Archive for the ‘The Word Cauldron’ Category

New Landers Saga E-book Covers!

I’m so excited to share these!  The artist Rebecca Crockett did such a lovely job with the colors and the compositions–I really love how she captured the mood and atmosphere for each book.  I’m leaving the old covers on the print books as an homage to my mom, but these will be on all the e-book covers for the Landers Saga.   In other news, I’m almost done with the rough draft of The In-Between Place.  This one’s taken a couple months longer than the other books because of some changes to my employment situation.  I’ll post more news here soon . . . in the meantime, here are some pretty pictures for you to enjoy!

Fledgling_Witch_Amazon_ReadyWitch_Awakening_Amazon_Ready Tapestry_Lion_Amazon_Ready Phoenix_Ashes_Amazon_Ready Curious_Fear_Amazon_Ready

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Crossing the Styx – Repost for Mom’s Friends

Mom's final resting placeCrossing the Styx

*a reflection on scattering Mom’s ashes at Paradise Beach on Lake Superior

 

 

 

 

 

We picked your urn
Not so much for the outside, an elegant cloisonné midnight
But for the inside, the warm turquoise of a robin’s egg
I imagined you surrounded by this blue, the blue of the best summer days, and felt comforted
But like a bird in the egg
Grief changes and grows
Until it needs to hatch
Escape its confines and scatter
Fly away on the wind and explore infinity
We kept you in the egg too long
Our hearts yearning to trap you just as they remembered you
Stopping growth
Stopping grief
Stopping time
Stopping change
A human futility, to imagine we have the power to stop ourselves
The power to stop our surroundings
To stay in the chrysalis
To stay in the womb
To stay in the egg
To stay in the warm safe dark
Long after we have outgrown it
Change happens when we aren’t looking
Infinity steals into our dreams at night, into the cozy darkness of our mortal eggshell
Whispering surrender to the inevitable
Dreams of water and spirit
Water flows everywhere, undermining all barriers to its course
Countless individual drops joining to form a mighty whole
Water is change
Your last dream was of water
The day before you died
You said you sat on the rocky verge, staring across a calm lake
The constant ripples comforting you
With the ever-shifting eternity of their pattern
Your urn was heavier than I expected
A huge egg of grief I carried like a baby
As I trudged along the shore
The pebbles of Paradise Beach ringing in my ears
I woke to life on this beach
My earliest memories of this place
Yours too
You wiled away many joys along Lake Superior
Sketching its infinite moods
Bathing in the rare northern sun
Building stone homes for the spirit people
Now I bring your ashes here to rest
The ashes of the body that once carried mine
Carried the first spark of me
My first mortal home
I now carry
I cry as I look out at the lake
My tears blurring the edge of the silver water from the gray-white sky
Until there is no horizon for my grief
I try to think of a prayer as I open your urn
But the shushing murmur and lap of the waves conversing with the shore
Seems prayer enough
So I remain silent
Struck by the sacred wild of this place
You scatter easily over the water and rocks
Glad to finally hatch
Glad to finally become one with the lake you dreamt of so long ago
You soar out free over the silver ripples
Until your soul rises from your ash and finds its fledgling wings
A single gull’s cry in your endless wake
As you chase the horizon of forever

~Karen Nilsen

copyright 2014

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Death and The In-Between Place (Book News and Life Musings)

“Dying is easy. Separation is the hard part.” -Jeanne Walker in Always, Karen: More Alive than Ever

Considering I live in one of the wealthiest and most medically advanced societies on the planet where some people my age still have surviving grandparents, I’ve experienced a lot of death in my 36 years.  I only knew one of my grandparents, my grandma Beabo, who passed when I was in high school.  Then a friend died in a fire.  Then several of my mentors succumbed to various diseases.  Then I lost my mother to cancer in 2005, my father to a sequence of medical catastrophes in 2008.  Somewhere in there, I also lost a sibling, not to physical but to emotional death.  And now, just in the last year and a half, my aunt and a cousin in Norway died, two writer friends passed away, my surrogate aunt (Mom’s best friend from high school) is no longer with us, and a dear co-worker went in for surgery and never woke up.  And of course, many pets–those of you who have read Across the Summer Sea likely saw my dedication to Maddie and Target, both lost in 2014 and sorely missed here, as well as all the furry friends who came before them.

I hope you’re still reading after the above paragraph.  I don’t mean it to be depressing–I don’t particularly find it so myself.  Of course, I’m sad, reading over that list, but as I’ve had occasion to realize, sadness and depression are not the same thing.  Missing someone, feeling grief when he or she is no longer with you, is the price we pay for love, and I have no regrets about the love I still feel for everyone on the above list.  No, the reason I shared my experiences with death wasn’t to depress you.  It was to give you some idea of where I’m coming from with my writing.

Death in fantasy fiction–oh, where do I start?  So, if you’ve been reading The Landers Saga and now The Phoenix Realm, you may have noticed I, like every writer, have certain subjects I explore again and again.  I guess you would call them themes, although that seems like a bit of a highfalutin word.  Obsessions might be closer to the truth.  One of these is the idea of death being a temporary separation rather than a permanent end.  Another is the idea that we living folks exist at a particular level of space-time, while those who have died have evolved to another level where they’re not as limited by the physical realm.  As Merius recalls in The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places:  “The eternal sits at the center of the circle of time and observes the whole circle at once, while we travel face backwards around the outside of the circle and can only see to the curve just behind us. And if we could sit where the eternal sits, our heads would explode from the pressure of all that knowledge . . .”

I strive for a lot of things in my work, the main being a sense of hope in the face of tragedy.  My wish is that I can pass this hope along to my readers with big dollops of romance, drama, mysticism, and comedy.  And fantasy.  I’ve found fantasy the best way for me to convey certain ideas, particularly ideas about death.  Gritty reality is fine to a point, but it doesn’t capture the breadth of my experiences, particularly some of the experiences my mother and I shared the last year of her life and in the days following her death.  As I’ve written before in this blog, my mother was a bit spooky, and things happened that terrible, wonderful year which defy explanation, things which give me hope I’ll see her–and everyone else I love–again, things which make me believe the “reality” that surrounds us is merely the surface of something far, far more.

Fantasy allows me to paint on a larger canvas with more colors than other genres would.  In a fantasy story, I can show an archetype in both a figurative and a literal sense, play around with it in a way that’s impossible in realistic fiction.  I can write about a mostly ordinary family with the normal sorts of domestic comedies and upsets (children rebelling against their parents, spouses alternately irritating and amusing each other, fights at the dinner table) and then twist that to transform some of the members into witches and mermaids, immortal birds and ghosts.  How does it change the family dynamics when one of your children is a bird?  When your wife is a mermaid sometimes?  It entertains me to write this way.  Not only that, it takes a little of the sting out of what has sometimes been an unbearable personal reality and gives me the chance to explore certain issues–psychological pain, spiritual transformation, death, to name a few–from a fresh perspective.

All this introduction to announce that I finally have the title for the novel I’m currently working on:  The In-Between Place (Book Three of the Phoenix Realm).  I had about twenty ideas for the title, some of them rather flowery–likely inspired by the addition of a new voice/character point of view in this latest book.  I wasn’t going to add another point of view character, but he’s quite a talker, this new voice, given to verbal flights of fancy, and he wouldn’t shut up.  So I added him to the mix–we’ll see how it goes.  So far it’s been a lot of fun 😉

Many sources have inspired my writing over the years, too many to name (or even know) but the following have had the biggest impact on my ideas about life, death, immortality, and eternity:  the philosopher Boethius, Einstein’s theories, God at the Speed of Light by T. Lee Baumann, Always, Karen: More Alive than Ever by Jeanne Walker, and various passages from the Bible, specifically the Gospel of John and First Corinthians 13.

© 2015

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My Small (pun intended) Obsession

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It didn’t devastate me to find out Santa was make-believe.  I never was much of a Santa fan as a child.  However, Faeries, Elves, the Borrowers–well, some small part of me that never quite grew up still believes in them, I think because miniatures enchant me.

I have a beautiful Victorian dollhouse that my parents built from a kit–someday I’ll post pictures of it.  When I was a kid, I kept hoping the Borrowers I was sure lived in our walls would move into it.  I tried to make it as a enticing for them as possible.  I spent years finding furniture at flea markets for it and crafting tiny books, curtains, hatboxes, pillows, clothes, hangers, brooms, even a tube of lipstick for Milady’s vanity table.  For anyone on a budget who enjoys decorating, having a dollhouse is a fun way to play around with patterns and furniture without breaking the bank.

The last couple years, my obsession with small has shifted to antique bird cages and the fey folk.  People kept giving me faeries, and I wracked my brain for awhile trying to think of how best to display them without tempting the cats too much.  Then one day I saw a beautiful old cage in a thrift store–it looked like a peculiar mansion, with its gingerbread scroll work and leaf-studded cupola.  I bought it, not quite knowing what I was going to do with it until I got it home and realized it was the perfect place for my faeries to take up residence.  Then I found a second cage and couldn’t resist it either–someone had painted flowers in a charming array around the sides.  I hung glass witch balls from the ceilings, lined the floors with moss, and added various decorations such as a bird nest filled with brightly colored, glittery eggs and a lawn table and chairs for entertaining guests such as Peter Rabbit.

And a tiny bird in a tiny cage.  I’m not sure why I felt the need to put a cage within a cage.  It made symbolic sense at one point, but it escapes me now.  Probably it had something to do with my writing project at the time.  I tend to seek out physical manifestations of whatever preoccupies my imagination at the moment, such as collecting mermaid figurines for awhile or putting together a fantasy art jigsaw puzzle.   Exploring a subject from a variety of angles helps me be more creative with it.  And it’s a relief to my brain to take a break from word-ly pursuits at the end of the day and focus on something non-verbal, like a jigsaw puzzle.  Or constructing a home for my faeries.

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Across the Summer Sea now available!

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Amazon.com

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Amazon UK

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Amazon Australia

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Amazon Canada

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on iTunes

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Barnes & Noble

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Kobo

Click here to purchase Across the Summer Sea on Smashwords

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Across the Summer Sea

Across the Summer Sea Goodreads coverOne spring night under the scimitar moon, Princess Kelene of Numer and her mother frolic as mermaids in the ocean waves, unaware until it’s too late that her youngest brother has followed them–and drowned. When this tragedy plunges her mother into grief-stricken shock, Kelene sets out to find Dominic of Landers, the only healer in the known world who can perhaps help. Her voyage west leads her to confront the ghost of her father, a ruthless pirate–and the vagaries of her own heart.  Meanwhile, across the sea in Cormalen, trouble brews in a cauldron of court intrigue, scandal, and royal secrets. A most unsuitable suitor pursues Dominic’s sister: the immortal bird-girl Avreal, known for her stage dancing, her hot temper, her outrageous lack of convention–and the fiery, sometimes lethal power of her phoenix voice. But when past sins threaten the quietly budding romance between Princess Venessa and Wylan of Landers, not even Avreal’s song can quell the unrest. The repercussions could level the throne and all the Landers and King Segar have built over the last quarter century.

I’m excited to finally write this blog post and share the new book cover and description above.  The book will be out on March 21st, the vernal equinox.  As some of you know, Across the Summer Sea picks up three years after The Bird Children ends.  I had hoped to publish it this winter, but a few personal setbacks put me behind by a couple weeks.  Also I added another point of view character in this book, which means there are now five narrators telling the story.  It was a great challenge, especially as all five characters were in five different places at one point in the story, which meant I couldn’t rely on Character A relating a scene including Character B, but had to let Character B update me on where he was and what he was doing. 

Though I’m happy with how all the story threads tie together in the end, I’ve decided five POV characters is enough.  It took more pages and words to conclude the story in a satisfactory way than what I had anticipated, which is another reason for the slight delay.  Though I hope to leave readers eager for more, I refuse to end a book on a cliffhanger.  I generally view a fantasy series as a very long novel with several volumes.  Each volume/book should be a somewhat self-contained episode with its own storyline that ultimately contributes to the overall arc of the series.

Also, just like with Undene in Tapestry Lion, I had a character show up who threw a monkey wrench into my fine plans and plots, then ran away laughing maniacally as I attempted to clean up the mess.  Ultimately, of course, cleaning up messes in books can lead the mind to interesting new paths.  The Landers Saga would not be the same without Undene.  I blame my day job.  Not that Undene and this new character were inspired by anyone at the day job, just that a lot of filing and data entry allows the mind to wander and get into trouble.  I’ll leave it to readers to figure out who the new character is and what mischief he/she causes.   😉

© 2015 by Karen Nilsen

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Crossing the Styx

Mom's final resting place
Crossing the Styx
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
*a reflection on scattering Mom’s ashes at Paradise Beach on Lake Superior
 
We picked your urn
Not so much for the outside, an elegant cloisonné midnight
But for the inside, the warm turquoise of a robin’s egg
I imagined you surrounded by this blue, the blue of the best summer days, and felt comforted
But like a bird in the egg
Grief changes and grows
Until it needs to hatch
Escape its confines and scatter
Fly away on the wind and explore infinity
We kept you in the egg too long
Our hearts yearning to trap you just as they remembered you
Stopping growth
Stopping grief
Stopping time
Stopping change
A human futility, to imagine we have the power to stop ourselves
The power to stop our surroundings
To stay in the chrysalis
To stay in the womb
To stay in the egg
To stay in the warm safe dark
Long after we have outgrown it
Change happens when we aren’t looking
Infinity steals into our dreams at night, into the cozy darkness of our mortal eggshell
Whispering surrender to the inevitable
Dreams of water and spirit
Water flows everywhere, undermining all barriers to its course
Countless individual drops joining to form a mighty whole
Water is change
Your last dream was of water
The day before you died
You said you sat on the rocky verge, staring across a calm lake
The constant ripples comforting you
With the ever-shifting eternity of their pattern
Your urn was heavier than I expected
A huge egg of grief I carried like a baby
As I trudged along the shore
The pebbles of Paradise Beach ringing in my ears
I woke to life on this beach
My earliest memories of this place
Yours too
You wiled away many joys along Lake Superior
Sketching its infinite moods
Bathing in the rare northern sun
Building stone homes for the spirit people
Now I bring your ashes here to rest
The ashes of the body that once carried mine
Carried the first spark of me
My first mortal home
I now carry
I cry as I look out at the lake
My tears blurring the edge of the silver water from the gray-white sky
Until there is no horizon for my grief
I try to think of a prayer as I open your urn
But the shushing murmur and lap of the waves conversing with the shore
Seems prayer enough
So I remain silent
Struck by the sacred wild of this place
You scatter easily over the water and rocks
Glad to finally hatch
Glad to finally become one with the lake you dreamt of so long ago
You soar out free over the silver ripples
Until your soul rises from your ash and finds its fledgling wings
A single gull’s cry in your endless wake
As you chase the horizon of forever
 
~Karen Nilsen
 
 
copyright 2014
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Across the Summer Sea . . . to find mermaids!

Ever since I was seven years old, my favorite fairy tale has been Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid.”  For those who are only familiar with the Disney cartoon of this story, I should warn you ahead of time that Andersen’s story is far different.  Disney’s version drastically changed the ending, for one thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I find the Disney version has its own charms.  But I far prefer Andersen’s original.  It’s a bittersweet tale of longing, love, transformation, loss, death, and rebirth, the same themes I explore in the Landers Saga, the same themes that touched me deeply as a child struggling with demons far beyond my years.

Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid” enchants with poetic descriptions of life below the waves, a fantastical world that captured my imagination at a young age.  I remember gazing at Lake Superior after reading “The Little Mermaid” and seeing the movie Splash, longing to become a mermaid myself so I could experience the world Andersen described.  My very first offering to my elementary school project fair centered around merfolk–a huge poster I drew of life under the sea, the captions detailing in practical terms (food and clothing, for instance) how merfolk lived.  It was only a matter of time before I started writing about my own fantasy world, inspired as I was by Andersen, Tolkien, Robin McKinley, Alice Hoffman, and others.

Surprisingly enough, considering my early obsession with fins, my first serious foray into the fantasy realm as a writer ended in a bird nest, not a fish tail.  Although various characters mention mermaids throughout the Landers Saga, it’s only in The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places that we actually meet a mermaid for the first time.  Of course, the winged theme of the Landers Saga has roots in my early childhood experience as well–my favorite pets growing up were homing pigeons.  I hand-raised a number of squabs when I was young, teaching them to ride on my bike handlebars  and watching them fly with that vast, dizzying freedom only a bird in flight experiences. 

So I love birds and merfolk, and now, with the introduction of Ghitana in The Curious Fear of High and Lonely Places, I finagled it so I could write about them both in one story.  While working on The Bird Children, I digressed from mermaids a bit to focus on Avreal’s struggles as a young bird-girl.  However, in Across the Summer Sea, which picks up about three years after the end of The Bird Children, I return to writing about mermaids again with a new point of view character.  I’ll leave it to those who have read the Landers Saga to guess who this new character might be!

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The Bird Children now on Kobo

Dear Readers,

I apologize for the delay.  I just happened to publish The Bird Children when Kobo was incorporating Sony’s catalogue with their own, and so it took quite a bit longer for The Bird Children to appear on Kobo than what I had anticipated.  Anyway, I’m excited to finally be able to post the following link:

Click here to purchase The Bird Children on Kobo

Yay–now I can officially announce The Bird Children is available for all e-readers!  Also, to give a brief update on my work in progress, Across the Summer Sea (the sequel to The Bird Children) it’s right on schedule for a winter release so far.  If that changes for some reason, I will definitely post about it here.  In the mean time, have a wonderful summer, everyone!

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The Bird Children have officially landed!

 Ebook Cover

Click here to purchase The Bird Children on Amazon

Click here to purchase The Bird Children on Barnes and Noble

Click here to purchase The Bird Children on Smashwords

Click here to purchase The Bird Children on iTunes

The Bird Children (Book One of the Phoenix Realm) should also soon be available on all other major ebook sites, such as Kobo.  Thanks for your support!

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