"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, September 30, 2014

Thank you for visiting!

Eolyn's great adventure has moved elsewhere. Please click the image below to share your magic with other magas and mages at Karin Rita Gastreich's official web site. Looking forward to seeing you there!



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Small Escapes

I've been reflecting lately on the importance of momentary escapes in our lives, when we break away from routine on a small but important scale. The afternoon cup of coffee, for example. Or the evening glass of wine. A walk through the woods at sunset. An unexpected call from an old friend.

This past weekend I had two small escapes worth noting, one expected and one unexpected.

A new friend from Konza Prairie.
My expected escape was an overnight trip to Konza Prairie, a reserve and biological station located in the Flint Hills of Kansas. The site is truly spectacular. The wildflowers are in bloom right now, and the sumacs are beginning to turn scarlet red, leaving splashes of color across a sage sea. We saw bees, butterflies, and beautiful spiders; hawks, turkeys, deer, and bison.  Amy Milakovic and I will be taking a course there in a few weeks, and I look forward to sharing that adventure with you.

My unexpected small escape was sinking into the opening passages of a truly engaging novel.

I've read a lot of good books these past few months, but not every story teller can convince you in the first couple of pages that you are in for a great tale. It's been a while since I've come across an author with that particular gift.

The author in question is Susan Carroll, and the novel is The Dark Queen, a historical fantasy set in France during the reign of Catherine de Medici. It has been on my shelf for a long while. I believe I picked it up in the used section of the Boulder Book Store during one of my visits to Colorado. It caught my attention because I had just read a biography about the infamous queen. I brought the novel home, put it on my shelf, and promptly forgot about it for months and years to come.

A new treasure for my reading list.
I have a habit of doing this; snatching up a book in the moment and then setting it aside for rediscovery at a later date. It's kind of like organizing my own personal Easter egg hunt. Because I have a variety of books I've stashed away for later, I'm never quite sure what treasure I'll find the next time I search my shelf.

In addition to the book being very well written, I feel like I may have come across a kindred spirit in the author. Carroll's main character, Ariane, is a "daughter of the earth", a descendant of practitioners of white magic whose craft has long been forbidden and buried beneath the customs of her people. The parallels with Eolyn and the magas are apparent, though of course the stories are very different. Still, reading this book feels like coming home and settling into a familiar place.

Those are some of my small escapes right now.

To celebrate the fall equinox, the Kindle and Nook editions of Eolyn are on sale this week for just $0.99!  Also, don't forget to enter the Goodreads Giveaway for High Maga, which ends on September 30.

We are in the final countdown to moving to my new web site at krgastreich.com. I'm excited, but also nervous and nostalgic. I've been at this blogspot site since 2010, and I've really enjoyed it. But I also feel it's time for a change. I'm looking forward to exploring my new domain and sharing it with you. Plus, the site looks great!  Be sure to join us on October 1 as we inaugurate the new site. There will be more special offers and giveaways then.



Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ask the Author

This week I'm trying out Goodreads new "Ask the Author" program as a way of engaging with readers and other lovers of fantasy, sci fi, and historical fiction. If you're a Goodreads member, please visit my profile page for a chance to ask any questions you like about my books, writing, and publishing in general.  Friend and follow me, too! I'm always looking to widen my circle of fellow book lovers, and I'd love to see you in that neck of the virtual woods.

Don't forget we are running a Goodreads Giveaway for High Maga. The Giveaway ends on September 30. You can enter by clicking the announcement at the end of this post, or on the right hand bar of the blog.

Last week, I started back in my regular slot on Heroines of Fantasy. If you haven't already, stop by to check out my latest post on romantic elements in epic fantasy. For the next six months, I will have a regular spot on HoF every second Monday of the month.

As HoF coordinator for September and October, I am also lining up our guest posts. On September 22, DelSheree Gladden returns to talk about her dark and intriguing Wicked Hunger series. September 29, we will welcome Jon Cleaves, owner of DGS Games, in a first-ever post from a gaming master. On October 27 we will feature historical fiction and fantasy author Joseph Finley.

Only two weeks left before we move this blog to the new website at krgastreich.com. That move will be celebrated with some very special offers, events, and giveaways as well. Stay tuned!



Goodreads Book Giveaway

High Maga by Karin Rita Gastreich

High Maga

by Karin Rita Gastreich

Giveaway ends September 30, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Magic of Kir

I am very happy today to welcome L. Blankenship as a guest author. I met L. Blankenship through the Magic Appreciation Tour.

L. Blankenship started writing animal stories as a kid and it's just gotten completely out of hand since then. Now she's out publishing her gritty fantasy and hard science fiction adventures. L grew up in New Hampshire but currently lives near Washington, DC.

L. Blankenship has written a great post on the unique magic system of her Disciple series. Please join me in welcoming her to the blog!

A simple plan

The kir-magic system in Disciple is rooted in three deceptively simple rules:

1. All magical charms (spells) are fueled by kir.
2. The laws of physics, conservation of mass and energy, etc., fully apply.
3. No other “para-normal” forces or beings actually exist.

Kir

Kir is sort of a cold plasma that’s reactive to willpower. The stuff wells up out of the earth in select places called founts. Kir founts always involve a water spring as well, regardless of whether a spring “ought” to be in that location, and kir-laced water is especially bright, clear, and attractive.

There’s energy inherent in kir. In its raw state, it takes the form of a green mist that even un-gifted people (or animals) can detect when it’s close by or concentrated. Drinking kir-laced water or absorbing raw kir is energizing for anybody, but few people get the chance to do that.  Since kir is in limited supply, it’s carefully controlled.

Humans generate small amounts of surplus kir simply by living -- it’s an energy reserve, both biological and mental. It’s only enough for one small charm every few days, though. Once used in a charm, kir disintegrates and returns to the earth.

Laws of physics

Within these, kir can do almost anything. I took a fairly conservative, reality-based version of physics -- no quantum effects or anything too theoretical, and came up with these limitations:
  • No teleportation. Time/space can’t be torn open, worm-holed or otherwise screwed with.
  • No clairvoyance/ESP. See above.
  • No true telepathy or mind reading. Body language can be read to a fine degree and that can resemble mind-reading. Saint-bonds allow for a limited sort of telepathy.
  • No “luck” manipulation.
  • No prophesy.
  • No “spirit-walking”.
  • Conservation of mass applies to shape-shifters, though they can play with their density a bit if they are skilled enough.
Plus two rules:

Line-of-sight limitation. Charms cannot be targeted at something or someone the caster cannot see. If the enemy’s standing behind a door, it’s perfectly legit to kill him by ramming the door into the far wall -- but you can’t telekinetically reach through the keyhole and strangle him, for example.

Only kir cuts kir. When it’s acting under the influence of a mage, kir can project force. It can be a club or a blade, but no ordinary club or blade can break it. Kir-blades also have an unnerving ability to “skip” armor or flesh and cut through the victim’s vitals. So when a kir-mage goes on a rampage, the goodfolk’s only defense is another kir-mage.

Only game in town

The goodfolk believe in kobolds (goblins), shades (ghosts), various denizens of the Winter Wood (hell), and things like luck, fate, or prophetic visions -- but these spring from the same roots as they do in our world.

Innate skill

Everyone has at least a little ability to manipulate kir. Training will improve one’s skill, but the ultimate limit is determined by innate talent. Technically speaking, this a multi-factor para-genomic predisposition which I am not going to clarify any further than that.

Saints are the strongest of the kir-mages, and the Elect are the next step down. It’s said that there might be a hundred saints in the world, at any given time. Perhaps two or three hundred Elect.

As of Disciple, Part V, Kate has reached the rank of Elect and works directly with Saint Qadeem in defending the kingdom against the invading Empire. The rest of her life, however, is in shambles. Love and war have both taken their toll on her, but she must find her strength and face the final attack.

Back cover

Kate faces winter with a broken heart: betrayed by one lover, the other lost to her.

Kiefan will not give up on the alliance his kingdom desperately needs — even though the Caer queen refuses to speak to him.

Anders, alone and despairing, faces the Empress’s seductive offers of power and privilege.

Each of them must carry the ongoing war in their own way, whether cold, alone, or backed into a corner. Each must patch together a broken heart as best they can. Duty will throw them together soon enough and they must be ready.
 
On Sale Now!
 
Read Disciple, Part I for FREE

Disciple, Part VI ends the series early next year!
 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Back to School Blog Hop

I am very happy today to welcome author Linda Ulleseit to my blog.

Linda was born and raised in Saratoga, California, and has taught elementary school in San Jose since 1996. She enjoys cooking, cross-stitching, reading, and spending time with her family. Her favorite subject is writing, and her students get a lot of practice scribbling stories and essays. Someday Linda hopes to see books written by former students alongside hers in bookstores.

Her first novel, ON A WING AND A DARE, was published in 2012. It is a Young Adult fantasy set in medieval Wales, complete with flying horses, a love triangle, and treachery. It’s sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER, was released March, 2013. The focus of that book is the misty past of a groom and the murky future of a rider. The last book in the trilogy is UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, May 2014. It follows a brother and sister, new to High Meadow, who become involved in a plot to steal flying horses.

As a child, Linda always loved to write. She took her first creative writing course in seventh grade, accumulating a closet full of stories that she never showed anyone until 2007. At that time, she gave the first draft of a flying horse book to a teacher colleague to read. ON A WING AND A DARE began as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2009. It was revised with the help of reviewers on thenextbigwriter.com over the next two years. For NaNo 2011, Linda drafted the sequel, IN THE WINDS OF DANGER. NaNoWriMo 2012 brought the first draft of UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY, and NaNoWriMo 2013 saw the completion of UNDER THE ALMOND TREES. This last is a historical fiction that follows three women who struggle for women’s rights in early California.

Linda has also written a novella titled WINGS OVER TREMEIRCHSON, released as an ebook in Fall 2013. It follows the story of Hoel and Neste, parents of a main character in ON A WING AND A DARE. 

Linda is celebrating the new school year with a month-long blog hop. Check out her novels below; you just might find your next favorite book. You can visit Linda at her blog Books Books Books



ON A WING AND A DARE
Purchase
Book Blurb: Flying horses…a love triangle…poison….Welcome to Tremeirchson.

In Tremeirchson, a barn leader’s children are expected to follow their parents into the sky, becoming riders of the magnificent winged horses that are the medieval Welsh village’s legacy. Neither Emma nor Davyd, however, want to follow that tradition.

Sixteen-year-old Emma risks losing her family by following her heart. Eager to take her place in the air, she longs to ride a forbidden winged colt born in barn of her father’s biggest rival. She also dreams of the rival’s sons, not sure which she truly loves. Bold and exciting, Evan will someday lead his father’s barn. Davyd is quieter, more dependable, with an ability to get things done. Her father disapproves of both boys and pushes her toward an ambitious newcomer. He also insists she ride the colt he’s picked for her.

Davyd, also sixteen, is plagued with a secret—he is afraid of heights. Refusing to become a rider means public humiliation, his parents’ disappointment, and lifelong ridicule from his brother, Evan. He reluctantly prepares to join his family aloft in the Aerial Games that provide the entire village with its livelihood and tries desperately to think of an alternative.

As Tremeirchson’s barns prepare for the Rider Ceremony, winged horses suddenly start dying. Shocked, the adults hesitate, mired in tradition and politics. Is it a disease or poison? Accidental or purposeful? Someone must discover the answer and act before all the winged horses in the world are gone forever.

IN THE WINDS OF DANGER
Purchase


Book blurb:
Nineteen year old Nia is shocked when she is secretly offered the leadership of Third Barn. This new barn full of flying horses will need someone confident, experienced, and innovative, so why are both warring factions pursuing an untried girl? Suspicious that both sides want a puppet instead of a leader, Nia races to discover their secrets before making the biggest decision of her life.

Some of those secrets are unknowingly buried in the disconnected memories of a young groom named Owain. Terror and guilt haunt Owain’s dreams – and then a face from his nightmare arrives in High Meadow. Owain looks for answers in his past and uncovers a dangerous plot that could doom High Meadow's future. How can he foil the plot and save his people as well as the winged horses?

UNDER A WILD AND DARKENING SKY
Purchase


Ralf knows he must take over his father’s bakery, but is it wrong to want some adventure before he does? New to High Meadow, he is befriended by the beautiful and dangerous Branwen, who has her own goal—to entice Ralf to help her steal a winged horse and return it to Tremeirchson.

Meanwhile, Ralf’s sister, Alyna, dives into barn life. Becoming a groom to a winged foal is a lot of responsibility to the horse, to the barn, and to her father, who idolizes the wrong barn leader. Politics, greed, and revenge swirl around the teenaged siblings as they struggle to be true to their family and their future.

WINGS OVER TREMEIRCHSON (a flying horse novella)
Book Blurb: Eighteen year old Neste rides a winged horse in Tremeirchson's Aerial Games and she is betrothed to the barn leader's son, Hoel. Life would be wonderful if Hoel wasn't so unpleasant to the other riders. Adam, on the other hand, is handsome and nice but a terrible rider. Together, Hoel and Adam are the perfect man. Obviously she can't have both of them. When Neste's winged horse is involved in a terrible accident, her life changes and she must make different choices about her future. Can she go against her father's dying wish that she marry Hoel? Can she forgive Adam? Can she make a life away from the barn and the winged horses she loves?





ALSO BY LINDA ULLESEIT:

UNDER THE ALMOND TREES
Purchase



Under the Almond Trees is the story of my family – three ordinary women in California who lived extraordinary lives. It started with a falling tree branch that killed Ellen VanValkenburgh’s husband in 1862, forcing her to assume leadership of his paper mill, something women weren’t allowed to do. Women weren’t allowed to vote yet, either. Ellen decided that had to change, and became a suffragette. In 1901, Emily Williams , Ellen’s daughter-in-law, became an architect – very much against her family’s wishes. No one would hire a woman, but Emily would not be deterred. She and her life partner Lillian set out to build homes themselves. By the 1930’s women enjoyed more freedom, including the vote. Even so, Ellen’s granddaughter Eva VanValkenburgh chose a traditional life of marriage and children, even closing her photography business at her husband’s insistence. When he later refused to pay for their daughter’s college education, Eva followed the example of her Aunt Emily and reopened her photography business. I am proud to call these women family and honored to share their story.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Dicho y Hecho

What does Dicho y Hecho mean?

"Said and Done."

When I get a project in my head - something I am really exciting about - it's almost impossible for me to think about anything else until I get that project done.

This can be both a blessing and a curse, but I like to think that more often than not, it's a blessing.

Last month I got it in my head that I wanted a proper web site - that is, a domain that carries my name. This is not a new idea; I've been toying with it almost since I published my first novel. But for many reasons, now seems the right time. I have several publications out and more on the way. I have a better idea now of how I want to engage with my readers and develop my brand as an author. I've also been around on the internet and interacted with enough authors to know what website platforms are out there, and which of those might work best for me.

So [drum roll please], I have at last purchased my own domain and set up a true author web site.  You can visit me now at http://krgastreich.com. In fact, I cannot wait to see you there! I am integrating the site with my Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads accounts, so we can have various avenues of communication converging in one place.

I will also, at the end of this month, move my blog to krgastreich.com. All of my past posts, from 2010 forward, will be exported to the new domain, and as of September 30 I will no longer be sharing new posts here. The blogspot site will remain on line for archival purposes, and also to receive and redirect any stray visitors who still have the old address.

I am very excited about this move and I sincerely hope you will make it with me. Click on the image below to stop by the new site. Sign up to follow via email or wordpress, and let the adventure continue. I look forward to receiving you in my new home!








Thursday, August 28, 2014

Plans and Prospects

Nothing pleases a geek more than
a fresh set of bookshelves!
Classes have started now at Avila, and wow! We have hit the ground running. New offices, new labs, new faculty, new students, new textbooks, new courses, and soon in my house - out of necessity - a new air conditioner.

Sometimes it seems the whole universe has gone into renewal mode. Not surprisingly, I am inspired to follow suit.

Setting up my new office and labs at Avila has been thoroughly exciting. The space is so much more comfortable than what I had before, with a big desk and proper bookshelves, and most important, space to receive and meet with students. The first time I walked into my office, I thought, "I could have a party in here!" In a sense, I will be hosting a party, an academic party focused on supporting students in their journey through the exciting and challenging field of biology.

Maybe I'll inspire a few of them to write, too.

Having new digs on campus has pricked my skin a little, and now I want new digs on line, too. I've been thinking a lot these past few weeks about new and better forums for engaging with fans of Eolyn and readers of fantasy.

Typically about once a year I remodel my blog, and that will almost certainly happen again between now and December. But I would also like to set up an entirely new 'virtual' office. So I am in the process of designing a proper website, a domain that carries my name and that will serve as a central gathering point for readers interested in the kinds of stories I have to offer.

Konza Prairie is the destination for our new interdisciplinary
course, Ecology Through the Writer's Lens.
There's no tight deadline on the new web site, but as a loose goal I intend to have something up and running for the World Fantasy Convention at the beginning of November. It may happen before then, depending on time and inspiration.

For those of you who follow this blog, Eolyn Chronicles will continue to be my place for weekly posts. The website will include links to this site as well as to Heroines of Fantasy. 

What do I want from my new web site? I want it to be cosy, exciting, inviting. I hope that, upon arriving at the site, my visitors will feel welcome, and that they will have the sense of standing on the threshold of a great and magical adventure.  To that end, I'm working on banner ideas, text copy, and so forth. As the web site comes together, I will probably make changes here and on my Facebook page to have continuity between the different platforms.

This is the start of the exciting news - there is more to come. This fall I will be welcoming guest authors and hosting giveaways and special offers. We are also looking forward to the release of an audio edition of High Maga before the year is out. And of course, work continues on Daughter of Aithne. 

Those are the updates for the moment. Have something new in your life right now? I'd love to hear about it! Let the fun begin.

 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

I've had to hit the ground running after an amazing and intense summer with the Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE) Program in Costa Rica.

With classes starting on Wednesday at Avila, I am working hard to organize syllabi and lectures.  I have one brand new course plus two courses with new edition textbooks. So there's a lot of work ahead in the coming months, but also a lot of excitement.

The new general biology lab at Avila University.
As if preparing for class weren't enough, we have brand new installations in O'Reilly Hall. Offices and labs were gutted last summer and completely remodeled.  I have a beautiful office complete with shiny new furniture and REAL bookshelves. I also, for the first time since joining the faculty at Avila, have my own designated lab for personal and student research.  Setting up house in the new digs this week has been a real joy, but also a real distraction. At this point I'm not sure just what I will have ready for my students by the time classes start on Wednesday (save for my bright and happy smile), but I've been in this business long enough to know that somehow it will all get done.

Speaking of that "somehow", while the NAPIRE experience was unforgettable, and while I am so very glad I participated in the program as co-coordinator this year, it is true that the decision to work at Las Cruces meant some sacrifices in other parts of my life.

My niece with Grandpa, Dad, and cousin Gary at the
King Tut exhibit, Union Station, Kansas City, Missoui.
One of those sacrifices was time with my family, most especially my husband, but I also missed a valuable opportunity to see my brother when he came through Kansas City with my nieces, ages 3 and 6, this summer. He and his family live in Hong Kong, so every moment they spend with us in the States is precious, especially with the girls growing up so fast.

The other sacrifice was my writing. Summer has traditionally been a time to get a significant chunk done on the WIP (work in progress), but with the level of dedication required to keep NAPIRE running, it just wasn't possible to move forward that much on Eolyn's final adventure in Daughter of Aithne. 

That being said, I can't really complain. While I didn't get as much done as I would have liked, I did complete the revision of the first 70,000 words of the manuscript, which began last January. During the course of eight months, I threw out major chunks of material, rewrote entire scenes and chapters, and tightened up everything that I decided to keep. And while the word count ticker didn't moved that much, I am approaching the 80K mark on this project. I guess that's nothing to sneeze at.

All things considered, this is where I wanted
to be this summer. Everything else would
just have to wait.
I also at last finished my short story submission for the Faelon Anthology, a special project of DGS Games and the Dead Horse Society. Will they accept it? I don't know, but at least I managed to write a short story, and one that I am proud of.

Those of you who follow my blog may be aware that short stories are my nemesis. I have a couple out there floating around, but for the most part it's hard for me to confine my story telling to something inside 5000 or 10,000 words.  The Faelon short, for the moment entitled "Lamya of the Sea" clocks in at around 6500 words. I started it last November and finished about two weeks ago, which puts my average on this one at 650 words a month.

Sometimes I despair at how little writing I can get done with all my other commitments, but if the Faelon project has taught me anything, it is that the old saying still holds true:

Slow and steady wins the race. 

With the fall semester just starting, you can look forward to regular posts on this blog again. Many thanks to everyone who followed me during the summer as I blog hopped during Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour.  High Maga is scheduled for release this fall, so be looking for another blog tour and giveaway not too far down the road.

My other family: NAPIRE 2014

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Winners of Eolyn's Audio Book Giveaway

Many thanks to everyone who participated in Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour and Giveaway! We had so many Rafflecopter entries that I decided to be extra generous and give away seven free copies instead of five. (Many thanks to my publisher Hadley Rille Books for being amenable to this idea!) The winners are:

Keri Rison
Elliot Waugh
Blair Smyth
Zoe Blair
Lora Madera
Rob Finney
Lucki Grrl

If you are on the winner's list and you haven't heard from me by email, drop me a line at eolyn.of.the.south.woods[at]gmail[dot]com. I will get your download code to you right away.

Thank you again, and enjoy the adventure!


Sunday, July 13, 2014

Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour and Giveaway

Welcome to our month-long celebration of the release of the audio edition of Eolyn!

We have a lot of exciting activities planned over the next four weeks, including author interviews, posts about magic, and previews of Darla Middlebrook's wonderful interpretation of this epic tale.

Best of all, as part of the tour you have the opportunity to win a FREE copy of the audio book! Just sign up for the Rafflecopter Giveaway below, or at any of the stops on the tour. Five copies are being raffled. There are lots of opportunities for entries. The winners will be announced at the end of the tour on August 11. 

Many thanks to The Magic Appreciation Tour for helping me put together this awesome list of blog stops. Join us for a virtual adventure through the Kingdom of Mosiehén. All are welcome. Enjoy!


July 14-Aug 11 Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour and Giveaway  

Scroll down to enter for your chance to win one of five FREE copies 
of the audible edition of Eolyn. Winners will be announced on August 11th. 

July 14  The Places that Inspired Eolyn's World: Talamanca. Eolyn's source of magical power can be found in the South Woods, a dense wilderness inspired by the highlands of Costa Rica. Learn about these forests and why I love them so at DelSheree Gladden's The Edible Bookshelf.

July 16 Author Interview at The Story Teller's Inn. Join me and fellow author Susan Stuckey for a virtual cup of coffee and a chat about all things magical

July 18  Magic in Eolyn's World.  A full overview of the history and structure of magic in the Kingdom of Moisehén. Join us for a discussion of this and other systems of magic at Daniel Marvello's The Vaetra Files

July 21 Dragon. Author Lori Fitzgerald's recent release The Dragon's Message provides a perfect opportunity to talk about the role of Dragon in Eolyn's world. Stop by and share your favorite dragon stories, too!

July 23 The Origins of Magic.  Every young mage and maga learns this story. Now, thanks to a special request by author Matthew Reuter, you will learn it, too!

July 25 Author Interview with Heidi Lynne Burke.  My second author interview on the tour.  Questions about what inspired Eolyn, why an audiobook, and what to expect next from Eolyn's world.

July 28 Aen-lasati: The Magic of Love and Desire One of my favorite posts about one of the most intriguing yet controversial aspects of Eolyn's world. Check it out at author Tracy Falbe's blog, Her Ladyship's Quest.

July 30 The Romantic Leads of Eolyn.  A visit to Marsha Moore's blog Illusions of Intimacy inspires the romantic in me. Learn about the men who compete for Eolyn's heart -- and the readers' hearts, as well!

August 1 Born of Fire: the Ancient Forests of East Selen.  The forests of the Pacific Northwest reflect the wild beauty of the home of the Clan of East Selen, an ancient and powerful line of mages and magas. Explore these forests with me on Linda Ulleseit's blog Books Books Books.

Aug 4 Chat at the Independent Bookworm.  Author Will Hahn and I kick back for a friendly chat about the ups, downs, ins, and outs of producing an audio book. Bring your questions, and help yourself to the virtual brownies at the back of the room.

Aug 8 Author Interview with Eliabeth Hawthorne.  My last stop on the tour is a visit with the co-authors of the YA fantasy series Blind Sight.  If you've got any lingering questions about Eolyn and it's audio edition, here is your chance to ask them!

On August 11, Winners of Amazing Audio Book Tour Giveaway will be announced on this site! Good luck to all our participants. 



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Checking in From Las Cruces

On the trail in Amistad Biosphere Reserve.
 This summer has been so extraordinarily active, I've had very little time to just "hang out" on the internet.

All in all, NAPIRE has been an amazing new journey through Costa Rica. From the lowland Caribbean forests to the high reaches of the Talamanca mountain ranges, we have seen a lot in a very short period of time.  The students are running a great blog about the program, and I invite you to visit their website. There are a lot of photos and updates on the various sites we have visited, including La Selva Biological Station, the Bribri indigenous community, and of course, Las Cruces.

My role this summer is very different from previous NAPIRE programs. As a NAPIRE mentor, I was basically out in the forest every single day. Now, I am more tied to the station as we seek to facilitate some twenty research projects over the next few weeks.

Still, I get my chances. Yesterday I took a half-day hike up the Ridge Trail and along the Wilson loop. I was able to visit the plants that my students have worked with in the past.  They are looking well; probably enjoying the rest from nosy scientists like me.

Wildlife was a little scarce compared to previous summers; no monkeys or snakes or elusive cat-like animals. I did come across a giant toad. Well situated in the middle of the path, it sat like a stone while I took pictures. Not one of my photos really did it justice, but at least it was patient with all the flashes.

Our happy-go-lucky group at the peak of Cerro Chai.
We spent last weekend at Las Alturas Biological Station, on the border of La Amistad Biosphere Reserve in Costa Rica. Amistad stretches across the Talamanca mountain range into Panama and provides a home for many montane ecosystems, including the highland oak forests that inspired Eolyn. There we saw countless animals, including two species of monkeys, various birds, and a wonderful variety of colorful butterflies. I was secretly hoping to come across the giant peccaries I saw two years ago, but no such luck on this trip.

Las Alturas and Las Cruces are not that distant from each other, and are only 300m apart in elevation. So it's always striking to see the difference in animal life between the two sites. Probably the main reason for fewer mammal species at Las Cruces is that the forest here is much smaller and more isolated.

The station director, Dr. Rakan Zahawi, has done a great job of adding pieces to the reserve over the past decade, bringing the total area to about 250 hectares. Still, that pales compared to the 570,000 has set aside for La Amistad International Park.

A glimpse of the vast expanse of La Amistad.
There is a long term project to connect Las Cruces to the nearby Ngobe Indigenous Territory, and from there create a corridor that runs all the way from Amistad to the Pacific lowlands. A corridor that size would transform the natural landscape and ensure the future of wildlife in the region. If you're looking for a great conservation cause to contribute to, visit OTS' website and make a donation to Las Cruces Biological Station. You can specify what you want your donation to go to; in this case, indicate the funds are for land purchases for the biological corridor.

Speaking of great causes, Hadley Rille Books indiegogo campaign is in full swing, and looking for more donations. Hadley Rille Books provides a different sort of habitat for another rare and beautiful species, the True Heroine. There are many great perks for all levels of donation, but the best perk of all is knowing your money is going toward a quality small press that supports historically underrepresented voices in the genre. Please visit their site to learn more about the campaign and make your contribution today.

Last but not least:  Eolyn's Amazing Audio Book Tour is about to begin!  I've coordinated this tour through Daniel Marvelo's Magic Appreciation Tour network, and added a couple friends of my own in the mix. In addition to many great posts about magic, publishing, and the adventure of producing an audio book, the tour will include a giveaway of 5 free copies of the audio edition of Eolyn. I will post the full tour schedule by Monday, July 14th, so look for that in the coming days.

Those are the updates for now. I'll leave you with this fun video by Juan Luis Guerra; it's a song that has for some reason become my personal theme for Summer 2014. (Must be the road trip through the Latin American country side!) Enjoy.



Pura Vida!

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Appeal of the "Underdog"

Costa Rica's National Soccer Team
It's so exciting to be in Costa Rica this summer, with the national soccer team carving out its little piece of history in the World Cup.

A couple weeks ago, even Costa Ricans were doubtful that their team would make it past the first round. Group D, which included Uruguay, Italy, and England, was popularly referred to as El Grupo de la Muerte, or "The Group of Death".

Then on June 14th, Costa Rica defeated Uruguay with a stunning 3-1 win. Since then, the entire country has watched each game with bated breath, and celebrated each victory with increasing confidence and enthusiasm.

I watched yesterday's game against Greece on a small, old-style television set here in Las Cruces. We were a modest group, but we packed the room that was available to us. Many NAPIRE students and mentors opted to travel to nearby San Vito to see the event in restaurants and bars. It was a long and difficult game; toward the end our collective experience degenerated into a series of groans and cheers. We were all sweating so much our little room began to smell like a futbol locker.

Keylor Navas and Michael Umaña moments after making
history.
When Keylor Navas deflected Greece's fourth shot, everyone in the room fell silent. Those seconds while Michael Umaña stepped forward, set down the ball, and prepared for his kick were probably the longest I've ever experienced during a soccer game.

Then in split second, it was over. The ball shot past Karnezis, and Costa Rica had won.

Costa Rica had WON!!

Shouts, dancing, and hugs exploded not only in our little TV room in Las Cruces, but across the nation.  For hours after the game, one could watch televised reports of the riot of celebration that took hold of Costa Ricans everywhere.

I've sung the praises of Costa Rica many times and for many reasons. Once again I'm impressed by how this little country holds in own in the big leagues, in politics, conservation, and now in sports. Not without effort, and certainly not without cost. But always with a sense of joyful determination, a passion for the game that often pays off.

Costa Ricans celebrate the win against Greece in one
of the major intersections of San Jose.
As a Gringa, I sometimes think my own country has lost something along the way when I witness events like these. We no longer seem to have national projects, not even in sports, that pull us together as a nation, and the fill us with shared joy when an extraordinary goal is reached.  The Olympics used to fill that hole, but those games don't seem to resonate among Americans like they used to when I was a little girl. The Space Program was another effort that brought the nation together decades ago, but that too has fallen out of fashion with the current generation.

Tomorrow, the U.S. team will play Belgium in the World Cup, hoping for its own spot in the Round of Eight. I'll be watching that game with baited breath, too. I hope we win, but even if we do, I know the party back home won't be nearly as good as yesterday's party in Costa Rica.


...Let me just close by saying that I simply must use the name Keylor in one of my future fantasy novels.

Pura Vida.
Felicidades, Costa Rica!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will Hahn on the Good Fight

I'm delighted today to welcome author Will Hahn, as part of his blog tour for the new release Judgement's Tale from Games of Chance. 

Will Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur.  He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will didn't always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely stick-like object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sister. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). With the publication of Judement's Tale Part One, Games of Chance, he begins at last to tell the tale of the Land's most unique hero, The Man in Grey.

I've never had a post about writing fight scenes on this blog, so I've asked Will to do one as part of his tour.

Will is also raffling off a FREE copy of Tales of Hope, so make sure you enter the giveaway for a chance to win a great read.

Worth Fighting For: How to Write Combat


When Karin first asked me to do this post I was quaking with excitement. Ancient-Medieval History major, military history nut, figurines on my shelves, cardboard counter wargames all over the table, maps on the walls. I’m the guy your mom didn’t need to warn you about- you could warn yourself just fine. I know the difference between a mace and a main-gauche (it’s a big one) or a morningstar (not so big). More bits of useless trivia than you could shake a rhomphast at (after all, eight feet long with a hammer on one end, that’s tough to shake).

Then I thought about it some more, and I got worried.

I’ve SEEN combat, tons of it, in movies and reading about it in books. And I know what I like- everybody does. But the chef could explain all about gazpacho, and it still might taste like cold soup to you.

I can give you one piece of news you won’t find surprising- it’s very easy to do fights poorly.  Sometimes the description itself is “unrealistic” if that’s a word that applies to fantasy writing. More often, I think, you read a fight that serves no purpose- or to be accurate, it serves the wrong purpose at the time you read it. It’s almost as if the writer feels, when a fight or battle or war breaks out, they have permission to take off their thinking caps and just let ‘er rip.

War, especially today, doesn’t make a lot of sense to many people. I often see the bumper sticker that says “WAR IS NOT THE ANSWER”.

But your readers never stop wanting to know why.

When I see that bumper sticker, I always mutter “What was the question?” Writing about combat is the same as writing about everything else, in that you need to know:

The Stakes and
The Objective

It’s the conflict part that gets easier- fighting IS conflict (but maybe not the only one in a good fight scene).

Stakes

I wrote a bit on this earlier when I gave my opinion at the blog site I share, on the various genres of fantasy. Basically, when the stakes are crucial (“Save the World”) the tale is Epic Fantasy: you tend to see combat less often, and the sides involved cannot afford mistakes because that would be the end. On the other hand, with casual stakes (“Save Your Skin”) fighting is more frequent, sometimes constant: these are Sword and Sorcery tales, and the fight can be trivial (it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an arm). Deciding the stakes of your tale will help inform the frequency and tone needed in your fights.

As an example of good fantasy fighting that many folks might know, I would recommend the incredible sword duel between Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black from The Princess Bride. This is an example of the middle-ground in Stakes, Heroic Fantasy. The kingdom is at risk, or at least the future happiness of most folks in it- not just one or two lives, but not the entire world. Either combatant could die- it is set up as a fight to the death. But neither man is fighting only to save his own skin. In fact, the two men are not in combat for the same purpose, and that’s one reason it is so entertaining either to read or see.

Objective

The plot usually makes Stakes clear for the writer, but Objective- not so much. Again, the key is never to lose sight of “why”, which in my opinion relates to characters. Why are they in this fight? Because it’s been twenty pages since the last one?

The duel in Princess Bride is a great example. Inigo is fighting to kill the Man in Black- why? Because he’s been ordered to. Why is he taking those orders? Why is his boss so confident he’ll succeed? These questions come rolling out as you see the scene (for the first time, from Inigo’s PoV). You catch up- there’s flashback and humor and heart. You don’t know who the Man in Black is, but you don’t want Inigo to die.
And the Man in Black doesn’t seem to want to kill him. His objective is to catch up to the Princess- and now all your “why” questions remain unanswered. The author stiffs you completely- what a bum! But you are glued to the scene, and some of the most deathless descriptions of dueling and battle chatter ever recorded.


It’s Never NOT About Character


This is I think the final and best advice I can give you. Fighting is alien to ALL of us- unless you’re a war vet writing non-fiction. If you think you can make up for a wandering plot by having some people killed, or throw in a bunch of accurate detail about missile and shock weapons because you don’t know what should happen next, then you’re going to lose the readers. Combat scenes are almost always life and death- for your story.

Yes, you need to be familiar with what weapons and soldiers do. I recall rolling my eyes when halberds were getting thrown in combat (yes, it has a spear-end, but it also has an AX-BLADE, you think that might alter the balance a bit?). On the other hand, I have seen publication guidelines that promise any manuscript will be rejected if a character calls upon archers to “fire” their arrows, because presumably that wasn’t the call in medieval times. But I could live with the first action, if the thrower was really strong and desperate- it might be even better. And can you imagine Kiera Knightly in Pirates of the Caribbean turning to her crew and screaming “Loose!”? Not quite the impact the screenwriters were looking for.

Remember the characters are there for a reason and never stop telling us about that. Even when it’s armies fighting, look at what Tolkein did with Legolas and Gimli- their competition and argument over the finer points shows so much. It’s grim humor, and their pride on display- it implies that the fighting, in itself, is not much of a threat to two such experienced warriors, and of course it reveals a growing bond forged in a battle that now means something more because of what these characters carry through it.

Partway through my tale The Plane of Dreams, the Tributarians are camped in the open by a fire, about to get ambushed. They know it’s an ambush, and have prepared a surprise to turn the tables on their attackers. But what they most need is not to win- their assailants evidently wish only to rob them and, oddly, put them all to sleep. The Tributarians need information, they must capture at least one of the leaders alive and question him. So before the combat even starts, the stakes and objective are clearly off-center: and who really knows if an ambush-of-an-ambush can work?

This is your story, don’t be intimidated by a fight- would your heroes ever back down? Certainly not, but you serve them best by knowing their reasons and goals before the first blade leaves its scabbard. Good fortune to you!

Games of Chance


For twenty centuries the Lands of Hope prospered from their Heroes’ peace, but suffer now from their absence as a curse thickens over the central kingdom known as the Percentalion. An immortal omniscient conspirator schemes to escape the extra-worldly prison restraining his tide of undeath, using a demonic ally in a plot to bring back hell on earth. Solemn Judgement steps onto these Lands both a stranger and an orphan, driven to complete the lore his father died to give him.

In a world beset with increasing chaos, the bravest Children of Hope must take mortal risks. A young woodsman’s spear-cast, a desperate bid to save his comrades; the Healers Guildmistress’ cheery smile, hiding a grim secret and a heavy burden of guilt; the prince of Shilar’s speech in a foreign tongue, a gambit to avoid bloodshed or even war. As a new generation of heroes, scattered across the kingdoms, bets their lives and more, Solemn Judgement- soon to be known as The Man in Grey- must learn to play… Games of Chance: Part One of Judgement’s Tale

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Will's Blog Thoughts- Including tales of a happy childhood (which continues), hopes for a writer's journey, and analysis of Classics You've Never Read

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hadley Rille Books Indiegogo Campaign

I wanted to take a moment to let you know about Hadley Rille Books Indiegogo Campaign, which started on June 15 and will run through the end of July.

Those of you who have followed my blog know how very attached I've become to this small press. HRB is a wonderful family of publishing professionals committed to providing readers with quality fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction titles.  The press was founded in 2005 by Eric T. Reynolds, and since then has given a home to many authors and titles, with a clear emphasis on facilitating a greater representation of women in fantasy fiction.

If you enjoyed Eolyn and High Maga and would like to see more novels feature True Heroines, now is your chance to make a difference. Hadley Rille Books has hit some hard times this year, most notably with the massive stroke suffered by our founder and editor-in-chief last January.  The press is in need of additional funds to continue operations under these new circumstances, and also to expand its activities so that our stories are made available to as wide an audience as possible.

I invite you to watch Rose Reynolds' presentation about the press and its campaign below, and to visit Hadley Rille Books Indiegogo Page to learn how you can help.  Every donation, no matter how small, will be greatly appreciated and make a positive difference in HRB's efforts to bring a universe of adventure to its readers.  Please spread the word to your friends and family as well. Everyone who is committed to promoting alternative voices in speculative fiction has a stake in this campaign. Together, we can make it happen.

Thank you in advance for your support!