices I had to make when coming up with the setting was how my characters would handle the natural multiplicity of languages that exists across cities, planets and star systems. Real-time translator nanites? Handheld or wearable devices that don’t work reliably? Fussy androids?

Ultimately, I went with a different tried-and-true method: polyglots! Sure, there are a couple of common trade tongues depending on which sector you’re rattling around in, but anyone who travels regularly has likely gone to the trouble of acquainting themselves with at least the common phrases they’ll need to survive in various places. Kel, as part of her long-ago humanitarian aid and diplomatic work, is fluent in a dozen languages and conversant in many more.

One of my favorite bits in the book occurs soon after the heroes have begun their journey. Savvy is a mercenary who showed up with her crewmate Dare with a suspiciously timely offer to stop the aforementioned rampaging robot. Kel and her local friend, Lunna, volunteered to be guides for the critical mission, and Savvy has been pumping Lunna for information by turning up the charm. Eventually, she shifts her attention to Kel, whose taciturn nature makes her a much harder nut to crack, and the following conversation ensues as they travel through an insect-plagued swamp.

“What tongues speak you?” Savvy asked in faintly accented Zeopran, startling Kel from her thoughts.

Kel stared at Savvy as if she didn’t understand. If she hadn’t told Lunna anything in five years, she wasn’t going to let Savvy goad her into sharing after a few hours.

“What language was that?” Lunna asked. “It sounds like rasples taste. Tart and crunchy.”

“Zeopran,” Savvy replied. “I can teach you a few phrases, to pass the time.” She switched to Vojali. “Maybe no one else knows where you came from, but I intend to figure it out. I think this game is fun, you know.”

Do you? Kel thought. Her expression remained fixed, blank as a new scriber.

“I like to win,” Savvy said in Oyaric. “If I continue to try, you’ll shit the cot eventually.”

Such a charming turn of phrase, Kel thought. Savvy did have an impressive command of languages, though, she had to admit. Was there any chance she spoke Stellan? No, she was more likely to know Dominari.

“Will you ask where the nearest toilet is next?” Dare asked Savvy in Vethonian.

“Suck an inflamed testicle,” Savvy replied in the same language.

“Oh, that was lovely,” Lunna said. “What does it mean?”

“It means ‘I’m getting thirsty,’ ” Savvy said.

Kel choked on her own saliva and started to cough. A slow grin turned up the corner of Savvy’s mouth as Kel spat into the water.

“Bug,” Kel said.

“I’m sure,” Savvy replied dryly.

I love this because it’s a perfect snapshot of all these characters in a single brief exchange. Kel is stoically determined to keep her secrets to protect herself and her people. Savvy is equally determined to find out more about these people she’s forced to work with, because knowledge is power and secrets are potentially dangerous. Dare, just as tight-lipped as Kel so far, shows a glimpse of his own wry humor. And sweet, curious Lunna remains oblivious to not only the words they don’t understand, but also Savvy’s devious motivation. More language tensions will occur at key points between friends and foes alike, but this particular exchange solidifies a dynamic that will persist even as trust grows between them, and also hints at the much bigger galaxy beyond the single, isolated world on which the action takes place. Languages can obfuscate as much as they illuminate; they can build bonds or barriers; they can oppress or they can liberate. And for Kel, who’s spent years communicating as little as possible, languages are not only a reminder of all the things she’s lost, they’re also an essential part of her emotional journey as she rediscovers and reclaims her identity and sense of self. Where peace is lost, may we find it.


Where Peace is Lost book link








Valerie Valdes is co-editor of the award-winning Escape Pod science fiction podcast, as well as the author of the Chilling Effect trilogy and space fantasy novel Where Peace Is Lost. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in Uncanny MagazineNightmare Magazine and several anthologies. She lives in an elaborate meme palace in Georgia with her husband, children and cats.

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