Guest: Katharina Gerlach with an Excerpt from The Stempmother

Magic Appreciation Tour author Katharina Gerlach is back on the blog with an excerpt from her Treasures Retold tale, The Stepmother—Cat’s shot at crafting an alternate perspective on the Brothers Grimm classic Little Brother, Little Sister. If re-imaginings capture your imagination, you’ll definitely want to take a gander at what she’s got to share.

I stumbled over some roots again and had to straighten my heavy backpack once more. The Old Forest was never nice to visitors, and I was no exception despite my skills. If I’d had the money to spare, I would never have tried to pass through it on foot. Only a chariot, preferably a steam engine chariot, provided the necessary speed to evade its dangers. Since Ellie and Tobi had left without money, I didn’t think they would be in Bergia, the northernmost kingdom of this continent. However, after searching the other countries for more than three years without a trace of my children, I had decided to pay Bergia a quick visit. It wasn’t such a big kingdom, after all, and since I was born there, I knew my way around. I wouldn’t take more than a few weeks to search it.

But tracking through the Old Forest was arduous. Now, it assaulted me with thirst – again. My mouth went dry and my throat felt parched. I took no notice of the clear spring in the moss and stumbled on. Behind me, the bubbling spring called out to me, and my thirst intensified. I would not let it win. I’d seen what water like this did to the unsuspecting traveler and didn’t fancy living my life as an animal. When the urge to drink finally left me, I looked around for a dry place where I could spend the night. It wasn’t much farther to Bergia, but night was falling early in autumn, and it was impossible to navigate the Old Forest safely during the night. I would never be able to evade the puddles of magic that still lingered here.

I found a small clearing, barely more than a hole ripped into the canopy by a fallen tree. The root plate sheltered me against wind and malevolent forest creatures, and the branches of the dead tree provided me with more than enough firewood. Soon I had a soup bubbling over a nice fire, and my bedding was spread on a pile of dry leaves with my backpack stored beside it. I had dug a hole somewhere to the side that I would use as privy. Just when I was about to turn to my backpack to take out the machine, I heard someone sing. Was that Ellie? It couldn’t be. No matter how mad Ellie had been with me, she wouldn’t be so stupid to enter the Old Forest, or would she? I swallowed my fear, unhooked the lantern from my pack, lit it and followed the sweet voice.

I had not walked far when I noticed the unicorn. It stood beside its pool, the horn raised to the full moon that slowly crept higher, and sang. Every note of its clear voice made the surface of the water shiver. It was already glowing with power. I hurried back to my pack to fetch a glass vial. Unicorns, and maybe fairies, were all I would miss when science finally ousted magic. With that frame of mind, I was most likely the most science-oriented witch in the world. I did not mind using the power but my life was easier without, and I was glad it was fading from the world. Some countries didn’t have any magic left at all. In my opinion, it was for the best. Magic was a double-edged sword. Of course, a skilled witch could do much good, or much evil if so inclined. However, the power was restricted to those with the talent and usually complicated the lives of those it touched. Magic had cost me so much, too much, and I was not just talking about my missing left pinkie. I was glad to see magic go. I’d take science any day – with a few exceptions. Like water from a unicorn’s pond, for example.

When I returned to the pool, the animal was drinking. I waited until it left to inspect its part of the Old Forest before I hurried to the edge of the pond. Very carefully I scooped water into the vial. I made doubly sure to keep my fingers away from the surface. I didn’t want the unicorn to die next time it drank. However, I filled the vial to the brim. Water from a unicorn’s pond was the rarest and strongest of medicines. Magicians had called it the ‘Water of Life’ – which overdid it a bit, but it could really heal people on the brink of death. When I had plugged the vial, I walked back to my cozy corner and settled down.

After I had wrapped the vial in a soft cloth and stored it in a safe place in my backpack, I took the machine from its protective casing and set it up. It was a marvel, the only piece of technology I knew that combined science and magic in perfect balance. By now, the full moon shone brightly through the wound in the canopy. A small emerald set into the machine’s side caught its light and sparkled. I could have used the gem to buy all the comfort I’d been missing. The fortune it was worth would have lasted a lifetime of traveling. Unfortunately, I would never be able to dismantle my machine. It was the last connection to my beloved Daniel. He built this machine – with my help, of course, since he was no wizard.

Finally, the glow from the emerald lit up the crystal ball that formed the top of the machine, and a face in shades of gray appeared in the misty glass. I provided the color myself. Brown hair, doe-like eyes, and the lightest tan – that was what Daniel had looked like before his death.

“Have you found them yet?” Daniel’s voice still reminded me of the smoky smell of his business, but his hair held no ash, and his face was free from the smudges of charcoal that always clung to him in life.

“I am nearing the Bergian border,” I said, trying to sound optimistic. Already I felt the machine drain my life energy. It hurt. However, the loss of the children and the loss of Daniel were worse. The machine only caused my body pain; the loss of my family murdered my soul. Still, the longest I had been able to withstand the pain was ten minutes. I set the running time to a much shorter span these days, but I just couldn’t stop talking to Daniel. He deserved to know. Also, I couldn’t live without seeing his face. It made it easier to bear the fact that I’d never be able to touch him again.

The StepmotherAn imaginative retelling of Little Brother, Little Sister by the Brothers Grimm. What if they painted the wrong picture of the stepmother?

Even with her powers as a witch, Isabel cannot find a trace of her stepchildren. Desperate, she crosses the Old Forest, filled with as much malignant as benevolent magic, to reach the distant mountain kingdom she left as a young girl when her magical powers manifested. She soon realizes that a sinister creature holds the unsuspecting kingdom in thrall. It will take all she’s able to give to save her children and the kingdom she once loved.

Get The Stepmother on Amazon

About Katharina Gerlach

Katharina GerlachBorn and raised German with a generous helping of an adopted Scottish heritage, Katharina started writing at age seven (although she didn’t get serious until much later) when the tomboy adventures she lived in her father’s forest weren’t enough for her imagination any more.

Writing about balloon people, flying hearts, giant spiders, and more was her lifeline to sanity and Real Life™ all through her education. After finishing with a PhD in science, marriage and the start of a beloved but distracting family, she returned to her life-long vocation.

These days, Katharina lives for stolen moments of writing happiness in two languages while juggling her husband, two girls in puberty, a fledgling daughter that just left the house, a dog, and … laundry.

The easiest way to keep up with her publishing schedule is by leaving your eMail address with her (you’ll get a free eBook as a thank you). Or you can have a look at her amazon page or her homepage. She’s also on Facebook, Pinterest, and (occasionally) on Twitter.

Happy Holidays 2014

Just a quick entry to kill a couple of birds with one stone. First off, Happy Holidays to everyone. Have a random image of holiday cheer sourced from the internet!

Holiday Cheer

(Secondly, I’m trying to diagnose a scheduling bug. So either this post will set itself live automagically, or it won’t…)

Guest: Will Hahn on Artefacts in the Lands of Hope

As we draw closer to the end of another year I’m pleased to have Will Hahn back on the site. Will is touring in support of his latest novel, Reunion of Souls. As such he’s dropped off quite a nice little read on the items of power which exist in his world. Have a read, and make sure to check out the blurb for more on this installment of Judgement’s Tale. Of course, if you check carefully below, you’ll find Will’s giveaway as well…

Artefacts in the Lands of Hope

by Will Hahn

Lots of epic fantasy stories feature magical objects, and several have hinged on an item of great power: we could each list ten without breaking a sweat. In the Lands of Hope there are several limitations on the use of magic power, and much lore has been lost since the ancient days. It seems clear that at least in a few cases, the heroes of the past were able to create enormously powerful items that broke many of the current limitations and boundaries understood by the mages of today. These are commonly referred to as artefacts.

How to Make an Artefact- If You’re Sure

Age alone does not make an artefact; in fact there is strong evidence that the heroes were able to do things more quickly than their descendants, beginning with the miracle that transformed their fleet hulls to city walls in one night upon their first invasion. But the secret of making such powerful weapons, staves, and other items has been lost to the lore of later generations.

Mages and Preachers of Hope can enchant and bless items, with certain procedures that are well understood. Swords that cut more effectively and even affect ghosts, helms allowing sight in darkness, armbands that increase strength, these are not uncommon to the nobles, though among the commoners they are rare. Artefacts, however, are different in several ways:

  • Power- artefacts usually wield the strength to spread their effects over larger areas, or with longer lasting effects, than “mundane” magic
  • Breadth- while it’s time-consuming and expensive to give a normal item even one enchantment, artefacts typically have three or more powers. And whereas some magic items are exhausting to the wielder, artefacts often work without cost (provided they work at all)
  • Durable- with enough effort any item can be marred or broken, but artefacts are notoriously tough, nearly indestructible

So why aren’t artefacts as common as loaves of bread? It may be that even the heroes found these items hard or costly to create, though almost nothing is known of the process. Sages cannot be certain, but the most likely answer is that the heroes of Hope learned, very early in the wars against Despair, that such powerful items were dangerous and burdensome. The original creators felt responsible for any misuse, for example if the item fell into the enemy’s hands. Most artefacts created in ancient days were for the especial use of the heroes themselves, and none are known to have escaped their sight. Some claim, however, that through sincere prayer in times of crisis such artefacts have been made temporarily available to a Child of Hope. Naturally, these miracles are impossible to verify. There are accounts of certain weapons, crowns, wands and so forth that are heavily limited as to their use; only those whose character radiates Hope, or who can say “Ar Aralte!” in the Ancient tongue, or perhaps only relatives of the creator. Again, how these limitations can be so powerfully imposed, and whether they could ever be evaded, is unknown.

Finally, there are some indications that the Lords of Hope may have set aside some of their most powerful items in a hidden place known as the Hopeward. How to reach this trove, what protections lie upon it, and why the heroes would volunteer to weaken their own cause even as they struggled to free the Lands, are mysteries without an answer.

Artefacts in the Age of Adventure (since ~1995 ADR)

In the southern city of Cryssigens in early 2002 ADR, some seek a fabled artefact dating back over a thousand years ago, called The Brow of the Ecclesiast. A triple-banded gold crown set with enormous gems, it is said to confer the ability to dazzle listeners through speech and persuade them to the wearer’s intent; it can also repulse or even destroy demonic creatures and poison-bearing beasts. But the wearer of this crown must be worthy, or else the slightest touch of the Brow on the head results in incineration. Perhaps it would be best if an item that powerful is never found. But with the threat of civil war, ambitious persons from both sides search for the artefact. The Brow is an important part of the action in Fencing Reputation.

In the Percentalion of 1995-96 ADR, a band of adventurers hunts the legendary Tridium, three artefacts created to invest the ruling line with power to “make the ways straight” in the Land of One Hundred Castles. Since the descendants of Areghel have not held the throne in over four hundred years, chaos rules that central kingdom as it lapses back towards the conditions it had under the sway of Kog the Earth-Demon. But even without the heir to the throne, the sword, crown and scepter of the rightful kings could be powerful weapons against Despair—if they can be found in time. The Tridium is sought in Judgement’s Tale.

Reunion of SoulsWith a world in crisis, its heroes reach out to find companions, to take stock for the struggle ahead, and to look beneath the surface at clues that may make the difference between a person’s fame and a nation’s doom.

On the fringe of the cursed Percentalion, Treaman’s adventuring band revives the glory-days of Trainertown, celebrated by all—except themselves—as the hand of destiny. Somewhere in the remote Marble Swords, Sir Renan abandons name and fortune to seek a brotherhood that no one else believes exists. Near the forests north of Shilar, Prince Gareth wrestles with the choice to preserve his honor alone, or rejoin his royal father’s house and in so doing, cause a war between the children of Hope.

Now at the heart of Conar—safest city in the Lands—Solemn Judgement, the Man in Grey, uncovers the gateway to peril; he is thrown among adventurers that include his only friend, the woman who refused to teach him, and a man who has vowed his death, in… Reunion of Souls.

About Will Hahn

Will HahnWill Hahn has been in love with heroic tales since age four, when his father read him the Lays of Ancient Rome and the Tales of King Arthur. He taught Ancient-Medieval History for years, but the line between this world and others has always been thin; the far reaches of fantasy, like the distant past, still bring him face to face with people like us, who have choices to make.

Will didn’t always make the right choices when he was young. Any stick or vaguely-sticklike object became a sword in his hands, to the great dismay of his five sisters. Everyone survived, in part by virtue of a rule forbidding him from handling umbrellas, ski poles, curtain rods and more.

Will has written about the Lands of Hope since his college days (which by now are also part of ancient history). His current epic is Judgement’s Tale; parts one and two, Games of Chance and Strength of Conviction came out in 2014 and part three, Reunion of Souls is available starting December 26th.


Will’s Weirdly Whimsical Website is where he posts news about upcoming releases and blogs about writing, classic fantasy works you’ve never read and the unique photo-based series “It Figures”.

The Lands of Hope Facebook page contains a chronology of the Lands.

You can find more of Will’s work at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

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Guest: Zebedy Brightly (Heidi Lyn Burke) on The Strains: Common and Highmost

Zebedy Brightly (a researcher of some acquaintance of author Heidi Lyn Burke) has stopped by the blog to give us some insight into the magic of Gelia City, the setting of Beggar Magic. Have a read through the scholar’s musings on magic as it pertains to this new young adult fantasy, and then check out the cover and blurb. You’ll also want to stop by the giveaway at the bottom of the page for a shot at winning before you’re done.

The Strains: Common and Highmost

by Zebedy Brightly, Junior Fellow at Research Manor (with help from Heidi Lyn Burke)

The Strains are the lifeblood of Gelia. They sing to us, speak to us, and aid us in our daily pursuits. Their music calms us and keeps us company. However, in spite of their omnipresence, no Gelian has ever been able to determine what, exactly, they are.

The Strains are notoriously evasive when faced with questions about themselves, so what we do know has to be deduced from their behavior. They are obviously sentient, capable of moral judgement, and while all of us experience them, the manner in which we do so differs greatly from person to person. In that way they both bind us together and divide us.

No where is this division clearer than in our class system. Every Gelian, with the exception of a few Wordless, is either Common or Highmost. While I myself am Highmost, I would estimate that at least three quarters of our population is Common.

While both the Highmost and the Common can hear the Strains, they only speak to the Highmost. The Common I’ve interviewed hear the Strains in varied ways–music, birdsong, rainfall–but they never report hearing “words”. Because of this they are unable to develop full communion with the Strains or to use them for more than the mundane, repetitive tasks we often call “beggar magic”.

Fellow Forester, a scientist and self-styled philosopher, wrote several decades ago, theorizing that a ‘spiritual deficiency’ impaired the Common’s communication with the Strains. However, looking at his research with a critical eye will show his methods biased. Forester’s sample size was infinitesimal and he never spent more than a few minutes conversing with each of his subjects.

Having actually developed friendships among the Common, I would like to propose a new theory. What makes one Highmost is obviously hereditary. If a couple is half-Common-half-Highmost the offspring seem to have even odds at being either. Considering the genetic component, I suggest that Highmost simply means the inherited ability to hear at a higher or lower pitch, where the voices and words of the Strains dwell.

I further postulate that as the Common cannot hear this frequence of the Strains, they also cannot communicate at it. My friend, Leilani, while Common, is devoted to the Strains. She treats them with as much respect as I do. However, she once said, mournfully, that while she always hears the Strains, she sometimes feels as if they cannot hear her. If my theory is correct, they can hear her, but as she hears them, as music, but not language. This would explain why beggar magic consists mainly of simple, oft repeated actions, which the Strains would be able to learn by watching their Common charges, rather than by listening to their instructions.

My time with Leilani has also convinced me that our current treatment of the Common is both patronizing and ignorant. We are often told we are here to protect, not exploit, the Common, as if we are shepherds and they the sheep. However, in the instance of the collector crisis, Leilani, not myself, was the heroine. The inability to communicate directly with the Strains had no impact on her ability to protect them.

Common is not a lesser state than Highmost, simply another way the Strains can manifest themselves, a difference, not a deficiency.

Beggar Magic

In Gelia City, magic is music: a constant ever-changing melody known as the Strains. Hereditary ability to use the Strains divides the city into two classes: the wealthy Highmost, who can access the full potential of the Strains, and the Common tradesmen, who are limited to mundane spells, known as beggar magic.

With the help of the Strains, Common teen Leilani rescues and befriends a gifted Highmost girl, Zebedy. The girls’ friendship opens Leilani’s eyes to the world of the Highmost. She’s intrigued by Zeb’s close relationship with the Strains, and longs to know them as she does. Zeb, in turn, comes to depend on Leilani’s strength and intelligence, making them an inseparable team, ready to take on anything with the Strains at their back.

As their unlikely friendship strengthens and endures, Zeb draws Leilani further into the Highmosts’ intrigues. Beneath the polished, academic facade of the Highmost manors lurks a threat to the Strains. An unknown force consumes their music, leaving only heart-rending silence behind.

Leilani and Zeb will do anything to save their beloved Strains, but as the silence grows, they face danger their previously sheltered lives could never prepare them for. Whoever is behind the death of the Strains is willing to kill to keep their secret safe. To preserve the Strains, the girls may have to sacrifice their friendship, or even their lives.

Heidi Lyn BurkeBorn in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

You can find H. L. Burke on:
Web | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon

Beggar Magic on Amazon

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Guest: Vanessa Finaughty on The Real World’s First School of Wizardry

This week I have another Magic Appreciation Tour author with another interesting guest post. Unlike some of the other MAT authors, I’ve actually been acquainted with Vanessa for a few years now, and that makes it even more of a pleasure to be able to help support the release of her Wizard of Ends series. So, met heel veel plezier, I present to you Vanessa’s guest post:

The Real World’s First School of Wizardry

by Vanessa Finaughty

Harry Potter fans will love this! While researching interesting post topics for the Wizard of Ends virtual book tour, I came across a rather interesting news article from 2011 that describes the real world’s first school of wizardry – Harry Potter style! I don’t know if the school is still around – it’s hard to tell when even Wikipedia contradicts itself in the same article, stating that the founder and his wife are ‘now living in’, and then stating in the next paragraph that his wife passed away this year (2014). However, I believe the mere fact that a real life school of wizardry existed or exists is intriguing in itself.

In 2005, Oberon Zell-Ravenheart founded the Grey School of Wizardry in California, USA – the world’s first, and only, as far as I’m aware, registered wizard academy, which means it is the first of its kind to be officially recognised as an academic institution. The Grey School is an online school that focuses (or focussed) on teaching esoteric magick, and boasts/boasted sixteen departments, along with many clubs and opportunities to receive awards, much like any other school. Some of the subjects taught are quantum entanglement, metaphysics, cosmology, herbal medicine, lore, protection, wand-making, alchemy, spell-casting and beast-mastery.

Intended for teenage learners, the school does/did still allow adult students, and all students are/were separated into houses or lodges, much like in the Harry Potter books. The houses, for students younger than eighteen, are Salamanders, Gnomes, Sylphs and Undines, and the lodges, for students eighteen and over, are Circle of the Standing Stones, Order of the Dancing Flames, Society of the Four Winds and Coterie of the Flowing Waters.

Oberon has described himself as a wizard, and has spent most of his life studying the Dark Arts. In the 1980s, he announced that he had created the world’s first unicorn. He had, in fact, created a unicorn – of sorts – by performing minor surgery on a goat’s horn buds.

The original article includes pictures of Oberon and his wife, gives some nice comparisons with Harry Potter, and has more detailed information about the school and the magical couple. You can read it on the Daily Mail website here. I recommend you do!

Wizard of Ends, Book 1

The Wizard of Ends, Book 1

When Lashlor Leaflin offers to escort Queen Narraki Dragonsbane to the Jeltar Woods, he’s unwittingly caught up in a magical adventure of the type he would rather not have.

The sorceress Assassa believes the Land of Ends to be rightfully hers, but King Lanaran refuses to hand over his crown. In retaliation, the sorceress conjures creatures of darkness to hunt the queen and end her life. Lashlor helps where he can, but it isn’t easy when the Guards of Ends who protect the queen believe him to be false.

A confrontation with Assassa will be the death of him, Lashlor is certain. However, the king insists on his help and it soon becomes apparent that he may have no choice.

And, Coming Soon:
The Wizard of Ends, Book 2

Escorted by soldiers of Ends, Lashlor sets out to find an old flame, Rune Arcana, the only person who can help to remove the curse placed on the Queen of Ends. Lashlor believes that Rune currently resides in the Mountains of Eclador – a place from which no one has returned in all of recorded history. She could refuse his request. She could be dead. Lashlor and his companions could meet the same fate.

If they do not brave the mountains, however, Queen Narraki will remain in the form of a rabid creature of darkness… forever.

Forever is a long time, and King Lanaran fears the Wizard of Ends will not return. Ignoring Lashlor’s advice not to meddle with the curse, the king employs other magic users to attempt to undo the dark magic.

Vanessa FinaughtyVanessa Finaughty is an author of many genres who now focuses on fantasy and science fiction. She’s published 15 books, of which 6 are fantasy. Vanessa grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, and still lives there with her husband of fifteen years, her baby daughter and plenty of furry, four-legged ‘children’.

Vanessa has always been passionate about books, and knew from a young age that she wanted to write them one day. She loves animals, coffee and the smell of wet grass, and hates liars, sweltering weather and long queues. Her interests include reading, photography, the supernatural, mythology, aliens and outer space, ancient history, life’s mysteries and martial arts, of which she has five years’ experience.

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