"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

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Time to Rest and Recharge

I admit, I am somewhat relieved to see 2013 drawing to a close.  This has been a tough year in a lot of ways -- ways I'm not inclined to talk about in any detail on the internet.  But it has left me weary, and a little wary of what the new year will bring.  I've been reminded, in a rather grueling fashion, how difficult it is to let go, how quickly time slips through our fingers, and how some things will go wrong no matter how hard we try to make them right.

At the same time, 2013 has been a year of unexpected gifts and truly joyous moments. As I look forward to 2014, I see a mix of stormy seas and calm waters.  Intense challenges coupled with reasons for celebration; sadness and happiness all melded into one. 

If nothing else, 2014 will be an interesting year. 

Here are some of the good things we have to look forward to:

High Maga will be released on April 4th.  Words cannot capture how excited I am to at last be approaching the final stretch on bringing this novel to press.  When I come back in January, we will start the formal countdown with a cover reveal.  From there forward, every post leading up to April will be related to some aspect of the novel and its release. You'll see previews and excerpts, meet many of the most important characters, and learn about the world in which they live.  We'll have giveaways and other special events as well, so I hope you will be here to join the fun.

Heroines of Fantasy is expanding its activities to include new contributors as well as a book review section. Stop by the blog to check out our new look and participate in our weekly discussions and critiques.

Eolyn will be released in an audio edition.  Hadley Rille Books has now signed the contract with a wonderful reader, Darla Middlebrook. Exact date for the audio book release has not been set, but it's looking like late spring.  So, we'll be able to listen to Eolyn around the same time that we get to read the full adventure of High Maga.  Won't that be fun? 

The first week of the new year, I will be in Las Cruces Biological Station.  I've written extensively about this beautiful forest in the mountains of southern Costa Rica.  It's been a year and a half since I've returned, and I cannot imagine a better place to spend winter break and recharge for the new year.  If everything works out as planned, I will be doing field research there again during the months of June and July.  Another adventure to look forward to, and you can follow it here on my blog. 

Time to wrap up my last post for 2013.  I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas had a wonderful holiday with friends and family.  For everyone, I wish you the best in the New Year. 

Please check back in early January as we start our countdown to the release of High Maga. The adventure and the magic won't be complete without you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

On Characters Corrupted by Power

Isabella has secured her throne. Is it all downhill from here?
We are about half way through the second season of ISABEL, TVE's incomparable series based on the life of Isabella of Castille. 

I raved about this series in a previous post, and my admiration for the production has not faded in the least.  Season two, however, is a different ballgame from season one. 

In season one, we were allowed to support Isabella unconditionally in her thwarted efforts to achieve a peaceful co-existence with her half-brother, King Henry IV. We admired her without reservation as she defended her claim to the throne of Castile. The final episode, in which Isabella crowns herself without waiting for the presence of her husband or the support of the Cortes, is an unforgettable moment of triumph.  By then, we have come to care deeply about the fate of this remarkable and courageous woman, who along with Ferdinand of Aragon, promises to guide Spain into a new era of peace and prosperity.

Of course, any series based on history must be faithful to that history, and TVE makes no attempt to gloss over the horrors committed under Isabella and Ferdinand's reign. In season two, Isabella and Ferdinand become ever more entrenched in the self-made myth of monarchs appointed by a rigidly Catholic God.  They initiate the Spanish Inquisition against so-called Jewish heretics, and launch a brutal war to oust the Moors from southern Spain. 

It's not easy to like Isabella as she begins the marginalization and expulsion of a people whose only "crime" is the profession of a different faith. It's not easy to like Isabella as she allows her own lady-in-waiting, an innocent converso of 15 years, to be arrested and tortured under false charges. It's not easy to like Isabella as she, in defense of her crown, commits the same wrongs against her subordinates as were committed against her.

The series has given me much food for thought as I continue crafting Daughter of Aithne.  Eolyn and other characters who have suffered oppression in the past reach the pinnacle of their power in this third and final book of the saga.  How will the mantel of political power change my characters?  How will they respond in situations where the stakes are higher than ever, yet the future remains just as uncertain?  Will they be benevolent leaders, or will the game change make them just as pragmatic, paranoid, and brutal as their predecessors? 

All of these questions are running through my mind as I approach the 70K word mark in the novel.  70K is an important check point for me.  This is where I take a break from drafting new chapters and go back to re-read everything that has come to pass so far.  I will be filling in holes, making sure certain events are properly set up, and all and all getting a feel for whether I'm on the right track toward an appropriate denouement.

As I start that process, I have a couple questions for you:

Does it make you uncomfortable, as a reader, when a character with a demonstrated history of integrity begins making decisions you don't like, especially decisions that cause the suffering of others?

What stories have you read, where a character is transformed in negative ways under the influence of their own power?  Did it turn you off to the character, or did it make the character more intriguing for you?

Your answers may or may not have an effect on the particular story I'm telling; after all, the power is in my hands! But I look forward to hearing your thoughts, nonetheless.

This past weekend, ISABEL celebrated 40,000 followers on Facebook. 
And yes, I'm one of the 40,000!

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Making of a Cover

On the philosophy that I'll try most anything once, I've put EOLYN up against 16 other titles in the December COVER WARS, hosted by the Masquerade Crew.  Visit the site, peruse all the great covers, and VOTE for your favorite every day.  Most importantly, participate in the scavenger hunt so you can enter the giveaway for a $25 gift certificate from Amazon.

Submitting Eolyn for Cover Wars has made me a little nostalgic; I've been thinking a lot about the excitement that went into putting together this cover for my first novel. I still remember when my editor, Eric T. Reynolds, suggested we ask Jess to do the cover.  I loved the work Jesse did for the cover of Finder by Terri-Lynne DeFino, and I had been secretly hoping Eric would give him Eolyn as well. 

I don't think I quite realized at that time just how important the cover of a book was from a marketing stand point.  We always say, "Don't judge a book by its cover," but the truth is, most of us do.

If I had thought about the cover as a publicist, I might have taken a different approach than I did.  But I wasn't a publicist yet, I was still 110% an author.  More than a cover that would catch people's attention, I was thinking in terms of a cover that embodied essential elements of the novel.  I wanted the beauty of Eolyn's childhood home in the South Woods; and of course, I wanted Eolyn.  In addition to the haven of the forest, I wanted a glimpse of the larger world to which Eolyn returns; of a moment where she looks upon her destiny. 

Of course, it was a long road from the seed idea to the final product.  After our first conversations, Jesse sketched several preliminary versions. Here are a few:

In the end, we combined elements of all these sketches.  I wanted Eolyn standing, as sitting seemed too passive; and I wanted as much foliage on the trees as possible, to communicate the wildness and impenetrability of the South Woods.

Early in the process, we had considered doing a wrap-around cover that would include a scene of the South Woods on back. This is still one of my favorites of all the sketches Jesse sent. It depicts the river where Eolyn and Akmael first meet, and way in the background, you can just make out Ghemena's cottage.

For the sake of time constraints, we had to let this idea go, and instead focus on the front cover.  As Jesse filled in details and color, each sketch generated lengthy conversations about further edits and possibilities.  Here are some of the early versions of the full-color front cover:

I fussed over everything from the shape of the tree to the color of Eolyn's dress to the length of her hair.  Jesse was very patient with all of my feedback.  It wasn't until the very end that, at my behest, he included Eolyn's staff.  Now I can't imagine the image being complete without it. Eolyn's staff defines who she is, a High Maga whose power transcends the simplicity of her aspect and origin. 
From the last image in the above sequence, it was of course just a short hop to the cover art we've come to know and love.  Interestingly enough, the scene that Jesse and I created for the cover never actually occurs in the novel.  But again, my goal was to capture an idea or feeling, as opposed to a moment in the story.
As happy as I am with the final product, it would be dishonest for me to claim we accomplished everything I would have liked to with this cover. 
One thing I didn't realize until we were nearly done is that we hadn't really captured the deep conflicts that run through the novel. Akmael and the war brought on by his shared history with Eolyn are nowhere to be seen. 
And while I love the lush landscape painted by Jesse, the overall brightness probably gives the impression of Eolyn as a much lighter story than it truly is. Everyone seems to like the cover of Eolyn, but once in a while people look at the book and ask if the novel is YA or (what really makes me cringe) written for children. 
The answer to both questions is no. Eolyn, in terms of the level and complexity of its conflicts, is an adult epic fantasy.  Because the violence and the sex are not explicit, it is appropriate for younger readers; many YA readers have picked it up and greatly enjoyed it.  The companion novel High Maga, however, will not be as accessible for a young market. The events of High Maga are decidedly darker, the world brutally and passionately adult. Using what I learned from putting together the cover for my first novel, I've been working with artist Thomas Vandenberg to make sure this is communicated on the cover for High Maga.
But that is a story for another day. . .
Please stop by the Masquerade Crew's COVER WARS and vote for Eolyn. You can vote every day. Best of all, participating in the scavenger hunt (also posted below) will earn you entries in the giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift certificate. 
Thanks so much for your support, and good luck with the drawing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Reflections

We're on holiday this week, so I won't be putting up a regular post.  But I did want to stop in and point you a few directions, in case you're looking for fun things to do on line.

On Heroines of Fantasy, Kim Vandervort has written a wonderful post about the many things writers have to be thankful for.  Her post really struck a chord with me - and also, reminded me that I need to write the acknowledgements section for High Maga!

Hadley Rille Books in the middle of its annual birthday sale.  ALL its ebook titles in science fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction are priced at just $0.99 through December 2.  That's 10 books in your ebasket for less than ten dollars!  Browse their fantastic collection of titles and stock up on your winter reading today.

High Maga is off for editorial review.  We've sent it to two magazines in the last week; and will forward the galleys to two more before mid-December.  After that, all we can do is wait and hope they pick it up for review.  Editorial reviews are generally published about a month in advance of the release date, so if there is news to be had, I'll be posting it toward the end of February or early March.  Wish me - and Eolyn - luck!

That's all for the moment.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and we will see you again next week!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rachel Carson: Past, Present, and Future

One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself:
What if I had never seen this before?
What if I knew I would never see it again?
~Rachel Carson

This week I finished reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, the book that launched the modern environmental movement.

This classic has been on my TBR shelf forever and a day.  I don't know what it is about the classics; sometimes it's hard to sit down and get started on them when there is such a bottomless well of modern works to read.

What motivated me to at last read Silent Spring was the desire to explore Carson's life and work with an eye toward incorporating her as one of the case studies for our Avila University course Women and Science.  I won't be teaching Women and Science for at least another year and a half, but between the semesters in which we run the course, I am always looking for new material and new stories to add.

My own background in ecology has long made Rachel Carson an attractive option for this course.  Now I wish I had read her work sooner. 

I was prepared for Silent Spring to be an engaging account of the dangers of using pesticides with reckless abandon.  What I did not anticipate was the sheer volume of data Carson amassed. I had heard she was accused by the chemical companies of not backing up her arguments with data.  I mean, really.  Did they even bother to read the book?

Nor did I know just how gifted a writer Carson was; a master, really, of making complex scientific information readily accessible to the reader. Her prose is very reminiscent of E.O. Wilson; though perhaps it would be better to say that E.O. Wilson's prose is very reminiscent of hers.

Most of all, I expected Silent Spring to be a classic in the classic sense of the word: Outdated, for the most part, in the context of its field, a relic interesting for its historical significance but of little relevance for the modern world.  I couldn't have been more wrong on this account, and I found that realization rather depressing. 

Carson's landmark book led to the banning of DDT, dieldrin, and other problematic pesticides; as well as to a more balanced approach to how, when, and under what circumstances pesticides should be applied. 

Contrary to popular belief, Carson did not advocate abandoning pesticides altogether.  What her book urged us to do, and still urges us to do, is to tread lightly when introducing novel chemicals to the environment.  Chemical compounds new to nature should be used wisely, in targeted situations, and with a full understanding of their potential impacts. 

Rachel Carson passed away in 1964, but
her legacy and her message live on.
It seems a reasonable thing to ask, really, and yet still we struggle to rein in the profit-motivated agricultural and chemical industries. 

We may not spray indiscriminately anymore (though in some places we do), but now we have new inventions like genetically engineered plants that produce systemic pesticides, the full consequences of which are largely unknown.  We have extraction systems like fracking that inject a host of unrevealed chemicals deep into the earth, again with no attention to a full assessment of the impacts.  We have banana and pineapple plantations that jealously guard their pesticide recipes as "trade secrets", leaving laborers and consumers alike in the dark as to what degree of chemical exposure we are all dealing with.  

The list goes on and on, but I'm not really interested in recreating Carson's eloquent argument in a single blog post.  My reflection today centers on this compelling thought:

Some fifty years after her death, Rachel Carson has made it clear to me that the struggle to achieve a healthier planet is far from over. More importantly, she assures me it is a battle still worth fighting, because although sometimes it seems we are losing, it is also true that we have made many gains, precisely because people like Rachel Carson had the courage and tenacity to speak up. 

Such is the timeless power of the written word, the words of a woman and a scientist, the enduring words of Rachel Carson.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

It all depends on your point of view

This week I hit another milestone for Daughter of Aithne, topping 65K in the word count. My goal is 120,000 words, so this means I'm just over half way through the novel.

Writing is always slow going once the semester is in session. This fall, I've been able to set aside just two hours a week for writing, so I've had to be modest about my expectations, and happy with any progress I've made. As a general rule, if I can add on 20,000 words to a novel during a semester, I'm satisfied. Right now, my fall semester word count is at 15,000, which puts me a little behind schedule, but still hopeful that I'll make that goal. 

The chapter I finished up this week deals with a reunion between Eolyn and one of her students, Mariel, after a harrowing set of events has kept them separated for some time. The reunion is one of mixed emotions, because what has come to pass has left lasting scars, and what is yet to come will not be any easier.  I struggled with this one chapter for nearly a month; in part because I only have two hours a week to write, but also because it wasn't until this past Wednesday that I finally realized I needed to write the scene not from Eolyn's point of view, but from Mariel's.

NASA shows how the solar sytem looks from Saturn's perspective;
another example of how switching point of view can transform
the same scene into something entirely different.
This is one of the moments I love most in writing: When I switch the point of view, and everything just falls into place.

Every author has a somewhat different approach to point of view.  I like to write my novels with 4-6 character viewpoints, two of which generally carry the story.  For any scene written with the protagonist, the default option is always to write that scene from her point of view.  Of course, the default option is not always the best option, and for this particular chapter, Eolyn's voice was not the one that needed to be heard.

It's not always easy to determine which point of view should be used in a particular scene.  "Rules of thumb" for making this decision abound, but all of them have exceptions. 

For example, I once heard that the point of view for a scene should be given to the character who has the most to lose.  I followed this rule rather faithfully until I hit a chapter in High Maga that involves a brutal interrogation of one of Eolyn's followers.  I tried to write that scene from the point of view of the victim of the interrogation, and it just wasn't working.  When at last I decided to try writing the scene from the point of view of the interrogator, everything fell into place.

Beginning writers often have wobbly points of view in their stories; I know I did when I wrote the first draft of Eolyn.  We are anxious to communicate what all the characters -- or at least two of the characters -- in a given scene are thinking, and so we jump from one head into another without reason or warning. 

One of the best pieces of advice I received in my early days of writing was to clean up my approach to point of view; to pick one point of view and stick to it for any given scene.  Again, not every writer has to do this, and not every story is meant to be told this way.  But I think sticking to one point of view is a phenomenal tool for learning and refining the craft.  Not only does it maximize investment in a single character, but it also forces the writer to pay attention to all the subtle ways in which characters can communicate their thoughts without speaking, much less letting us into their heads. 

Gestures, facial expressions, and especially actions all communicate a wealth of information, and often in more engaging ways than knowing that character's thoughts. Also, there is an interesting interplay between what is said and what is left unsaid; one tends to wrap around the other, so that what is said defines the nature of what is not.  This, too, adds dimension, mystery, and tension to any scene. 

A great exercise, and one I inadvertently did with this last chapter, is to write the same scene from two points of view.  If you have it clear in your head what the non-point-of-view character is thinking, you will discover many opportunities in which those unspoken thoughts come across loud and clear.

I'm now proofing the galleys for High Maga, which will
go out for editorial review next week!
Over on Heroines of Fantasy this week, Terri-Lynne DeFino has started a fun discussion about holidays in fantasy.  Please stop by to read her post and participate, and help yourself to the virtual brownies at the back of the room.
Speaking of HoF, we are in the midst of planning a major expansion of activities on our group blog dedicated to the discussion of fantasy, and especially women in fantasy.  I won't reveal much about this yet, because the details are under discussion,  but stay tuned because it is going to be very, very exciting.
And I know I've been promising a cover reveal for High Maga for a while now; we are getting very close.  Thomas Vandenberg and I have been settling on the details of the Naether Demon featured on the cover.  He's also given Eolyn a mild makeover, and now we're just trying to decide what font we like best for the title and author.  As soon as these details are settled and approved by my editors, we'll be good to go. 
Release date for High Maga is still on course for 04-04-2014.  Watch for giveaways and other events leading up to the big day!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Changing Face of Eolyn

As part of DelSheree Gladden's Meet the Character Blog Fest last month, I wrote a brief post about how the art work depicting Eolyn has evolved with her character.  I'm reposting that essay here today, for those of you who may have missed it on the blog fest. The post includes another sneak preview -- the best yet -- of cover art for my new novel High Maga.

If you've already read this post, then I invite you to stop by Heroines of Fantasy this week, where we are having a lively discussion about whether an author's personal beliefs should influence our decision to buy his or her work. 

And, saving the best for last, please visit Hadley Rille Books new web site, which went live just last weekend.  If you're an author, make sure to check out HRB's call for submissions for its new Ruins anthology while you're browsing the site.

Enough news; here's my post.  Enjoy!

Images of Eolyn

The novels Eolyn, High Maga, and Daughter of Aithne tell the story of a woman struggling to define her own path in a world largely ruled by men. 

Cover art for EOLYN by Jesse Smolover
In the first novel, we meet Eolyn as a girl with a remarkable but forbidden gift.  Fleeing the soldiers of the Mage King, young Eolyn takes refuge deep in the South Woods.  When she meets the mysterious Akmael, destined to assume the throne of this violent kingdom, she embarks on a path of adventure, love, betrayal, and war.  Bound by magic, driven apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King confront each other in an epic struggle that will determine the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

High Maga is a companion novel that begins about four years after Eolyn ends.  Early in the story, Eolyn’s fledgling coven is destroyed and the kingdom invaded by an army that commands a terrible and malevolent magic.  Eolyn discovers a weapon that could unravel their power, and must find a way to deliver this weapon to her king. This is a darker novel than the first, deeply entrenched in the brutal realities of war.  And Eolyn is older, more mature and capable of taking on greater and ever more complex challenges.

The artwork for Eolyn and High Maga illustrates very nicely the evolution of Eolyn’s story and character between these two novels.  I’ve had the privilege of working with wonderful artists in both cases: Jesse Smolover, who did the cover art for Eolyn, and Thomas Vandenberg, who is putting the final touches on the cover art for High Maga. 

Detail from the cover art for HIGH MAGA
by Thomas Vandenberg
Jesse’s image of Eolyn captures her innocence and nascent power as she steps out of a sheltered life in the South Woods with the hope of restoring women’s magic to the life and culture of her people.

Thomas’ illustration for High Maga shows us Eolyn in battle, a vivid image of a determined woman who has already suffered loss and sacrifice, yet who refuses to surrender in the face of danger. 

I have loved Eolyn in all her stages of development.  It’s such a privilege to work with a complex character for whom every new experience becomes an opportunity for growth and change, and it’s really delightful to see these changes reflected in the artwork for my novels.

My third novel, Daughter of Aithne, is in the works so I can’t talk a whole lot about it, but I know that when we see the face of Eolyn for this final book in the series, it will be reimagined once more to reflect the added years of her experience and the changing context of her world. 

This post was originally published on October 22, 2013, on the blog for author DelSheree Gladden.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

The Gaelic festival of Samhain was the inspiration for Samhaen in Eolyn's world. 

Though Samhaen is somewhat different in the details from the corresponding holiday in the real world, the basic idea remains constant.  As a girl, Eolyn celebrated Samhaen with singular devotion, as it was one of the few nights of the year when her dead family could reach across the void to visit her. She never failed to leave out food for them, including her brother's favorite snack, honey-sweetened bread.

Halloween snuck up on me this year.  I haven't done that much at all in terms of decorating, but I have the candy ready and am looking forward to seeing all the neighborhood kids in costume tonight.  I'm also very happy for the children in Kansas City that the big rain storm forecast for this week happened yesterday, instead of today.

I've been invited to participate in an exciting project with DGS Games.  They are sponsoring an anthology based on the richly imagined world of Faelon.  The project is being undertaken in coordination with the Dead Horse Society, the speculative fiction writers group where I got my start as an author.  They are an amazingly talented group of writers, and this is going to be a great anthology.

As honored as I was by the invitation, I was a little hesitant to accept.  I've been keeping a good pace on Daughter of Aithne, and I'm reluctant to pick up obligations that will cut into writing time meant for finishing the novel. More importantly, short stories are not my gift.  I have two stories out there that I am very proud of ('Turning Point' and 'Creatures of Light'), the hard-won products of countless failed attempts at writing a story inside of 5,000 words.  But practice makes perfect, and in the end I decided I'll never get good at writing short stories if I keep shying away from doing them.  Also, the opportunity to work with such a fine group of writers was really too much to resist. 

After mulling over different ideas for about a month, this week I started on writing my story for the anthology. The short will be set in the Kaliphate of Koronna, a prosperous region of cosmopolitan cities, with a rich culture that is more-or-less balanced in terms of gender relations.  The protagonist of the story is an elderly woman, known only as 'Nana'.  This is a first for me, to have a protagonist well into her later years, and it makes for some very exciting possibilities.  Nana is a refugee, having fled to Koronna at a very young age for reasons she has never shared with her family, though they will be gradually revealed as the story progresses.  We will also meet Nana's intriguing grand daughter, Mirella, and learn about her mysterious heritage and unique destiny. 

It's all in the very early stages now, but if things pan out as I hope they will, this is going to be an awesome story. DGS' Faelon anthology is scheduled to be released in the latter half of 2014. 

In other news, we are just days away from launching the new web site for Hadley Rille Books. And, sometime in the month of November I will, at last, do a full cover reveal for High Maga.  The release date is closer than it seems; even though we will not see the book in print until April 4, 2014, the e-galleys are well underway and must be sent out for editorial review in the coming days. 

Editorial reviews -- aaagh!  The very thought stresses me out.  Please wish me luck, keep a candle lit, say a few prayers or cast a few positive spells, whatever it is you do to send positive energy, now is the time to do it, so that High Maga will be well-received by the critics who will soon find her on their desk.

That's all I have for this week.  Happy Halloween, and enjoy the weekend to come!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Fall Festivities

I spent a wonderful three days with my husband on the Katy Trail near Hermann, MO. The autumn weather was perfect for long bicycle rides.  We passed through golden fields and painted forests, and enjoyed spectacular views of the sparkling Missouri River.  In the evenings, we slipped into Hermann to sample the local Tin Mill brews.  Wildlife was not super-abundant, but we did see some cool animals like turkeys and a coyote.  I wish we could have stayed longer, but classes resumed at Avila today.  It will probably be spring before I can indulge in the luxury of a multi-day bicycle adventure again.

There are so many exciting things afoot right now, I don't know where to begin. 

Tomorrow, October 22, as part of DelSheree Gladden's month-long Meet the Character Blog Fest, you will get to see the most detailed preview yet of the cover for High Maga.  I have a post that compares images of Eolyn, past and present, and I talk about how the cover art for my novels reflects Eolyn's development as a character. 

I also invite you to visit last week's Meet the Character post on Adiana of Selkynsen, a musician and close friend of Eolyn's.  Adiana is a minor character in both Eolyn and High Maga. While she does not command magic like Eolyn, her music confers a special power of its own.  Adiana has been one of my favorite characters since she appeared in my first novel, and I look forward to sharing more of her story in the second one.

If you visit DelSheree's blog, don't forget to register to win the grand prize of over forty free books.  There are lots of opportunities to enter, including free entry for fans of Eolyn on Facebook and followers of Eolyn on Twitter.

We are working hard on a new web site for Hadley Rille Books.  I love the new format; it gives a much better idea of the dynamic strength of this small but very busy press.  It's also designed to make it easier for visitors to browse HRB titles and meet HRB authors.  The new site may be up as early as next week, but (hopefully) no later than the first week of November.

I'll close with another vagancia.  For some reason, lately I've taken to making videos about my courses at Avila.  I shared the first video, about Ecology through the Writers Lens, a couple weeks back.  Now here's a video about my introductory course on Environmental Science.  Enjoy, and stay tuned because there is much more news to come. . .

Friday, October 11, 2013

La Reina Católica

My new favorite novel.
I recently finished C.W. Gortner's wonderful historical fiction novel, The Queen's Vow, based on the life of Isabella of Spain.  After I posted my review on Goodreads, a friend informed me that the Spanish television channel RTVE is currently broadcasting an award-winning series that covers the same period, entitled Isabel.

This couldn't have been more perfect timing.  With all the emotion and drama of the novel still fresh in my mind, I was so ready to see it in action on screen. My husband and I watched the first two episodes of season one last night, and I couldn't be more pleased.  The acting is superb, as is the recreation of the brutal, passionate, and complex culture of 15th century Spain.

The STARZ original series The White Queen comes off as insipid by comparison (despite the fact that I've enjoyed the series, and look forward to watching the final episode this weekend).  As for HBO's rendition of Game of Thrones. . .I'm sorry.  Even with its intrigues and dragons and zombie-beings from the frozen north, Westeros doesn't hold a candle to the real world of 15th century Spain. 

Major players in the RTVE series Isabel.
Why am I so taken by Isabel?

Well, for one I'm a sucker for historical fiction of any sort. Even poorly done historical fiction keeps me happy; well-done historical fiction makes me ecstatic.

Then, there is the extraordinary character of Isabella, as portrayed in both the novel and the series.  After nine episodes of watching Elizabeth Woodville wring her hands and cast spells to ensure her fortune in The White Queen, it is wonderfully refreshing to have the Princess of Asturias take on the dangers of the Spanish court with intelligence, wisdom, and most especially action. 

Must we believe Elizabeth Woodville's success was
only a matter of beauty, love, and a touch of magic?
Gortner's rendition of Isabella's life appeals for all the same reasons.  In his novel, he gives us a queen whose world does not revolve around the love of her king (though by most accounts, Isabella did love her Ferdinand); a woman whose powers extend far beyond looking longingly out the window as her husband goes to war. 

Isabella does not sit by idly while others defend her will and prepare to fight her battles. She is the key player in forging the alliances and securing the conditions that made possible the victorious campaign to unify Spain. 

Not that Isabella's record is spotless.  There is the small matter of the Spanish Inquisition, and the continuing controversy as to whether her sponsorship of Columbus' quest was, in the end, a good thing or a bad. 

But whether or not you admire all the faces of Isabella, to see her portrayed as a real woman -- forthright, determined, taking command of her own fate despite the odds -- feels like a unique and special event.

Why is it so difficult for us to bring the remarkable women of history to life on screen? 

Young and capable, Isabella of Castile understands
what it will take to secure her throne.
I suspect Elizabeth Woodville had her own cunning, as well as a real capacity to contribute to the security of her husband's reign, in ways The White Queen refuses to acknowledge. Instead, the series chooses to focus on her great beauty as the reason for her rise to power, and resorts to magic as an explanation for her ability to remain on the throne.

Isabella of Castile was beautiful, too. And while she did not practice magic, she had absolute confidence in the power of her prayers and her faith.

Yet beauty and prayers were not what won Isabella the throne; nor did she ever seek to rely solely on these gifts. What secured the crown of Castile was young Isabella's ingenuity and her capacity to take action in key moments that transformed her people's history.

Isabella is not the only woman in history to claim such gifts. There have been extraordinary women like her throughout the centuries.

Maybe some day having their stories rendered in novels and on TV in the way that Gortner and RTVE reconstructed the life of Isabella will, while never ceasing to be delightful, at least feel somewhat less unique.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Meet the Characters Blog Fest

Welcome to the Meet the Characters Blogfest!

Readers, get ready for a whole month of some of the most interesting, hottest, attention grabbing characters in today's YA, NA, Romance, Horror, and Paranormal fiction! 

Meet the Characters will be hosted at author DelSheree Gladden's blog. All month long we'll be introducing readers to amazing characters through character bios, artwork, interviews, and contests. Check out the schedule below from what you'll find each day this month. 

That's Not All...

We'll be having some fabulous contests, each of which has it's own giveaway. Readers will get to vote on the characters, and one lucky voter in each contest will win a copy of the book the Winning Character comes from. The character giveaways will include: 

Hottest Guy Contest (10/4)
Feistiest Girl Contest (10/11)
Cutest Couple Contest (10/18)
Steamiest Couple Contest (10/25)

There will also be one MAIN GIVEAWAY starting today where 1 LUCKY WINNER will win a prize pack of 40 books from some of today's hottest new authors. Additional winners will be chosen to receive runner-up prize packs as well. Scroll down and enter below! 


10/2 -- Character interviews with Zadie Stonebrook (My Sister's Reaper - Dorothy Dreyer),            Tizzy Donovan (Laid out and Candle Lit - Ann Everett), Kristi Becker (A Plain                  Wish - Cyndi Lord), Zander Roth (Wicked Hunger - DelSheree Gladden)
10/3 -- Character Bios from Kristi Becker (A Plain Wish - Cyndi Lord), Bryan Sullivan                    (Arcadia's Gift - Jesi Lea Ryan), Brandon James (Love and Other Games - Aria                  Kane
10/4 -- Hottest Guy Contest (Stop by and vote for your favorite!)

10/7 -- Character Surprise Posts from authors RH Ramsey and DelSheree Gladden
10/8 -- Character Artwork from The Other F Word (Susan Stec) and Wicked Hunger                    (DelSheree Gladden) 
10/9 -- Character interviews with Kate Everett (A Slight Change of Plan - Dee Ernst),                  Jean (In Polester Pajamas - Catherine Dougherty), Ben (Twenty-Five - Rachel                    Hamm), Vanessa Roth (Wicked Hunger - DelSheree Gladden)
10/10 -- Character Bios from Kassia (Ice Magic), Maze (The Ballerina and the Fighter -                    Ursula Sinclair), Lucien (Smoke, Wings, and Stone - Marijon Bradley)
10/11 -- Feistiest Girl Contest (Stop by and vote for your favorite!)

10/14 -- Character Surprise Posts from authors Kara Leigh Miller, Sharon Kleve, Linda                  Budzinski 
10/15 -- Character Artwork from On a Wing and a Dare (Linda Ulleseit), Invisible                            (DelSheree Gladden)
10/16 -- Character interviews with David Corbin and Jon Reyes (Sign of the Throne -                    Melissa Eskue Ousley), Rosie (In Polyester Pajamas - Catherine Dougherty),                        Ketchup (Wicked Hunger - DelSheree Gladden)
10/17 -- Character Bios from Nadia (love and Other Games - Melinda Dozier), Karin Rita
             Gastreich (Adiana of Selkynsen, from Eolyn and High Maga), (HL Carpenter)
10/18 -- Cutest Couple Contest (Stop by and vote for your favorite!)

10/21 -- Character Surprise Posts from authors Stephanie Wardrop, Lucy Crowe, Ana                    Blaze
10/22 -- Character Artwork from Haunting Joy (Lena Goldfinch), The Destroyer                        Trilogy (DelSheree Gladden), Eolyn and High Maga (Karin Rita Gastreich)
10/23 -- Character interviews with Rachel Blackstone (The Relcutant Medium - GG                        Collins), Nell (The King Series - Tawdra Kandle), Arcadia ( Arcadia's Gift - Jesi                  Lea Ryan), Olivia & Mason (Invisible - DelSheree Gladden)
10/24 -- Character Bios from Karin Rita Gastreich (Mage Corey from Eolyn and High
             Maga), Sam and Cole (Fate War: Alliance - EM Havens)
10/25 -- Steamiest Couple Contest (Stop by and vote for your favorite!)

10/28 -- Character Surprise Posts from authors Susan Stec, Shauna Roberts, Lisa                          Cresswell
10/29 -- Character Artwork from My Sister's Reaper (Dorothy Dreyer), Twin Souls                            (DelSheree Gladden)
10/30 -- Character interviews with Nathan Shaw (Reflection - Kim Cresswell), Nia (In the              Winds of Danger - Linda Ulleseit), Jayden or Merch (dark Night of the Soul - EM                Havens)
10/31 -- Winner's Announcements!!!

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Friday, September 20, 2013

Eolyn's Fall Equinox Sale

The Kindle and Nook editions of Eolyn will be on sale for $0.99 this weekend only.  If you don't have your copy yet, now is your chance.  If you have your copy, please spread the word, so your friends can enjoy the magic, too! 

Speaking of Kindle, the Kindle Book Review recently posted a very nice review of Eolyn, describing the novel as "masterfully written".  You can read the full review here.

I have a new author interview up on the Reading Cat this week.  Find out how I started writing, what my favorite food is, and what I really think about love.  My Orangeberry Book Tour continues Monday, September 23, with a guest post at Just My Opinion.

If I haven't given you enough virtual places to visit yet, don't forget Heroines of FantasyMark Nelson is back with us for the autumn season with a fun post on how to define productivity.  On Monday, guest author Louise Turner will join us.  Louise is just a week away from launching her debut historical fiction novel set in 15th century Scotland, entitled Fire and Sword. I cannot wait to read it!

And if you want a real place to visit, come join us in Blue Springs Missouri this Saturday for the Wordstock Poetry and Book Festival.  Organized and sponsored by Prospero's Parkside Books.

Enjoy the harvest moon this weekend, and whatever you do, celebrate fall equinox in style.  I'll be back with more news and updates next week.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


"Vagancias" is the word in Costa Rican Spanish for the little things we do out of sheer self-indulgence.

You know you enjoy your job when the best parts of your work feel like vagancias. Here are two vagancias I indulged in this week:

Cover Design for HIGH MAGA

For me, the biggest act of self-indulgence on the way to publication is cover design. 

Friends and followers of Eolyn, we are sooooo very close to having the cover art finished!  I wish I could share with you every delightful piece that Thomas Vandenberg has sent my way over the past several days, but we're just going to have to wait a little longer. Because no matter how fantastic the images so far, Tom still wants to do more.

On Heroines of Fantasy this week, Terri-Lynne DeFino posted a wonderful reflection about the face of women in fantasy.  Quite coincidentally, just before this post went live, Tom sent me his rendition of Eolyn.  The cover for High Maga will allow us to see her face, and folks she is beautiful. Fierce. Strong. Determined. Most of all, real. Everything you want in a heroine and a maga. (And with no need for any bikini armor.)

I'd love to show you a cover preview with Eolyn's face, but my mother always told me to leave the dessert for last.  So here's another appetizer:

In case you're wondering, that's the clawed forelimb of a Naether Demon, creatures summoned from the Underworld to assist the Syrnte army in their invasion of Moisehén.

I confess, all my attempts at secrecy may soon come to naught, as High Maga might get some special and unanticipated exposure in the coming weeks.  If that happens, you'll be sure to hear about it.  If not, stay tuned for more previews, and several weeks down the road, a full and proper cover reveal. 

Promo Video for Ecology Through the Writer's Lens

My second vagancia was for my day job at Avila University.  As some of you may remember, we are planning a travel course next spring that will integrate literary and scientific modes of understanding the forest.  We have everything set to go; now we just need the students.  Yesterday, I sat down with Windows Movie Maker and put together this simple video as a way of spreading the word about the course.  It gets me excited about going back to Costa Rica; I hope it gets my students excited, too!

Those were my vagancias this week.  What were yours? 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

An author interview, marketing sanity, and Eolyn's best colors


I've been very busy this week finishing up the application for my sabbatical, among other things, so instead of writing a full post, I'm going to direct you elsewhere for your reading pleasure.

I have a new author interview up on Top Shelf Books.  This is one of my favorite interviews ever.  It ties together thoughts on all three of the companion novels in the Eolyn series, and gives you an idea of what to expect from HIGH MAGA next spring and DAUGHTER OF AITHNE in 2015.

Also, on Heroines of Fantasy this week, I have a post on how to keep sane while marketing your novel.  It was fun to write; I hope it's helpful to read.

Thomas Vandenberg is working on Eolyn's wardrobe for the cover of HIGH MAGA.  If you have a color preference for her dress, now is the time to let us know. 

I'll be back with a full post next week.  In the meantime, enjoy the magic!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

On Serendipity and the Dance

Flamenco dancer Manuela Carrasco.
The single most important skill of the
craft is attitude.
Dance has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.  I started my classical training at the age of eight.  Like many little girls, I dreamed of being a ballerina, though I never quite had the body for it.  The decision to set dance aside as a career option and pursue a more academic line of work happened early in high school.  Even though I did not go on to be a professional, I have never stopped dancing, or stopped studying dance.

In a way, not pursuing a professional career in dance set me free.  From that moment on, the pressure to reach a competitive level of excellence was off, and I could just dance for fun. When I went to college, I joined the dance theater at my university, where I was introduced to modern dance. For the next twenty years, modern dance would be my favorite art form. I studied it with various instructors in Houston, Austin, and most recently in San Jose, Costa Rica.

It wasn't until I moved back to Kansas City, ironically enough, that I plunged into flamenco.  At the time, I was most interested in continuing to study modern, but my sister, a long-time member of the Kansas City dance community, recommended that I check out flamenco classes with Tamara Carson of OLE Dance and Music of Spain.

This was not the first time I'd encountered flamenco.  I had a brief introduction to it in high school, and took a few classes again as a grad student at the University of Texas in Austin.  Though flamenco had long fascinated me, I don't think I was quite ready for it until I stepped into Tamara's class and hit the dance floor with my first golpe.  After that, I was hooked forever.

Why flamenco? 

Well, first and foremost, flamenco is attitude. This was probably the number one reason why I decided it was time to learn it. The steps, the rhythms, the postures and facial expressions all communicate the same fundamental message:  Don't mess with me.  At the time I started taking flamenco, I felt the need to internalize a little more of that kind of grit.

Flamenco is also passion and sensuality. Passion in every sense of the word:  anger, desire, love, loss.  Whatever the emotion of the moment may be, flamenco challenges us to live it to the fullest. 

Me and some of my KC flamenco buddies.  Guitarrist Jarrod
Stephenson on the left; Tamara Carson third from the left.

Most of all, flamenco is support.  I've rarely encountered such a community-oriented, supportive form of dance.  This is an art form that a person can do whether they are eight years old or eighty.  No matter what your age or skill level, your compañeros, both dancers and musicians, unite to support you, to ignite the fire inside and help you show attitude, passion, and sensuality without holding back.

Long before I started flamenco classes, I had decided to incorporate dance as a form of Primitive Magic in Eolyn's world.  Still, flamenco gave me a new window on how that magic might manifest itself.  The dance shared by Corey and Eolyn on Midwinter's Eve, for example, has always had a flamenco style in my imagination.  Not with any taconea (footwork), but with the very elegant movement of the arms, the intensity of the focus, and the studied steps that dominate slower moments in the music.

One curious aspect of my journey with flamenco (and yes, I'm finally getting to the serendipity part) is that it has closely paralleled my journey as a writer, as well as Eolyn's journey as a character. 

When I first started classes with Tamara, I was finishing up the final draft of Eolyn.  So incorporating that flamenco attitude was also about building confidence in myself as a writer and artist as I contemplated sharing Eolyn with the larger world.

One of dances I learned during this period was Sevillanas. A classic introduction to flamenco, this dance is not simple, but the footwork is relatively straightforward, so you can really focus on finding and expressing your own personality as a flamenco dancer as you learn the steps.  It is also a dance performed with a partner, so you are never alone.  Partners cue off each other in the same supportive and playful fashion that makes all of flamenco so wonderful. 

Here's an example of Sevillanas  (and no, it is NOT being danced by me; the artists are Fanny Ara, Marina Elana Scannell, Jason Macguire, and Felix de Lola):

Of course, I found my partners in publishing during this same period, at Hadley Rille Books.  And we've been dancing ever since!

When I started working on my second novel, High Maga, Tamara began teaching us Tangos de Malaga.  This is a very difficult dance that I still struggle with.  It is serious in tone and aspect, and the lyrics are focused on themes of death, poverty and overall misery. The dance fit almost too well with the war-time context of my second novel, and I found I was able to capture the essence of more than one of my characters through learning it. 

Here is Tangos de Malaga; this video features Kansas City's very own Alma Flamenca, with Jarrod Stephenson on the guitar and Margaret Gordon dancing:

After Tangos de Malaga, Tamara gave us a short break with Alegrias, an all around happier dance that lets you smile once in a while. At the same time, I gave myself a short break from the darker side of Eolyn's world.  When I returned to writing to start Daughter of Aithne, Tamara began introducing her flamenco class to Tientos.

According to the story I heard, Tientos was originally crafted to be danced by men. So it has a very masculine feel about it, and often women who perform it will wear slacks and vests.  Tamara couldn't have picked a better dance to get me in the mood for Daughter of Aithne, because in Eolyn's third and final book, it will be the women who, in many cases, must wear the pants.  Figuratively speaking, of course. 

Here's a sample of Tientos, featuring Marina Elana Scannell once again:

Needless to say, I'm, uhm, still working on that footwork. . . 

That's today's post.  I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the dance and music of Spain, and especially my musings on how one creative art can feed into another.

As a finale, I offer this brief medley of OLE's wonderful repertoire. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Exciting News and Fun Interviews

Great news!  I met with my editor Eric T. Reynolds last week, and the release date for High Maga is now official.  Officially official.  I mean, it can't get any more official than this!

First we said Spring of 2014.

Then we narrowed it down to April.

For the last several weeks, I've had my countdown timer set to April 26, just to play it safe.

And now (drumroll) here is the date as confirmed by the chief editor of Hadley Rille Books himself

April 4, 2014.

That's right: 

Easy to remember, but mark your calendars anyway. 

For those of you who have been watching the clock, I'm sure you're happy to realize your wait has been shortened by a full 22 days! As soon as the ARCs are ready, I'll be hosting some pre-release events and giveaways.  I cannot wait to share this story with you!  But, unfortunately, I have to wait, just a little while longer.

In the meantime, check out the sneak preview of the amazing cover art below!

Speaking of exciting events, author Deb Sturgess hosted me on her blog recently with an audio interview for her series, Embrace Magic, a weekly conversation about fantasy and romance.  We had a great chat about what inspired Eolyn, the importance of flawed characters, challenges of publishing, and keeping everything in balance in the life of a writer.  Please stop by Deb's blog to listen to the interview, and to share your comments and questions. 

Tonight I'll be heading over to Prospero's Uptown Books for open mic readings.  The topic?  Animals!  I've got a lot of material I could offer, but for the moment I've narrowed it down to either the wolf fight between Akmael and Eolyn, or Selenia and the Mulian Dragon from 'Creatures of Light'. (Suggestions and preferences would be much appreciated!) I'm also very much looking forward to hearing stories from other KC area authors.  It should be a great time, and I hope you'll stop by if you're in the neighborhood. 

SNEAK PREVIEW:  Here's a small piece of the cover art for
High Maga, currently in progress by Thomas Vanderberg

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A time to live, a time to die

The Death of Arthur, by John Mulcaster Carrick 1862
"I may not be able to save her, but I can bear witness to her fate as a friend, and I can stand nearby when she meets her darkest hour."
~Mage Corey, from High Maga

A couple years back I had a very interesting experience while doing a beta read for my good friend and fellow author Terri-Lynne DeFino. 

In the original version of the manuscript she sent me, one of the major characters faded into the background during the last third of the book. This situation didn't sit right with me. 

On the one hand, the story was very well constructed up to the last page; lots of tension, uncertainty, and conflict all around. Terri had tight character arcs for everyone -- except this particular individual. He had played a crucial role in the first part of the book, but by the end it was like reading about a ghost, a person unseen and without any power over the events at hand.

Then it hit me:  I felt like I was reading about a ghost because this character was a ghost. Terri had passed through a crucial moment in the story when he should have died, but did not. 

When I brought this to Terri's attention, she knew immediately that I was right. In fact, she confessed that for several reasons she had conscientiously resisted the instinct to 'kill' him in precisely the same place that I identified as his moment to die. 

Terri went on to 'fix' this part of the manuscript before the book went to press, making the character's story much more fulfilling, moving, and heroic.  More worthy of the extraordinary person he is. (In case you're curious, her wonderful novel is now available as A Time Never Lived, another great title from Hadley Rille Books.)

When Terri and I first had this discussion, I was not new to killing characters.  I had sent a fair share to their deaths in Eolyn. As for High Maga, it is a veritable blood bath by comparison to my first novel, as many of you will soon find out.

Letting my characters die time and again hasn't been easy for me, but I've done it, for the most part because I've recognized how important those deaths are for plot, tension, and story building.

Sure, we all wish Romeo and Juliet had lived, but would their
story be nearly as compelling if it were written any other way?
But in reading Terri's manuscript, I gained a new perspective on this age old aspect of the craft. I learned that in order to truly respect a character, we must allow him or her to meet their destiny, especially when that destiny is death. 

If we force a character to live past their moment, we condemn them to being a ghost in our fictitious worlds, to becoming personalities without form or reason; the types of characters our readers tend to get annoyed by and may even come to hate.

If we allow them to die in their moment, we give greater meaning to their life.  Everything they desired, fought for, did or failed to do stands out in sharp relief against the impact of their absence.  The reader comes to appreciate the character more, to remember them better, and to say long after they finish reading the book, "If only he  (or she) hadn't died. . ."

All of this has come back to me in recent days, because in the writing of Daughter of Aithne, I've had to let another character die. Who, how, or why  is irrelevant at the moment (after all, this particular death may be edited out again by the time the novel hits press).  What matters is the impulse it gave me to share these thoughts with you.

Like Mage Corey in the war-torn world of High Maga, we as authors cannot always save our characters.  But that's okay, because sometimes what's more important is to bear witness to their fates; to stand close by when they meet their darkest hour.

I have a fun post up this week on Heroines of Fantasy about The White Queen, and how the incomparable Philippa Gregory has inspired me as an author.  Stop by to read and share your thoughts when you have a chance.
Also, my Orangeberry Book Tour will continue next week on August 19th with a guest post on the Quality Reads UK Book Club.  Please stop by to say hi, and by all means, share the link with your friends!

I hope you are in for a great weekend.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Interview with author Mark Nelson

It's my pleasure to welcome author Mark Nelson as a guest today. 

I met Mark through Hadley Rille Books.  Mark is a career educator and for the last twenty-two years has been teaching composition and literature at a small high school located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains in eastern Washington State.  He is happily married to his best friend and fellow educator, and together they have raised three beautiful daughters and one semi-retired cat.  Words, music, food and parenting permeate his life and serve as a constant source for inspiration, challenge and reward.  To temper such unremitting joy, Mark plays golf: an addition that provides a healthy dose of humility.  You can visit Mark at the Heroines of Fantasy.

I have read Mark's novels Poets of Pevana and King's Gambitboth set in the vibrant fantasy world of Pevana.  Mark is a great new voice in fantasy, and I recommend his work to anyone who enjoys stories with a heavy dose of danger, intrigue, adventure, and romance. 

Now, without further ado, here is our interview with Mark:

Q: Tell us a little bit about your novels Poets of Pevana and King’s Gambit.
The Poets of Pevana and King's Gambit are my first two novels published by Hadley Rille Books. They are set in a mock historical, pre-industrial, medieval region called the Peninsula, which comprises the realm of Perspa and a handful in independent city states. The region is beset by religious and political machination. Some folks care. Some don't. The ones that do struggle to find a voice to protest. Poetry, plans and passion all play a role in the events that unfold.

Q: The world of Pevana is wonderfully complex and very original in the context of fantasy, especially with its emphasis on a culture of poetry.  What inspired the characters and world of Pevana?
The Poets of Pevana started as a result of my online interaction with fans of the rock band Styx on a message board dedicated to discussing the band and music in general. The community quickly morphed into something that went well beyond rock and roll and related topics. I met several fellow poets on the site and one in particular, Joey Barat, aka Devyn Ambrose, became an online friend. We started having these poetry duels on the site where we had to make something out of unrelated terms posted by the other. We posted our results on the website message board and the other community members loved it. We kept it up for months and the seeds for what became the core of Poets were sewn.

I figured out early on that there was a story here. I kept seeing pie-slices of experience all intersecting at certain points--in this case a rowdy festival in a mock medieval city.
King's Gambit got started soon after I finished the first draft of Poets, but I stalled out after a few chapters. I realized the story would be more convoluted, more political, and I was not sure I had the time or skills to pull it off. King's Gambit's plot never changed much from those early whiteboard notes. The people we see in the tale were all laid out in notes jotted down over an extended period of time. What surprised me about King's Gambit is the extent to which the characters took over the story from me. The first draft was heavily dependent on the male points of view. And yet I found myself liking Eleni's character the most after finishing Poets. When my editor TeriLynne DeFino suggested King's Gambit was more of a woman's book, I took a while but then warmed up to the irony of it: a war story dominated by the sensibilities of some cool ladies.

Both novels include my verse. That was always my intention: to find a way to incorporate that part of my expression in a story format. I do not think that has been done seamlessly before--at least not in my reading experience. For me, bard stories all tended to be sword and sorcery tales with only a thin veneer of the poetic sensibility in them. I had a feeling my format would be a little different from the ordinary. So far, I think I have stayed true to my original intent and design. What I find interesting is how people have responded to the various verses that show up. I am told they actually 'sound' like they come from the characters, and I think that is an enormous compliment--and in some ways a happy accident. I'm not sure how much control I exerted there, but eventually, even I 'heard' the characters voices in the words EVEN THOUGH SOME OF THE POEMS IN THE STORY ARE QUITE OLD! Yes, a few pieces actually predate the drafting phase of Poets. Eleni's poem 'Dust' is one of them. Somehow it fit, and as the story grew, Eleni's verse started taking on terse, linear qualities based on rhythm rather than modulated, horizontal cadences based on end rhyme. A few of the bits in Talyior and Devyn's duel, some of the earliest bits of the draft, actually, came from my duels with the real Devyn online, edited for continuity in the story. I didn't go into this thinking to write in multiple voices, creating this buffet-line of poetic line, but in the end the synergy between sensibility and story happened. I rather like the effect.

In the end I wanted to tell a story about how politics can suborn faith and twist it into a false expression. I wanted to write a story about small lives that intersect with great ones and great events. I wanted to write a story that paid homage to the power of words and the need to comment on life. I wanted to write a story relating how the choices we make ultimately shape our character.

Q: Do you have a favorite character (or characters)?
I love all my characters, even the detestable Byrnard Casan and the corpulent Sevire Anargi. Early on, obviously, Devyn and Talyior claimed my attention, but as I mentioned above, Eleni Caralon grew on me, as did Prince Donari. Hence their intensified roles in King's Gambit.  I loved developing the notes for Sylvanus Tamorgen, the Tyrant who wanted to be a grandfather. But the two who I really took a liking to over the course of King's Gambit were Lyvia, Sylvanus's daughter and Demona Anargi, Sevire's estranged wife. Both gals more than hold their own in King's Gambit. Kembril Edri still haunts my sleep. I hated what happened to him, but Devyn's character is an outgrowth of Kembril's persona. Eventually, I'd like to codify the folk tales of the region, as told by Kembril as he sat there beneath his oak tree in the holy dust of the Maze.

Q: What was the most challenging aspect of writing Poets of Pevana? King’s Gambit?
The most challenging aspect of writing both novels has been getting stuff past my editor! Terri-Lynne DeFino took a chance on Poets, but since then we have become adept at working with each other. I have a number of bad habits, and she consistently points them out to me when I write them. I have learned how I compose from going through the editing/publishing process. These have been hard but great lessons. I've taken them back into the classroom with me to good effect. I thoroughly enjoy writing. One of the reasons I started Poets was to see if I could gain the discipline needed to see a story through from beginning to end. I love keeping track of my word count, pushing myself to keep aware of my flaws, to keep track of cliche and repeated language. Writing makes me a sharper thinker. I love the medium as a mode of expression.

King's Gambit is a much larger story. It also ended up being a bit longer than Poets. But the ideas were big, the risks greater both for me and the characters. I had to juggle points of view in Gambit, had to concern myself with pace and event more precisely. I had to let some characters tell the story and let go of the narrative control--with happy results, I think. I had to gain and lose some people. I'm no GRRM: that stuff still hurts.

Q: Do you have any new projects underway?  What can we expect for the future?
I am currently editing/revising book three in the cycle, tentatively titled Path of the Poet-King. It relates the events that happen just after the close of King's Gambit. I am slowing down a little in an effort to smooth out rough spots and make adjustments to the plot necessitated by things that happen in King's Gambit.  Demona's character is much more fully realized now, and that has forced me to re-do chunks of the new book for continuity. It helps that I am working from an already completed draft. Book four is yet to be written. In fact, I was settling down to begin book four two years ago when I looked at the pile of story I had on my lap and decided to try and shop the first book. I felt I owed it to myself to at least try. DeFino liked Poets,and the rest is now my future: writing.  Book Four, King's Peace, is heavily noted, plotted for the most part and might conclude the story arc with my Pevanese characters. And yet even as I type this, I am not so sure. I keep seeing a line at the end of this as yet unwritten book: "Come, let's go find that shade of green..."  So, you never know. THAT is another reason why I love writing: there are surprises behind every verb, metaphor, and sound.  If my work ever receives a box set treatment, I would like to call it Pevanese Mosaic. Just saying...

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
My advice to aspiring writers is to stop posing as what they think is a writer and actually write. Finish something. Tell the truth--even if it’s a made-up truth. Search out and accept constructive criticism. Feedback is vital even it if rips apart your illusions. You write better when you understand the depth of the contract between writer and reader. And I think it is ok to write for pleasure alone or for close friends and family. An audience, no matter how small, is a cool thing. In the end what we produce adds to the collective experience.

The publishing adventure has changed my life and how I see the rest of it passing. Words are now more important to me than ever, and I can't wait to see what happens next. I feel lucky to be part of the HRB family. Good friends, great writers, awesome people. I am glad to be a small part of it.