"Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes." ~Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn

"The characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst." ~Publishers Weekly review of High Maga

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Winners of Eolyn's Audio Book Giveaway

Many thanks to everyone who participated in Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour and Giveaway! We had so many Rafflecopter entries that I decided to be extra generous and give away seven free copies instead of five. (Many thanks to my publisher Hadley Rille Books for being amenable to this idea!) The winners are:

Keri Rison
Elliot Waugh
Blair Smyth
Zoe Blair
Lora Madera
Rob Finney
Lucki Grrl

If you are on the winner's list and you haven't heard from me by email, drop me a line at eolyn.of.the.south.woods[at]gmail[dot]com. I will get your download code to you right away.

Thank you again, and enjoy the adventure!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour and Giveaway

Welcome to our month-long celebration of the release of the audio edition of Eolyn!

We have a lot of exciting activities planned over the next four weeks, including author interviews, posts about magic, and previews of Darla Middlebrook's wonderful interpretation of this epic tale.

Best of all, as part of the tour you have the opportunity to win a FREE copy of the audio book! Just sign up for the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, or at any of the stops on the tour. Five copies are being raffled. There are lots of opportunities for entries. The winners will be announced at the end of the tour on August 11. 

Many thanks to The Magic Appreciation Tour for helping me put together this awesome list of blog stops. Join us for a virtual adventure through the Kingdom of Mosiehén. All are welcome. Enjoy!

July 14-Aug 11 Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour and Giveaway  

Scroll down to enter for your chance to win one of five FREE copies 
of the audible edition of Eolyn. Winners will be announced on August 11th. 

July 14  The Places that Inspired Eolyn's World: Talamanca. Eolyn's source of magical power can be found in the South Woods, a dense wilderness inspired by the highlands of Costa Rica. Learn about these forests and why I love them so at DelSheree Gladden's The Edible Bookshelf.

July 16 Author Interview at The Story Teller's Inn. Join me and fellow author Susan Stuckey for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat about all things magical

July 18  Magic in Eolyn's World.  A full overview of the history and structure of magic in the Kingdom of Moisehén. Join us for a discussion of this and other systems of magic at Daniel Marvello's The Vaetra Files

July 21 Dragon. Author Lori Fitzgerald's recent release The Dragon's Message provides a perfect opportunity to talk about the role of Dragon in Eolyn's world. Stop by and share your favorite dragon stories, too!

July 23 The Origins of Magic.  Every young mage and maga learns this story. Now, thanks to a special request by author Matthew Reuter, you will learn it, too!

July 25 Author Interview with Heidi Lynne Burke.  My second author interview on the tour.  Questions about what inspired Eolyn, why an audiobook, and what to expect next from Eolyn's world.

July 28 Aen-lasati: The Magic of Love and Desire One of my favorite posts about one of the most intriguing yet controversial aspects of Eolyn's world. Check it out at author Tracy Falbe's blog, Her Ladyship's Quest.

July 30 The Romantic Leads of Eolyn.  A visit to Marsha Moore's blog Illusions of Intimacy inspires the romantic in me. Learn about the men who compete for Eolyn's heart -- and the readers' hearts, as well!

August 1 Born of Fire: the Ancient Forests of East Selen.  The forests of the Pacific Northwest reflect the wild beauty of the home of the Clan of East Selen, an ancient and powerful line of mages and magas. Explore these forests with me on Linda Ulleseit's blog Books Books Books.

Aug 4 Chat at the Independent Bookworm.  Author Will Hahn and I kick back for a friendly chat about the ups, downs, ins, and outs of producing an audio book. Bring your questions, and help yourself to the virtual brownies at the back of the room.

Aug 8 Author Interview with Eliabeth Hawthorne.  My last stop on the tour is a visit with the co-authors of the YA fantasy series Blind Sight.  If you've got any lingering questions about Eolyn and it's audio edition, here is your chance to ask them!

On August 11, Winners of Amazing Audio Book Tour Giveaway will be announced on this site! Good luck to all our participants. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Checking in From Las Cruces

On the trail in Amistad Biosphere Reserve.
 This summer has been so extraordinarily active, I've had very little time to just "hang out" on the internet.

All in all, NAPIRE has been an amazing new journey through Costa Rica. From the lowland Caribbean forests to the high reaches of the Talamanca mountain ranges, we have seen a lot in a very short period of time.  The students are running a great blog about the program, and I invite you to visit their website. There are a lot of photos and updates on the various sites we have visited, including La Selva Biological Station, the Bribri indigenous community, and of course, Las Cruces.

My role this summer is very different from previous NAPIRE programs. As a NAPIRE mentor, I was basically out in the forest every single day. Now, I am more tied to the station as we seek to facilitate some twenty research projects over the next few weeks.

Still, I get my chances. Yesterday I took a half-day hike up the Ridge Trail and along the Wilson loop. I was able to visit the plants that my students have worked with in the past.  They are looking well; probably enjoying the rest from nosy scientists like me.

Wildlife was a little scarce compared to previous summers; no monkeys or snakes or elusive cat-like animals. I did come across a giant toad. Well situated in the middle of the path, it sat like a stone while I took pictures. Not one of my photos really did it justice, but at least it was patient with all the flashes.

Our happy-go-lucky group at the peak of Cerro Chai.
We spent last weekend at Las Alturas Biological Station, on the border of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve in Costa Rica. Amistad stretches across the Talamanca mountain range into Panama and provides a home for many montane ecosystems, including the highland oak forests that inspired Eolyn. There we saw countless animals, including two species of monkeys, various birds, and a wonderful variety of colorful butterflies. I was secretly hoping to come across the giant peccaries I saw two years ago, but no such luck on this trip.

Las Alturas and Las Cruces are not that distant from each other, and are only 300m apart in elevation. So it's always striking to see the difference in animal life between the two sites. Probably the main reason for fewer mammal species at Las Cruces is that the forest here is much smaller and more isolated.

The station director, Dr. Rakan Zahawi, has done a great job of adding pieces to the reserve over the past decade, bringing the total area to about 250 hectares. Still, that pales compared to the 570,000 has set aside for La Amistad International Park.

A glimpse of the vast expanse of La Amistad.
There is a long term project to connect Las Cruces to the nearby Ngobe Indigenous Territory, and from there create a corridor that runs all the way from Amistad to the Pacific lowlands. A corridor that size would transform the natural landscape and ensure the future of wildlife in the region. If you're looking for a great conservation cause to contribute to, visit OTS' website and make a donation to Las Cruces Biological Station. You can specify what you want your donation to go to; in this case, indicate the funds are for land purchases for the biological corridor.

Speaking of great causes, Hadley Rille Books indiegogo campaign is in full swing, and looking for more donations. Hadley Rille Books provides a different sort of habitat for another rare and beautiful species, the True Heroine. There are many great perks for all levels of donation, but the best perk of all is knowing your money is going toward a quality small press that supports historically underrepresented voices in the genre. Please visit their site to learn more about the campaign and make your contribution today.

Last but not least:  Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour is about to begin!  I've coordinated this tour through Daniel Marvelo's Magic Appreciation Tour network, and added a couple friends of my own in the mix. In addition to many great posts about magic, publishing, and the adventure of producing an audio book, the tour will include a giveaway of 5 free copies of the audio edition of Eolyn. I will post the full tour schedule by Monday, July 14th, so look for that in the coming days.

Those are the updates for now. I'll leave you with this fun video by Juan Luis Guerra; it's a song that has for some reason become my personal theme for Summer 2014. (Must be the road trip through the Latin American country side!) Enjoy.

Pura Vida!

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Appeal of the "Underdog"

Costa Rica's National Soccer Team
It's so exciting to be in Costa Rica this summer, with the national soccer team carving out its little piece of history in the World Cup.

A couple weeks ago, even Costa Ricans were doubtful that their team would make it past the first round. Group D, which included Uruguay, Italy, and England, was popularly referred to as El Grupo de la Muerte, or "The Group of Death".

Then on June 14th, Costa Rica defeated Uruguay with a stunning 3-1 win. Since then, the entire country has watched each game with bated breath, and celebrated each victory with increasing confidence and enthusiasm.

I watched yesterday's game against Greece on a small, old-style television set here in Las Cruces. We were a modest group, but we packed the room that was available to us. Many NAPIRE students and mentors opted to travel to nearby San Vito to see the event in restaurants and bars. It was a long and difficult game; toward the end our collective experience degenerated into a series of groans and cheers. We were all sweating so much our little room began to smell like a futbol locker.

Keylor Navas and Michael Umaña moments after making
When Keylor Navas deflected Greece's fourth shot, everyone in the room fell silent. Those seconds while Michael Umaña stepped forward, set down the ball, and prepared for his kick were probably the longest I've ever experienced during a soccer game.

Then in split second, it was over. The ball shot past Karnezis, and Costa Rica had won.

Costa Rica had WON!!

Shouts, dancing, and hugs exploded not only in our little TV room in Las Cruces, but across the nation.  For hours after the game, one could watch televised reports of the riot of celebration that took hold of Costa Ricans everywhere.

I've sung the praises of Costa Rica many times and for many reasons. Once again I'm impressed by how this little country holds in own in the big leagues, in politics, conservation, and now in sports. Not without effort, and certainly not without cost. But always with a sense of joyful determination, a passion for the game that often pays off.

Costa Ricans celebrate the win against Greece in one
of the major intersections of San Jose.
As a Gringa, I sometimes think my own country has lost something along the way when I witness events like these. We no longer seem to have national projects, not even in sports, that pull us together as a nation, and the fill us with shared joy when an extraordinary goal is reached.  The Olympics used to fill that hole, but those games don't seem to resonate among Americans like they used to when I was a little girl. The Space Program was another effort that brought the nation together decades ago, but that too has fallen out of fashion with the current generation.

Tomorrow, the U.S. team will play Belgium in the World Cup, hoping for its own spot in the Round of Eight. I'll be watching that game with baited breath, too. I hope we win, but even if we do, I know the party back home won't be nearly as good as yesterday's party in Costa Rica.

...Let me just close by saying that I simply must use the name Keylor in one of my future fantasy novels.

Pura Vida.
Felicidades, Costa Rica!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will Hahn on the Good Fight

I'm delighted today to welcome author Will Hahn, as part of his blog tour for the new release Judgement's Tale from Games of Chance. 

Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur.  He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will didn't always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely stick-like object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sister. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judement's Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land's most unique hero, The Man in Grey.

I've never had a post about writing fight scenes on this blog, so I've asked Will to do one as part of his tour.

Will is also raffling off a FREE copy of Tales of Hope, so make sure you enter the giveaway for a chance to win a great read.

Worth Fighting For: How to Write Combat

When Karin first asked me to do this post I was quaking with excitement. Ancient-Medieval History major, military history nut, figurines on my shelves, cardboard counter wargames all over the table, maps on the walls. I’m the guy your mom didn’t need to warn you about- you could warn yourself just fine. I know the difference between a mace and a main-gauche (it’s a big one) or a morningstar (not so big). More bits of useless trivia than you could shake a rhomphast at (after all, eight feet long with a hammer on one end, that’s tough to shake).

Then I thought about it some more, and I got worried.

I’ve SEEN combat, tons of it, in movies and reading about it in books. And I know what I like- everybody does. But the chef could explain all about gazpacho, and it still might taste like cold soup to you.

I can give you one piece of news you won’t find surprising- it’s very easy to do fights poorly.  Sometimes the description itself is “unrealistic” if that’s a word that applies to fantasy writing. More often, I think, you read a fight that serves no purpose- or to be accurate, it serves the wrong purpose at the time you read it. It’s almost as if the writer feels, when a fight or battle or war breaks out, they have permission to take off their thinking caps and just let ‘er rip.

War, especially today, doesn’t make a lot of sense to many people. I often see the bumper sticker that says “WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER”.

But your readers never stop wanting to know why.

When I see that bumper sticker, I always mutter “What was the question?” Writing about combat is the same as writing about everything else, in that you need to know:

The Stakes and
The Objective

It’s the conflict part that gets easier- fighting IS conflict (but maybe not the only one in a good fight scene).


I wrote a bit on this earlier when I gave my opinion at the blog site I share, on the various genres of fantasy. Basically, when the stakes are crucial (“Save the World”) the tale is Epic Fantasy: you tend to see combat less often, and the sides involved cannot afford mistakes because that would be the end. On the other hand, with casual stakes (“Save Your Skin”) fighting is more frequent, sometimes constant: these are Sword and Sorcery tales, and the fight can be trivial (it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an arm). Deciding the stakes of your tale will help inform the frequency and tone needed in your fights.

As an example of good fantasy fighting that many folks might know, I would recommend the incredible sword duel between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black from The Princess Bride. This is an example of the middle-ground in Stakes, Heroic Fantasy. The kingdom is at risk, or at least the future happiness of most folks in it- not just one or two lives, but not the entire world. Either combatant could die- it is set up as a fight to the death. But neither man is fighting only to save his own skin. In fact, the two men are not in combat for the same purpose, and that’s one reason it is so entertaining either to read or see.


The plot usually makes Stakes clear for the writer, but Objective- not so much. Again, the key is never to lose sight of “why”, which in my opinion relates to characters. Why are they in this fight? Because it’s been twenty pages since the last one?

The duel in Princess Bride is a great example. Inigo is fighting to kill the Man in Black- why? Because he’s been ordered to. Why is he taking those orders? Why is his boss so confident he’ll succeed? These questions come rolling out as you see the scene (for the first time, from Inigo’s PoV). You catch up- there’s flashback and humor and heart. You don’t know who the Man in Black is, but you don’t want Inigo to die.
And the Man in Black doesn’t seem to want to kill him. His objective is to catch up to the Princess- and now all your “why” questions remain unanswered. The author stiffs you completely- what a bum! But you are glued to the scene, and some of the most deathless descriptions of dueling and battle chatter ever recorded.

It’s Never NOT About Character

This is I think the final and best advice I can give you. Fighting is alien to ALL of us- unless you’re a war vet writing non-fiction. If you think you can make up for a wandering plot by having some people killed, or throw in a bunch of accurate detail about missile and shock weapons because you don’t know what should happen next, then you’re going to lose the readers. Combat scenes are almost always life and death- for your story.

Yes, you need to be familiar with what weapons and soldiers do. I recall rolling my eyes when halberds were getting thrown in combat (yes, it has a spear-end, but it also has an AX-BLADE, you think that might alter the balance a bit?). On the other hand, I have seen publication guidelines that promise any manuscript will be rejected if a character calls upon archers to “fire” their arrows, because presumably that wasn’t the call in medieval times. But I could live with the first action, if the thrower was really strong and desperate- it might be even better. And can you imagine Kiera Knightly in Pirates of the Caribbean turning to her crew and screaming “Loose!”? Not quite the impact the screenwriters were looking for.

Remember the characters are there for a reason and never stop telling us about that. Even when it’s armies fighting, look at what Tolkein did with Legolas and Gimli- their competition and argument over the finer points shows so much. It’s grim humor, and their pride on display- it implies that the fighting, in itself, is not much of a threat to two such experienced warriors, and of course it reveals a growing bond forged in a battle that now means something more because of what these characters carry through it.

Partway through my tale The Plane of Dreams, the Tributarians are camped in the open by a fire, about to get ambushed. They know it’s an ambush, and have prepared a surprise to turn the tables on their attackers. But what they most need is not to win- their assailants evidently wish only to rob them and, oddly, put them all to sleep. The Tributarians need information, they must capture at least one of the leaders alive and question him. So before the combat even starts, the stakes and objective are clearly off-center: and who really knows if an ambush-of-an-ambush can work?

This is your story, don’t be intimidated by a fight- would your heroes ever back down? Certainly not, but you serve them best by knowing their reasons and goals before the first blade leaves its scabbard. Good fortune to you!

Games of Chance

For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.

In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale

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Will's Blog Thoughts- Including tales of a happy childhood (which continues), hopes for a writer's journey, and analysis of Classics You've Never Read

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hadley Rille Books Indiegogo Campaign

I wanted to take a moment to let you know about Hadley Rille Books Indiegogo Campaign, which started on June 15 and will run through the end of July.

Those of you who have followed my blog know how very attached I've become to this small press. HRB is a wonderful family of publishing professionals committed to providing readers with quality fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction titles.  The press was founded in 2005 by Eric T. Reynolds, and since then has given a home to many authors and titles, with a clear emphasis on facilitating a greater representation of women in fantasy fiction.

If you enjoyed Eolyn and High Maga and would like to see more novels feature True Heroines, now is your chance to make a difference. Hadley Rille Books has hit some hard times this year, most notably with the massive stroke suffered by our founder and editor-in-chief last January.  The press is in need of additional funds to continue operations under these new circumstances, and also to expand its activities so that our stories are made available to as wide an audience as possible.

I invite you to watch Rose Reynolds' presentation about the press and its campaign below, and to visit Hadley Rille Books Indiegogo Page to learn how you can help.  Every donation, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated and make a positive difference in HRB's efforts to bring a universe of adventure to its readers.  Please spread the word to your friends and family as well. Everyone who is committed to promoting alternative voices in speculative fiction has a stake in this campaign. Together, we can make it happen.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Bridges We Build

La Selva, Puerto Viejo de Sarapiqui, Costa Rica


Today we saw
Peccaries        Bullet ants
Iguanas            Stingless bees
Motmots           Poison dart frogs
Howler monkeys
Strangler figs
Cycads and palms
Pipers and Melastomes
The Kapok (also called Ceiba) tree with its pale towering trunk
Inch worms
Crazy fruits
Roots that smell like pepper
Leaves that climb trees
Cement paths over nascent swamps
Fish the color of mud
Butterflies with a flash of sky on their wings

Tonight it rains water upon water upon water
Frogs chirp and crickets croak.



The Stone Bridge brings the visitor across the
Sarapiqui River and into La Selva's forest.
Today I gave an introductory lecture to the NAPIRE group about the forging of Central America.

This is a story I like to tell, one that I’ve shared with many different audiences in just as many different ways: How this mass of stone and fire tumbled upward from the ocean floor, laying a bridge between two worlds that had been separated nearly 140 million years.

The landscape of Central America, a crucible of perpetual struggle for control over the Panama strait and the San Juan River, was fixed at least a million years before the first individuals of the genus Homo walked the plains of Africa.

Fate determined by geography, or perhaps better stated, fate determined by the interaction between geography and human ambition.

Was there something in the creative impulse behind Central America that “reached” toward this role in the history of the planet?  Islands rose, sank, and rose again. Land masses moved north and east to make room for other contenders, fingers lengthened their reach toward the two continental land masses, until at last the gap was closed and the Great American Faunal Exchange ignited.

What was the Great American Faunal Exchange? An explosion of movement by animals, 3-5 million years ago, that marked the reunion of North and South America, and laid the foundation for a rich mosaic of ecosystems that characterizes Costa Rica today.

We’ve had countless bridges built across our history: physical, emotional, economic, psychological. Often these bridges have brought opportunity, exchange, new horizons and a brighter world.

Some of the animals that participated in the
Great American Faunal Exchange.
Yet on too many occasions, we have built bridges of destruction, unleashing forces that erode biological diversity, cultural diversity, linguistic diversity, and the rich heritage built by the deep and dramatic history of our planet.

Today I ask myself, “What kind of bridge do I want to be?”

I don’t want to be a Christopher Columbus bridge or a Captain Cook bridge. I don’t want to build bridges that conquer, homogenize, trample, or reduce.

I want to be a Costa Rica bridge; to tumble upward and stretch my spirit between worlds, to build new landscape for an extraordinary future; to lay down fertile soils that support verdant forests, to establish a place where diverse peoples find a common home.

This is my wish for the future. It’s a wish that seems within reach as NAPIRE 2014 gets underway, because in La Selva I'm not the only one who seeks to build this kind of bridge.