"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

Monday, December 24, 2012

Welcome to My Annual Christmas Reading!

This year for may annual reading, I've decided to do an excerpt from High Maga

The manuscript for High Maga was finished in the fall of 2012, and is now undergoing final edits in preparation for publication. I don't have a release date yet. It's possible High Maga will be released toward the end of 2013; more likely that you will see it in print early in 2014. In either case, stay tuned to this site for updates, previews, and giveaways. 

For the Christmas reading, I always try to find cozy scenes.  That was something of a challenge this year, as High Maga has relatively few scenes that could be called "cozy".  After some thought, I settled on this excerpt from Chapter 8, a scene between Eolyn and her youngest student, Ghemena.  It takes place at Eolyn's Aekelahr, the humble home of her new coven in the highlands of Moehn.  In this passage, Ghemena has just woken up from a nightmare, and Eolyn comforts her with a story and a very special gift.

If you're looking for more fun things to do between now and New Year's, stop by Heroines of Fantasy and help us build a story with the Brothers Grimm.  While you're at it, you can register to win a holiday ebook bundle, including four novels by HoF authors.  The winners of the holiday giveaway will be announced January 31st. 

I hope you enjoy this reading, and the rest of the holiday season. I will be taking a break from my blog and other on line activities until the New Year, but will be back in action starting January. I look forward to seeing you then.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas, and all the best in the New Year.

If you would like to know more about the novel High Maga, you can preview it here

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A World of Wonder in 5000 Words

The cover art for Creatures of Light is taken
from Claude Lorrain's 17th century painting,
"Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba."
Hadley Rille Books has released a Kindle edition of my short story Creatures of Lightand has made it available for free download today and tomorrow.

Creatures of Light provides a glimpse into the life of Selenia, a brilliant and ruthless woman scientist, and her lover Nicolas, intrepid explorer of the high seas.  They live in a fantasy age of exploration, an imaginary world that mixes the art and politics of Renaissance Italy with the wonder inspired by  17th and 18th century European explorers.  Theirs is an unapologetically imperialistic and misogynistic society, and Selenia has learned to do whatever it takes to establish and maintain a place of power in the context of this brutal world. 

I've had many sources of inspiration for Creatures over the years.  The first seed was probably planted when I read A Naturalist in La Plata by WH Hudson, which chronicles the 19th century biologist's journey through the Pampas of Argentina. 

Since then, many more books have crossed my path.  Biographies of powerful women of the 16th and 17th century, such as Lucrezia Borgia, Isabella de Medici, and Catherine de Medici.  Stories of 17th and 18th century women scientists such as Maria Gaetana Agnesi and Maria Sybilla Merian. 

Additional chronicles of exploration have also fed into the mix, such as the extraordinary adventures of Alexander von Humboldt in South America.  Most recently, I started The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, which documents the discoveries of 18th century scientists such as Joseph Banks and Caroline Herschel, as well as the colorful, romantic, and disturbing times in which they lived. 

Holmes historical account had little influence on the short story Creatures of Light (since I picked it up long after the short story was written), but it is providing a lot of fodder for the imagination as I prepare to write a full-length novel by the same name.

Creatures of Light emerged as a short story about three years ago, when my local writer's group did a holiday story exchange.  It first appeared for the world at large in the Fall 2010 issue of Adventures for the Average Woman.  Now Hadley Rille Books has picked it up and made it a stand-alone short story available on Kindle, complete with its own beautiful cover.  And for FREE, no less!  At least for the first couple of days of its release. 

I hope you enjoy reading Selenia's story as much as I enjoyed writing it.  I am certain you will.


Enter Eolyn's Winter Book Blast Giveaway for your chance to win a FREE signed copy of the beautiful hardcover edition of the nove Eolyn.

Visit authoer DelSheree Gladden's Blog to enter the Winter Book Blast Grand Prize Giveaway, including 18 novels across various genres.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Stock Up on Your Holiday Reading!

The holiday season is here, and with it multiple chances to win FREE books for your winter bookshelf! 

Heroines of Fantasy is sponsoring a holiday giveaway this month. Enter to win an ebook bundle with four novels by HoF authors, including

Eolyn by Karin Rita Gastreich,

The Poets of Pevana by Mark Nelson,

Your choice of Finder or A Time Never Lived by Terri-Lynne DeFino, and

Your choice of The Song and the Sorceress or The Northern Queen by Kim Vandervort.

It's easy to enter; just comment on one of our weekly posts, or choose from other entry options, such as liking the Facebook page for Hadley Rille Books.  The giveaway will run until the end of the month; winners will be announced on January 31st.  Visit Heroines of Fantasy to find out more, and enter to win!

If ebooks are not your thing -- or if you're looking to enter multiple raffles this December -- check back on this blog later this week for the Winter Book Blast.  Enjoy an nine-day virtual tour of great titles across many genres, including romance, mystery, historical fiction, fantasy, and young adult. 

The Winter Book Blast is being organized by author DelSheree Gladden.  It will include a Grandprize Giveaway of 18 novels, as well as individual giveaways sponsored by participating authors.  Visitors to the blog for Eolyn will have the opportunity to win one signed copy of the beautiful hardcover edition.  Enter away -- you never know when you might get lucky!

Last but not least, as my personal gift to you, this month I have at last posted a preview to High Maga, the companion novel to Eolyn.  My annual Christmas reading, which will be posted on December 24th, will be an excerpt from the new book.  Come January, you can look forward to more previews, updates, and giveaways for this story of war, courage, endurance, and triumph.

That is the news for this week.  Again, please check back December 15th thru 23rd to register for your chance to win free novels as part of the Winter Book Blast. 

Happy holiday reading!

Enter to win a signed copy of the beautiful hardcover edition of Eolyn:

Visit Heroines of Fantasy and enter to win an ebook bundle of four fantasy novels by HoF authors.

Visit DelSheree Gladden's Winter Book Blast to browse multiple giveaways, including a grand prize giveaway of 18 novels.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Guest Author: Karen L. Azinger

Friday, December 7, is the last day of classes at Avila!  One week more of finals (and grading grading grading), and we are DONE. 

I am very excited about the weeks between now and Christmas Eve, as we have a lot going on both here and on Heroines of Fantasy.  There will be games, giveaways, blog hops and more surprises; opportunities for you to win books of all genres -- even book bundles! --as we get closer to the year's end.  It is shaping up to be a very exciting holiday season, so please stay tuned to learn how you can join the fun.

Today, it's my pleasure to welcome Karen L. Azinger, author of The Silk and Steel Saga. 

Karen has always loved fantasy fiction, and always hoped that someday she could give back to the genre a little of the joy that reading has always given her. Ten years ago on a hike in the Columbia River Gorge, she realized she had enough original ideas to finally write an epic fantasy. She started writing and never stopped. The Steel Queen is her first book, born from that hike in the gorge.

Before writing, Karen spent over twenty years as an international business strategist, eventually becoming a vice-president for one of the world's largest natural resource companies. She's worked on developing the first gem-quality diamond mine in Canada's arctic, on coal seam gas power projects in Australia, and on petroleum projects around the world. Having lived in Australia for eight years she considers it to be her second home. She's also lived in Canada and spent a lot of time in the Canadian arctic. She lives with her husband in Portland Oregon, in a house perched on the edge of the forest. The first four books of The Silk & Steel Saga have already been written and she is hard at work on the fifth and final book.

Please join me in welcoming Karen L. Azinger.

What's in a Name?

What’s in a name? Everything! Names evoke mystery, menace, magic and wonder. Whisper a single name and readers are instantly transported to another time and place. Arthur…Camelot…Excalibur…Frodo…Mordor…Voldemort, these names shimmer in our hearts and dreams like magical touch-stones. Some evoke wonder while others embody dread. More than any other genre, fantasy tasks authors to create unique and interesting names, but these names should not be a jumble of alphabet soup, impossible to pronounce and even harder to remember. For my medieval epic fantasy, The Silk & Steel Saga, I took great care in choosing the names for my main characters, striving for names that are both unique and memorable and reflective of my characters’ prominent traits.

Liandra, the Queen of Lanverness, is one of my favorite names in the saga. Naming this character was one of my top priorities. After discarding half a hundred mundane names, inspiration finally struck. As soon as I thought of Liandra, I knew I had the perfect name. Lyrical and feminine, yet it has an underlying strength, a fitting name for a queen who uses “beauty to beguile, spies to foresee, and gold to control.” Liandra is a unique name, one I’ve never seen used in fantasy, perfect for my Spider Queen.

Kath, the princess of Castlegard, is a strong female character who is often underestimated and frequently overlooked. Because she is ignored and overlooked, I wanted her to have a common girl’s name, but I also wanted my character to be bold enough to name herself. Katherine is her birth name, the name her father calls her, the name of a princess destine to wed for the good of her kingdom, but my character rejects that destiny and therefore rejects that name, choosing instead to be called Kath, a unique and catchy twist on an otherwise common name.

The Mordant is the name for my darkest character. This name pays homage to the land of Mordor in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but instead of an eye wreathed in flame, the Mordant is a very real, very complex character who has lived for over a thousand years. One of the unique aspects of The Silk & Steel Saga is the way the reader gets to view the world from the perspective of a very malevolent evil. It is through the Mordant that my books explore the mechanisms of evil.

Sir Blaine is my classic knight, always striving to be worthy, determined to be a sword wielding hero. This character required a very “knightly” name. When naming a knight, one instantly thinks of the Knights of the Round Table, but authors need to steer clear of stereotypical names like Lancelot, Galahad, Gwaine, Percival and Tristan. Instead I chose a name that sounds like it belongs among Arthurian legends yet is fresh and unique. Blaine rhymes with Gwaine, the perfect original name for my classical knight.

In epic fantasy, the names of settings deserve just as much thought as the character names. If you get stuck, just glance at any world map for inspiration. For example, Inverness is a city in Scotland and also in New Zealand. I’ve never visited either place yet the name always struck me as lyrical, magical, even mystical. Putting my own twist on the name, Inverness becomes Lanverness, the only kingdom of Erdhe ruled by a queen. For the capital city of Lanverness, I chose the name Pellanor, a twisted spelling of Pellinore, a king from Arthurian legend who is famous for hunting the Questing Beast. Choose the names of your kingdoms, cities, and castles with care. Names can instill a touch of classical legend in your epic fantasy.

And last but certainly not least, writers must choose the names for their books. A book’s name should infuse an instant sense of genre. The name should attract attention, create expectation, and be easy to remember while being distinctive. The name of my first book, The Steel Queen, was chosen by my London editors. They wanted a name that could work as a cross-over title to attract both fantasy and historical fiction readers. After a month of e-mailing long lists of names back and forth, they finally settled on The Steel Queen. Once I broke free from my London editors and reclaimed the rights to my books, I chose the rest of the titles as well as the saga name. To “brand” the titles and identify them as part of a saga, I patterned all the titles after first book, resulting in, The Steel Queen, The Flame Priest, The Skeleton King, and The Poison Priestess.

Choosing a saga name is similar to choosing a book name, but with an added twist. In the fantasy genre, epic sagas are often referred to by their acronym, so The Lord of the Rings becomes LOTR. One of the things I love most about my saga name, The Silk & Steel Saga, is that the acronym is SASS. I hope my readers will agree that the women in my saga have a lot of sass!

What’s in a name? Everything! Choose wisely!

About The Poison Priestess

While Kath and her companions chase the Mordant into the far north, the southern kingdoms erupt in Flames. The Lord Raven marches south, unleashing a holy war against Lanverness. Vastly outnumbered by a ruthless enemy, Queen Liandra spins desperate gambits in a dire struggle to save her kingdom. New alliances and new awakenings hatch deeper levels of intrigue. The Oracle Priestess and the Lord Raven form a tenuous alliance, while deep in the Southern Mountains the Kiralynn monks stir, revealing more than prophecy. Armies clash, battles rage, and cities fall, as lives, loves and crowns hang in the balance, but swords are not the only way to wage war. Treachery, deceit, assassins, and the power of seduction will face-off against steadfast courage, forgotten magic, and the power of truth. The Poison Priestess is the fourth book in this epic tale of Light versus Dark.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Women and Archeology: The Queens of Ancient Ur

The course Women and Science has two areas of emphasis. One of these focuses on the obstacles women scientists encounter due to gender dynamics, as well as the many contributions women have made despite these obstacles. The other area of emphasis examines how gendered perspectives influence the substance of science: How scientists see the world through a gendered lens, and how gender biases can influence our interpretation the data. 

Earlier in the semester, as the class was reading Londa Schiebinger's Has Feminism Changed Science?, I was reflecting on Schiebinger's discussion of how the archeological record is often subject to interpretation based on contemporary gender stereotypes.  Schiebinger's attention to this topic reminded me of the Archeology Series, a special collection of historical fiction published by Hadley Rille Books, wherein the lives of ordinary women are reconstructed based on sound archeological evidence.  I decided to contact the author of one of these novels, Shauna Roberts, and to my delight she was willing to provide a guest post that touches upon this topic.

Shauna Roberts, Ph.D., is a novelist, short-story writer, and editor in California.  She writes primarily science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction. A 2009 graduate of the Clarion Writers' Workshop, she won the 2011 Speculative Literature Foundation's Older Writers Grant.  Her publications include short stories, and the historical novel Like Mayflies in a Stream, based on the "Epic of Gilgamesh". Her new fantasy novel Ice Magic, Fire Magic will be released from Hadley Rille Books in 2013. You can visit Shauna at http://shaunaroberts.blogspot.com.

As a side note, I also want to let our readers know that Hadley Rille Books will celebrate its birthday this weekend, and that ALL its electronic titles, including the Archeology Series, will be on sale for $0.99 (Kindle and Nook editions). Browse Hadley Rille's great collection of historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy, for quality gifts and great holiday reading.


Did Queens Sometimes Rule Ancient Ur?

Even the greatest archaeologists can be led astray by the prejudices of their era. Sir Leonard Woolley, who with colleagues excavated the ancient city of Ur in Mesopotamia from 1922 to 1934, was ahead of his time in the carefulness of his excavations, the exactitude of his notes, and his respect for his Arab workers.

Even so, some of his practices and interpretations have not stood the test of time. His correlations of his finds with events in the Bible were often invalid. After excavating 2,000 graves at Ur, Woolley threw out almost all of the skeletons, never guessing that radiology, computed tomography (CT), DNA analysis, isotope analysis, and other technologies would one day make skeletons priceless goldmines of information. Woolley also assumed that all rulers in ancient Mesopotamia were male. Thus, when he excavated the “Royal Graveyard” at Ur, he labeled the elite men as kings and the elite women as wives or relatives of kings.

Headdress and jewelry of Queen Puabi
as reconstructed and displayed by the
University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
Object 17711. Courtesy of the Penn Museum.
That interpretation was challenged in 2008 by Kathleen McCaffrey (1), then a graduate student at University of California at Berkeley. Her reanalysis of the graves and/or grave goods of three women suggests that they were ruling queens, not queen consorts.

The sixteen burials Woolley designated “royal tombs” at Ur date to 2600 to 2450 B.C.E. Each burial included one person of obviously high status: The person occupied a separate chamber within the tomb and wore jewelry of gold and precious stones. The small chamber often contained an identifying cylinder seal (which was used to “sign” legal, accounting, and other documents) and luxury goods.

The main portion of the tomb contained more luxury goods and food … as well as one or more adult bodies carefully positioned and aligned with compass points. Recent CT scans of two skulls revealed that these grave attendants were killed by blunt force trauma to the head, perhaps from being hit by a battle axe (2). This study and another recent study (3) of the alignment of bodies suggested that after death, the grave attendants were washed, dressed, and added in separate groups to the tomb.

McCaffrey noticed that in Woolley’s itemized records of the contents of tombs, the gender of the grave goods did not always match the sex of the presumably royal body. According to McCaffrey, Woolley inventoried royal graves accurately, but his interpretations were founded in stereotypes of sex and gender. In cases of sex-gender mismatch, he came up with ad hoc explanations for the mismatches, “normalized” the artifacts (for example, referring to weapons as “tools” when they accompanied an elite woman), and/or avoided talking about the mismatched grave goods.

In three cases, graves that would ordinarily have been identified as belonging to kings were not, because the elite occupants were women.

Case 1. The elite woman in tomb RT/1054 wore a dagger at her waist. Her grave goods included some male-gendered items such as a bronze axe, a whetstone, a bronze hatchet, a spare man’s gold headdress, and a king’s seal bearing the name Meskalamdug. Woolley assigned ownership of most of the male-gendered items to attendants—even though the items were made of precious imported metals, the attendants were poorly dressed, and Woolley had repeatedly asserted that attendants were buried with no grave goods of their own. Woolley concluded that the royal seal in tomb RT/1054 could not belong to its occupant because she was a woman.

Cosmetic box lid buried with Queen Puabi. The box was made
of silver. The lid is made of shell and lapis lazuli and
shows a lion eating a ram. Object B16744A.
Courtesy of the Penn Museum. http://www.penn.museum
Case 2. Queen Puabi (tomb RT/800) had a lavish burial with incredible wealth and 26 attendants. Her grave goods included gold and silver spears, axes, daggers, saws, and chisels and were nearly identical to those of a man Woolley identified as a king. However, Woolley and others assumed that Puabi was not a ruler, both because she was a woman and because her seals identified her as a nin. Archaeologists usually translate nin as “queen” in the sense of “the wife of a king.” However, the meanings of the word “nin” are far more nuanced and complex (4).

Case 3. Tomb RT/1050 was stripped by looters in ancient times. However, the robbers missed a cylinder seal. The text on the seal is in the standard format for a king’s seal: The first line of text lists the king’s name, the second line lists the city name, and the third line identifies him as lugal (king, owner, master). A rule follows, and the fourth line lists a name and identifies that person as the spouse. The seal read:

            (of) Ur
            the lugal
            A-kalam-dug, his/her spouse

However, that’s not the translation Woolley’s linguist, Eric Burrows, published. A-u-sikil-am6 is a female name, and A-kalam-dug is a male name. Burrows found it easier to believe that the sealmaker made three major errors in engraving the seal than that a woman could have been lugal. So he rearranged the lines and published the translation as:

            A-kalam-dug, his/her spouse
            (of) Ur
            the lugal

We know that Burrows’ translation was rearranged because Woolley and his colleagues followed the good practice of publishing the rationales for their interpretations. As a result, scholars today can look back at their evidence, logic, and conclusions and decide for themselves whether the reasoning was sound. Unfortunately, not all current scholars follow the same good practice.

McCaffrey concluded that Meskallumdug, Puabi, and/or A-u-sikil-am6 were ruling queens of Ur. She said, “scholars project current assumptions about gender into the past when analyzing mortuary remains…. We see the binaries of our own gender logic in the material record because deeply ingrained preconceptions prevent us from seeing anything else.”

We can look to other cities in the ancient Near East for possible supporting evidence. Archaeologists from Johns Hopkins University have discovered a possible royal cemetery at Umm el-Marra in western Mesopotamia (present-day Syria) dating to 2300 B.C.E. (5). Some of the people buried with riches and attendants are women. Their graves raise the same questions—and may have the same answers—as the graves at Ur.

Also, according to the Sumerian King List (6), a woman was lugal of the city of Kish and ruled Sumer sometime between 2500 and 2300 B.C.E. This woman, a former tavernkeeper called Kug-Bau in Sumerian-language sources and Kubaba in Akkadian-language sources, must have done a memorable job: Her son and grandson succeeded her as lugal, she was deified after her death, and shrines to worship her sprang up in Mesopotamia and later in other areas.

Kug-Bau’s example makes clear that women did rule in Mesopotamia. A fresh look at the tombs of Ur suggests Kug-bau was not the only ancient lugal.

References and Footnotes

(1) McCaffrey, Kathleen. “The Female Kings of Ur.” In Diane Bolger, Editor. Gender through Time in the Ancient Near East. Lanham, Maryland: AltaMira Press, 2008, pp. 173–215.

(2) Baadsgaard, Aubrey, Janet Monge, Samantha Cox, and Richard L. Zettler. “Human Sacrifice and Intentional Corpse Preservation in the Royal Cemetery of Ur.” Antiquity 85:27–42, 2011.

(3) Vidale, Massimo. “PG 1237, Royal Cemetery of Ur: Patterns in Death.” Cambridge Archaeological Journal 21: 427–451, 2011.

(4) The word “nin” was sometimes used as a title for gods, both male and female. John Alan Halloran’s Sumerian Lexicon (Los Angeles: Logogram Publishing, 2006) defines nin as queen, mistress, proprietress, lady, and lord. The etymology of nin suggests that it may have originally meant a person who is much feared or respected. Even more confusing, the cuneiform character for nin (MUNUS.TÚG) also meant eresh. Halloran defines eresh as lady, mistress, proprietress, queen, and wise one. Its etymology is complicated; it may have derived from the combination of e (speaking, prayer), ri (to throw, to cast, to expel, to beget, to inundate, and several other verbs), and isi (mountain). Scholars continue to debate both the difference between the two words and when to read MUNUS.TÚG as nin and when to read it as eresh.  University of Pennsylvania researchers currently believe that eresh is the correct reading Puabi's title.  Even though McCaffrey based her argument on reading MUNUS.TÚG as nin, I believe her general point is still valid:  We do not yet understand the full meaning of Puabi's title, so we cannot say it excludes her as ruler of Ur. 

(5) See page 3 of the project’s Website at http://neareast.jhu.edu/uem/index.html.

(6) http://etcsl.orinst.ox.ac.uk/section2/tr211.htm. Note that although this translation (and all others) uses “he” and “son,” the characters so translated meant “he, she, it” and “child” in the original Sumerian. Thus, Kug-Bau may not be the only woman ruler on the list.

Friday, November 23, 2012

McClintock, Maize, and Modern Genetics

At last, Thanksgiving break has arrived! I have a moment to breath, to eat lots of turkey, and to write a proper post.

The semester is fast drawing to a close. Following Thanksgiving, we have two weeks of classes left at Avila University, and then final exams. For my course Women and Science, the last two weeks will be filled with student presentations, each one devoted to a particular woman scientist.  This is one of my favorite parts of the semester, as it renews my appreciation of the many contributions of women to science throughout history. Also, I invariably learn about someone whose story I have not yet heard.

While the students are putting their final touches on their end-of-semester reports, I want to take some time on my blog to talk about Nobel prize laureate Barbara McClintock, the woman who discovered transposons, otherwise known as jumping genes.

McClintock's story is told in a couple different biographies, including A Feeling for the Organism by Evelyn Fox Keller. 

She was born in 1902 in Hartford, Connecticut, and attended Cornell University at a time when enrollment by women in U.S. universities was on the rise. (This trend was shut down during the 1950s, only to pick up again with the women's movement of the 1960s and 1970s.)  Even though McClintock was not entirely unique in her desire to earn a college degree, her mother was opposed to the idea because she feared it would make her daughter unmarriageable.  (As it turned out, McClintock did not, in fact, ever marry...)

There are a lot of remarkable moments in McClintock's long and illustrious career.  One of these was the difficulty she had finding a job after earning her PhD at Cornell.  Even though she was greatly respected by leading geneticists of the time, no university seemed to have a place for her. 

McClintock did the best she could under the circumstances, accepting temporary positions until at last in 1941 (fourteen years after finishing her degree), she was offered a research position at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  Cold Spring Harbor would be McClintock's home for the rest of her career, and it was here that she completed the work that earned her the Nobel Prize. 

Her study organism was maize -- another factor that set her apart, because at the time, the biology of maize was considered more relevant to agronomists than to "serious" geneticists.  McClintock, however, did not let this prejudice stop her.  Her experiments combined controlled breeding with careful documentation of the behavior of chromosomes during cell division. 

By monitoring the appearance, position, and size of dark patches on kernels of known parentage, she was able to determine that something internal to the cell was controlling the rate of mutation in maize.  This discovery ran counter to everything that was known and believed about chromosomes at the time.  Mutation was supposed to be a random event, and chromosomes were supposed to be in control of the cell, not vice-versa. 

As McClintock dug deeper into the evidence, she discovered something even more amazing:  The elements that controlled the rate of mutation were actually part of the chromosome itself.  Moreover, these elements could move!  They could physically dissociate from one part of the chromosome and insert themselves into another part.  Wherever these elements inserted themselves, the adjacent functional genes would be turned off.

In the summer of 1951, Barbara McClintock presented her conclusions -- supported by volumes of data gathered over the course of six years -- at the annual symposium at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.  The response of her colleagues was, in McClintock's own words, "puzzlement, even hostility".  The academic community was unwilling to accept these astonishing results. Within a couple years McClintock, realizing she was beginning to alienate the scientific mainstream, stopped talking about her data and its paradigm-shattering implications. She turned instead to other research questions, such as the evolutionary origin of maize, to which she also made important contributions.

Almost a decade later, in 1961, Francois Jacob and Jacques Monod described the regulation of a set of genes called the lac operon in bacteria.  McClintock was quick to recognize the similarities between their discovery and hers, and published a paper in the American Naturalist comparing the lac operon to the controlling elements she had discovered in maize. 

These parallel discoveries paved the way to wider acceptance of the existence of mobile controlling elements within the genome, and as time went on it was recognized that McClintock's data and her interpretation were not abberations, but representative of a widespread and important phenomenon in genetics. In 1983, McClintock was awarded the Nobel Prize for her discovery of transposons.

Barbara McClintock is an excellent example of a woman who made fundamentally important contributions to science, and who received due recognition for those contributions. Nonetheless, many scholars argue that her career was plagued by gender discrimination, noting for example the difficulty she had finding a faculty position. 

The mysterious lag time between when McClintock presented her results in 1951, and when they were finally recognized as valid more than 10 years later, is also a point of emphasis for many feminists.  Was her work ignored for so long because it threatened the dominant paradigm?  Or was it ignored because she was a woman?

McClintock's biographers tend to come down on one side or the other of this debate.  Personally, I suspect both gender discrimation and the inertia imposed by scientific paradigm were at play.   

Barbara McClintock never believed she was subject to discrimination on the basis of her gender at any point in her career.  Regarding the initial unwillingness of the scientific community to accept her findings, she wrote in 1973:

Over the years I have found that it is difficult if not impossible to bring to consciousness of another person the nature of his tacit assumptions when, by some special experiences, I have been made aware of them. This became painfully evident to me in my attempts during the 1950s to convince geneticists that the action of genes had to be and was controlled. It is now equally painful to recognize the fixity of assumptions that many persons hold on the nature of controlling elements in maize and the manners of their operation. One must await the right time for conceptual change.

From McClintock's point of view, it would not have mattered whether she was a woman or a man. At the time she presented her results, there was simply a reluctance among geneticists to accept data that undermined their basic assumptions about how DNA worked, and whether DNA could be subject to deliberate control mechanisms imposed by the cell.  It was a matter of waiting until the scientific community was ready for the next conceptual revolution. 

So she waited. Fortunately, Barbara McClintock was still around to enjoy the moment when the rest of the scientific world caught up with her.

McClintock's microscope and ears of maize on
display at the Museum of Natural History.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Author: Juli D. Revezzo

Please join me in welcoming Juli D. Revezzo as a guest author.  I met Juli through the Magic Appreciation Tour.

Juli has long been in love with writing, a love built by devouring everything from the Arthurian legends, to the works of Michael Moorcock, and the classics, and has a soft spot for the classic "Goths" of the 19th century in love of which she received a Bachelor's degree in literature from the University of South Florida.  Her short fiction has been published in Dark Things II:  Cat Crimes, The Scribing Ibis, Eternal Haunted Summer, Twisted Dreams Magazine, and Luna Station Quarterly.  She also has an article and book review or two out there.  But her heart lies in storytelling.  She is a member of the Independent Author Network.  The Artist's Inheritance is her first novel.  You can visit Juli at http://julidrevezzo.com

Following Juli's post, you'll find an excerpt from her novel, so please keep reading!


The Role of Wife in Storytelling -- Rebooted

If you look at any popular television show or novel these days, the relationship between the heroine and hero always seems to be centered in the early days of their relationship, or just about the time the wife is popping out kid number three or four (or seven, or eight) while putting child number one into her prom dress and taking boy child number two to soccer practice.

In short, the wife has become a stereotype.

No matter how strong women claim they are in real life, in fiction, the strong, the fighters are relegated to the unmarried, and don’t even get me started about the women who fight with men they have their sights set on.

In the immortal words of Moon Unit Zappa, “Gag me with a spoon!”

When I look at the women who inspire me, it’s the women who can stand on their own: the Friggas and Heras, the  Paksenarrions. It’s women like Queen Mary I, Mrs. Virginia Woolf and Madame Marie Curie who I consider the strongest figures out there.

Yet, pick up any fantasy novel and you’ll meet her: The quiet mother who tends to her household while her daughters and sons run rampant. Usually, the girls get married and the boys run off to save the world. On rare occasions, the girl runs off to save the world, though somehow, always in the end, she marries and leaves the job of defending the family to her husband. There are a few exceptions to that rule that come to mind but even if children don’t factor in, the wife somehow always ends up in a passive role.

And think of the horror genre. Those women—sheesh! Either they are the scream queens, or they’re the ninnies that check out the weird noise out back, even when there’s a serial killer on the loose. And did I mention they go out unarmed? No, no, no. Come on, ladies! As modern women, aren’t we all a little smarter than that?

Why can’t a woman marry, yet still nurture her warrior roots?  Why must she simper and preen and worry only about her children? Why must she stand back and wring her hands while the men fight? After all, centuries ago, Celtic women picked up swords and fought hard against their enemies and demons for their families.

I had this question in mind when I sat down to write The Artist’s Inheritance. The theme of the story necessitated my character Caitlin facing some scary demons both from outside herself, and within herself. She didn’t simper in a corner and wait for her hubby to do the job; she didn’t go downstairs (or upstairs in her case) unarmed when it most counted. Like Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife she does what she must to nurture and defend her family.

To become the true heroine. And does she defeat those demons?

Well, I can’t tell you the whole story. You’ll have to read The Artist’s Inheritance yourself to see how it comes out. I’ll tell you what, though: it is a close call. J If you’d like to try it, The Artist’s Inheritance is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and in time for holiday gift giving, in paperback at Createspace.

Trouble only a witch can solve...

Settling into their new home, changes come over Caitlin’s husband Trevor. He’s obsessed with a beautiful chair he's carving, a passion that smacks of his familial curse. Armed with little experience of the supernatural, Caitlin must proceed with caution. If she fails to break this cycle of damnation, she’ll lose forever the one thing she loves most: Trevor.

Thank you, Karin, for having me here today. One last thing before I go: Strong women rock! ;)

Excerpt from The Artist's Inheritance
“How much will you take for these fine drawings?”
The male voice drew her attention away from Trevor’s work. A short man with black hair and a lazy eye, dressed in a pinstripe suit and straw hat, crossed the gallery to pause at Trevor’s side. “They’re your work, are they not? Are they available?”
“Yes, they’re mine,” Trevor said. “They’re not for sale. Sorry.”
Caitlin eyed the older man. Who’s this fella?
“Don’t be absurd, Trevor.” Abby Wilkins, jumped in before Caitlin could ask.
Caitlin took in his fine coat, the diamond gleaming from his ring finger. More than likely, the man could pay a fortune for the pictures. Perhaps even the chair they had stashed in the attic. Maybe they’d be rid of the stupid thing yet.
“For you, Mr. Hofter? Of course they are.”
“No, I’m sorry,” Trevor said. “They’re not for sale.”
Abby choked and pulled Trevor aside. “Are you mad, darling? Do you know who he is?”
Caitlin peered over Abby’s shoulder, seeing the man in question studying a Jeffersonian era desk. Trevor grimaced. “I can’t say I do.”
“That’s Marvin Hofter,” Mrs. Wilkins said conspiratorially.
“Who’s Marvin Hofter?” Caitlin asked.
Abby spluttered and tugged at the collar of her linen blouse. “How can you not know him?”
The name meant nothing; Caitlin could only give her a blank look. “I don’t.”
“My dear, he’s only the editor in chief of Antiques Daily.”
Now Caitlin understood why Trevor’s mentor was making such a huge deal.
Trevor touched one of the sketches, almost, Caitlin thought, as if he would protect them. “I’m sorry, no. The pictures aren’t for sale.”
Hofter pursed his lips and retrieved a card case from the pocket of his silk coat. He pulled forth an embossed business card and handed it to him. “If you change your mind, don’t hesitate to call me.” The man tipped his hat and walked away.
Caitlin kept her gaze on him. Something about him made her want to grab Trevor and move as far away as possible. Like to Siberia.

* * * *
You can also visit Juli at the following links:
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Juli-D.-Revezzo/e/B008AHVTLO/
On Author's Den: http://www.authorsden.com/julidrevezzo
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/JD-Revezzo/233193150037011
On Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/111476709039805267272/posts
On Good Reads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5782712.Juli_D_Revezzo
On LibraryThing: http://www.librarything.com/profile/julidrevezzo
On Shelfari: http://www.shelfari.com/o1514830030
And on Twitter: http://twitter.com/julidrevezzo

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

EOLYN Featured in Bewitching Book Tours Magazine!

The November issue of Bewitching Book Tours Magazine includes an author interview where you can learn about my favorite character in the novel Eolyn, how the name 'Eolyn' came to be, what's in store for High Maga, and more! 

In addition to Eolyn's feature article, you'll find flash fiction, book excerpts and reviews, recipes and lots of other great articles.  The e-zine is FREE, and you can view it on-line or download your own copy below.


Bewitching Book Tours November Issue

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Winter Book Blast

Yes, it's that time of year again:  evenings of deep snow, hot chocolate, warm fireplaces, and great books!

To help you plan your winter escape, I'm participating in the Winter Book Blast Event, organized by author DelSheree Gladden.  From December 15th through 23rd, I'll be hosting a variety of authors representing different genres.  You'll get a chance to read a little about each book.  If your interest is piqued, click on the link below the summary to get your own copy in time for the holiday season.

Winter Book Blast Schedule:

Dec 15th:  Action/Adventure
Dec 16th:  Drama
Dec 17th:  Crime
Dec 18th:  Romance
Dec 19th:  Young Adult
Dec 20th:  Historical Fiction
Dec 21st:  Mystery/Detective
Dec 22nd: Fantasy
Dec 23rd:  YA Fantasy/Paranormal

Today's Featured Novels:

Book Blast Giveaways

As part of the Winter Book Blast, you will have the chance to win FREE books!  There will be one GRAND PRIZE featuring a book bundle for the holidays.  In addition, many individual authors will host raffles for their own books.  To enter the raffle for the grand prize, scroll down to the rafflecopter widget.  To win individual books, visit the blogs on the Linky List.

Giveaway Rules

US residents can enter giveaways for either paperbacks or ebooks.  International residents can enter ONLY for ebook giveaways.  International residents can enter the Grand Prize giveaway, but will receive only ebooks listed, or listed paperbacks will be exchanged for ebooks due to high shipping costs.

Good luck!

Enter the Giveaway for One Signed Copy of Eolyn (Hardcover Edition)

Enter the Grand Prize Giveaway for 18 Novels (Paperback and Electronic Copies)

Friday, November 2, 2012

A New Look for the Holidays

The end of Halloween has always marked the beginning of the holidays for me.  We're in the countdown now to Thanksgiving on November 22, and after that the Christmas Season will be in full swing. 

I have many reasons to celebrate this year, not the least of which is the completion of the manuscript High Maga, the companion novel to EolynHigh Maga is now in its final edits, being circulated for a few additional beta reads in preparation for the road to publication.  At the moment, we are looking at a release date in early 2014.  I've revamped the blog to accommodate this next stage of Eolyn's journey. I hope you like the new look, and I'm very excited about sharing this next adventure with all of you. 

This weekend is your last chance to register to win a FREE signed copy of Eolyn as part of my Bewitching Book Tour.  Visit any of the following posts and you can enter the November 6th drawing:

November 1:  Warrior Magic was first given to the mage Caedmon during the war against the Thunder People.  Read his story and more on For the Love of Film and Novels.

November 3:  Promotional Post for Eolyn on The Wormhole

November 4:  Author Interview with Laurie's Paranormal Thoughts and Reviews

November 5:  For my last stop, I will talk about High Maga.  What challenges lay ahead for our favorite maga?  Who will be the new heroes and villains of her story?  Stop by and feel free to ask questions on Always a Booklover.

Or you can choose from several October guest spots listed in my previous post, A Bewitching Time for All.
In addition to the Bewitching Book Tour, we have a lot of exciting events coming up in November.  There will be guest posts by Claire Ashgrove, Juli Revezzo, and Shauna Roberts.  Check the side bar in coming days for the dates of their visits. 
There are also a few posts left for my fall series on Women and Science, including one of my favorite stories, that of Nobel Prize laureate Barbara McClintock, the woman who discovered jumping genes.
Also, at the end of November, Hadley Rille Books will celebrate its birthday with sales and special offers on all its titles.  Please stay tuned for more information about how you can join the fun.
Okay.  I won't keep you any longer, as I'm sure you are anxious to enter Eolyn's Bewitching Book Tours giveaway.  Have a great weekend, and Happy Holidays!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Bewitching Time for All!

This week, I'm taking a break from our regular programing to celebrate the Halloween season with a Bewitching Book Tour.  From October 22 thru November 5, I will visit ten blogs to talk about Magic in Eolyn's World through guest posts and interviews. 

As part of the tour, we will give away two free signed copies of EolynAlso, as a special Halloween treat, Hadley Rille Books has kindly agreed to host a sale of the Kindle edition and the Nook edition of the novel.  For the duration of the tour, you can download Eolyn to your Kindle or Nook for just $0.99!

So treat yourself to some magic, sit back, and enjoy!  If you haven't read Eolyn, this is your chance to learn more about the novel and its soon-to-be-released companion, High Maga

If you have read Eolyn, now you can explore in-depth the traditions of the Magas of Moisehén, including many historical details and beliefs that are not revealed in the novel.  I also welcome questions from all of you about any aspect of Eolyn's story, the world of Moisehén, or my life as a writer.

The tour schedule is listed below, with links to the blogs that are hosting me.  Thank you very much to Roxanne Rhoads at Bewitching Tours for coordinating this event.  I look forward to having all of you along!

October 22:  Why EolynLearn what inspired me to write the novel on Lisa's World of Books.

October 23:  Author Interview on Roxanne's Realm

October 24:  Dragon  Read about the extraordinary legends of this Messenger, the guardian of all Magas and Mages in Moisehén. This stop also includes a new review of Eolyn!  Queen of All She Reads.

October 25:  The Real South Woods  Eolyn's childhood home was inspired by the magical forests of the High Talamanca in Costa Rica.  Find out why at The Solitary Bookworm.

October 26:  I have two stops on October 26th.
Shape Shifting in EolynA special post for Fang-tastic Books that reveals, among other things, why Akmael and Eolyn like to shape shift into wolves.
High Magic.  Many magas and mages petition for a staff, but only a select few are granted one.  The wonderful Claire Ashgrove, also a Kansas City area author, will host me on her blog From the Muse

October 27:  Author Interview with The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

November 1:  Warrior Magic was first given to the mage Caedmon during the war against the Thunder People.  Read his story and more on For the Love of Film and Novels.

November 3:  Promotional Post for Eolyn on Wormyhole

November 4:  Author Interview with Laurie's Paranormal Thoughts & Reviews

November 5:  For my last stop, I will talk about the sequel to Eolyn, High Maga.  What challenges lay ahead for our favorite maga?  Who will be the new heroes and villains of her story?  Stop by and feel free to ask questions on Always a Booklover.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Curious Case of Rosy's Spectacles

Rosalind Franklin
In 1968 The Double Helix, James D. Watson's personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA, was published.  This memoir, intended to be chatty and informal, met with some controversy even before it went to press.  Harvard University Press dropped the project when Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins voiced their strong objections.  It was, nonetheless, picked up by Atheneum, and quickly became a bestseller in the U.S.

Watson's original manuscript was apparently littered with unpleasant caricatures of the people with whom he worked.  Much of this was edited out, as the people whom he included, such as Crick and Wilkins, were given the opportunity to review the manuscript and provide their (rather enraged) feedback before the book was released.  One person, however, was not granted the opportunity to voice her opinion.  This was the scientist Rosalind Franklin, who had died from cancer ten years before. 

As a result, Franklin never appears in The Double Helix.  What Watson invents to take her place is the fictitious character "Rosy". In the words of Anne Sayre, a colleague and friend of Rosalind Franklin, Rosy was "the perfect, unadulterated stereotype of the unattractive, dowdy, rigid, aggressive, overbearing, steely, 'unfeminine' bluestocking, the female grotesque we have all been taught either to fear or to despise."

Photo 51, produced by x-ray crystallography.
Based on the pattern in the photo, Franklin was
able to deduce the basic structure of DNA.  This
data was stolen by James D. Watson.
Anne Sayre, along with many others who knew Rosalind Franklin during her short yet productive life, realized at once that Watson's Rosy, while meant to represent Rosalind Franklin, really had nothing in common with her at all. 

The real Rosalind Franklin was a dedicated scientist who made lasting contributions to the field of molecular biology.  Her friends and colleagues remembered her as a well-kempt and attractive young woman.  And even if she weren't, does it really matter how any scientist -- man or woman -- dresses? After all, scientist have never been known for keeping themselves at the height of fashion. 

So why was Watson obsessed with the way "Rosy" dressed?  Why the constant attacks on her hairstyle, her lack of makeup, and the spectacles that hid her face?

When Anne Sayre first read The Double Helix, she was willing to consider the possibility that she and Watson simply had seen the same person from different perspectives. 

"That I disagreed with his opinions concerning Rosalind Franklin," she writes in her own book, Rosalind Franklin and DNA, "was proof of nothing except that Watson and I liked different people."

But what didn't sit right at all with Anne Sayre were Rosy's spectacles.

"Rosalind had the eyesight of an eagle," Sayre writes. She never used glasses.

Sayre points out that any departure from known fact in a witness' testimony breaks open for scrutiny all other facts to which that witness has testified.  So Sayre, troubled by this and other departures from fact in Watson's testimony, decided to scrutinize all the facts of his account. The result of her work -- and the work of others that have followed -- exposed a rather unpleasant side of science.

Why was Watson so aggressive in his attack on Rosalind Franklin? 

Well, one possibility is that this excuses him -- liberates his conscience from the fact that his greatest claim to fame, the "discovery" of the structure of DNA, was in fact not his discovery at all but hers. 

Rosalind Franklin had deduced the structure of DNA through her work at King's College with x-ray crystallography.  Without her knowledge -- data that was stolen from her lab -- Watson and Crick could not have completed the model for which they eventually won the Nobel Prize. 

Most biology textbooks now
acknowledge Franklin's contributions
to the discovery of DNA, but this
image is still referredto as
"the Watson and Crick Model"
Watson's personal attacks on "Rosy" may be annoying, but his attacks on her as a professional are downright laughable. "Rosy", in Watson's opinion, was not only ugly and unpleasant, she was far too fixated on the tedious task of collecting data.  Watson found her constant insistence that the structure of DNA had to be supported with hard facts -- facts that would come from her work in x-ray crystallography -- overbearing and pessimistic.

Watson seems to blissfully determined to forget that data is the foundation of science. If we throw out the facts, we have nothing left.

As we all know, in the end, Rosalind Franklin was right.  Even Watson needed data; he needed it so badly, he stole it from Franklin's lab.

Rosalind Franklin never knew it was her work that earned Watson, Crick, and Wilkins the Noble Prize. They did not publicly acknowledge they had access to her data until years after her death.

Franklin eventually moved on from King's College, continuing her work with molecular biology to illuminate the structure of the virus, which she considered her greatest contribution to science.  In 1958, her life -- which in so many ways had only just begun -- was taken by cancer at the age of 37. 

One of the great ironies of this whole story is that if it hadn't been for The Double Helix, Rosalind Franklin's name might well have faded from history.  By trying so hard to discredit this remarkable woman scientist, Watson set in motion a chain of events that would result in the recognition of just how important her work was in facilitating one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century. 

Not that this justifies in any way Watson's invention of Rosy and her spectacles.  Rosalind Franklin certainly deserved more respect than what she received from him -- and many others along the way.  But at least we now live in a world where we are able to look at cases like this and say, in the words of one of my students,  "That is just wrong." 

Rosalind Franklin died without knowing the full extent of her
contribution to one of the greatest discoveries of the 20th century.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Math and Martyrdom: Hypatia of Alexandria

During the first part of the semester, we give our Women and Science students a general overview of science through the lens of feminism.  We talk about how gender stereotypes influence the content and practice of science, and also identify how the structure of science has impeded participation by certain groups -- our focus, of course, being women. 

With that foundation laid, we spend most of the rest of the semester looking at specific case studies. 

Our first case study this semester is Hypatia of Alexandria; a very risky choice, because so little is known about the life and work of this fourth century mathematician.  A contemporary historian, Socrates Scholasticus, gives us this compelling description:

There was a woman at Alexandria named Hypatia, daughter of the philosopher Theon, who made such attainments in literature and science, as to far surpass all the philosophers of her own time. Having succeeded to the school of Plato and Plotinus, she explained the principles of philosophy to her auditors, many of whom came from a distance to receive her instructions. On account of the self-possession and ease of manner which she had acquired in consequence of the cultivation of her mind, she not infrequently appeared in public in the presence of the magistrates. Neither did she feel abashed in going to an assembly of men. For all men on account of her extraordinary dignity and virtue admired her the more.

Hypatia's accomplishments did little to save her from a violent death.  In AD 415, she was dragged from her chariot by a Christian mob, stripped, stoned, dismembered and burned.  Although Socrates names her as the greatest philosopher of her time, virtually nothing remains of the work in literature and science to which she dedicated her life. 

Hypatia's crime? 

Well for one, she was a close friend of the Prefect Orestes, who at the time, though Christian, was embroiled in a bitter power struggle with Cyril, the Bishop of Alexandria.  This was a period of violent and dramatic change.  Christianity, until recently an oppressed religion, was now the official faith of the Roman Empire, and as such was rising toward unprecedent power with zealous vigor. 

As tensions between Orestes and Cyril reached their breaking point, animosity was directed at Hypatia, from whom Orestes was known to seek counsel.  The Christians blamed Hypatia for Orestes' reluctance to make peace under Cyril's terms. 

Three centuries later, the historian John of Nikiu would also accuse Hypatia of devotion "to magic, astrolabes, and instruments of music", and of "beguiling many people through Satanic wiles". 

But Hypatia was not a witch by any definition.  She was a mathematician, and an extraordinarily well respected one at that.

Often when I think of Hypatia's story, I remember the 1991 Teen Talk Barbie declaring to the world that math is tough.  Mattel received a lot of well-deserved grief for putting those words in Barbie's mouth.  Yet Mattel did not invent this idea.  Math has been declared "tough" for girls for centuries now, capable of causing all sorts of irreversible damage, from hysteria to shriveled ovaries.  And of course, in Hypatia's time, too much knowledge of mathematics could get you dragged from your chariot, stripped, stoned, dismembered and burned. 

Now that is tough.

Is the cultural myth of the "toughness" of math somehow an echo of Hypatia's fate? 

Is it an admonishment to all those girls who might dare to disagree with Barbie and think math -- and in a larger sense, science -- is actually fun, even easy? 

Studies indicate that at the tender age of six, both boys and girls already believe boys are better at math.  And yet, comprehensive assessments of math abilities among boys and girls across many countries and cultures have demonstrated this is not so.  On average, girls do just as well as boys in math, though other socioeconomic factors can influence the performance of both. 

Still, we keep telling our girls that math is tough.  Mothers tend to understimate the math abilities of their daughters, and overestimate the math abilities of their sons.  Even at the university level, female professors are just as likely as their male colleagues to exhibit bias against women students of science.  And why wouldn't they be?  After all, look at Hypatia.  That's what happens when a woman cultivates her mind, becomes self-possessed, and is unabashed about walking into an assembly of men. 

Alejandro Amenabar's 2009 film Agora postulates, in a way viewed as clever by some and far-fetched by others, that Hypatia's study of geometry and the movement of heavenly bodies may have led her to conclude, 1200 years before Johannes Kepler was born, that the earth orbits the sun. 

In truth, we will never know how much knowledge was lost when Hypatia and her work was destroyed, but think about this:

If the death of one woman could set us back a thousand years, how many millennia do we sacrifice every time the barrier of prejudice excludes another girl from the path of knowledge and discovery?