Goodreads Giveaway: EOLYN

Eolyn cover flat2 reduced 1 22 16To celebrate the imminent release of Daughter of Aithne, Book Three of The Silver Web, I’m hosting a Goodreads giveaway of the first book in series: Eolyn.   

“A tale of female oppression, prejudice, and even deadly seduction, Eolyn touches on issues that are deeply relevant in our own society. At times both heartwarming and heart-wrenching, the story warns young women about the ways in which the world will try to take advantage of them—but it does so in a way that never denies them their magic.” – Apex Reviews

In a land ravaged by civil war, the Mage King Kedehen initiates a ruthless purge of the magas. Eolyn, last daughter of the magas and sole heiress to their forbidden craft, seeks refuge in the South Woods. When she meets the mysterious Akmael, heir to the throne of this violent realm, she embarks on a path of hope, seduction, betrayal, and war. Desire draws Eolyn toward Akmael’s dark embrace, but fate binds her to Corey of East Selen, a cunning mage whose ambition challenges the limits of love and loyalty.

Can she trust either man?

Hunted in a realm of powerful wizards and brutal deceptions, Eolyn must find her own path to freedom or she will burn on the pyre.

Five signed copies are up for grabs; the giveaway ends on April 16. Click on the link below or visit Goodreads to enter. Good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Eolyn by Karin Rita Gastreich

Eolyn

by Karin Rita Gastreich

Giveaway ends April 16, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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One woman’s journey determines the fate of a millennial tradition of magic.

When the Old Becomes New Again

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The release of Daughter of Aithne will kick off with 2-week tour of 28 blogs, organized by Bewitching Book Tours.

I’ve been busy with final preparations for the release of Daughter of Aithne on May 1, including scheduling of blog tours and book blasts.

Blog tours often involve interviews and guest posts. I find interviews easier to complete than guest posts, so when preparing for a tour, I always start with the interviews (which often, in turn, give me ideas for blog posts).

I enjoy interviews; the questions asked compel me to reflect on the writers journey and the why’s and how’s of my latest novel. Sometimes I even gain unexpected insights about my own work.

My current set of interviews have me thinking a lot lately about why I wrote The Silver Web trilogy, including this third and final installment, Daughter of Aithne. I’ve realized that what seemed rather mundane and obvious just one year ago – writing a fantasy where powerful women call most of the shots – has now become something new and daring once again.

I’m not happy about this, because it’s a result, in part, of the social and political climate that has gripped our country. A short six months ago, I imagined Daughter of Aithne would be published in a world accustomed to seeing women run nations. I saw Eolyn’s fictional realm as a reflection of a society that had already begun to manifest itself – albeit through a democratic process rather than feudal rivalries.

By all appearances, we have instead rolled backwards into an age not unlike Eolyn’s medieval fantasy realm: where men who demean women are uplifted, and women who aspire to equality and fair treatment are despised and ridiculed. What seemed, not so long ago, an almost passé theme – the idea that women can not only aspire to but achieve respect and equality, even in the highest echelons of power – has suddenly become new and urgent, even insurgent, again.

One of my beta readers once told me that she saw The Silver Web as a metaphor for our own past, present and future. In her mind, the first book, Eolyntells the story of where we have come from as women; the second book, Sword of Shadows, reflects the dark, violent, and misogynistic world in which we live; and the third book, Daughter of Aithne, offers a vision of balance and reconciliation that one hopes will be achieved in the future.

I confess I’d never really seen my own work that way. Well, perhaps I had; it’s just that I believed we were on the verge of leaving Sword of Shadows behind, and Daughter of Aithne was less than a dream away. Now, I honestly don’t know.

I guess some dreams just take longer than others.

 

Cover Reveal: Daughter of Aithne

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I’m delighted to announce that Daughter of Aithne will be released this spring in Kindle and print editions!

Cover art and design for this third and final installment of The Silver Web is by Thomas Vandenberg, who also did the covers for the first two books in the series, Eolyn and Sword of Shadows.  The image shows Princess Briana’s first encounter with a snow tiger, under the careful watch of her mother, Eolyn, High Maga and Queen of Moisehén. If you look closely, you just might see a nervous squirrel in the background!

The novel is now available for pre-order on Kindle. This is the climactic finale to The Silver Web, which chronicles Eolyn’s life-long struggle to restore women’s magic to her people. Will she succeed? You’ll have to purchase the book to find out!

Synopsis

Betrayed by her own prodigy, Eolyn is arrested for treason. While power-hungry nobles dismantle her life’s work and honor, the desperate queen forges a risky alliance with the ruthless and cunning Mage Corey. Plagued by enemies old and new, Eolyn must fight her own sisters in magic if she hopes to secure her son’s throne.

Across the Furma River, Taesara of Roenfyn is drawn out of seclusion and into an ever-more vicious game of intrigue and war. Subject to the whims of a scheming uncle and the mysterious ambitions of the wizards of Galia, Taesara struggles to assert control over her own fate even as she joins the battle to defend her daughter’s inheritance.

In the climactic finale to The Silver Web trilogy, threads of love, honor, betrayal, and vengeance culminate in a violent conflict between powerful women, opposed to each other yet destined to shatter a thousand-year cycle of war.

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes…with a romantic thread.” -Publishers Weekly review of Eolyn, Book One of The Silver Web

“Lush, evocative descriptions carry readers through an unforgettable journey.” –Kirkus Reviews review of Sword of Shadows, Book Two of The Silver Web.

Cover art and design by Thomas Vandenberg.

Available now for pre-order on Kindle!

Blackout and Recovery

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Lake of the Ozarks State Park in winter time.

Whoosh!!

And just like that, the month of January is gone.

When I stay away from the internet for extended periods of time, it’s usually because I have a lot going on in my non-virtual life – most of it good – and this month has been no exception.

In addition to kicking off the spring semester with a satisfying roster of classes, I’ve been to two very interesting meetings inside of a month: the bee workshop I mentioned in my last post, and more recently, the annual meetings of the Missouri Natural Resources Conference.

The other thing that’s sucked up my time, in a not-so-pleasant fashion, is the political situation of our beloved nation. For me, keeping track of the news has been like watching a thousand fires light up across a dry landscape. Every. Single. Day. If only I had more water…

But I don’t want to talk about any of that today.

The question most on my mind of late is whether it’s possible for the heart to heal – truly heal – after suffering bitter disappointment. Do we get stronger from the fall, as so many claim, or do we just learn to cover up one pit before tumbling unwittingly into another? Does the promise of new love bring joy or just distraction? Are joy and distraction essentially the same thing, twin pills that merely lessen the pain without ever erasing its source?

Over past month, I’ve engaged in a conscientious effort to let go of the past and better embrace the future. At times, the effort feel good and right, exciting, even. At other times,  I just want to crawl back into my shell and tell everyone to go away.

I harbor a deep desire to laugh and be lighthearted again, to play in the sun like I remember doing, back in a time when I had faith in people – or, rather, a certain person and a particular vision of my future.

But just as desire for levity succeeds in asserting itself, I have a dream or memory; I see a place we used to enjoy or hear a voice that reminds me of him. I wake up and realize today is a date that was important for us as a couple, and my heart goes tumbling back into that pit.

The demon I battle is an irrational fear, but not of being alone. On the contrary, I find a lot of safety and comfort in the thought of being alone. No situation meets my expectations with such satisfying precision as being alone.

What I do fear is this: Being together and then being alone. I fear love followed by separation, whether by choice or circumstance or some combination of both. Having suffered through that agony once, I don’t ever want to face the possibility again.

Yet I must face it, if I ever want to love. And for better or worse, I am a creature driven toward love. In a way, it’s the cruelest of miracles, this situation I find myself in; a desire that beats me down with memories even as it pushes me forward with hope.

I don’t know where all this will lead. All I know is that for the first time in a long time, I’m searching for one more bright plain. A picturesque mountain. A verdant forest. A city of elves, even.

All of Middle Earth is not orcs and caverns, after all. There’s the Shire and Rivendel and Rohan. There’s the Emerald City…

Oops. Sorry! That’s another story. But it still works. Love can’t be all tornadoes and flying monkeys and fake wizards. Once in a while there are ruby slippers and a dance down the yellow brick road. Sweet dreams in fields of poppies. A scarecrow with a brain.

A tin man with a heart.

A lion who has found his courage.

Getting to Know the Bees

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There’s so much more to being a bee than meets the eye.

I’m spending my week at a bee identification workshop, learning about the diversity of Missouri bees and how to identify representative species. Mike Arduser, Missouri bee expert, is teaching the workshop.

 

I spent a day collecting with Mike last summer, when he completed a survey of wild bees at two of Kansas City Missouri’s prairie reserves, Jerry Smith Park and Swope Park’s Rocky Point Glade.

A whopping eighty-nine bee species were identified during that survey, including twenty specialist bees and two new species for the state. Jerry Smith Park, in particular, was determined to be a “high quality, functioning tall grass prairie remnant of regional significance.” You can read a summary of their findings at the KC Parks web site.

My decision to attend the bee identification workshop is part of an ongoing effort to re-tool and explore new research opportunities in the Kansas City area, including short term projects that my Avila students can complete as part of their capstone experience. Not only is Jerry Smith Park interesting from a biological and conservation standpoint, it’s very conveniently located, just a few miles south of the Avila campus.

All that to say, I won’t be on line much this week, because Missouri bees will be getting all my love and attention.

I did want to share a piece of news from a couple weeks ago that I never got around to mentioning here: Apex Reviews posted a very nice 5 star review of Sword of Shadows. Here’s a brief excerpt:

“Author Karin Gastreich hones the technique of her first installment into a masterful work of prose, providing us with a truly breathtaking world and unforgettable characters….Gastreich’s world is filled with imperfect heroes and charming villains, all forced to navigate a world in which the rules of wartime have changed the game.”

The full text of the review has been posted on Goodreads, and you can read it here.

That’s all for now. Next week, classes start (Aaaaaaaaagh!), so I will definitely be back with more news.

Writing Beyond Inspiration

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The sage bee is one of many Missouri native bees that I’ll be getting to know better next week.

Well, this is it! 2017 is here with its unique, yet-to-be-revealed set of challenges and blessings. I’m getting things into gear, updating my syllabi while trying to rest just a little more before reality hits full throttle next week.

On the writing end, I’m prepping for a new round of queries for The Hunting Grounds, my brilliant paranormal thriller that’s missing just one thing right now: the right home for publishing.

My autumn round of queries was not without its successes. I had some places express sincere interest and/or give me good feedback, but in the end nothing quite panned out, and that’s okay. It’s times like this that I fall back on my most reliable mantra: Trust in the fate of your novel. 

I have, of course, continued to rework The Hunting Grounds even as I query. After all, there’s always room for improvement.

Over the holidays, despite being seriously ill, I managed a major rewrite of the opening chapters. This week, I’m tackling some persistent issues with the closing scenes. Once I’m done, I’ll send out the next round of query packages, hopefully by the end of this week. (If not, it’ll have to wait until mid-January, as next week my time will be fully dedicated to learning how to identify Missouri bees.)

I’ve been reflecting today on how the flavor of a rewrite is so wholly different from the first (and sometimes second) round of crafting a novel. The heady adrenaline rush of that initial inspiration is often simply gone. Issues of mechanics and delivery come to the forefront, and while a new idea may spring up here and there, the ‘novelty’ of the novel has definitely worn off.

A lot of writers don’t like this part of the journey; they find it tedious and annoying. Sometimes it is. But in general, I’ve always enjoyed the post-inspiration rewrites. In fact, I’ve come to believe that the moment when we seem to lose our inspiration is absolutely crucial to crafting a quality novel.

For me, that cloud of inspiration immerses me in the novel. I walk with my characters and live their experiences even as I’m writing. This is not a bad thing, but as long as I’m “inspired,” the story is still, on some level, about me. It’s not that the characters don’t have autonomy and make their own choices, but I’m so close to their experience, it’s hard sometimes to see the forest for the trees.

When I throw off the rose-colored glasses of inspiration, it means I’m ready to bring the novel to the level it was meant to be. Attachment to ‘precious’ words and passages loosens up. I can cut here, tighten there, fill in the details in other places, because I’m no longer distracted by the emotional ups and downs of my poor characters, who suffer constantly at the hands of my cruel imagination.

Do I wish I’d had the manuscript in this state of polish when I started querying last August? Well, yeah, but like I’ve said so many times, at some point you have to trust in the process.

New year. New edits. New round of queries. And so the cycle continues.

Wish me luck.

Living in A Time of Giants

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Of EOLYN, Apex reviews said, “the story warns young women about the ways in which the world will try to take advantage of them – but it does so in a way that never denies them their magic.” 

 

2016 was a hard year for a lot of people, myself included, but despite the general wailing and gnashing of teeth out there in the interverse, I can’t help but feel that 2016 was, on the whole, no better or worse than 2015.

To be fair, 2015 was a pretty bad year for me. About as bad as they come. Emotionally, I am in a much better place now than I was one year ago, and for that I am very grateful.

2016 also saw some important personal successes. After recovering my rights from Hadley Rille Books, I was able to roll out the first two novels of The Silver Web trilogy on my own. This was no small task, and while credit goes to Thomas Vandenberg for his stunning cover art, everything else was on my back.

Both novels have received stellar reviews, including praise from Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Apex Reviews.  I’m very excited about releasing the third and final Silver Web novel this spring. Whenever the larger events of 2016 start to drag me down, I try to remember this and other small but meaningful achievements.

Although all of us can point to some good things that happened, a lot of my friends are anxious to boot 2016 out the door, having set their hopes for a brighter future on 2017.

I don’t count myself among their number. I don’t see any evidence that the new year will be better than the old one. On the contrary, I’m bracing myself, because I know so much of what I believe in and have worked for all my life is going to be under assault. I know I will have to retool – perhaps on a daily or monthly basis – as I decide the best course of action going forward.

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Kirkus Reviews described Sword of Shadows as “a consistent blend of lyrical verse and dark imagery.”

Last night, I had an odd dream: I was discussing how to teach statistical analyses with a fellow professor. As part of that conversation, I mentioned that one of the most difficult challenges for me, when teaching the scientific method, is to help my students respect their data even when the experiment doesn’t turn out the way it’s “supposed to.”

More often than not, if the outcome of an experiment does not agree with my students’ predictions, they automatically assume they did something wrong. Granted, once in a while the experimental design isn’t appropriate, or the sample size is too small, or something else gets messed up, and all of this can affect the data.

But the first rule of any good scientist is to look data in the eye and accept its truth, even if that truth contradicts our expectations.

When I woke up, I laughed at myself for having had such a geek dream. I mean seriously, debating statistical tests in my sleep? But on deeper reflection, I realized there was an important message here:

Just because things don’t turn out the way you expected doesn’t mean you did something wrong. 

Sometimes all the variables aren’t under our control. Sometimes our initial prediction is based on a misguided understanding of how nature (and therefore, the world) works.

When this happens, rather than assume we screwed up, we have to look the data in the eye and listen to what it’s trying to tell us. This is not an easy thing to do, not in science and less so, sometimes, in life.

During this final week of 2016, with the passing of Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Vera Rubin, and George Michael, I’ve realized that through all the lives it took, 2016 taught me something very important:

I have lived in a time of giants.

I was born on the cusp of an age of transformation; and I grew up as part of a generation that has pushed for positive change over decades.

The heroes we worshiped as children and adults – pop stars, actors and actresses, news anchors, astronauts, scientists, and so many others – represented the best aspects of that transformation. Their loss is deeply felt, because without their example and leadership, we feel set adrift. More so with the turning of the political tide, which threatens to roll back so many of the hard won achievements of recent years.

So for 2017, this is my prayer:

Let us look truth in the eye without flinching, but also, without berating ourselves for faults we did not commit.

Let us allow that truth to reshape the nature of our understanding so that we can act accordingly.

Let us celebrate the good even as we struggle to overcome the bad.

Most of all, let us remember we have lived in a time of giants; and let us honor their legacy with the choices we make and the lives we lead.

Peace to you all. I look forward to seeing you on the other side of midnight.

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In science as well as life: Just because things don’t work out the way you expected doesn’t mean you did something wrong. Trust the data, and the story it tells.