"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

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mage Corey's Surprise

Those of you who aren't too thrilled by my hardcore marketing side will be pleased to know that March Madness -- and all the promotions that came with it -- has now ended. 

I want to extend a very special thanks to the folks at The Magic Appreciation Tour and the Genre Underground, especially Daniel Marvello and Christopher Kellen, for organizing these events.  I also want to thank all of you who participated in the giveaways and/or purchased a copy of Eolyn. Welcome to the magic of Moisehén!  You are in for a wonderful reading adventure. 

In other exciting news, it is now possible to follow Eolyn on Twitter.  Be the first to receive important for updates on giveaways and promotions as we start the countdown to the release of High Maga. If you don't have a Twitter account, maybe now is a good time to check it out.  It's easy to sign up, and free.

I am so thrilled with the opening chapters of my latest project, Daughter of Aithne.  Last week, I devoted my sacred Thursday afternoon writing time to a wonderful scene with Mage Corey. 

There's something about Corey -- no matter how well I've come to know him, he still manages to surprise me.

This scene was no exception.  It was a meeting of the Council of King Akmael, as told from Corey's point of view.  Fans of Eolyn, on the day they read this, will recognize certain parallels between this chapter and another in book one, in which the wizard Tzeremond relates a meeting of the Council of Akmael's father, Kedehen. 

And so the sons take the place of their fathers -- figuratively speaking, of course, as Corey is not Tzeremond's son in the biological sense, though one could call him Tzeremond's son in magic. And he is now the most powerful wizard of Moisehén, clearly making him Tzeremond's heir. (Something Tzeremond would probably not be too happy about.)

Of course, the resemblance ends there.  Corey and Akmael have different temperaments and ambitions when compared to their predecessors; and many members of the Council have changed since book one.  (About 14 years pass between the end of book 1 and the beginning of book 3, including the 10-year interval between High Maga and Daughter of Aithne.  This has allowed me to put a lot of water under the bridge, let a few of the older characters go to their peaceful deaths, and bring in some new characters and younger blood along the way.)

But I digress.  Back to Corey's surprise:

I knew when I started writing that although the entire meeting would be told from Corey's point of view, he himself would intervene only once.  I also knew his intervention would be pointed and brilliant, a classic Corey moment in which an all-too-subtle kindness would be veiled by apparently cruel and honest words.

What I did not know -- until I was right on top of the moment -- was exactly when he would intervene, and what he would say. 

From Virgil C. Robinson's FB Fan Page. 
I promise you, the snake is there!
These moments of surprise are hidden treasures in the writing process.  For me, it's like coming across a snake on a forest trail.  Walking through a forest, you know the snakes are there, but you never see one until you are almost right on top of it.  Then the serpent seems to melt out of the leaf litter, as vivid as death itself at your feet.  Awe, wonder, and a good dose of adrenalin rush through your veins while Snake looks up at you and you, quite speechless and just a little afraid, look down at it. 

Ah, there you are, you think.  I knew you'd be around.  Sorry I almost stepped on you.  I'll try to be more careful next time

Snake says nothing, just turns its unblinking eyes away and slithers back into hiding, smug in the knowledge that it will always have the upper hand.

Mage Corey and Snake are different from one another in at least one important respect:  Corey is not fool enough to sink into the illusion that he always has the upper hand.  But he is an expert in making certain everyone around him believes he does. 

Everyone including me, the unwitting author who has taken on the ever unpredictable task of writing his story. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tolkien Reading Day is March 25th

As the Spectacular Spring Equinox Fantasy Sale draws to a close, another great promotional event begins.

On Monday, March 25th, the Genre Underground is hosting Tolkien Reading Day.  Choose from over 20 great new titles in fantasy for just $0.99 each. 

In addition to my novel Eolyn, you'll find exciting work by authors Christopher Kellen, Daniel Marvello, Nicolette Andrews, and Julie Revezzo.  To browse titles, visit the Genre Undergound.  This sale lasts one day only, so take advantage of it while you can!

If you are new to Eolyn and would like to know more about the novel and its companions, High Maga and Daughter of Aithne, please browse this site, and ask me any questions you like. I'd love to hear from you!  Previews of Eolyn and High Maga can be found in the top menu tabs. 

Eolyn is now available in print and electronic editions, through Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  High Maga will be released in spring of 2014, with Daughter of Aithne to follow in 2015.  All three novels relate the journey of Eolyn, an extraordinary woman who rises from humble origins to challenge the most powerful lords and wizards of her time. 

As part of Tolkien Reading Day, for just $0.99 you can meet Eolyn and venture into her world of friendship, magic, betrayal and war. AND you can also choose from many other fantastic characters offered by the very talented authors of the Genre Underground.  Enjoy March Madness, and happy spring reading!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Equinox Fantasy Book Sale, March 20-22

Spectacular Spring Fantasy Sale - March 20-22, 2013 - all books under $5

I want to extend a very warm welcome to everyone who is visiting this week for the Magic Appreciation Tour's Spectacular Spring Equinox Sale.  I am very excited about this event, hosted by fellow author and modern mage, Daniel Marvello.  The sale includes 35 fantasy novels by 20 authors, several of whom have been recent guests on my blog.

From March 20-22, all 35 titles will be available for less than $5, some -- including Eolyn -- for as low as $0.99.  We are also offering more than thirty prizes in electronic and print copies of our novels.  Visit the Spring Equinox Sale now to browse all the titles and sign up for some great giveaways.

In addition to providing electronic and print copies of Eolyn for the Magic Appreciation Tour event, I am hosting my own Spring Equinox Giveaway on this blog. 

If you haven't had a chance to read Eolyn yet, now is the perfect time to venture into her world of love, magic, betrayal, and war.  Join this extraordinary maga as she rises from humble origins to challenge the harshest dogmas and the most powerful princes and wizards of her time. Bound by magic, torn apart by destiny, Eolyn and the Mage King will confront each other in an epic struggle that determines the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

Eolyn is the first of three companion novels.  Its sequel High Maga will be released in spring of 2014, followed by the third novel in the series, Daughter of Aithne, available from Hadley Rille Books in 2015. 

You can sign up right here for your chance to win a FREE signed copy of Eolyn. Just use the rafflecopter form below; it's quick and easy.  If you'd like more chances to win, visit the Magic Appreciation Tour and sign up for one or both of their Spring Equinox giveaways.

For those of you looking for other fun things to do online this week, I also invite you to visit Heroines of Fantasy.  I'm up this week, for the first time in a couple months, with a somewhat confessionary post entitled Old Hobbit, New Hobbit.  Fans (and foes) of Tolkien are especially welcome.

Good luck and may your equinox celebration be filled with magic!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Old Pope, New Pope

Pope Francis won the hearts of the people in St. Peter's
Square almost instantly with his humble demeanor.
Yesterday, a series of random events came together in such a way as to allow me to witness the announcement of the new Pope live, as it unfolded in Rome.

Not that I was in Rome, mind you.  I was in my parents' kitchen. But still, this is the fourth Pope I have seen elected in my lifetime, and the first where I happened to tune in just as the white smoke was billowing out of that skinny tin chimney.

Mom and I had planned to go shopping after lunch at my parents'.  But the arrival of a repair man to attend to their dysfunctional phone changed those plans. While the landline was being fixed, I opened up my iPhone app for the Kansas City Star, and we saw the breaking news:  white smoke from the Vatican, posted only six minutes before.  Mom turned on the TV, and another moment in history unfolded before our eyes.

It's been interesting to watch the on-line dialogue following the announcement of the election of Jorge Bergoglio as the next leader of one of the world's largest churches.  Ever the optimist myself, I am rather happy the Vatican has at least stepped outside of Europe and picked their next man from the great continent of South America.  I like his demonstrated commitment to the cause of the poor, and the humility he has expressed in both his lifestyle and his opening address as the newly elected Pope.

Legend or history?  Conspiracy theorists say that after a woman
was unwittingly elected Pope in the 9th century, rituals
were established to ensure all new electees had
the proper (and presumably more holy) set of genitals.
Everyone is speculating over his choice of name:  Francis, presumably reflecting a dedication to the mission and life of St. Francis of Assis, a man reknowned for his devotion to the cause of the poor, and to all the living creatures of the natural world.

Of course, this handful of promising notes is not enough for many people. There is much anger being expressed because Bergoglio is conservative on precisely the issues one would expect a Catholic Pope to be conservative.  He objects to abortion, for example, and does not approve of gay marriage. 

Nonetheless, he also represents a step forward in ways few people seemed to expect from the Church at this time.  For my part, although I am bound to disagree with many aspects of his doctrine, I have to admit I was impressed with the unassuming way in which Pope Francis shared this moment of transition with his adoring crowd on St. Peter's Square.  I also hope he renews the focus on social justice, which I think has been one of the Church's strongest points of leadership since Vatican II.

Most of all, I'm curious to see how this new papacy unfolds. 

Because all life is, in one way or another, related to my novels, I couldn't help but remember the wizard Tzeremond as Cardinal Bergoglio accepted this grave and noble responsibility for the spiritual lives of millions of people worldwide. 

Another image that reminds me of the
wizard Tzeremond.  The road to perdition
is paved with good intentions.
Tzeremond, like Bergoglio, is humble, dedicated, and keen of mind. Although he is Eolyn's greatest antagonist, he is an honest and even good man, from a certain perspective.  In writing Tzeremond's character, I knew he never once doubted the truth of his convictions, even as those convictions led him to preside over one of the most terrible injustices in the history of Moisehén: the annihilation of the Magas.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the influence of my Catholic childhood on the story of Eolyn also came up today while in conference call with editor Eric T. Reynolds and Thomas Vandenberg, who will do the cover art for High Maga

One of the earliest memories of growing up as a girl in the Catholic Church was the moment in which it hit home that I could never be a priest.  This seemed a terribly unfair situation, especially since I was certain I could be a much better priest than any of the priests I knew. Although I eventually came to the conclusion I was not called to a religious life of any sort, I have no doubt this early moment was one of the seeds that eventually gave rise to Eolyn and her struggle to practice magic in a world where magic is forbidden to all women, and controlled by men.

Once in a great while, I've questioned the relevance of Eolyn's story to the modern world.  I like to believe the women's movement of the 1960s and 70s has brought us a long way from the reality of Medieval Europe (which, by the way, was not all that different from the reality of the US in the 1950s, or the reality of the conservative elements of the Republican Party in 2013).  I like to imagine that younger readers, especially, won't "get" the idea that a particular right or path to power might be forbidden to women just because they are women. 

Unfortunately, reality has a way of preventing me from sinking into this myth, with a constant stream of events little and big; in the news, and in the lives of my friends, students, and family. So much is left to be done, and defending what precious ground we have won in the last few decades is an unending battle. 

I may not live to see a Catholic woman priest,
but a Lutheran woman priest presided over
the funeral of my maternal grandmother.
She gave one of the best and most heart-felt
funeral sermons I have ever heard. 
Yesterday was one of those days, despite (or perhaps because of) the emotion and excitement of the announcement of a new and hopefully different kind of Pope.

It has been about 1700 years since women were banished from the leadership of the Church.  Since then, women have gotten around this prohibition by finding countless creative ways to serve the Church's most noble missions, and to contribute positively to its spiritual ministry.  Yet women are still second-rate citizens in the eyes of the Vatican, subordinate to all men and incapable of coming as close to God as the red-robed bishops and their white-robed leader standing on the balconies of St. Peter's. 

The pomp and celebration was exciting, the new Pope inspiring in his origins and humility. Still the news was sad somehow, and incomplete. We were reminded, in bold relief, that a Church led by only half of its community can never be anything more than half a Church.

This is also one of the core themes of Eolyn.  We need men's leadership, but we need women's leadership as well, equally and fully, in all walks of life, in all our human endeavors. 

When I was a little girl, I dreamed that in my lifetime I would see women priests in the Catholic Church.  I have let go of that dream in the years gone by, having come to terms with the fact that it is far too unrealistic, that the Church needs another 500 years, perhaps another 1000, to catch up with the 21st century. 

Of course, I may be happily proven wrong someday.  After all, it was once said -- not so long ago -- that a Latin American Jesuit could never be elected Pope. 

Seventeen hundred years later, something is still wrong with
this picture. . .

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Artists and Endings (and also, Beginnings)

The cover art for King's Gambit, a novel by
Mark Nelson that will soon by released by
Hadley Rille Books.  The artist, Tom Vandenberg,
will also do the cover art for my new novel, High Maga.
Hadley Rille Books released this wonderful image this week, and I had to share it with all of you.  This is a preview of the cover art for King's Gambit, a new novel by Mark Nelson that will be released this May.  The artist who elaborated this battle scene -- stunning in its detail -- is Tom Vandenberg. 

And now for the really wonderful news:  Tom Vandenberg has agreed to do the cover art for High Maga! 

Next week, HRB editor Eric T. Reynolds and I will meet with Tom via conference call to begin our exchange of ideas.  Eric has sent him the manuscript, which I imagine he is enthusiastically devouring word-by-word even as we speak.  I am so excited to be working with Tom on this project, and especially to begin designing the cover for my next novel.  This is the moment when everything begins to feel "real" in a way that no other aspect of the road to publication quite achieves.  I cannot wait to see the essence of High Maga expressed in images. 

Meanwhile, work continues on Daughter of Aithne.  Yes, I've settled on the title now, having decided that it is not only a good title, it is a brilliant title in ways that I didn't perceive when it first took shape in my mind. 

One of the questions I most often get about crafting a novel is whether I work with an outline.  The answer is yes and no.  I do not write down outlines, but I do spend a good deal of time "mulling" over a novel, and each of its scenes, before sitting down in front of the computer. So by the time I sit down to write, I have a pretty solid idea of the motivations of the characters and the layout of the scene.

I've also found that I have to have an image in mind of how a novel will end before I can begin writing.  And, I need a sense of key events in the novel that will lead to that ending, although I may not have it clear in my head the myriad of individual choices that will connect those key events. 

In the case of both Eolyn and High Maga, the ending that I originally envisioned was very different from the denoument of the final manuscript.  I may be speaking too soon -- indeed, I am almost certainly speaking to soon -- but I suspect this will not be the case with Daughter of Aithne

Where it all began: artist Jesse Smolover
created this lush and wonderful image for
the cover of Eolyn, iconic in its portrayal
of a maga's journey
In the past couple of days, the ending of Daughter of Aithne  has come to me in vivid detail: the layout of the final scene, the impact of the ultimate revelation.  It is clear in my head in a way that the endings for Eolyn and High Maga were not.

What makes me think this denoument might be the 'real' one is that it surprised me; it is an ending I would not have expected even a week or two weeks ago.  Not only does it surprise me, it makes perfect sense, bringing the journey of all the characters full circle in a way I did not really foresee until now. 

I'm beginning to suspect that Daughter of Aithne is the book I have most wanted to write in this series, that everything I've done before was simply preparing me for this moment, when I find myself standing at the gate of Eolyn's final and greatest journey. 

This is indeed an exciting moment.

Word count as of today:  12,197 (about 10% of the way into the novel, assuming it's more-or-less the length of the previous two)

Five chapters are done.  I'll start on number six tomorrow. . .