Monday, December 31, 2012

Another year ends, another begins...

2012 gives way to 2013, and we here at Heroines of Fantasy have some New Year's Wishes to share.

May you have music in your life and freedom in your heart!
                                     ~Adiana of Selkynsen (Eolyn)

May the seeds you have planted bear abundant fruit, and may the magic you wield be true in its purpose. 
         ~Tzeremond (Eolyn)

Enjoy the adventure. Live the moment. May at least one of your dreams come true in 2013.
                                                                                      ~Karin Rita Gastreich, author of Eolyn

Don't be afraid to roll the dice. Nothing ever changes if you never take a chance.
                                                                                                     ~Ethen Finder (Finder)

May you walk in dragon footsteps, and may the Dragon Bones be kind.
                                                                                     ~Bahgwam  (A Time Never Lived)

Modesty may be for suckers, but gratitude needs a bit of humility. I humbly and sincerely thank my co-contributors for all their love, my readers for their enthusiasm, and anyone who is reading this right now for the moment taken to do so. A writer writes, even if they have no one they are writing for. Having readers is an honor and a privilege I never take for granted. Happy New Year! May 2013 be fabulous!
              ~Terri-Lynne DeFino, author of Finder and A Time Never Lived

Wishing the Peace of Renia's Tears to all those in need. Words when you want them, time to think of their meaning, and the craft to give them back to the world in the form most beautiful and useful.
   ~Devyn Ambrose (The Poets of Pevana)

Wishing all those whose dreams still wait for them...make them real.
                                                                   ~Eleni Caralon (The Poets of Pevana)

Wishing wisdom to all who wield power. Not to strike without need but to shield those in need of shelter.
           ~Donari Avedun (The Poets of Pevana)

Wishing the joy of grandfatherhood to all men in their right time. Forget dangling the diadem of rule. There is more power in holding that small frame who looks up at you with hope of the future, with your own eyes, from your past.
                                      ~Sylvanus Tamorgen (King's Gambit)

Wishing love to all those in search of love. May you find the words and the way to heart's desire.
                         ~Lyvia Tamorgen and Talyior Enmbron (King's Gambit)

Happy reading in 2013! Here's to the artificers of dreams, the storytellers! Let the tales spin out like celestial yarn, weaving all within the cosmic tartan of believe, make-believe, the is and what ifs. May the well of your faith grant you the time and the space to follow your path of words at your own pace. Onward!
~Mark Nelson, author of The Poets of Pevana and King's Gambit (May 2013)

Do not fear the future; fear the consequences of never striving to become more than who you are.
           ~ Queen Ki'leah Alrhiane Del'Sivahr (The Northern Queen)

Know your friends. Respect your enemies. And keep your fingers away from the sharp end.
           ~ Britta Kayne (The Song and the Sorceress)

My wish for the new year? Never give up on your dreams, even when the obstacles seem insurmountable. Work a little, play a little, love much, and above all, LIVE.
   ~ Kim Vandervort, author of The Song and the Sorceress, The Northern Queen, and Outcast (coming Spring 2013)


Monday, December 24, 2012

Build-A-Grimmer-Story ~ CLOSED

Happy Birthday, Brothers Grimm!

Last week, we celebrated the 200 year anniversary of Grimm's Fairy Tales, that collection of folk tales that has inspired generations of imaginative children and children-at-heart. 

Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors.  Their accomplishments were many, including a German dictionary published in 1852.  What they are most remembered for, however, is the work Kinder- and Hausmärchen (now known as Grimm's Fairy Tales), first published in 1812. This compendium of folk tales was the result of research conducted while at the University of Marburg.  (A fairy tale town in itself, I might add!) Later editions were expanded to include over 200 stories, and today, Grimm's Fairy Tales has become a standard introduction to fantasy for children the world over. 

As an author, I'm accustomed to hearing voices in my head, and so I wasn't surprised in the least last week when Jacob and Wilhelm decided to contact me on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of their most famous publication.

"Karin!" they said. "We want to celebrate our 200 year anniversary with a guest spot on Heroines of Fantasy!  Our folk stories are full of great female protagonists!  Courageous women who rescue their fathers and brothers, bring heinous criminals to justice, break wicked spells cast over handsome princes, and all-in-all have amazing and admirable adventures."

Well, of course, I couldn't resist this opportunity.  After all, how many bloggers get to have famous -- no, legendary -- guests, especially guests who have been dead for 150 years? 

So I invited the Brothers Grimm to lead our holiday build-a-story event, and they graciously agreed to do so.  Now all of us get to write a story with the Brothers Grimm!

Here are the rules:  Jacob and Wilhelm will give us five lines to start.  Everyone who participates can add five more lines to the story -- NO MORE THAN FIVE. 

Each contributor MUST build on the previous five lines, so that the story is a cohesive thread woven by all of us together.  Please pay attention to what the previous person wrote, and go from there. Don't try to invent the story all over again, or Jacob and Wilhelm will, in the best tradition of 19th century German professors, strike your fingers with a phantom ruler!

You may add to the story as often as you like, but again, no more than five lines at a time, and you must allow at least one other person to add their part before contributing another piece of your own.

Posting will end at midnight on Monday, December 31.  Jacob and Wilhelm will wrap up the story with five final lines, and I will post the whole thing on Tuesday, January 1. 

This build-a-story event is extra extra special, not only because you will be rubbing shoulders with the spirits of the Brothers Grimm, but also because every addition you make to the story earns you a chance to win the Heroines of Fantasy Holiday Giveaway, a FREE ebook bundle of four great novels by HoF authors!  So let your imaginations run wild, write away, and enter the giveaway to boot. Giveaway winners will be announced on January 1.  Good luck!

Now, here are our first five lines, courtesy of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm:

There once lived a princess so very haughty that, when a suitor came, she would have nothing to do with him unless he could solve one of her riddles; and if he tried, and did not succeed, he was dismissed with mockery and contempt.  She allowed it to be generally known, however, that the man who could find out her riddle should be her husband. 

Now, it happened that three tailors came to the town in which the princess lived.  The two eldest, who had done so many fine stitches and guessed all sorts of puzzling riddles, were sure of being able to guess what the princess propounded; it was not possible such clever people could fail. 

The third tailor, however, was a useless little fellow, who knew scarcely anything of is trade; yet he fancied he might be lucky as well as any of them and wished to try. . .

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Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Ashes and the Phoenix

“Every new beginning/ comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Green Day, “Closing Time”

Since ancient times, humans have found comfort in cycles and the measures that structure them. Every day begins anew, fresh with possibility. Every hour. Every second. Days become weeks, the cycle of a year dictated by the stars, the weather, the forces beyond our control that lead us to watch and wonder. The cycle keeps us structured and on course, but it is also a promise: after the winter comes the spring; after the darkness comes the light.

Beginnings and endings are made of promise and fear, hope and disappointment. They signify change in its purest form: the start of a new journey, whether physical or spiritual; a final word, deed or thought to underscore the end of a time, a place, a hope fulfilled or lost. They are the markers by which we measure our lives, our successes and failures, our dreams and disappointments. They are birth and death: literally, figuratively, spiritually.

Though I always intended to write to this topic, recent events have forced me to probe the meaning and purpose of endings and beginnings more deeply. The world frightens me of late. The recent election bred unparalleled hate-speech from all sides of the political spectrum and seeded discontent all across the globe, parting friends and creating enemies instead of encouraging discussion and breeding hope for a brighter future. Violence abounds. Colleagues and students were locked down at my workplace for six hours because of a gunman loose on campus, just a day after the Oregon mall shooting and mere hours before twenty tiny children and six adults were ruthlessly slaughtered at a little school in Connecticut. On a much smaller scale, everywhere I turn this holiday season, people are stealing parking spots, shoving, verbally abusing one another. Is this a temporary madness, or are we, as a society, nearing the end of our cycle?

Is the world truly set to end on December 21st? I generally hold to the argument that the Mayans in charge of calendar duty just ran out of rocks or decided they’d expended enough effort marking time for the generations they would never meet. However, with such rampant hate and disregard for one’s fellow man, such senseless acts of violence and overwhelming grief, sometimes I wonder if perhaps the Mayan calendar doesn’t necessarily signal the end of the world so much as it signals an end to the world as we know it. The death of civility and peace, replaced by a new era of hatred and fear.

Still, I am, at heart, an optimist. Even when life gets rough, I’ve always maintained the mantra that when one door closes, a window opens. Maybe it isn’t always the path we preferred; sometimes it’s the path we didn’t know we needed. Or maybe that window is the only option available, and we have no choice but to jump through. A new start is granted, and for better or for worse, a new course is set. But with so many tragic endings of late, it becomes harder and harder to figure out exactly where to begin again. How do the families of these little children pick up the pieces and move on? How do we all recover and find new hope when the shadows of fear and grief still crowd the edges of our lives?

I don't know the answer to any of these questions. But I do know that we cannot give up. We need to choose, every day, to start over. To make a new beginning out of the night’s ashes. To fill the void of closure with promise, and choose to fulfill that promise. We must choose, as my wise grandmother always said, “to make lemonade from our lemons.” And as we are all shaped by not just our choices, but the choices of others, the onus is upon us to choose wisely and well, in deed and thought, so that we may leave the world a better place than we found it.

As with all things, this year will end. But a new year awaits, a fresh slate upon which to carve the patterns of our dreams. My wish for us all is to find some peace in the present and choose to create a new future full of possibility.

"The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise." --Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Posted by Kim Vandervort

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Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter, Reading, and Story...



 Winter, Reading and Story...

 Hello folks, Mark here!

My post this week is a short one because I'm neck deep trying to please my editor and finish what we both hope are final major edits to King's Gambit. If my head doesn't explode, I promise to have something different for January.

In keeping with the season, I had a number of questions running around in my hind brain regarding weather. In Washington, November is the period where the great change usually occurs. Eastern Washington makes the great fade in a month of color transition, scudding clouds and dipping temperatures. Some years we get snow early. I recall several late October snow fests that put a different spin on trick or treating, but most years we get a dusting in November and some "real stuff" in December. I don't mind a white Christmas as long as I don't have to drive in it. I love looking at winter from my deck with the heater going and a good glass of wine or a stiff hot toddy, toasting weather's worst as it advances down the ridgeline to leach all color into shades of black and white.

Snow is really cool when seen from the inside of a clean picture window...

Let me be clear: I don't like the cold. If I am ever able to retire from teaching and can afford it, I will find a place with desert colors and heat. No question. I love my seasons, but my body functions better in the heat. I don't care how old we get, shorts are still cool and most of us appreciate a good tan. :)

But I will say this for winter, in addition to Terri's excellent comments about food last week, I think the season is ready-made for reading. In fact, I think in my life at least, there are two such seasons: summer and winter. I read all the time, but as an educator, those are the times when I can really dig into multiple books, great movies, and great meals. We start break in a week, and I have several tomes waiting my down-time attention. Teachers use such breaks to grade papers and make plans, but we also use that time to treat ourselves to reading stuff we don't teach. These are guilty pleasures times. I'm talking about the full pot of coffee, slippers and the cat and a stack of great books. I'm thinking of those late-night-can't-put-it down-and-gee-no-school-tomorrow-so-go-ahead-and-read-three-more-chapters kind of moments.

Glorious exhaustion.

I could ramble on forever, but I would rather have your responses to several questions:

When do you read the most? Do you tend to read certain kinds of literature according to season?

AND, on a seasonally related front: What are some of your favorite works that use winter as a prime component in the story-line?

Martin's use of the cold in his huge epic is well-documented. Tolkien treated the seasons with the deft skill of a Raphealite artist. Williams used it effectively in his first trilogy. LeGuin made winter a prime motif in Left Hand of Darkness and other early books. I'm sure there are others; post here and let the rest of us know.

AND, on a writerly front: how hard is it to use the cold/winter as an element in one's prose? What challenges confront the writer trying to allow weather to dictate the exploits of his characters?

Questions, questions, questions...ok about some answers!

Happy Holidays!


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Monday, December 3, 2012

Winter Traditions

We heroines (and one hero!) of fantasy have been busy. Writing, editing, work, family...and now the holidays are upon us. I don't know about you, but once Halloween hits, the end of my year goes into warp speed. I feel like no sooner are the pumpkins cut open for the crows than the Christmas tree is being tossed onto the bonfire with a whoosh and a crackle and a warm, glowing series of pops.

I look forward to the slower pace of January, February, March when my brain isn't on overdrive. Still, there is something magical about this chaotic time of year. I thought it might be nice to break away from the usual here on Heroines of Fantasy, and instead revel in the joy, the excitement, the special moments with family and friends.

The food.

Holiday foods seem to lean heavily on tradition. We all have that holiday fare culture or region give to us. I'm a Jersey Italian, and southern Italian at that. This time of year is full of some really nasty tidbits, like fried smelts and baccala. Don't let the pictures fool you, this stuff reeks! I don't care how they taste, there's no getting away from the smell.

It lingers for days--on your clothes, in your house, your hair, cats, rugs. It doesn't matter if you've cooked it, or only had it brought to you. I am pretty sure that the twelve days of Christmas has its origins in how long it takes for the smell to dissipate.
We're not even going to talk about the tripe.

In my home, we don't do the traditional seven fishes on Christmas Eve. We go out for dinner, because Christmas Eve is cookie-baking day--a tradition all its own, and not even remotely related to being Italian. Well, except the feeding people part. It started when my oldest was a junior in high school. I don't know why I waited so last minute to bake the Christmas cookies that year, but I had. With all the ingredients out and ready, I was not prepared for my daughter's million friends to drop by--but they did.

For the next several hours, my kids, my daughter's friends and I mixed and baked and ate cookies and talked and laughed and ate more. I went through about a gallon of milk, a box of tea, and several dozen cookies, but it was one of the best Christmas Eves on record.

We continued the tradition through high school, then college, and even after they were all out in the world, doing their thing. One year this one couldn't make it, another year that one couldn't. Whoever could make it, came. The tradition continues to a lesser degree with the other kids' friends. My oldest daughter, now married with a child of her own, still comes home every Christmas Eve to bake cookies. Once in a while, one of the other "kids" will drop by. It's enough.

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