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Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sisterhood ~ guest post by fantasy author Karin Gastreich

I'm very pleased to have a special guest, fantasy author Karin Gastreich, who I met through the Magic Appreciation Tour.  She's sharing her outlook on the topic of sisterhood in life, fantasy stories, and in her own novel, Eolyn. Please enjoy her post and learn more about Eolyn below.

One of my favorite Grimm’s Fairy Tales growing up was ‘Snow White and Rose Red’.  This story has nothing in common with the much more popular ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ – except that both tales were among those collected by the Brothers Grimm.  The Snow White of ‘Snow White and Rose Red’ is an entirely different character, with a distinct background and personality. 

Snow White and Rose Red are sisters who live with their widowed mother deep in the woods. Together they befriend a bear in winter time and rescue an ungrateful dwarf from a variety of unpleasant fates.  Little do they know the bear is actually a prince under a curse cast by the dwarf.  Each time they rescue the dwarf, they inadvertently take away some of his magic. This eventually results in the bear being able free itself from the curse by killing the dwarf.  The prince takes Rose Red as his bride, and as luck would have it, successfully matches up his brother with Snow White. Both sisters not only live happily ever after, they live happily ever after together.

Sisterhood is a repeated theme in many tales, and it has always appealed to me.

Growing up, I was an avid follower of the adventures of Laura and Mary, from Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s classic Little House series. 

When as an adult, I read The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory, what impressed me most was not so much the retelling of Anne Boleyn’s story (after all, by then I knew how it all began and how it would all end), but the exceptional skill with which Gregory captured the essence of sisterhood:  the love, the admiration, the jealousy and rivalry, the bond of blood and affection capable of withstanding almost anything, even the fatal political and sexual intrigues of the court of King Henry VIII. 

More recently in the Hunger Games, the power of sisterhood has resurged with Katniss Everdeen taking the place of her sister Primrose, and thus becoming a hero – oops!  I mean, a heroine -- before even stepping foot inside the Games. 

I have been blessed with having a sister; so every time I read a story about sisters, I’m reminded of that relationship, and all that my sister has meant to me and given me over the years. Love, encouragement, faith in my ability to achieve my dreams, an example to aspire to, someone to care about, support and depend upon.  Big sisters are especially wonderful because they so often serve the role of pathfinders. They are the ones who forge ahead into life’s unknown territories, and come back to share their wisdom with younger siblings. 

In the world of my novel EOLYN, sisterhood also has a special meaning.  Eolyn herself has no biological sisters, but in the tradition of the Magas, all followers of Aithne, the woman who first discovered magic, are sisters.  For the Magas, sisterhood transcends boundaries of time, place and bloodlines.  One can even speak of ‘sisters’ who lived centuries ago.  The Magas believe that all practitioners who have passed into the Afterlife continue to watch over their sisters in the world of the living.  So while Eolyn is on her own for much of her journey, she is never truly alone with her magic. 

These are some of my thoughts on sisterhood; it’s importance in our stories as well as in our lives.  Now it’s your turn.  What does “sisterhood” mean to you?  Who are your favorite sisters in fiction and history, and why?  How have your sisters, in blood and in spirit, made your life easier, more interesting, more fulfilling and fun?

By Karin Rita Gastreich 
By Karin Rita Gastreich

In a land ravaged by civil war, the Mage King Kedehen initiates a brutal purge of the Magas.

Fleeing his wrath, Eolyn, daughter of the last of the Magas and sole heiress to their forbidden tradition, seeks refuge in the South Woods.  There she meets the mysterious boy Akmael, and forms a friendship that thrives on shared magic.  Destiny leads them down a tortuous path of love, betrayal and war, until one day the Maga Eolyn takes up arms against the new Mage King.

Must Eolyn slay the man she loves in order to free herself and her people? 

The answer lies in the extraordinary magic she commands, and in the hidden power of a Maga’s heart. 

“Vigorously told deceptions and battle scenes. . . with a romantic thread." – Publishers Weekly

Purchase Links: 

Excerpt from Eolyn, Chapter 2
By Karin Rita Gastreich

By the time Eolyn arrived at a large stony riverbed, she had lost track of the moon’s passage. In a few months spring would fill the river’s banks to overflowing, but now with autumn drying up into winter she crossed the water without wetting her feet, by jumping from one stone to another. She paused on the opposite bank and considered following the current downstream. Before she could decide on her next step, Eolyn saw another Guende.
The creature stood but a few feet away, reflecting the hues of day and fall. It wore colored leaves in its cap and an evergreen vest embroidered with seeds and nuts. With smiling eyes peeking out from under bushy brows, it proffered its hand. Eolyn was surprised by the feathery lightness of its touch, as if it were not a real hand at all, but an impulse of energy that took hold of her and pulled her forward.
They left the river and walked for almost an hour, until Eolyn felt a subtle shift in the resonance of the forest. The woods did not look any different, with its old trunks, crusty bark and draped moss. Yet something had changed. Caught between curiosity and apprehension, Eolyn’s heart beat so hard it pushed into her throat. The Guende tugged on her hand in reassurance. An intense drone filled her ears, as if she were passing through an invisible hive of bees. After a few steps the buzzing stopped, the Guende disappeared and Eolyn stood alone in a small clearing. The thick expanse of trees that defined her world moments before had melted away. Under a cover of soft grass, the ground sloped downward and then rose again. Beyond a low hill hovered a faint wisp of chimney smoke. Taken with a sudden enthusiasm founded on the hope of human company, Eolyn bounded forward. On the other side of the rise she saw a simple cottage surrounded by a thick garden.
“Good day!” she called out. “Is anyone home?”
The bushes rustled. A dark hood rose up and peered at her. “Well. Who is this mouse that calls upon my humble house?”
The hag’s voice crackled and hissed like a night fire. Eolyn stepped backwards, regretting her boldness at once. How could she have been so foolish? She knew the stories about hags living in the woods. They were witches, all of them. They turned children into bread and ate them for breakfast.
Rising to her full and somewhat crooked height, the hag shuffled toward Eolyn. “Don’t run away, my child.”
Eolyn had no intention of obeying, but her feet betrayed her and rooted into the ground like stubborn weeds. Locating a stump next to the girl, the old woman eased herself down. Several minutes passed in silence.
“You are not much of a talker,” she said at last. “All the better I suppose. I’ve grown accustomed to an existence without chatter in this place. How long have you been in the woods?”
“Nearly a moon, I think.” Eolyn’s voice was subdued with dread.
“A full moon?” the old one repeated with surprise and interest. “How did you survive so long on your own?”
“I know the late harvest berries and mushrooms and how to find springs and draw water from the moss. Then the Guendes found me.” And led her here.  Treacherous creatures!
“I see. And what drove you into the forest in the first place?”
Eolyn blinked and looked away.  Her eyes began to burn and her throat ached.
“Come, child.” The woman’s voice was quiet and gentle. “You can tell me.”
Eolyn was not going to tell her anything, but then words came spilling out anyway. “There were horses and soldiers and terrible fires and . . . they killed my father, and my brother never came back . . . and then I . . . heard my mother.  I saw her, I swear!  She told me to follow her, but it wasn’t her after all . . . and then I got lost.”
The hag folded her arms. “You’re a very courageous girl. How many summer solstices have you seen?”
Eolyn shifted nervously on her feet.
“Nine, perhaps?” The old woman asked.
The blood drained from Eolyn’s face. Proof of witchcraft! How else could she have guessed her age?
“Speak, child. A guest in my house must say what she thinks.”
“Are you the witch who eats children?” Eolyn covered her mouth with both hands, shocked by her reckless tongue.
The old lady’s eyes sparked in the shadow of her cloak and she reached up to remove her hood. Eolyn expected to see an ancient face twisted into a sharp warty nose, unkempt hair splayed like straw and inflamed eyes that would hex her on the spot. The truth proved oddly disappointing. The woman’s features were soft, lined with the many years that had bent her body. Her thick gray hair lay braided in a neat coil at the nape of her neck. Her nose was an unremarkable peak over narrow lips. She watched Eolyn with keen gray eyes. “Well that is not a question I get every day. Tell me . . . What did you say your name was?”
“Nice to meet you, Eolyn. I am Ghemena. Tell me, why do you think I am a witch who eats children?”
“Because you are an old woman, and you live alone in the South Woods.”
“That is rather damning evidence,” she conceded. “What else do you know about this child-eating witch?”
“She lives in a house made of sweetbread and the children come to eat it. That’s how she fattens them up before she throws them into her great oven.”
“I see. . .” The woman nodded, her face a mask of careful reflection. “Well, young Eolyn, you can see my house. It does indeed bear the shade of honey-sweetened bread, now that I think about it. Why don’t you take a bite? If the legend is true you’ll be able to eat it. Even better, I’ll be able to eat you. But I will let you run first. I’ll give you a full half-a-day’s head start just for being such an astute little girl.”

Author Bio:
KARIN RITA GASTREICH was born near Kansas City, Missouri. After living and working for ten years as a tropical ecologist in Costa Rica, she recently returned to her home town and is now a Professor of Biology at Avila University. Her past times include camping, hiking, music and flamenco dance.  Karin's first fantasy novel, EOLYN, was released by Hadley Rille Books in 2011.  The companion novel, HIGH MAGA, is scheduled for release in 2014. Karin’s short stories have appeared in Zahir, Adventures for the Average Woman, 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and A Visitor to Sandahl.   She is a recipient of the Spring 2011 Andrews Forest Writer’s Residency. Visit her at the blog for Eolyn,, and at Heroines of Fantasy, co-authored with Terri-Lynne DeFino and Kim Vandervort,

Author web links:
Blog Heroines of Fantasy:

 Please click on the logo above to learn more about the wonderful fantasy authors who participate in the Magic Appreciation Tour.

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Marsha A. Moore is a writer of fantasy romance. The magic of art and nature spark life into her writing. Read her ENCHANTED BOOKSTORE LEGENDS for adventurous epic fantasy romance: Book One, SEEKING A SCRIBE, and Book Two, HERITAGE AVENGED. She has also authored the Ciel's Legacy series, with fast action mermaid/pirate storylines: TEARS ON A TRANQUIL LAKE and TORTUGA TREASURE.  For a FREE ebook download, read her historic fantasy, LE CIRQUE DE MAGIE, available at Amazon and Smashwords.


Terri Rochenski said...

I have 3 brothers, so I'll never understand the sister connection. I love how you use it, though, to inspire your writing.
Your book sounds like something I would definitely enjoy, so I'm off to add it to my amazon wish list.
Thanks for guest posting w/ Marsha!

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Thank you, Terri!

I also have a brother; and interestingly enough, while I didn't give Eolyn any biological sisters, I did give her a brother. Brothers are the best; I'll have to do a post about them someday, too. :)

Karin Rita Gastreich said...

Marsha -- Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog! It has been great meeting you and getting to know your work.

Marsha A. Moore said...

Karin, it's been my pleasure. Your book sounds fascinating, one I definitely want to read.