"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, May 22, 2013

TolkienQuest and ConQuesT 44

We have a very busy weekend coming up with TolkienQuest on May 23rd and ConQuesT on Memorial Day Weekend, May 24-26.  Both of these activities are going to be a lot of fun, with opportunities to win prizes, take advantage of great discounts, and meet authors, editors, artists, and fans of fantasy and science fiction. 

TolkienQuest will be held from 4pm to 9pm at Prospero's Parkside Books.  Sponsored by Hadley Rille Books, Prospero's, and ConQuesT, the evening will feature a food festival, verse contest, and other games and activities.  TolkienQuest is FREE and open to the public.  For more information, including contest rules, visit the TolkienQuest event page.

ConQuesT starts Friday afternoon and continues through Sunday.  This year's guests of honor include author Patrick Rothfuss, artist John Picacio, and editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden.  There are many, many exciting panels and events scheduled, so to see a full program, please visit the ConQuesT website

If you're looking for me at ConQuesT, this is how my schedule is shaping up so far:

Friday, May 24

2:00pm -- Panel: Gendered Magick
4:00pm -- Panel: How to build realistic worlds for science fiction and fantasy

Saturday, May 25
10:00am -- Reading, Q&A, and signing
1:00pm -- Hadley Rille Showcase, including the launch of Mark Nelson's new novel, King's Gambit. This party will run until 3pm, so stop by whenever you get a chance.

As an extra special treat, Hadley Rille Books will be offering the Kindle edition and Nook edition of Eolyn for just $0.99 during the weekend of ConQuesT, May 23-26.

AND the Kindle edition of my short story Creatures of Light will be available for FREE download May 24, 25, and 26. 

I look forward to seeing you for a little magic, mystery, and mayhem this weekend.  Let the festivities begin!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Children's Book Week: Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
This week, thanks to Christopher Kellen and the Genre Underground, we are celebrating Children's Book Week with a series of blog posts by different authors.

Christopher began the festivities with A Tribute to Bruce Coville.  Yesterday, Jennifer Brozek chimed in by talking about Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising.  

Today, it's my turn. 

I'd originally told Chris I was going to write about Grimm's Fairy Tales, but after some thought, I've decided to devote my spot to Hans Christian Andersen instead. 

Not that I want to shun the Brothers Grimm -- quite the contrary; those of you who follow my blog know by now how much I love those classic tales, and how much they influence my writing even today.  (In fact, the opening chapters of Eolyn include a personal tribute to the Grimm legacy in a scene called 'The House of Sweet Bread', where Eolyn first meets her tutor Ghemena.) 

But many, many myths and stories influenced me as a child growing up, and with all the time I've devoted to the Brothers Grimm (and to a lesser extent, E.T.A. Hoffman), I've neglected this very important story teller, whose birthday on April 2nd is also celebrated as International Children's Book Day.

Hans Christian Andersen was a 19th century Danish author and poet.  Although he wrote plays, travelogues, novels, and poems, he is best remembered for his fairy tales.  Even if you have never heard of Andersen, you have almost certainly run into at least one of his stories along the way.  Some of the best known include:

The Emperor's New Clothes
The Little Match Girl
The Little Mermaid
The Princess and the Pea
The Red Shoes
The Snow Queen
The Ugly Duckling

When I was a young girl, the H.C. Andersen story that most haunted my imagination was The Snow QueenTo this day, the very title brings on a mood of mystery for me.  This is in part because the Snow Queen remains a mysterious character. 

Where did the Snow Queen come from?  What did she want?  Why did she kidnap the boy Kai?  Was she villainess or heroine?  Was her intention to forever imprison Kai? Or did she know that her act would inspire Gerda to set this boy free, not only from the spell of the Snow Queen, but more importantly from the malicious effects of the splinters of the troll mirror?

As a child, I was at once afraid of and intrigued by the Snow Queen, and I felt a little sorry for her too; because she began the story all alone, and she ended it that way, as well.

My favorite character, of course, was the brave Gerda, the young girl who undertook a long and dangerous journey to reach the Snow Queen's northern realm and free her beloved friend Kai.

Gerda was one of the many heroines who inspired my childhood; and one could argue that there are elements of Gerda -- in her humble origins, in her stubborn loyalty to her childhood friend, and in her courage -- that were eventually infused into the character of Eolyn, in my first novel. 

In recent years, the magic and mystery of The Snow Queen was brought to life once again in Patricia McKillip's Winter Rose.  Whether it was her intention or not, McKillip's novel comes across as a beautifully elaborated, grown-up version of Andersen's famous tale -- complete with the magical symbolism of the rose bush, which binds McKillip's spirited Rois and mysterious Corbet, just as it bound Andersens' courageous Gerda and beloved Kai.

How about you?  Any H.C. Andersen tales that were your favorite growing up?  And if Andersen didn't strike your fancy, what other tales do you remember from those early, magical days of story telling?

For more posts about Children's Book Week, visit the blogs of Ariele Sieling on Thursday and Frances Pauli on Friday.  The complete list of posts for Children's Book Week is available on the Events Page of the Genre Underground.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Virgina Beach

I'm at an annual writing retreat with 9 amazing women authors at Virginia Beach.  The focus of this week is 'real' writing -- not blog writing, not email writing, not FB writing, and certainly not Twitter writing. 

So it'll be hard for you to find me on any of the usual social networks over the next few days. I am trying very hard to focus all my energies on Daughter of Aithne.  (And I'm having some success -- over 4500 words so far this week!)

In lieu of a regular post, I do have a special treat.  A new preview has been posted for High Maga

You can thank one of my editors, Terri-Lynne DeFino, for this surprise.  A recent consultation with her has resulted in a new arrangement for the opening chapters of the novel.  What used to be chapter one has now been moved elsewhere; what used to be chapter three will now be read first.

If you've already read the old preview, this means you get to indulge in a brand new excerpt from the novel!  (And yes, that old preview will still be part of High Maga; it's just been moved to a slightly different place.) 

If you didn't read the old preview, don't worry.  I'll be posting excerpts from it in the months to come.  The other good news is that the new preview involves fewer spoilers than the old one, so if you haven't yet read Eolyn, you are less likely to run any big risks by peeking at this excerpt from High Maga.

So, check out the new preview!  I know you'll enjoy it.

If you're still hungry to read a true blog post, I invite you to visit Heroines of Fantasy this week, where Mark Nelson offers a wonderful reflection on the Magical Libraries of our minds.

Have a great rest of the week.  Summer is almost here!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


In truth, it's a little hard to get into the mood to write about Bel-Aethne, what with Kansas City in the grip of yet another arctic front.  Rain mixes with sleet outside; my winter sweaters have yet to be packed away.  Bel-Aethne is a festival of early summer, of warm winds and bright flowers, of seeds sprouting in a pale green carpet over sun-warmed fields. For whatever reason, Kansas City just ain't there yet.

The real-world counterpart of Bel-Aethne is the pagan celebration of Beltane, coming up on May 5th.

In the tradition of Moisehén, Bel-Aethne has its roots in the epic love of Aithne and Caradoc, the woman and man who first discovered magic. As a young girl, Eolyn learns their story, which forms the foundation of magical belief and thought in Moisehén:

. . .Aithne and Caradoc consecrated their love under a full spring moon, and the heat of their hearts sparked a fire in the center of the village.  The villagers gathered in awe to observe the blaze. With branches of pine they divided the flame so that each family took a piece back to their own home.  This is how fire came to our people. . .

Bel-Aethne, then, is a celebration of fire as well as of love and desire, all very powerful forms of Primitive Magic. 

Dance and music play a central role in the high festival, which lasts for three days and culminates in the sacred rites of Aen-lasati, the awakening of the fire within. For one night the portals of magic are thrown open to all the people of Moisehén -- whether they are practitioners or not -- making all women Aithne and all men Caradoc, free to partake fully in the pleasure of the Gods and to experience the seeds of magic that transformed the history of their people. 

The legend of Aithne and Caradoc is a transcendent myth in Eolyn's world.  Pieces of it turn up throughout all three novels, in countless moments and countless ways.  Even the mages of Tzeremond and Kedehen, who nearly destroyed the magas, could do little to diminish Aithne's importance in the imagination of their subjects.  One of the climactic sequences of Eolyn takes place during an elaborate festival of Bel-Aethne, staged to celebrate the coronation of the new Mage King. 

Here's a brief excerpt:

As the music gathered force, each mage sent an arc of bright flame from the palm of his hand into the center of the circle.  They integrated their powers into a single swirling core of viscous light. The whirlpool spread swift upon the ground before contracting into a glowing pillar that billowed high over the square, evoking cries of wonder from the people. In the gathering twilight the mages crafted an awe-inspiring choreography, splitting the brilliant light into multicolored images that portrayed the many legends of Aithne and Caradoc. The mythical lovers danced through the flames, unveiling the mysteries of magic, fleeing from Thunder, responding to the call of Dragon, forging their passion and knowledge into a thousand fire-bearing branches. . .

Even though Aithne and Caradoc were devoted lovers for the greater part of their lives, in Moisehén the liaisons created during the high festival of Bel-Aethne are considered ephemeral. According to an old saying of the Clan of East Selen, what is woven at Bel-Aethne becomes unraveled before the dawn.

This is not always true, of course, as Primitive Magic tends to break free of any rule we try to impose upon it.  In fact, as part of the unrevealed backstory of Eolyn, one of the most enduring and troubled romances in the history of Moisehén -- that of Akmael's father Kedehen and his mother Briana of East Selen -- began with a kiss at Bel-Aethne.