"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, February 25, 2013

Eolyn's Play List (Part II)

We've just been through the blizzard of the century in Kansas City, and another storm is descending on us tonight. 

Last Thursday, about a foot of snow was dumped on us in the space of 4 hours.  There was even lightening and thunder!  I've never witnessed a thunder snow. It was pretty awesome.

I must admit, I was grateful that Mother Nature decided to storm through the neighborhood and give us all a break from routine.  Until, of course, I had to shovel off the driveway.  And if the storm tonight is as bad as they say it will be, I will be shoveling snow again tomorrow.

I have gotten a lot of writing done, being trapped in the house and all.  I'm up to almost 10,000 words on the third companion novel to the Eolyn series.  The working title of this third manuscript is Daughter of Aithne, but that may yet change, so don't get too attached to it just yet.

High Maga, the sequel to Eolyn, will be out in just over a year -- April of 2014, to be exact.  The manuscript is ready, and has been for a while, but due to constraints with Hadley Rille's publishing calendar, we have to wait just a little while longer to see High Maga in print. 

Another way of saying the same thing:  Hadley Rille Books has a lot of awesome novels coming out between now and the release of High Maga!  Three of those novels are by Heroines of Fantasy authors, so be sure to check out my other blog for regular updates on those releases.

Last week, I posted the first half of Eolyn's play list; this week I'm continuing my tour of the songs that inspired scenes from the novel. If you, like me, are snow-bound, what better way to pass the time than listening to some music?

Eolyn's Playlist, Part II (Songs 7-12)

7. Lacrymosa, by Evanescence

A haunting interpretation of Mozart's Lacrimosa, this song inspired a climactic moment in the novel, when Eolyn is apprehended for witchcraft, a crime that means certain death under the laws of Moisehén.

8. Presagio, by Malpais

This  song is one of my all-time favorites.  Malpais is a Costa Rican group, and Presagio, captures the spirit of momentous change.  Revolutionary change.  The kind of change that everyone hoped to achieve when they united behind Eolyn in her struggle against the Mage King.

I also really like the images in this video; obviously geared to inspire another kind of momentous change, one that is perhaps more relevant to our contemporary world.

9.  Si Tu No Vuelves, Miguel Bosé

This guy, Miguel Bosé, has the sexiest voice in all of singingdom.  If you haven't heard him yet, you must listen to him now.  And be prepared to fall in love -- after all, sometimes all it takes is a good voice.  The song, Si Tu No Vuelves, is another love theme for Eolyn and Akmael. 

10. Angel, Massive Attack

Here's a high-tension song if there ever was one.  I would often listen to Angel while I was trying to envision the details of the final confrontation between Eolyn and her arch-nemesis.  Who is her arch-nemesis?  Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out!

11. Bring Me to Life, Evanescence

Evanescence makes yet another appearance on the playlist with this song, especially suited for portions of the battle sequence. 

12. Tear Drop, Massive Attack

Time for a little background-on-Eolyn trivia. 

Tear Drop is on this list for a couple reasons. 

First, in the year I started writing this novel, I began studying modern dance with Jorge Corrales at the Taller Nacional de Danza in Costa Rica.  Jorge choreographed a dance to this song, which we performed as part of TNC's annual presentation at the Teatro Melico Salazar.  This was an important time for me; I had been looking for a 'home' in dance for some time in my adopted country, and I had finally found it in this class, and in this studio.  The magic of dance was returned to my life. This is part of the reason why Corey's Circle made it into the novel -- and why dance became an important part of Corey's Circle. 

Tear Drop is also, interestingly enough, associated with the end of the novel as I had originally envisioned it -- which is quite different, by the way, from how the end was actually written.  So I guess we could call this song, "Theme for the Lost Ending of Eolyn".  Though I think some of the spirit of that original vision was preserved in the denoument of the final manuscript. 

That completes Eolyn's play list, parts one and two!  I hope you've enjoyed it, and I'd love to hear if there are other songs that remind you of the novel. 

Later on down the line, I'll be back with a brand new set of artists on the play list for High Maga. . .

Friday, February 22, 2013

Guest Author: Elizabeth Baxter

I am happy to welcome Elizabeth Baxter, author of two fantasy series, The Last Priestess and The Wrath of the Northmen.

Elizabeth was born and raised in England. In her spare time she enjoys reading, hiking, traveling the world and watching England play cricket. She’s been writing since she was six years old and plans to continue for as long as she’s able to hold a pen (or a keyboard).

Today we are celebrating the release of The Last Priestess. Like most of the author's books, this features a strong female character. So, to whet your appetite, Elizabeth has provided us with an interview with one of the ladies from The Wrath of the Northmen.

Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth, and her character Falen!

Interview with Falen from Summer Storm

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Falen and I live in Variss, a city right in the north of Thanderley. You should see it - the most beautiful place in the world. It's ringed by the Sisters who have snow on their peaks all year round and lakes so clear you can see right to the bottom.

Sounds like a nice place to live. You must enjoy living there.

I didn't say that. Variss might be beautiful but it's also insular. It's a place too concerned with its history and traditions, if you ask me. Nobody ever questions how things are done. Change comes slowly. It's become a city full of stuffy old men full of stuffy old ideas.

You sound as if you talk from experience?

Unfortunately, yes. In Variss women should be seen and not heard. We should be interested in our husbands and our children. Or if you're really lucky you might be allowed to become an artist or a weaver. But I'm not like that. I'm a scientist. For me, there's nothing more exhilarating than discovering the answer to some scientific riddle or inventing something that will improve people's lives. But do I get any recognition? Of course not! People just think I'm odd and that I ought to be married off so I can't cause any more trouble!

What kinds of experiments have you conducted?

At the moment I'm working on some weather stuff. I'm trying to test hypotheses about air pressure and if it's linked to weather patterns. I've designed a piece of equipment which I reckon might be able to predict storms. Can you imagine how helpful that could be for a mountain city? No more travelers and shepherds lost on the mountain! I call my idea a stormglass. It looks a bit like a glass teapot. I fill it with water and measure how the water level in the spout rises and falls in relation to the water level in the body. I've got a theory that the rising and falling is linked to fluctuations in air pressure and this in turn is linked to different weather. If I can prove that, people will have to take me seriously! No more sniggering behind my back!

What are your plans for the future?

If I tell you do you promise to keep it to yourself? I've applied for the Ral Toran Engineering Academy. Ral Tora is a city down south. My father would go apoplectic if he found out. But I'm hoping when my stormglass is finished and it earns me a place at the academy, he'll be too proud
to be angry. Wish me luck!
Falen is from Summer Storm, an epic fantasy novella and the first book in The Wrath of the Northmen epic fantasy series. Summer Storm is available FREE at Amazon:
For more information about the author and forthcoming books, visit Elizabeth Baxter at:
Website/blog: http://elizabethbaxter.blogspot.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/smallblondhippy

Monday, February 18, 2013

Eolyn's Playlist (Part I)

In the Midwest, the American robin is one
of the first signs of spring. 
A couple days back, an American robin showed up on my front lawn as I pulled the car out of the driveway. This morning, an entire flock of these melodious creatures greeted me outside O'Reilly Hall when I arrived on campus.  There can be no doubt: spring is coming.

The annual reappearance of the robin has always had special significance for me.  There is a brightness about this migratory thrush that bids me to set aside my dark moods, to shed the sadder side of winter.  Spring has arrived!  And with it green fields and blooming flowers, the dawn chorus and the evening crickets.  Bicycling on breezy days.  Wandering through budding forests.  Flying kites over open fields. Breathing in the fresh spring air. 

Spring is also Eolyn's season.  She was born during the months when winter is transformed into summer; her name is, in part, derived from the spring festival of Eostar. 

By way of celebration, I've decided to put a little music into my blog.  I'm going to share with you the playlist for Eolyn, something I've often thought about doing but never gotten around to. 

These are some of the songs that inspired me while I was writing the first novel, from 2006 to 2010.  I've picked twelve in all -- appropriate, since 12 is a sacred number in the tradition of Moisehén. Today I will embed six, with the other half dozen coming a post or two down the line.  (Yes, I do have a play list for High Maga as well, but Eolyn has been waiting her turn for a while, so let's attend to her first...)

I'd very much like to know if any of these songs resonate with you.  I'm also very curious -- for those of you who have read Eolyn -- whether there are other songs out there that have reminded you of the novel.


Playlist for Eolyn: the First Six Songs

1. Evanescence: Sweet Sacrifice

I actually discovered The Open Door just a couple months after starting the novel, and the music from this charismatic group accompanied me through many scenes.  Sweet Sacrifice is a song I associate with the first chapter of Eolyn.

2. Vangelis: The Conquest of Paradise

I love the majesty of this song, and I especially love the fact that the video features scenes from the beaches of my adopted country, Costa Rica!  I'd tell you which scene is connected to this song, but that would be kind of a spoiler. 

3. Evanescence: My Immortal

Yes, Evanescence.  Again.  I always thought this an appropriate love theme for Eolyn and Akmael.

4. Evanescence, Snow White Queen

This song brings to mind the Mountain Warrior Khelia, an enigmatic and magical woman who can not only fight -- and shape shift while she's fighting -- but has a powerful and enchanting voice. 

5. Cirque du Soleil, Alegria

Cirque du Soleil did not actually inspire Corey's Circle -- like Evanescence, I came across it after I had started writing the novel.  But wow! This spectacle of art and acrobatics fits perfectly with the magical mood that I associate with Mage Corey's traveling show. 

In terms of characters, I always imagined Adiana, Eolyn's friend and a musician from Selkynsen, singing songs like Alegria.

6. Sting, Desert Rose

Here we are at number six already, and who better to close out today's show than Mage Corey himself?  Yes, this is Corey's song.  The passion.  The power.  The image of eternal fire.  Though Corey doesn't look all that much like Sting.  Or does he?   You tell me. . .  (And while you're at it, let me know if you, like me, suspect that might be Rishona playing the violin in the background.)

That concludes today's musical tour! I'll be back soon to post more songs from the playlist for Eolyn.  Until then, may your spring transition be filled with magic, music, and dance!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Guest Author: Christopher Kellen

It is my pleasure today to welcome author Christopher Kellen, whom I met through the Magic Appreciation Tour. 

Christopher Kellen began his career as an independent author with the publication of ELEGY: Book One of the Arbiter Codex in July of 2011, which was shortly followed by the releases of the free short stories Dutiful Daughter and The Corpse King. In late 2011, the release of Sorcerer’s Code marked his first book that would go on to become an Amazon.com best-seller, and he has been writing furiously ever since.

2012 saw the releases of two new novels and a novelette, following up on the series that began in 2011. In December 2012, he began a new military science-fiction/space opera series with SINS OF THE FATHER. A proud member of the Genre Underground, his heroes of literature are those who are fearless in telling stories that truly mean something to their readers. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife and monstrous black dog.

Today, Christopher tells us about building the world of Eisengoth for his ELEMENTS OF SORCERY series.  At the end of the post, check out the Rafflecopter giveaway and enter to win a FREE copy of the ELEMENTS OF SORCERY series!

Eisengoth: Building a World

THE ELEMENTS OF SORCERY focuses on the tale of how Edar Moncrief, a maker of love potions and wart remover (and competent sorcerer in his own right) gets tangled up with an Arbiter, and how his life gets irrevocably screwed up from that point forward. It's swords-and-sorcery written with an urban fantasy sensibility—like if Jim Butcher (author of The Dresden Files) wrote stories based on Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane. There will be five installments when it's finished; each is novelette to novella-length, ranging between 14,000 and 19,000 words so far, and they've been getting steadily longer.

About four and a half years ago now (give or take), I embarked on my 2008 NaNo project. I'd been reading Robert E. Howard (the author of Conan) and a few of his contemporaries and successors, and I really wanted to write something in the swords and sorcery vein. At the end of November, 2008, I had a 50,000 word manuscript entitled ELEGY.

It was originally intended to be a stand-alone.

Fast forward a couple of years to 2010. ELEGY was very nearly published in an e-zine as a serial piece, but unfortunately the e-zine went under even before it launched. I did a lot of revision to prepare for that publication, but after the organization behind it crumbled, ELEGY went back to sitting on my hard drive.

So, when I came around to 2011 and was struck by the idea to go indie with my work, ELEGY was the first thing that came to mind. It was polished (or so I thought at the time) and ready to go. However, as I mentioned, it was originally supposed to be a one-shot. I hadn't even really begun to develop the world around it, which is odd for me, because I'm always world-building (even in my sleep, I think). All I knew about it was contained within those 50,000 words, but I knew that it could be something more.

From the moment I decided to publish ELEGY, I began building the world of Eisengoth around the city of Calessa, the primary setting of that first book. It didn't take me long to put in the first few details; a free league of cities, far removed from the older parts of civilization. The Free Cities was the first thing I really nailed down, and after that the next block came in easily: why were the Free Cities free? Well, because they'd broken away from the tyrannical authority of the Old Kingdoms.

I really wanted a sort of decaying, decadent feeling in this world. It's not a very nice place, honestly. Something really bad happened about five thousand years in its past, and ever since then it's been kind of a wreck. The world itself tries to kill the people who live there, and the monsters aren't much help either. The Free Cities, I decided, were a sort of frontier land, whereas the Old Kingdoms had existed for centuries, or even millennia. Within the text of ELEGY I had mentioned a city called Aldur, north of Calessa, so that was easy.

The next major part of the worldbuilding really came in when I made my first attempt at writing a sequel to ELEGY. (It didn't go well.) I laid down some landmarks as I began to write a travel story (I'm no good at writing travel stories, so I don't know why I thought that was a good idea) and set up the outlying areas.

When the draft failed, a lot of the details got scrubbed, but the core remained. That was what allowed me to build the tiny border kingdom that D'Arden visits in THE CORPSE KING, and what eventually led me to exploring the Old Kingdoms when I wrote SORCERER'S CODE, the first entry in The Elements of Sorcery.

As I wrote SORCERER'S CODE, pieces of the world kept falling together. This was my first attempt at getting across that sort of desperate, decaying feeling that infuses works like Jack Vance's Dying Earth, and the city of Elenia was the perfect place to do it: a city where the monarch changes every few months, and every time it does, the whole place gets incredibly drunk and attempts to kill each other in merriment.

Like I said, it's not a very nice place.

With each installment of The Elements of Sorcery, I've tried to explore different and contrasting locations while driving the story forward with my snarky and clever protagonist, Edar Moncrief. So far he's visited three separate locations, each stranger than the last, and there's two more installments to come! Seeing the dangerous and unpleasant world of the Old Kingdoms through Moncrief's eyes lets me paint a picture of a terrible place that a reader actually wants to continue reading, because his voice draws the reader in and shows them the world from the perspective of someone like them: a guy who's just trying to get along without getting killed, or skinned alive, or worse.

For all the places I've explored in Eisengoth, there are many more which have names and general concepts, but have not yet been detailed, and others which exist but only in sketchy visions inside my own head. One of the things that I love to do is to find places and learn about them within this world as I write along. If I already knew every detail about the world before I set to writing the next installment, there wouldn't be anything left to discover!

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Love and the Human Spirit

The season of love is upon us again!  Happy Valentine's Day.  I hope you are in for a week full of love and friendship, and most of all, lots of chocolate. 

I have some fun news to share.  Rumor has it Hadley Rille Books will be offering a special Valentine's Day Promotion starting on Wednesday.  I'll be sure to announce things on the right hand bar of this website as the sale becomes official.  You can also visit Eolyn on Facebook for the most up-to-date information. 

Over on Heroines of Fantasy, Mark Nelson has written a wonderful post about love in fantasy.  I don't agree with everything he has to say, but as usual, he got me thinking.  Mark is looking for fantasy fiction that celebrates long-term stable love.  If you know of a title or movie that will satisfy his craving, stop by Heroines of Fantasy and tell us about it.

I spend so much time reflecting on -- and writing about -- love, that I don't have anything new of my own to scribble on my blog this week.  But I did come across something very special that I can share:  Helen Fisher's Why We Love, Why We Cheat. 

Helen Fisher is an anthropologist, author, and (as you will see) a gifted speaker.  This brief presentation takes us on the incredible journey of human love, from the depths of prehistory to the present day, and beyond.

Fisher talks about how the brains of men and women differ, and she reveals the distinction between lust, romantic love, and attachment from neurophysiological and evolutionary standpoint.  Although her focus is the science of love, she never once abandons its poetry. 

This video has been around for a while, but I only came across it today -- right in time for the Week of Luv -- thanks to a recommendation from my good friend Suzanne Hunt.  Please watch and enjoy as Fisher paints a broad and beautiful canvass of love and the human spirit. 

For more videos of Helen Fisher and related topics, visit TED.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Taking Time

photo by Anais Nin, from Women Hold Up Half the Sky

Hay más tiempo que vida.
--Spanish proverb

It has begun.  The third novel, that is.  I'm about 3500 words in, just beginning chapter 2. 

It's been many months since I've written new material for a new project.  The next-to-final draft for High Maga was finished last summer, and I spent the fall refining that manuscript and getting it ready for my editors.  In November, High Maga went out to beta readers, and most of them returned their comments to me by mid-December.  Sometime during the holidays, I sat down to incorporate their edits and shave another 3000 words off the manuscript. 

Now High Maga is done, sitting on editor Eric T. Reynolds virtual desk, waiting for his verdict. (It's already been through one editor at Hadley Rille Books; Eric will be the second.  I have no doubt he will like what he reads, but will he have more edits?  Only time will tell.) 

We've tentatively identified a cover artist, though I'll wait until that's reconfirmed before making any announcements. I expect the cover art to be finished sometime over the summer. Then of course, there will be copy editing and countless other nitpicky tasks (like sending the ARCs out for reviews) that stand between us and the official release date in April 2014. 

And there will be a lot a lot a lot of marketing activity, including several giveaways that we will set up in various venues during the months leading up to the launch. 

I have had so many questions about the release of this second novel, and every time someone asks me "Are you done?  When can I get my copy?" it fills my heart with joy. I am so excited that you are so excited! 

Of course, there's inevitable disappointment every time I say it will be another year before High Maga is released.  It seems such a long time to wait in a world where we've become accustomed to life moving very quickly.  It seems such a long time to wait when every moment of every day, dozens of books are being published that are not High Maga. 

But if you understand something of the traditional publishing route, which is the one I've chosen with the wonderful small press Hadley Rille Books, a year is actually not that long.  And having been through a faster track with Eolyn, where we had about six months between when the manuscript was finalized and when it went to press, I would much rather have a full year to put everything in place and enjoy a successful launch. 

I'm probably a little old fashioned this way, in my attachment to avoiding the frenzied rush whenever it is in my power to do so.  But as I learned during my years in Costa Rica, hay más tiempo que vida.  This is a really tough saying to translate; in English, it makes little sense.  Partly because of the words, but also because our culture is not as adept at decoupling "life" from "time".  Essentially the idea is that time can be 'wasted' because there's an infinite supply of it in the universe.  Life cannot.  So often, enjoying life involves letting go of time.

It's the journey that matters, not the destination is a saying in English that more or less captures the same idea.  I have to remind myself of this often, as a person and a writer.

The journey of publishing a book involves so much more than the release date; it also includes everything leading up to that moment, and everything that comes after it.  Even though Eolyn was released in 2011, the journey of publishing her is far from over.  And now her sister High Maga is about to embark on that same adventure. 

While High Maga prepares her ship to sail, little sister number three is on the way.  I have a feeling she's going to be a spritely companion to her two older siblings.  After giving myself a nice long break from writing, these first couple of chapters are coming with unusual ease.  That's not to say they're perfect -- never perfect in the first draft!  But the words and ideas flow with a sense of security that I don't remember feeling when I first started Eolyn and High Maga. 

I think this is, in part, because I've allowed myself time. Time to do other things, time to mull over ideas, time to enjoy aspects of my life that are not necessarily related to writing. 

Most of all, time to savor the journey.