"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

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tomorrow We Ride South Together

The title for today's post is taken form a quote out of a soon-to-be-famous book by a largely unknown author. I chose it because it marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another; a new adventure that will not be undertaken alone, but in the company of good friends who share a common vision. 

It seems an appropriate quote for this particular moment in my internet life.  Next week, I will get on my virtual horse and trot over to another corner of the e-universe to begin a new project with fellow authors and esteemed Magas Terri-Lynne DeFino (FINDER) and Kim Vandervort (THE SONG AND THE SORCERESS, THE NORTHERN QUEEN).  Our project, entitled Heroines of Fantasy, is a new blog dedicated to the discussion of fantasy fiction in general, and women in fantasy in particular.  I wrote about this last week as well; if you'd like a preview of the new blog, please click HERE

It's been about a year and a half since I started this blog for EOLYN, and while I'm very excited about the new project, it's a bittersweet moment to be letting go of my weekly posts on this site.  I've really enjoyed sharing the backstory of EOLYN:  the history of Moisehén, the structure of its magic, the landscape in which its people live.  It's also been fun relating the journey of publishing this novel with Hadley Rille Books.  In a very real way, this blog has documented one of the most exciting periods of my life, and to be able to share it with all of you -- to feel your support and enthusiasm while bringing my first novel to press -- has made it a truly unforgettable experience. 

To give you an idea of how far Eolyn has journeyed since I started posting, here are a few fun figures:

Since its inception in May of 2009, the blog for EOLYN has received nearly 8000 hits. 

The countries most represented in terms of visitation have been the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Costa Rica (pura vida, mis amigos Ticos!), Australia, Germany, Russia, the Netherlands, Slovenia and France. 

The top five most popular posts to date have been:

Middle Magic

Women, Epic Fantasy, and George RR Martin

The Nutcracker Prince and the Mouse King

Epic Love

Strong Female Protagonists

To learn what people are saying about EOLYN, check out the reviews on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, and Goodreads.  You can also read the full text of the Publishers Weekly review of EOLYN on this site. I have been very pleased with how people are responding to the novel; there's nothing more fulfilling for a story teller than to know you are telling a good story.

In so many ways, Eolyn's journey has only just begun, so while I will no longer be posting regularly on this blog, the story does not end here.  You can still come to this site for announcements and updates about events and signings, or friend Eolyn on Facebook to learn what con, bookstore or library I will visit next. 

In the coming weeks, I will probably reorganize this site to make the existing information more accessible to new visitors, so that http://eolynchronicles.blogspot.com/ will remain the best place to go for inside information about the novel and the world in which Eolyn lives.

And, if you would like to embark on a larger journey through magic and fantasy -- one that will include discussion not only about the world of Eolyn, but about many other worlds and their heroines besides -- please get on your virtual horse (or whatever your prefered method of fantasy transport is:  dragon, damselfly, magic carpet...) and 'ride south' with Kim, Terri and me to our new blog Heroines of Fantasy.  I know you will not be disappointed.

I want to thank everybody who has followed this blog over the last year and a half.  Your comments, support and readership have meant the world to me.  Thanks to you, the novel EOLYN is off to a grand start.  I look forward to seeing you next week at our new location, http://heroinesoffantasy.blogspot.com/, where we will begin brewing up some special magic just for you.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Something Good This Way Comes

I have some very exciting news.  In the next couple of weeks -- on September 5, to be exact -- I will be launching a new blog with fellow fantasy authors Kim Vandervort and Terri-Lynne DeFino.  Entitled Heroines of Fantasy, this will be a new forum dedicated to lively discussion of all aspects of fantasy fiction, and especially women in fantasy fiction. 

Kim, Terri and I will take turns posting, and we will bring in guest bloggers once or twice a month -- editors, authors, and artists in the field -- so be prepared for a wide variety of perspectives on and experiences with this wonderful and varied genre that we call fantasy.  We also hope that you, the reader, will take time to participate in those discussions and share your thoughts, insights and inspirations. 

As Heroines of Fantasy gathers steam, I will be moving away from regular posts on my blog for EOLYN.  This website will remain, so that readers can access it as a repository of information about the history and magic of Moisehen, as well as the writing and publishing of the novel itself.  I will also keep the list of events up-to-date, and will likely post special news bulletins once in a while.

But if you want to continue reading the kinds of posts you have seen on my blog for EOLYN on a weekly basis -- now expanded in terms of breadth of topics and diversity of perspectives --  I encourage you to visit and follow Heroines of Fantasy.  I know you will not be disappointed with everything Terri, Kim and I have planned for the new site.

A couple other news briefs for this week:

Signed copies of EOLYN will be available next weekend at Bubicon in Albequerque, NM, Aug 26-28.  Look for Who Else! Books among the vendors. 

The date and time has been set for the Dead Horse Society's Annual Reading, this year entitled Emergence.   Ten authors from this Kansas City Area speculative fiction writers group, including me, will be presenting short works on Saturday, September 10, at the Writers Place, 3607 Pennsylvania, Kansas City, Missouri.  I will be reading from a story entitled 'Born of Fire', written as part of my Spring 2011 Andrews Writers Residency.  Those of you familiar with Eolyn lore will be interested to know that 'Born of Fire' features a scene from the life of Briana, when she was a young maga as as yet untried by love and war. There will also be copies of EOLYN available for purchase and signing.  This is the third year we have done this event, and it is always a great evening with lots of wonderful story telling, so I hope you will stop by if you are in the area.

I'm starting the gear up for World Fantasy in San Diego at the end of October.  More details to come on that...

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Landscape and Characters in the World of FINDER

This week I'm very happy to host guest blogger Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of FINDER and the soon-to-be-released A TIME NEVER LIVED.  The world of FINDER is similar to our Mediterranean in climate and geography.  Here, Terri-Lynne talks about how she constructed her world, and the impact of her landscapes on the characters that inhabit them. 


Getting the map right is one of the things many budding fantasy writers don't take into account when worldbuilding. I know I didn't. An Arctic tundra two weeks walk from balmy swampland? No problem! Except there is.

When creating a world, some things are generally taken for granted. There is one sun, usually one moon (the tidal kerfuffle two or more cause alone is not worth the coolness factor.) Both are similar distances from our worlds. The size of the world, the land to water ratio, the atmosphere and size of land masses will be largely similar to our own. There are those writers who go the extra lengths to create wholly unique worlds with strange but workable weather patterns and such, and then there are those who keep their worlds to one small, magical, Europe-like forest; but most of us fall in that middle ground of keeping things largely the same, just tweaked a bit.

I'm not going to pretend to be some sort of geological expert. I'm not even close. When it came time to create my world for Finder, I modeled it loosely after the Mediterranean. My characters travel Southern/Eastern Europe and Northern Africa-like terrains. The mountains to the east are there because continental shifts put them there. The same shift cut off part of the once-vast ocean, creating the Bloodbane Sea. Only narrow straits allow water in or out, cutting off larger sailing ships from entering the Bloodbane from the west, and making the basin extremely defensible from the east. Therk's Iabba Desert is what's left of the ocean floor after the waters receded.

Like our own world, the south toward the equator is generally warmer than the north, so while the mountains in Greater Argoa are often quite cold, those to the south only get snow in the higher elevations. The Bihn Iabba River flows--unlike the Nile--north to south. There are more pine forests farther north in Greater Argoa, and scrubby cedars along the western coast of Therk, in Tinnangar, while the southern mountains mainly contain deciduous hardwoods. Once again, these are things I borrowed from our world, because I know they work, even if I don't know why.

Another aspect of geography that most budding fantasy writers don't take into account is how it affects language. Idioms, curse words, colloquialisms, even religion, often stem from environment. "That's a fine kettle of fish!" isn't an idiom that's going to come from the middle of the desert, and neither is "three sheets to the wind." The local gods of agricultural regions will be gods of planting, harvest, weather, the hunt; those along the coastline will be watery ones. In my desert, the gods are "ornery desert gods" because, let's face it, a harsh climate is going to birth harsh gods. By the same token, the gods in mild Bosbana are more inclined to art and revels. There are always exceptions, of course--but these will have stories to go with them. For example, in my recently completed novel, A Time Never Lived, the migration of mountainfolk brought their vastly different gods to the desert. Their stories changed over time to reflect assimilation, but some core elements that simply do not make sense environment-wise--like redheaded gods in a land that does not produce redheads--remain.

Obviously, the clothes your characters wear will reflect environment, not just in weight and material but in color. Desert people will wear a lot of white to reflect the sun. Most colors would be expensive; the cost of importing the plant extracts or mineral compounds to create them would be prohibitive. Even if there were succulents, grasses and such available, they would not be abundant enough to make color cost-effective. The wealthy could afford color, the poor could not; however in a heavily wooded or farming community, color is abundant. In the world I created, the wealthy Merchants along the Strip adorn their businesses with colorful pavilions, a way to show their prosperity.

We are where we come from, there's no doubt about that. City or country, coastal or desert, the way we think, speak, eat is determined largely by our environment. Geography is part of every story ever written, whether the writers and readers know or not; it comes out in details we often take for granted. This is why the geography needs to work, and why we have to know what our worlds look like north, south, east and west. If we don't, our worlds won't be believable, and it will show.

Terri-Lynne DeFino's FINDER is available in hardcover, softcover, Kindle and Nook formats.  Look for it on-line through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  You can also visit Terri at her livejournal blog, http://bogwitch64.livejournal.com/ 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Ecological Context of Eolyn's World

I need to start this post by correcting an error from last week.  In my July 30 post, I referred to the Wall in Westeros as having a location near a "polar latitude". One of the blog's readers brought to my attention that this was a rather careless statement; though unfortunately blogger didn't let him post the comment.  (By the way, I've had a few complaints lately about not being able to post comments on blogger.  If you have also had problems with this, please let me know at eolyn.of.the.south.woods(at)gmail.com.)

My use of 'polar' in this context stemmed from my habit of thinking of the planet as divided into six latitudinal regions defined by atmospheric circulation (blame it on my training as an ecologist).  North of the equator, we have three of these regions: a belt of northeast trade winds (from 0N to about 30N), a belt of temperate westerlies (from about 30N to 60N), and the belt of polar easterlies (from about 60N to the north pole). 

I've lapsed into the habit of calling this third region of polar easterlies 'polar', which is not an entirely accurate, and can lend to additional confusion when one takes into account that the Arctic Circle itself (what most people would probably call 'polar') is defined not by wind patterns but by the southern extremity of the 24-hour polar day.  The southern limit of the Arctic Circle is at about 66N.

So, all this to say, what I should have written last week is that the Wall, as I see it, is probably located somewhere around the earth equivalent of 60N. This seems to be more or less in agreement with what other folks who are better informed than I regarding Martin lore have concluded.  My apologies for any confusion my last post might have generated.

Now, back to the map of Moisehén...

This is a really good time for me to be thinking about maps.  I have been working for about a year now on the sequel to EOLYN, and just as our own world becomes bigger as we move through life, so Eolyn's world has grown in the second book to include kingdoms outside of Moisehén. Of course, I have always had a pretty solid idea as to where Moisehén fits in the context of the surrounding regions of Roenfyn, Galia, Antaria, the Paramen Mountains and the High Plains of the Syrnte, but reaffirming the details of climate and topography has been a very useful exercise for me.

Moisehén, as I've mentioned elsewhere, is a land-locked country that receives humid westerly winds, with water vapor coming not only from an ocean to the west, but also from a large inland sea known as the Sea of Rabeln.  The region also receives the influence of the equivalent of a 'Gulf Stream'.  (As a small aside, that means somewhere waaaay to the south west of the continent, there must be a structure similar to the isthmus of Central America, which upon its formation some 5-6 million years ago, generated the Gulf Stream, with significant impacts on the climate of Europe.)

a map of the Gulf Stream
The interior mountains of the continent, including the Paramen Mountains and the Eastern Surmaeg, are high, non-volcanic ranges.  But to the west and southwest of Moisehén, on the other side of Roenfyn, we have the Kingdom of Galia, a place of lordly wizards who for generations have intermarried with the Magas of Moisehen.  Galia is a coastal country with a volcanic mountain range.  In the novel EOLYN, we never visit Galia, but Eolyn learns about it through unusual means:

"On the western shores of Galia, fire springs from the earth and flows in burning rivers to the sea.  It is from this union of earth, fire and water that the Galian wizards draw their power."

Galian volcanos are important to Moisehén because the same winds that bring moisture to this inland country also pick up volcanic debris from Galia, which over geological time has settled on the landscape, particularly in the high valley of Moehn (Eolyn's home), resulting in very rich soils that, together with relatively heavy rainfall, have supported dense forests and -- where the forests have been cleared for farming -- very productive agriculture.

The South Woods of Moehn and the great forest of East Selen are actually remnants of vast expanses of woodland that once covered most of the Kingdom of Moisehen. The western portion of the country is somewhat drier than the eastern portion, and has also traditionally supported patches of grassland intermixed with woods. 

When drawing the map of Moisehén (embedded above), artist Ginger Prewitt was careful to indicate the transition from oak dominated deciduous forest in the south (which lose their leaves every winter) to coniferous evergreen forest in the north, Selen being on the whole a cooler region than Moehn, and therefore supporting a somewhat different ecosystem.

Prewitt was also kind enough to put a wolf in the South Woods for me.  I think that's my favorite part of the whole map. 

The map that was drawn up for the first novel does not include any of the surrounding kingdoms, but I mention them here to emphasize that Moisehén is an integral part of a greater whole.  As the author, it was important for me to have some vision of that greater whole in order to better understand the specifics of the landscape in which my characters lived -- which in turn allowed me a greater understanding the characters themselves.

For more thoughts on the relationship between characters, culture and landscape, stay tuned for a special guest post from Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of FINDER.  Coming soon!