"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

Saturday, October 30, 2010

World Fantasy 2010

Happy Halloween, Everyone.

October's unofficial theme continues; I have yet another audio recording for you, this time from my reading at the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH.  It's been a busy weekend, and it's late (for me, anyway) as I sit down to write this post on a Saturday evening.  I have attended some very interesting debates regarding the nature of fairy tales, the future of epic fantasy, and the 'evolution' of sword and sorcery.  I've even run into a new subgenre -- "literary adventure fantasy".  I'm still trying to figure out just what that phrase means.  I suppose if I were to pick a favorite panel from this year's WFC, I would say it was the discussion of Jorge Luis Borges and his influence on contemporary fantasy.

This morning, I gave my reading from EOLYN, and I'd like to share the audio recording with you.  This excerpt is from Chapter 30, which describes the celebration of Bel-Aethne.  Bel-Aethne is one of the most important High Holidays of Moisehen, and commemorates the discovery of magic by the mythological figures of Aithne and Caradoc. The recording includes some additional background and context for the scene.  I hope you enjoy it.


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Hunt for Eolyn

Well, it looks like October is becoming "audio excerpts from Eolyn" month.  This recording from Ignition, the annual reading of the Dead Horse Society, was provided by author and good friend Brent Bowman.  (Thank you, Brent!)

A couple announcements before going on to the reading.

First, my short story "Creatures of Light" is now available in the October issue of Adventures for the Modern Woman.  Stop by the Adventures Website to order your copy of the magazine, which includes lots of fun and scary stories for the Halloween season.

Second, next weekend is it!  The World Fantasy Convention starts on Thursday in Columbus, Ohio.  This will by my first pro fantasy con, and I am very excited.  Hadley Rille Books will be well represented.  My editor, Eric T. Reynolds, will be there, along with Terri-Lynne DeFino (author of FINDER) and other Hadley Rille authors.  I will present EOLYN on Saturday, October 30, at 10am.  The presentation will include a brief description of the book, a reading, and a question-and-answer session.  I hope to see you there.

Okay.  Here's the audio recording.  I give a pretty thorough introduction to the scene in the recording itself, so I won't bother writing anymore about it here, except to say: This is an excerpt from Chapter 38, and I hope you enjoy it.

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Boy by the River

I have a special treat for you today:  A preview of Chapter 4, where Akmael and Eolyn meet for the first time.  Their encounter is made possible by an amulet left to Akmael by his deceased mother, Queen Briana.  (You can read more about Briana's death and the gift she left to her son in Chapter 3.)  The amulet transports Akmael to the distant South Woods, where he finds Eolyn playing on the banks of the Tarba River. (To learn about the river that inspired this scene, read my June 25 post, Rivers of Destiny.) This audio recording is from the reading I did yesterday for the Longview Literary Festival, and includes one scene from Chapter 4.  I hope you enjoy it!


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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Tree Magick

Good news this week! My short story "Creatures of Light" will appear in the fall issue of Adventures for the Average Woman. This is a tale of passion and brutality, an eclectic mix of romance, fantasy and horror set in an imaginary Age of Exploration. It's a very different world from EOLYN, and was a lot of fun to write.


The short came together thanks to both my writers' groups: TNBW and DHS. It was through TNBW that I met David Hunter, whose work in progress A Road of Blood and Slaughter contains the marvelous bestiary that inspired the character of Selenia. (And no, Selenia's not a beast -- well, okay, maybe she is -- but mostly she's a woman scientist very interested in strange and deadly beasties). Then, about a year ago, I had the opportunity to put Selenia in a story thanks to Tepring Cocker of DHS, who organized a secret pal activity for the holidays. My secret pal was Maddie McFadden, who asked for a 'high fantasy, maybe with a dragon'. "Creatures of Light" is not exactly high fantasy, and I kind of cheated -- just a little -- on the dragon. But Maddie liked the story anyway, and so did I, and fortunately so did Laurie Notch, managing editor of Adventures. I'll let you know when the magazine is available, but if you would like a preview visit the Works in Progress page on this blog.

As serendipity would have it, next Saturday I'll be hosting one of the DHS workshops at the Longview Literary Festival, together with Andrew Rambo. We'll be talking about -- you guessed it -- 'Creatures of Light and Darkness'. How to create believable and fantastical beasties for your work of fiction. The workshop is FREE and the fun starts at 2pm. Hope to see you there!

Those are my announcements. On to this week's topic, Tree Magick.

I've been working since last summer on a sequel to EOLYN, which has been a lot of fun, and a little distracting given that I still have some minor cleanup work to do on the first novel before we go to press. At any rate, moving into book 2 I've realized I need to put together a herbarium for Eolyn's world, to write down the different plants and their uses so I can keep things consistent going forward. So, I've gone through the original manuscript and marked all the places where the magas and mages use herbs or other plants for certain tasks. Now I need to sit down and catalogue everything in a separate document.

While I'm a little behind on putting all this information into one place for herbaceous plants, I do have a fairly decent catalogue of the sacred trees of Eolyn's world, their meaning and what they are used for in terms of magical purpose. I thought I'd share some of that with you today.

Alder -- Modern ecologists call alder a "pioneer species" because it is very well adapted to colonizing deforested areas. Hence, its meaning for the magas of Moisehen: Alder provides protection during transition. It is often associated with Raven or Crow. Alder is commonly used in funeral pyres, and also for making the sacred fire used to forge a maga's staff.

Ash -- Ash is a hardwood, strong but elastic, and historically it has been used for making bows, tool handles and (more recently) baseball bats. For the people of Moisehen, Ash is the symbol of strength and wisdom during times of sacrifice. Ghemena’s staff is made of Ash.

Fir -- There are many species of fir, and the one sacred to the tradition of Moisehen is very similar to the European silver fir, the first tree to be used as a Christmas tree. These trees can become giants, the largest on record having reached a trunk diameter of 3.8m and a height of 68m. Mages and magas consider Fir the 'staff of the forest'. Its roots can extend to the depths of the Underworld, making it a living bridge that unites the living and the dead, as well as the elements of earth, air and water. This very sacred tree can also be used to achieve powers of flight.

Linden – The heart-shaped leaves of this beautiful tree may be the source of its mythological role as the protector of Children’s Magic. Ghemena adds Linden to the traditional mix of woods for the sacred fire meant to forge Eolyn’s staff.

Oak – No magical herbarium would be complete without Oak, which is considered one of the most sacred trees in the tradition of Moisehen, conferring strength and endurance upon those it favors. Oaks are dominant trees in the primary forests of Moisehen, and their slow growth produces a very dense wood that is highly resistant to disease and decay. Eolyn’s staff is made from Black Oak, and Akmael’s from White Oak.

Rowan – Also called “mountain ash”, Rowan also produces a dense wood. In our own mythology, Rowan is a favored wood for magician’s staves, and the same is true in Moisehen. Rowan confers control, discrimination and discernment. Tzeremond’s staff is forged from Rowan.

Walnut – A hardwood that can be polished to a rich purplish brown, Walnut confers power for transitions and hidden wisdom. It is used to build the sacred fire for forging staves, and also for funeral pyres. Walnut is an important wood for Mage Corey, and IF he had a staff (which he might, or he might not…) it would be made from Walnut.

Willow – I still remember climbing and swinging on the vine-like branches of the willow that grew in my cousin’s backyard while we were growing up. So of course, Eolyn and Akmael had to have willows to climb as part of their childhood adventures in the South Woods. This tree embodies flexibility, strong inner vision, and a gift for making connections.

That's not the complete list, but it covers some of the most important trees of Eolyn's world.  I'll come back to the herbs later on down the line.


Today's photo is from the forests of Cuerici in the Talamanca Mountain Range of Costa Rica.   Although this is a tropical forest, its high altitude results in a cool wet climate that favors many plant species we tend to associate with temperate forests, such as oak, alder and blueberries.  These are the forests that inspired images of Eolyn's childhood home, the South Woods. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Serendipity

This has been a week of numerous parallel events, the coming together of old friends and new beginnings.  I've been involved in the simultaneous launch of three wonderful projects, a couple of which I mentioned in my last post, and all of which deserve to be repeated here.

First, my publisher Hadley Rille Books, is celebrating its 5th Anniversary with a book sale and a drawing for a free Kindle 3G.  Anyone can win -- no purchase is required, although the more books you purchase, the greater your chances of winning.  Please stop by their website to register and browse the catalogue.  They have so many awesome titles -- if you haven't had a chance yet to read something from Hadley Rille, you are definitely missing out.

Also this week, my good friend Suzanne Hunt launched a web presence for the Green Goddesses, a network of professional women doing amazing things for the environment and for the world.  Somehow, EOLYN made the blogroll for their site -- I'm not sure how that happened.  I'm humbled and honored, really, to have my little novel on the roster of so many amazing projects. 

And, as I mentioned in my last post, this week one of the Green Goddesses, car racer Leilani Munter, launched her partnership with Operation FREE, a group of U.S. Veterans who are working hard to promote  clean and sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels. They were in Kansas City at NASCAR, and yes we went to the races to see her. Can't say I ever thought I'd go to a car race, but they we were, and it was great fun.

This latest rash of coincidences has me thinking a lot about serendipity, which my dictionary defines as "an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident".  This is a little different from the way my friends and I have used the word on a day-to-day basis. Once I saw serendipity defined as "a special type of paranoia in which the individual believes all the powers of the universe are conspiring in his or her favor".  This is closer to my understanding of serendipity; closer to the way I have lived it.  Serendipity as a kind of luck, a mysterious process by which circumstance come together that help us move forward with our dreams and our lives. 

I talked a little about the serendipitous path of EOLYN in my September 12 blog post.  Looking at the chain of events that has accompanied the writing of this novel, I'm often tempted to call myself 'lucky' in having the opportunity to publish EOLYN with such a great small press, Hadley Rille. After all, the circumstances just seemed to "come together" in my favor. But calling this all "luck" undermines the importance of the sweat, blood, passion, heartache, time and energy that went into pushing the novel as far as I have.  And, as a colleague of mine once said, "Not everyone knows what to do with their luck."

I read a study once (and the scientist in me is embarassed to say I can't remember where) that compared individuals who considered themselves 'lucky' with persons who considered themselves 'unlucky'.  It would probably come as no surprise to you that neither group was more likely to win the lottery.  However, 'lucky' and 'unlucky' people responded to similar tasks in different ways.  For example, in one study the researchers asked the participants to determine the total number of ads in a section of newspaper.  People who considered themselves "lucky" were significantly more likely to notice that on page 4 there was an ad that said, "There are 27 ads in this newspaper.  You can stop counting now."  People who considered themselves "unlucky", on the other hand, were more likely to not notice this message and continued to count all the ads.  So "luck", it seems, is not so much an external force as an internal capacity to recognize opportunity and take advantage of it. 

Serendipity -- which I will now define as the presence of coincidence in our lives -- is an ongoing theme in my novel.  Eolyn, Akmael and the people they interact with are connected through numerous coincidences that weave many disparate stories into a single organic whole.  Is this due to the intervention of the gods, or is it just the way things work in a realistic universe?  Neither Eolyn nor Akmael spend much time contemplating the power of coincidence, except in key moments toward the end of the novel, but the reader will see this as a clear force in their lives, a force that sometimes works in their favor -- becoming what we would call 'luck' -- and sometimes does not, resulting in some very bad luck indeed.

Wishing all of you a very serendipitous week, in the very best sense of the word. 


Today's image is "The Crystal Ball" by John William Waterhouse.