"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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Adiana Confronts Mechnes

Our countdown is almost finished. This time next week, High Maga should be available in print and ebook format the world over.

I want to take a moment to thank ALL of my readers for your steady support during the long and sometimes difficult road between Eolyn and High Maga. I also want to thank the folks at Hadley Rille Books, most of all Terri-Lynne DeFino, Kim Vandervort, Heather McDougal, and Thomas Vandenberg, who really pulled together to help get this title out on time in the wake of Eric's illness.

Eric continues to make good progress in his recovery; some of you may have noticed he even visited my blog earlier this week! Hopefully he'll be back in full action soon. Until then, Hadley Rille Books continues to move forward.

Our final excerpt from High Maga is a "throwing down of the gauntlet" of sorts between two of our minor characters, Adiana and Prince Mechnes. You've met each of these characters in previous posts, so without further ado, here's a peak at the first of many scenes between them.

High Maga

Chapter 12 (excerpt)

“I don’t intend to find a place among the Syrnte.” Adiana's breath stalled under the look Prince Mechnes gave her, a strange mixture of amusement and menace. “What I mean is, my home is here, in Moisehén, not with the Syrnte.”

“It’s all one kingdom now. Or perhaps better stated, will be soon.” Mechnes nodded to the guards. “Unbind this woman.”

In an instant, the cords that secured her wrists were removed. Adiana cradled her hands against her breast, rubbing the places where the leather straps had left her skin raw.

Mechnes closed the distance between them in two strides.

“You will have to find a place among us, Adiana, or you will perish. That is the way of conquest.” He took her hands in his and studied them carefully, strong fingers tracing the fine delicate length of her own. “What do you play?”

Adiana’s skin crawled at the intimacy of his touch. His aroma was sharp, like coals on the hearth, and laced with the smell of blood. She wanted desperately to look elsewhere, but could not. Mechnes’s massive frame filled her vision; his presence, at once sinister and magnetic, demanded all her attention.

“The cornamuse.” Her voice had dropped to a nervous whisper. “The dulcimer, and the lute, the short wood, as well. Among others.”

He pressed her hands between his. Adiana was visited by the sudden image of him snapping her fingers one by one, as if they were nothing more than dry twigs.

“I see you are telling the truth, in this much at least,” Mechnes said. “You have beautiful hands, Adiana. We must be grateful they were not damaged during the attack on Maga Eolyn’s Aekelahr. And we must also hope they will come to no harm here, under my care.”

A heavy silence followed. Adiana understood the unspoken threat that hovered between them. Who else would he ask? The children, the survivors of the siege, the members of Lord Felton’s household, if any of them still lived. There were untold numbers of people in Moehn who might give him the information he sought. What would Adiana’s deception gain for Eolyn in the end—fifteen minutes? Half an hour? It did not matter. Every additional moment could mean the difference between Eolyn’s escape and her death. Adiana had already lost one friend tonight. She would not betray the other.

She lowered her eyes and held her tongue.

Next week: Purchase links for HIGH MAGA.  Woohoo!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Publishers Weekly Reviews HIGH MAGA

Full cover, front and back, for HIGH MAGA.
Art by Thomas Vandenberg, cover design by Heather McDougal.
I'll be honest:  I didn't think it would happen, this late in the game, but HIGH MAGA has gotten some attention from a proper editorial magazine. Hooray! You can read the Publishers Weekly review at the permalink, but I've also copied it below for your convenience. 
PW always finds a way of needling the author, but in general it seems the reviewer was pleased with the story. I'm especially happy that s/he liked Adiana and Mage Corey. 
One more scene to be posted this Friday, and then next week it's launch time! 

High Maga

Karin Rita Gastreich.
Hadley Rille (Ingram, dist.), $16 trade paper (363p)
ISBN 978-0-9892631-9-1
Eolyn is a powerful high maga, a female mage, living in a maga community she founded in the peaceful town of Moehn. She assumes that she will never again see her onetime love, Akmael, now Mage King of Moisehén and married. But the ruthless young Rishona of the Syrnte Empire launches a war that forces Eolyn and Akmael to reunite in both love and battle. Gastreich’s sequel to Eolyn takes a while to find its feet and repeatedly undermines tension by telegraphing important plot points. War propels the book forward, and the characters are at their best when the events engulfing them are at their worst. Most of the shine comes from secondary characters like the musician Adiana and Mage Corey. Fans of Gastreich’s previous work will want to catch this continuation of her story. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/24/2014 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Swords and Staves

When the going gets rough, who would you prefer to have at your side:  a brave knight or a cunning mage?

In High Maga, Eolyn has both. When the Syrnte invade Moehn and destroy her home, she finds herself alone in the highlands with Sir Borten, a loyal knight of the king who was assigned to her protection. Soon they are joined by Mage Corey, who took Eolyn under his wing years ago and still considers the maga his ward.

The alliance between Eolyn, Borten, and Corey is a fragile one haunted by failures of the past. Eolyn has reason to distrust both men. The knight and mage have no fondness for each other. As if this weren't enough, the Gods weave their mischievous magic with all three of them, striking sparks of attraction in unbidden moments. A volatile mix, these three, but if they are unable to overcome their differences and succeed in this task, they will perish and the rest of the kingdom with them.

Sir Borten

In my first novel Eolyn, Borten appears only twice. Both occasions play a crucial role in the realization of Akmael's fate as a king and ruler. Early in his reign, Akmael pardons Borten for a transgression that should have cost him his life. In return, Borten submits to his king with unfailing loyalty and becomes one of Akmael's most trusted servants.

Like Eolyn, Borten is a native of the isolated province of Moehn. It is partly for this reason that Akmael designates him captain of Eolyn's guard when she establishes her new Aekelahr

Though Borten has blood ties to the impoverished nobility of Moehn, his family is of low rank. This allows Corey to refer to him disparagingly as a "peasant knight", a habit that does little to encourage the knight's friendship. 

When I wrote Eolyn, I did not anticipate the importance Borten would eventually assume in the maga's journey. Indeed, even in the opening stages of High Maga, I had few plans for Borten beyond letting him wield his sword in the Eolyn's defense. 

Then one day, one of my critique partners said to me, "You should let Borten have a crush on Eolyn."

So I did. 

That's when Sir Borten's story became most interesting. . .

Mage Corey of East Selen

Corey was born to a family of magas and mages that ruled the eastern province of Moisehén.  One night when he was still a boy, his clan was massacred by the Mage King Kedehen. Corey escaped thanks to the intervention of his cousin Briana, who was captured by Kedehen and made queen.

At once a prisoner and adopted son of the royal family, Mage Corey struggles with conflicting motivations.  On the one hand, he desires vengeance for the obliteration of his clan. On the other hand, he is bound by loyalty to the few individuals who still share his bloodline, among them Briana’s and Kedehen’s only son, King Akmael. 

Corey and Eolyn first meet under the auspices of his Circle, a travelling show that brings the illusion of magic to the people of Moisehén. The mage recognizes Eolyn’s importance early on, but much time will pass before Eolyn fully understands the true extent of Corey’s power, and what his influence and ambitions will eventually mean for her.

The chemistry between Eolyn and Corey crackles with tension. Their relationship is one of constant disagreement, wary admiration, and latent attraction. Although Corey might be considered a minor character, his fate is tightly intertwined with Eolyn's. The final outcome of the saga, to be revealed in the third book Daughter of Aithne, will depend crucially on the resilience of this besieged friendship.


Next week, our final preview before the release of HIGH MAGA.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ghemena Plans Her Escape

We are getting very close - only two more excerpts left before High Maga is released on April 4th!

Today we meet two of the youngest members of Eolyn's Aekelahr, Ghemena and Tasha. This scene happens shortly after the invasion of Moehn. Eolyn's coven has been attacked, and Ghemena and Tasha taken prisoner. But little Ghemena is not one to remain bound and imprisoned. Already, she is planning her escape...


High Maga

Chapter 13 (excerpt)

Sitting up, Ghemena looked around the bare tent, illuminated by a thin shaft of light streaming through a break in the canvas. Catarina and Tasha slept, bodies curled side by side on the hard dirt floor, faces swollen from the many tears they had shed. With growing dread, Ghemena realized Mistress Adiana was not with them. 
Tasha whimpered and stirred. She lifted her head, tangled dark tresses hanging in her rounded face, and stared with bleary eyes at their grim surroundings before focusing on Ghemena.
“Where’s Mistress Adiana?” she asked.
A painful lump in Ghemena’s throat would not let her speak. She bit her lip, working her arms and wrists against each other, trying to get the blood to return to her fingers.
Tasha moaned and hid her face against Catarina’s shoulder. “This was supposed to be a dream. I was going to wake up, and have it all be a very bad dream.”
“We’ve no time to cry,” Ghemena replied sharply. “We have to get out of here as fast as we can.”
Tasha dragged herself away from Catarina’s sleeping figure and sat up. She pointed to her bound arms with her chin. “How are we supposed to escape tied up like this? And where would we go if we did? You saw the town last night. Nothing’s left of it, and those horrible men are everywhere.”
“I have a way to find Maga Eolyn, but I have to free my hands first.” A burning sensation moved through her palms, followed by the prick of a thousand pins on her fingers. Ghemena knew this was a good sign.
“What way?” asked Tasha.
“A magic way. Maga Eolyn showed me how before she left. I’m going find her and tell her what’s happened, and then she’ll come to rescue you.”
“You mean we can’t go with you?” Tasha’s brow furrowed and she glanced nervously at Catarina. “Don’t leave us alone here. Please.”
Ghemena stopped fidgeting and gave Tasha a worried frown. “I don’t think it’ll work with more than one of us.”
“Why not?”
“Maga Eolyn never said anything about taking more than one person.”
“That doesn’t mean it’s not possible.”
“No,” Ghemena conceded doubtfully. “I guess we can try.”
“Promise me you’ll try, Ghemena.” Tasha’s eyes were wide beneath her dark brows. “Promise me you won’t leave without us.”
Ghemena looked at her friend. Tasha had always been the quiet one, forever trying to make peace between Ghemena and Catarina.
“We’re sisters,” Ghemena said. “We must be loyal to each other, right?”
Tasha grinned and nodded.
“So you see then, I won’t leave you alone, Ghemena assured her. I can’t.”


Next week, everyone's favorite mage: Corey of East Selen.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Eolyn's Coven

My original plan for today's post was to write about two of Eolyn's students, Ghemena and Mariel, but I've decided instead to talk more generally about Eolyn's coven and its place in the history of Moisehén.

Prior to the beginning of High Maga, Eolyn founds her coven in the Moehn, a remote mountain-bound province considered something of  a backwater by the rest of the kingdom. Even Moehn's nobility are rather humble people, impoverished compared to the wealthier families of Selkynsen and the other provinces, yet happy with the life they lead and relatively unambitious in the political realm.  

Born in one of the small villages of this province, Eolyn grew up in the South Woods after fleeing the wrath of the Mage King. She identifies strongly with the province of Moehn and considers it a safe haven against the stormier conflicts of the outside world. This is why she chooses to begin rebuilding the tradition of the magas here.

Recruitment to Eolyn's coven is a slow and difficult process. The War of the Magas and the purges that followed have had a lasting impact on the structure and temperament of the society of Moisehén.  Even with the backing of the Mage King, Eolyn can find few families willing to entrust their daughters to the enterprise of women's magic.  

As a result, Eolyn's first generation of students come from impoverished and troubled backgrounds. They were brought to the Aekelahr by families hoping to rid themselves of unwanted daughters. This includes Ghemena, Eolyn's first student and the youngest member of the coven, Mariel and Sirena, who are almost ready to petition for a staff of High Magic, and Tasha and Catarina, the newest arrivals. Adiana and Renate, whom you met last week, came to the coven as adults at Eolyn's invitation. They assist her in teaching and caring for the girls. 

The Aekelahr, which is the name given to the physical location in which a coven lives, has a long history in Moisehén, though its precise origins remain obscure. Throughout the centuries, mages and magas interacted on a regular basis through intellectual pursuits, festivals, and the like. However, when it came to living in a community with other practitioners, the sexes generally kept themselves apart. 

Some would say this is how the tensions that eventually threw the kingdom into chaos got started, but Eolyn was steeped in the appropriateness of this practice by her own tutor, and she wishes to establish a coven according to the oldest traditions of her people. 


Come back next week for a scene with two of our young coven members, Ghemena and Tasha. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Plans and Projects

Some exciting news that extends beyond our HIGH MAGA countdown.

As some of you may know, our interdisciplinary studies course, Ecology through the Writer's Lens, did not make enrollment this spring. I suspect the competition was a little two stiff (we had three other equally fantastic travel courses offered at our tiny university) and the price a little too steep. 

So, Dr. Amy Milakovic and I have reimagined the course and will be offering it again for fall semester.  This time, our focal ecosystem will be PRAIRIE. As part of the course, we will visit the Konza Prairie in western Kansas, a long-term ecological research site and a world-class conservation center. I have been reading Prairie: A Natural History by Candace Savage, and I am getting very exciting for this new adventure!  Prairie is a magnificent ecosystem in so many ways, but little understood and invariably under appreciated. 

Here's the new video we've put together about the course:

In recent weeks, I've also, after much deliberation, decided to accept a position as co-coordinator for the Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience (NAPIRE) Program.  I have been involved with this program, in one capacity or another, since 2006, and have talked about it often on the blog. 

I was a little nervous about accepting the co-coordinator position, as it involves a lot more responsibility -- certainly a different level of responsibility -- compared to being a research mentor, which has been my focus of activities for about eight years now. I suspect I will not be doing much writing in Las Cruces this summer, but the rewards of assuming this new role will almost certainly compensate for that.  I met the new coordinator, Barbara Dugelby, at the NAPIRE workshop last January.  She is deeply committed to the program, wonderfully organized, and very clear in her communication. I think she's going to be a joy to work with.

All this to say:  We are going to Costa Rica this summer!!  Stay tuned because as those of you who follow me know, this means weekly posts about fantastic adventures in one of the most beautiful places I know. 

If you are unfamiliar with NAPIRE, check out this information video produced by the Organization for Tropical Studies:

Last but not least, some of you may have noticed that the word count for Daughter of Aithne has frozen up during the last couple of months.  Don't worry!  I am still making progress, though it has been harder with the onset of Eric's illness and the launch of High Maga just around the corner.  But I have been working hard, whenever I can, on a revision and rewrite of the first 70,000 words. This is why the word count has not changed, though the novel is moving forward. I am very pleased with what I've been able to do, and glad I've taken the time to go back and tie up some loose ends before continuing. 

The Goodreads giveaway for Eolyn ended this morning at 12am.  The winners will be contacted shortly to arrange sending out their free signed copies.  Congratulations to all of you!

I have a second giveaway planned for High Maga this month.  As soon as Goodreads approves it, the giveaway will go live.  Four signed copies are up for grabs, so make sure to get your name on the list. Good luck!

On Friday, we continue our countdown to release day with an introduction to two more members of Eolyn's coven: the young magas Ghemena and Mariel. 

Have a great week!