War and Peace

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Women of my family celebrated birthdays and witnessed a historic moment this week, as Hillary Clinton became the first woman presidential nominee of a major political party. Maybe there’s a future president among my nieces, as well.

Anyone else find themselves wishing November were here so we could get these elections over with?

In my case, I’ve been watching the current presidential race since summer 2015. I remember when Sanders and Trump announced their candidacies; I thought both of them unlikely to get very far, for entirely different reasons. The Trump bid seemed like a hoax; the Sanders bid well-intentioned but ill-fated.

At least I wasn’t the only one misreading the signs.

By the time the primary season started this past spring, I’d already spent a lot of time listening to and researching the candidates. Just as Bernie’s star began to rise, I decided to get off his bandwagon and give my support to Hillary. Don’t get me wrong; I would have gladly voted for Bernie this November, but for many reasons I won’t bother you with here, Hillary earned her spot as my preferred candidate.

In my family, we have both Hillary and Trump supporters (and a few Bernie fans, as well). It’s a delicate balance to be in. Like most mid-westerners, we maintain an uneasy peace by avoiding direct confrontation over the matter. This may sooth family divisions, but sometimes the silence starts to eat away at you inside.

I think my family probably isn’t unique in this; that maybe the habit of silence among loved ones is a factor that pushes Americans to argue politics (and other things) on the internet, where many can vent pent-up frustration without facing the terrible Freudian consequences of upsetting people close to them.

When I do talk to friends and family about the election, I see buttons being pushed all over the place. I’ve read a lot lately that this election is about “feelings”, but I think it runs deeper than that. It’s as if each and every one of us has a raw nerve (or two) that’s been exposed by the issues at stake; and the candidates that have climbed to the top of the race have a rare gift for poking at those nerves.

Last weekend, I confronted myself about this. My emotional stake in the 2016 election is higher than it’s ever been. I’m stressed about this race. It’s safe to say I may even be losing sleep over it. I’m certainly starting to get angry with people who don’t see things my way, something I am not prone to do. This is not a situation I want to sustain through November, so I need to figure out what’s getting under my skin and what I can do to better manage it.

It didn’t take me long to identify my raw nerve. It has to do with a deep, visceral revulsion toward anyone who attempts to fan the fires of nationalism over a foundation of racist and bigoted rhetoric. I was born to a family who survived the worst possible nightmare under such a leader in the mid 20th century. I grew up learning about the real cost of hate to both victims and perpetrators, and I’ve never been under any illusion as to how easily the madness can take hold, even in a great nation like the United States of America. 

So at times I feel like weeping when I consider what’s happening inside the GOP today. Once a party of great traditions, the GOP lost its spine years ago. Now, it has lost its soul. I remember the millions who suffered and died in order to stop the onslaught of hatred in Europe in the 1930s and 40s, and I get depressed when I see so many of my fellow citizens embracing a gospel of hatred and racism now.

At the same time, I’ve never been more proud of the United States than this week, as I’ve watched the Democratic Party unite against hate. This is truly a golden moment for the Democrats, in terms of the party’s diversity and leadership, in terms of their capacity to build coalitions among people of many different backgrounds and competing points of view. Whether their message of hope resonates with the majority of the American people in November remains to be seen.

For me, the message of racism and bigotry espoused by the GOP’s presidential nominee is the only issue that really matters this election season. Everything else is background noise. Will we choose the abyss of hatred and division, or will we choose the power of unity and diversity? Will we tumble backwards toward the nightmare of 1930s Germany, or will we march forward into the greater promise of the 21st century?

I wish I knew the answer now. And it troubles me deeply that in this day and age, I am still having to ask the question.

Note: I’m posting this in clear and conscientious violation of the oft-repeated advice that authors should never discuss politics on a blog. I know the risk this entails, but sometimes remaining silent is the wrong choice. Comments for my journal are moderated, and messages of hate will be excluded from the discussion. Thank you for your respect and understanding.

Goodreads Giveaway for EOLYN

Today is the last day of the Goodreads Giveaway for EOLYN. Find out more details and enter for your chance to win one of five signed copies at the link below. Good luck!

 

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eolyn by Karin Rita Gastreich

Eolyn

by Karin Rita Gastreich

Giveaway ends July 25, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Happenings About Town

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Uptown Authors will be at Prospero’s Books (1800 West 39th, Kansas City, MO) tomorrow, July 23, from 2pm to 5pm. We’re a small group of Kansas City area authors representing diverse genres, from sweet and wonderful children’s books to sizzling adult novels. Books will be available for purchase and signing. If you’re in town, please stop by to say hi!

Sword of Shadows Now on Kindle

Sword of Shadows Kindle 3Sword of Shadows, Book Two of The Silver Web trilogy, is now available on Kindle.

Today, we’re celebrating with a book blast organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Some thirty blogs are participating, and they are all listed below. Visit any one of these sites, and you can enter a giveaway for the chance to win a $15 B&N/Amazon gift certificate.

If you haven’t read the first book of the trilogy, Eolyn, now’s the time to download your copy from Amazon. Start the adventure today!

About Sword of Shadows

Lands ravaged. Dreams destroyed. Demons set loose upon the earth.

Sisters in magic, Eolyn and Adiana seek to revive a millennial tradition once forbidden to women. When war strikes, their fledgling community of magas is destroyed; its members killed, captured, or scattered.

Determined to defend her people, Eolyn seeks to escape the occupied province and deliver to King Akmael a weapon that might secure their victory. Trapped by the invading army, Adiana is taken prisoner and placed at the mercy of the ruthless Prince Mechnes.

Even as their world is torn asunder, Eolyn and Adiana cling to a common dream. Courage and perseverance guide them toward a future where women’s magic will flourish in a world set free from war. But to achieve that dream, both women must first offer the greatest sacrifice…

Sword of Shadows was first published in 2014 by Hadley Rille Books under the title High Maga. 

View Sword of Shadows on Amazon. 

Goddess Fish Book Blast

All of the following blogs are hosting the book blast today for Sword of Shadows. If you visit any of these sites, you can enter to win a $15 B&N/Amazon giveaway!

1: BooksChatter
2: Hope. Dreams. Life… Love
3: Long and Short Reviews
4: T’s Stuff
5: The Avid Reader
6: The Silver Dagger Scriptorium
7: Fabulous and Brunette
8: One Book Shy of a Full Shelf
9: CBY Book Club
10: Kit ‘N Kabookle
11: Liz Gavin’ s Blog
12: Lynn Crandall
13: Natural bri
14: Readeropolis
15: StarAngels Reviews
16: Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’
17: The Reading Queen
18: The Voluptuous Book Diva
19: Two Ends of the Pen
20: books are love
21: Cover2Cover
22: Dina Rae’s Write Stuff
23: It’s Raining Books
24: Straight from the Library
25: Christine Young
26: Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer
27: Book Bling
28: Writer Wonderland
29: Welcome to My World of Dreams
30: This and That Book Blog
31: Laurie’s Thoughts and Reviews

Filling the Glass

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Even a tiny house can feel too big when the person you thought would be there is gone.

For almost a year now (longer, depending on your perspective), I’ve been living alone in a home made for two.

I’m not talking about the size of my house, but about the organization of its space. Places once occupied by my ex-husband (so strange to use that word!) had been left undisturbed. Even though he no longer lived here, it felt appropriate to reserve his place until we sorted out whether fate, circumstance, and the will of our hearts were going to give us another chance.

In one of the unspoken traditions of my family, the space we live in not only says who we are, but also embraces us. “Home is where the heart is” can be rephrased as “the heart is in the home.”

I learned this not through words and lessons, but through the example set by my mother, who keeps a bright and welcoming home; a place where guests always feel at ease, a space that expresses the family’s heart. All my life, no matter how humble my dwelling, I’ve tried to emulate her magic touch.

Last August, when the writing on the wall became clear and I peered down the long road toward divorce, my first instinct was to sell this house. It seemed empty without the promise of my husband’s return. Too big, too much, for just me to live in and take care of. It’s not a large house, mind you. It’s just that when we purchased this place, I envisioned it as a home for two. Now, it was half empty.

After some consideration, I decided to give myself a chance at making this space work for one. All those little household and garden tasks my husband used to do I folded into my own schedule (taking care of him was replaced by taking care of my home), or I hired out for help when it was too much to do alone.

The biggest expression of this change was the decision to repaint earlier this summer. The trim was peeling, and some of the siding needed replacement. All in all, the exterior work was more than I could afford, and I will be paying off the debt for some time. But at a deep, emotional level, I needed to do this. New colors don’t necessarily make a new me, but they can herald a new beginning, evidence of ownership over a project that is slowly but surely becoming mine.

Changes to the interior have been a little slower in coming, but after I signed the divorce last week, I knew what would be next: the closets.

The master bedroom of this house has two closets. Ever since we moved in, one has always been “his” and the other, “hers”.  Of course, “his” has stood empty for a while, evolving into a storage space for random belongings that sooner or later must be claimed by him or will be given away.

I could have left it that way (his few remaining possessions still need to be stored somewhere), but “his” closet had become dead space. A small mausoleum that housed the ghost of my husband past. Now that the decision was made and the papers signed, I felt it had to go. Or rather, be transformed.

What seemed a simple idea at first (clearing out his stuff and dividing my stuff between two closets) turned out to be a week-long, intense process of cleaning, packing, sorting and re-sorting. It was physically exhausting, with an unpleasant emotional undercurrent that I managed to ignore if I focused on the mundane tasks of dusting, vacuuming, folding, and at the very end, deciding what to put where.

Late last night, I finally finished. I now had two closets, “mine” and “mine”, each with their own set of functions going forward. Pleased with the results, I showered off the dust, made myself a cup of lemon ginger tea, and watched a little late night TV. Then, for the first time in almost twenty years, I slept in a room that was 100% my own.

From a certain perspective, all of this sounds kind of trivial. After all, they’re just closets. But on a deeper level, those closets mattered in a way I didn’t understand until I finished last night. After all, at the beginning of the week, my bedroom was half empty. Now, it’s full – not just half full, but full. A small but significant affirmation that one is – and will continue to be – enough.

There’s a something of a miracle in that, and also, a touch of joy.

Next week, I think I’ll start on “his” office…

Swords and Shadows

Countdown to HIGH MAGA

Detail from the cover of Sword of Shadows. In this scene, Kel’Barú is Eolyn’s only hope against the forces of darkness. Artwork by Thomas Vandenberg.

I want to express my deepest thanks for everyone’s support during last week’s post. I’m always shy to share personal matters on my blog, but your responses moved me deeply and were a great help in getting me through the week.

I’m back home now, moving forward with new projects and old ambitions. And…we are now less than a week away from the release of Sword of Shadows, Book 2 of The Silver Web! (Where did the summer go?)

Sword of Shadows was previously published by Hadley Rille Books under the title High Maga. Those of you who read High Maga will find some changes in this new edition. Namely, you’ll have the opportunity to see certain events from the point of view of the villainess, Queen Rishona of the Syrnte. I’m really happy with Rishona’s scenes, and I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

In addition,  Sword of Shadows includes a preview of the third and final book of the series, Daughter of Aithne. 

I’ve had several people ask me why I changed the title, so I want to talk about that a little here. The Sword of Shadows actually refers to Eolyn’s sword, Kel’Barú, which makes its first appearance in Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web

Friends and fans of Eolyn will know that she is rather averse to swords. This is not due to some stereotypical “feminine” weakness, but stems from a deep conviction that swords represent the worst aspects of feudal power, the exercise of dominance through violence.

 

In Book One, the appearance of Kel’Barú in Eolyn’s life presents an irony and a dilemma. Kel’Barú is presumably her brother’s sword, and yet it does not “listen” to him. The only person Kel’Barú listens to, and the only person who can understand its song in all of the Kingdom of Moisehén, is Eolyn.

Kel’Barú’s song is not the ordinary dialect of metals, a language all warriors in Eolyn’s world come to understand. Rather, it is a magical language infused with the sorcery of the wizards of Galia.

Herein lies the untold backstory of the trilogy: Why does Kel’Barú connect with Eolyn and no one else?

No spoilers here, because at it turns out, I never quite found the opportunity to explain this in the three books I wrote for the trilogy.

The answer to this question centers on Eolyn’s father, Eoghan, a Galian warrior who came to Moisehén to support the magas in their struggle against the Mage King Kedehen. Eoghan fell in love with the maga warrior Khelia, and shortly after the war ended, they conceived a daughter, Eolyn.

Eolyn, therefore, carries her father’s Galian blood. Since Kel’Barú once belonged to his family, the sword recognizes her as one of its own. (It goes without saying, then, that Eolyn’s brother, Ernan, had a different father; this is the fundamental barrier that keeps him from being able to use the Galian sword effectively.)

In the first book of the trilogy, Eolyn never quite overcomes her aversion for all swords, including Kel’Barú. But in the second book, Sword of Shadowsshe must come terms with the special power she has over this weapon, as the future of her people may depend on it.

So on one level, the new title alludes to a very particular aspect of Eolyn’s journey as a woman in magic. On a deeper level, however, the title also refers to the ominous power swords continue to represent in Eolyn’s world. Sword of Shadows is a book about war and all the terror it brings. In this sense, every sword becomes a sword of shadows. Every sword is doomed to leave death and destruction in its wake.

SWORD OF SHADOWS will be released in Kindle on July 19th and is available now for pre-order from Amazon. 

 

Independence

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Traveling up Bear Tooth Pass to Yellowstone last summer; our last big trip as a married couple.

This year, while fireworks burned bright over Kansas City and friends & family gathered around the grill, I celebrated Independence Day in an usual and hopefully not-to-be-repeated fashion: I traveled to Costa Rica in order to sign the papers for my divorce.

This trip marked the last chapter of what has been a long, painful struggle around the question of what to do when love runs strong between two people whose lives are taking off in completely different directions.

I’ve avoided talking about the break up of my marriage, in part because I’m not one to air my private life in public forums, but also because in this case my private life was also the private life of someone I care for and respect very much.

There’s nothing quite like seeing seventeen years of love wrapped up and snipped off in the clean, cold language of lawyers and judges. It’s an experience that shakes you to the core; one that I would not wish on anyone.

Seventeen years ago this month, my then-to-be husband (and now-to-be-ex) asked me out for the first time. Not only did I accept; I was so certain something fundamentally important was about to happen that I called up another man I was dating at the time and told him, in no uncertain terms, that I was not going to see him again.

From that day forward, through all our years of dating and marriage, there was no one for me but this one person and the joy, passion, and adventure that we shared. If I’ve learned one lesson from the sum total of my experience with my marriage, it is this:

Always choose love.

In case you didn’t get that the first time around:

Always choose love.

My marriage may have come to an end, but no one can take away the years we shared, or the happiness we gave each other. And despite the pain I’ve suffered, despite the sadness I feel, if I were given the opportunity to go back and do things differently, I wouldn’t change any of it.

Except, perhaps, if I could find a way to make us last a little longer. That I would do. But if that opportunity ever existed, it passed us by, and this is something I am slowly learning to accept. At the end of the day, there is no going back. One life is given to us. We do the best we can with every precious moment, and then we move on.

Ironically, I’ve also learned that the one thing that makes heartbreak bearable is love itself. The memory of love, the presence of love, the promise of love, in all its forms. Even as the tears fall, even as I go through another box of tissue and reach for another bar of chocolate, I have no regrets. I feel sadness, at times deep and gut-wrenching melancholy, but that is not the same as regret.

Regret is when you’ve done something you wish you hadn’t done. I will never wish away the years of my marriage. I mourn their end, yes, but I am very grateful to have had them.

He and I made the brave choice, after all. We chose love. And our blessings have been many because of that.

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The road to Poas Volcano this morning; my first solo outing after filing for divorce.