Friday, August 31, 2012

Quick Question

So, in lieu of a regular Friday Tidbit this week, let me ask instead one simple question . . .

How many of your are excited to learn the winner of the first ever Tales of Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction Contest tomorrow?

The scores are in. And they were as close as close could be. But in the end, there will be only one winner.

I have decided to make a small change, though. Along with the Grand Prize for the first place winner, I'm going to give two smaller prizes for second and third place as well. As we all know, the Grand Prize Winner will receive a copy of Starflower (when it is printed!) and any two of the other three stories he/she chooses.

But First, Second and Third Place winners will all receive one of these cunning little coffee mugs:

Isn't it cute?
(Heartless is on the other side.)

My dear readers, these submissions were tremendous. I'm so glad I was not one of the judges; I would have had a terrible time choosing! Thank you for participating, and I look forward to celebrating the winner with you tomorrow!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

H is for Hymlumé

Note to the Reader: I think I should warn any of you new to my blog that this A-Z post series is about aspects of Moonblood, the third novel, and if you haven't read it, there are SPOILERS throughout! So heed this ominous warning or read at your own risk . . .

And now, on with the today's post.
One of the more interesting little snippets in Heartless is this passage early on, when Una lies in her bed and studies the embroidered canopy above her:
Her mother had embroidered it soon after Una's birth. She had made it especially for Una, and if only for that reason, Una loved it. Bold threads of gold, which picked up light from the fire, depicted the contours of Lord Lumé surrounded in a glowing aura. He wore robes like those worn by the old singer who sang at all royal christenings and weddings, though those in the embroidery were much grander and fanned out like flames.
Lord Lumé was the sun, and he sang the Melody.
Across from him, picked out in delicate silver threads, was his wife, Lady Hymlumé, the moon, and she sang the Harmony. She wore robes such as Una had never seen anywhere else, and she wondered how her mother had dreamed them up. Una thought she would much rather wear the silver garments of Hymlumé than all the brilliant fashions into which the royal tailors stuffed her. (Heartless, p. 51)
Thus we are first introduced to one of the most important themes in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series: The Sphere Songs and those who sing them.
By Moonblood that theme has become more familiar to us, for we have heard references to Hymlumé and Lumé throughout both the previous novels. But it is in Moonblood that we first learn that these monarchs of the skies are more than mere poetic imagery. They truly exist, truly sing, truly dance their patterns through space, great and beautiful and incomprehensible to mortal minds.
One of the most difficult and satisfying scenes to write was the scene where Lionheart follows Queen Bebo up the long stair of Rudiobus and steps into the fringes of Hymlumé's Garden. For their Lionheart is made to look upon things he cannot understand. He must see the vastness of the skies, the flowing of the Final Water, and then, at last, he is turned to see Hymlumé's face.
He looked again at the enormous moon, wincing away from her brightness. This time, though only for a moment, he saw her, the Lady Hymlumé. Beautiful and awful and vision filling, the sun's wife sat crowned in silver light.
In that instant, he heard her song.
Lionheart fell to his knees and might have slipped right over the edge of that precipice had not Queen Bebo held so tightly to his hand. Tears streamed down his cheeks, and he turned away from the moon and Iubdan's queen and covered his face in shame. (Moonblood, p. 249)
Looking upon the impossible, Lionheart is first made to truly face who he is and what he has done. In that moment of clarity, seeing Hymlumé's face, he must see his own.
And even then, he cannot quite understand . . . Not yet.
It would be easy to think, based upon the description above that Hymlumé and Lumé were god-like beings. But we know from the chapter previous, in which Eanrin sings Ordenel Hymlumé Nive, that such is not the case. Hymlumé and Lumé and all the starry host sing the Sphere Songs given them by  the Song Giver and dance the pattern of Time and Timelessness across the sky. But they did not create the Songs for themselves.
And the whole plot of Moonblood centers on the pain of Hymlumé when the Dragon flew into her garden and poisoned her children.
"She watched them fall," said the Chief Poet, his voice no greater than a whisper, though it filled all of Rudiobus. "She watched them step out of their heavenly dance, the rhythm of the song she and Lumé had sung since the worlds were first created . . . Those who had never noticed the Sphere Songs singing in the night heard instead their silencing. And while the thunder of that silence yet rang in their ears, they heard the voice of Hymlumé crying out." (p. 240)
In her agony and despair, Hymlumé herself cried out:
"If I but knew my fault!
I blessed your name, oh you who sit
Enthroned beyond the Highlands.
I blessed your name and sang in answer
To the song you gave."
The mighty singer of the sky begs for answers, to know if she somehow deserves this sorrow as her own children turn upon her and pierce her with their horns. In that celestial song, she echoes the hearts of all those who dwell below, all those in pain who beg for answers from above.
But at the last--as echoed in later ages by Sir Oeric--Hymlumé sings:
"I need no answers. Do not answer.
You are true and you
Are right, and your name is mighty.
Your name is my life.
By your name, I accept my doom."
But doom is not to be her fate, for the Giver of Songs has not forgotten her or any of His loved creation.
Nor has he forgotten the pain of Rose Red, Lionheart, Oeric, Beana, Eanrin, Imraldera . . . any of the characters who question His goodness and question His heart.
The original inspiration for this theme of the Moon and the Sun and the songs came from many old poems and songs. Notably the lovely lines from the old hymn:
"This is My Father's World,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings and 'round me rings
The music of the spheres."
The simply beauty of these lines have captured my heart and imagination since childhood. It did not surprise me as I grew and read, and grew and read some more, that the theme of the singing spheres has poured from the pens of poets for centuries.
"The sun makes music as of old
Amid the rival spheres of Heaven,
On its predestined circle rolled
With thunder speed: the Angels even
Draw strength from gazing on its glance,
Though none its meaning fathom may:--
The world's unwithered countenance
Is bright as at Creation's day."
Percy Shelly
But no poet ever wrote this theme more beautifully than did King David when he said:
"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."
Psalm 19

And so in Moonblood I offer my own contribution to this great lineage of poets and prophets. May my simple words and stories be offered in praise of my Creator!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

G is for Gate

One of the most wonderful parts of drafting Moonblood was the opportunity to explore into the Far World and the Wood Between much more deeply than in the previous two novels.

We did get little glimpses through Heartless, especially as we followed Felix's adventures and his recovery in the Haven. The Haven rests in the Between, neither in the Far World of Faerie nor in the Near . . . an uncomfortable place for mortals to dwell, despite the hospitality of Dame Imraldera! But for the most part, the Wood and the Faerie Realm remain a mystery.

But in Moonblood, Lionheart makes the plunge over his head into adventures galore, and we learn a little more about the fey world and the gates between the mortal realm and that of the immortals.

And, at the direction of Torkom the goblin, Lionheart sees his first Faerie gate:

"That is your Path, between those trees," Torkom said. "They are one of the Crossings into the Far World. You'd never think it to look at them, would you?"

Lionheart blinked. He could not remember seeing the two white birches before now. They gleamed strangely in the dark Midnight, ghostly and skeletal, and he wondered if the Wood had rearranged itself as it wished. (Moonblood, p. 143)

Lionheart passes through the two white trees however. And Goldstone Wood vanishes . . .

He felt no change around him, no strange sensation of distance, nothing he might have expected (though, in truth, he didn't know what to expect) from traveling across worlds. One moment, he was in the Wood Between. The next moment . . .

He stood in a forest of absolute emerald, so vivid, so vibrant, that it hummed the tune of its own color . . . (p. 150)

I couldn't possibly tell you all the adventures that befell him in that new strange realm, however! You must read it for yourself.

There are other gates to other realms as well, some gates that manifest different for various characters. The rules of the Faerie World are strange and varied, hardly comprehensible to mortal minds, after all! King Vahe of Arpiar, for instance, passes through a door way at the ruined tower of Carrun Corgar, and steps into the Netherworld of the Death-in-Life himself, which manifests as a wide, empty desert. When traveling to Rudiobus, Lionheart follows Bard Eanrin and Sir Oeric to a gate that looks like nothing more than a moss-eaten stump!

And some gates cannot be trusted. Take for instance the only known gate into Arpiar of the goblins:

"You know as well as I, old girl," says Eanrin to Dame Imraldera, "no one can enter Arpiar unless called from within. It doesn't matter what the bridge used to be. If Vahe does not want uninvited guests, he won't have them. You can cross and recross that bridge all you like and end up in plenty of unpleasant locales of our beautiful Faerie. But you'll not see Arpiar." (p. 264)

There must be hundreds upon hundreds upon thousands of gates in the great, sprawling Wood Between the Worlds! And we have only had a glimpse through a few of them. What other wonders, marvels, and terrors, might lie beyond the thin film that we know as Reality?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Calling On Bloggers . . .

Hey, bloggers, I am looking for influencer readers for my upcoming novel, Starflower. So if you:

a) keep an active blog with at least 30 subscribers

b) enjoy YA fantasy

c) would be interested in receiving a complimentary copy of Starflower for review

d) are willing to post your review on Amazon and Barnes & Noble as well as your blog

you can write to me at and request to be added to my influencer list! Sound like fun?

Copies are limited, so write me soon if you meet all of these qualifications. And remember, this is for bloggers only. No worries, other dear readers . . . I'll be hosting various giveaways after the book releases, so you'll get your chance. (And, of course, the more of you who actually buy the book, the more likely I'll get to write more!)

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Tidbits

Got Plot?

I recently had a young writer ask me for ideas on how to create a plot.

Generating a plot is often much harder than you might expect, however much you may love to write. Especially if your hope is to sit down and write a complete novel. Novels are enormous efforts with all sorts of complexities. Really, what's the point of even tackling such a project if you don't even know if the story slowly forming in your mind is worth telling?

Here's a trick I have used in the past which has always helped me. In fact, I believe I have done this in one form or another for all of my most recent novels. Rather than opening a document, typing "Once upon a time," and hoping good things start to happen, I pull out a notebook and pen, and I write myself a "what if?" scenario.

For instance: What if a princess fell in love with a prince who claimed to love her back and then betrayed her? And what if there was a dragon who . . .

I elaborate from there, having fun developing plot ideas and story threads but without the pressure of trying to write a whole novel. Taking the pressure off of yourself often helps the creativity to spring to life! You can make these scenarios as long or as short as you want. When I find one I really like, I flesh it out still more, sometimes into a short story, sometimes into a novella, or even just a detailed outline . . .

And from there--when I know I love the characters and the plot, and ideas are truly raging in my head for the telling--springs the novel!

So, yes, if you're struggling with ideas, I highly recommend giving this trick a try. You can do it on a computer document too, of course . . . but I suggest the classic pad-and-pen approach. Again, there's no pressure that way!
P.S. Please do notice in the left side-bar of this blog the new button to lead you to my Freelance Editing website! After ten years of consideration, my mother, Jill Stengl (who has edited for a number of big names in the CBA market) has finally decided to join forces with me and launch Stengl Fiction Editing services. Have a look around and tell your friends! We are taking clients as of now.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

F is for Fionnghuala Lynn

I know, I know, it's a bit of a mouthful.

It means "White Shoulder Waterfall" and is Gaelic. Believe it or not, most of the weird names from my stories are not "made-up" names at all, but come from our own world. All the Rudiobans, for example, are Gaelic-named since I based their entire world off of the our-world mythology of Iubdan and Bebo, king and queen of the leprechauns.

In the original mythology, Iubdan and Bebo dwell in their feasting hall Mag Faithleinn, which can only be reached by mounting Iubdan's tiny golden-yellow horse and riding it across the sea.  In my own story, I changed the sea to a lake, and I placed their feasting hall--known as the Hall of Red and Green--inside Rudiobus Mountain.

But to enter Rudiobus Mountain, one must pass through the waterfall gate, the Fionnghuala Lynn.

One by one, they crossed behind the white mist of the Fionnghuala Lynn, the great waterfall cascading down the frozen mountainside. (Moonblood, p. 234)

It is winter when Lionheart, as led by Eanrin and Oeric, arrives in Rudiobus. Even Eanrin, a denizen of Rudiobus, expresses some surprise at this. "I confess," says he, "I was not expecting Winter to be paying a call just now. Last time I visited, everything was awash in Summer. Ah well." (p. 233) Time is not, after all, a fluid cycle in Faerie worlds.

But winter, now it's come, is surprisingly sharp and cold. Cold enough even to stop the flow of Fionnghuala! "Lionheart leaned his head back against the wall, which was damp with spray from the waterfall. Droplets fell on his face, like stinging kisses they were so cold. Even the waterfall was freezing now." (p. 260)

Moonblood gave me many fun opportunities to explore new and picturesque Faerie demesnes. This one, however, was probably my favorite. I have written short stories and even ballads about Rudiobus, the Ruaine Hall,  and the waterfall gate of Fionnghuala Lynn for years before I started writing the novels you read now. And the chance to see them now in print, my characters moving to and fro about haunts so familiar in my imagination, is more thrilling than you can imagine!

So what did you think of Rudiobus and the waterfall gate? Would you be interested in visiting the home of the Merry People yourself? Maybe not when Winter is paying a call . . .

I'll tell of days before the fall,
Before the songs of fire
Spilled from the mouth of Hri Sora
In ruin and desire.                                                                                       

So long ago, so very long
It seemest to us all
When Iubdan did welcome men
Beyond the Waterfall.

For then the Merry Realm was free
From gloom and mists that hide
It now from evil, hunting eyes,
And welcomed all inside.
Iubdan Black Beard wise did rule
With Bebo his fair queen,
And laughter filled the Mountain grand,
Song filled the Hall of Green.

Then guests from many far off realms
Were treated by the king,
And when at last they journeyed home
Amazing tales they’d bring

Of Iubdan in his great hall
All hung with pine and holly.
Of Bard Eanrin, Chief Poet,         
Who told them tales so jolly.

They spoke of maiden Gleamdrené
Who stood by Bebo’s chair.
At every feast in Ruaine Hall
The queen’s gold cup she’d bear.
(Taken from a bit of a ballad I wrote back in high school concerning Rudiobus.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

E is for Eanrin

"I am ashamed of nothing. I am a cat."

And this line pretty well sums up Bard Eanrin, Chief Poet of Rudiobus, shape-shifter, knight, storyteller, and romantic swain. He is a cat. He is who he is.

Or, perhaps not . . .

We have, of course, already met Eanrin in the earlier two books (albeit very briefly in Veiled Rose). First, he was Monster, the fluffy bundle of kitty Princess Una kept as a pet (partly just to annoy Felix, I'm sure). As the story progressed, we discovered that he was also Sir Eanrin, in the service of the Prince of Farthestshore, and he'd been sent to guard Una in the years before the Dragon came. He also doesn't always take the shape of a cat!

He is, truth be told, rather amazingly vain. And really, who's to blame him? Even when wearing a man's form, he's still a cat through and through and, therefore, utterly convinced of his own charm and beauty at all times. And, like all cats, he fancies himself a gifted musician (if you've never heard a cat sing, you've never heard a diva, let me tell you!). Whether or not he is as talented as he thinks he is . . . well . . .

What I really love about this character is how much fun it is to throw him in with those who don't appreciate him as much as he believes he deserves. See this conversation, for example:

"You don't care much for this young man, do you, Eanrin?"
"Can't say that he's a great favorite."
"It's because he doesn't like your poetry, isn't it."
Eanrin glowered. "When have I ever been so petty?" (Moonblood, p. 203)

Despite his protests, we know it's true. In fact, Eanrin was so outraged when Ragniprava, the Tiger, preferred Lionheart's comic poem to his own romantic sonnet, he could barely speak to Lionheart afterwards!

But there is a great deal more to Eanrin than first meets the eye, more than arrogance and snobbery and a certain amount of foppishness. Notice what Lionheart thinks about him at one point:

He eyed Eanrin, his dramatic stance, his face full of longing . . . and he saw the lie that it was. Or not a lie, but rather, a mask.
And he thought to himself, Eanrin is hiding something. But he could not guess what. (Moonblood, p. 236)

We are actually gifted with more insight into the poet-cat's nature than Lionheart is. For instance, when he and Oeric are carrying the stone-spelled Lionheart out of Ragniprava's realm . . .

Eanrin shook his head. "Your faith does you credit, Oeric. I serve the Prince and will serve him till I die or the Final Waters sweep all this away! But--" And here one hand touched the patches over his empty eye sockets, a swift gesture that Oeric did not notice. The poet dropped his voice and finished softly, "But perhaps I'll always find the paths more difficult to walk than would a man of greater faith."
Then, because he was the Chief Poet of Iubdan Rudiobus, he laughed and filled his face with more smiles. (Moonblood, p. 195)

This is one of the few places where we see beyond Eanrin's merry masks. There is, I believe, a wealth of depth beneath the facades of his character. But how few may even know it!

Imraldera might. But she's not saying. And he's admitting nothing.

One of those silences followed which a stranger observing would not have understood. But even a stranger would sense the unspoken tension between two people who did not look at each other and did not speak. Even a stranger would realize that some history existed between these two that he could not guess. And even a stranger would realize that he was intruding on a private moment that could, in a flash, explode into an out-and-out fight or, perhaps, if miracles still happen, dwindle into something like understand.
But the silence ended instead with the poet rising gracefully from his chair, clearing his throat, and marching across the room to lean against the trunk of a poplar tree. (Moonblood, p. 203)

So Sir Eanrin must remain an enigma for the time being. He with his empty eye sockets, his sappy poetry, his two lethal knives, and his arrogant ways. But we shall see more of him . . . much more, indeed!

What did you think about the poet-cat knight? Any favorite lines or scenes?

Monday, August 20, 2012

MOONBLOOD Giveaway: And the Winner Is!

And the winner of the MOONBLOOD Name-drawing Giveaway: The Review Iteration is . . .

Bethany Beck!

Congratulations, Bethany! Feel free to email me at with your mailing address and let me know to whom you'd like your copy of MOONBLOOD signed!

Thank you so much to the rest of you who participated. Those reviews mean a lot to me! Keep your eyes open for more fun giveaways and name-drawings in the near future. And, of course, we have the big Fan Fiction Contest winner coming up in just a few weeks!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Creativity

It's a rainy, nasty, icky day here in NC . . . so I holed up with my pencils and had some fun!

I realized I had never done an illustration for Veiled Rose. I've done paintings or sketches for every other story but that one! So here's what a few hours doodling produced . . .

Friends for Rosie

May I just say, I particularly love how my little Leo turned out. With his Bloodbiter's Wrath and all!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Tidbits

Too Attached . . .

So you wrote a scene. And it's a good scene. No, no, not a good scene. A GREAT scene. The characters sparkle with life. The dialogue scintillates! The imagery is a vision of beauty/terror/comfort/whatever. When you read this scene, this very scene that you wrote--you, my friend, the Great Writer of This Brilliance!--your pulse races, and you come to the end of it eager to turn to the next page, eager to discover what new thrills and chills await!

Well, that's a bit of a let-down.

Okay, that next scene might not be as good as the previous one. But that's to be expected, right? Pure genius is not a river flowing smoothly. There are bound to be boulders, rapids, whitewater, etc. So no worries! Push on through that bleh-scene, trusting in the strength of The Great Scene to see you through.

Hmmm. Well, that next one didn't work very well either, did it.

Not to worry. Keep on forging ahead! This is the writer's life. Who said it would be easy? (He did? Smack him one for me, will you?)

But still . . . wow. That next next scene didn't go so hot either, did it. I mean, it's okay though, right?
You know this routine. If you're a writer, you've probably done it a dozen times or more. It's not always a scene though, is it? Sometimes it's a character. Sometimes it's an entire plot twist. Whatever it is, it's that little (sometimes HUGE) piece of the story that shone like true gold when it first came to you and fell from your fingers like the touch of Midas.

But maybe it isn't gold at all. Maybe it's fool's gold.

Maybe the reason all those scenes that follow aren't working, aren't building, aren't full of the energy you expected from this story . . . maybe it's because that one Great Scene is holding you back.

I have done this more times than I care to admit. It's far too easy, especially in the rough-drafting stage of a novel, to think that because a particular scene (character, plot twist) worked so well when I wrote it that it will continue to be the right direction for the story.

For example: In my most recent work-in-progress, I wrote an early scene between my heroine and the man she once loved but who did not love her in return. Okay, okay, spoiler . . . I wrote a scene about Lionheart's return to Southlands after the events in Moonblood, and his first encounter with Daylily since she broke off their engagement, told from Daylily's perspective.

I really loved this scene. It was heartbreaking and beautiful and all the things I wanted it to be.

Problem was, the deeper I got into the story, the more I realized that the beginning as a whole was not what it needed to be. I had started everything too soon. I needed to jump ahead by several months and start in a more exciting place.

But . . . doing this would mean cutting out that conversation between Lionheart and Daylily. There was no way, with this new arrangement of plot progression that they would even see each other, much less have time for a chat.

I resisted. Oh, yes, I sure did! I kept trying other rewrites, other scene arrangements, ignoring how awkward everything else was for the sake of keeping that one great scene intact.

I suppose the moral of this tidbit is, in a nutshell: Never Get Too Attached to Any One Piece of Your Story.

If that scene you love so much--that character--that plot twist--if it's holding back the rest of the story, it must go.

Funny, though I've experienced this with every single manuscript I have ever penned, it's a lesson I have to relearn each and every time!

What about you? Any pet-scenes or characters you're questioning?

“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
William Faulkner

Thursday, August 16, 2012

D is for Demarress

"Demarress!" he cried. "I have a riddle for you! Will you hear it?"

But the enormous, ravening Bane of Corrilond turns to the poet and replies, "That is not my name!"

And she is right in saying this. Whoever she once was has long since been lost in the great furnace raging inside the red dragon. But though it is lost, it is not forgotten . . .

We first encountered the Bane of Corrilond early on in Heartless. Do you remember the scene? That's right: In chapter five, when poor Una is trapped over her much-hated tapestry, "which depicted a gory scene from the epic poem The Bane of Corrilond." (Heartless, p. 63) Thus we first learn of one of the more famous dragon legends in Parumvir history. She continues to crop up in various places throughout the narrative. There's a little marble statue of her in Oriana's seven-tiered garden:

The body was somewhat startling, curling as it did down the side of the path, then arching at the neck so that the jaw could open wide enough for Felix to stick his head inside, as he often did when he and Una walked together. The expression on its face was hardly menacing; it reminded Una of Monster yawning. (Heartless p. 107)

It isn't until much later that we realize this figure from legend--rendered almost comic with time and interpretation--is indeed a living, fire-breathing, horror.

You remember the scene, I'm sure. When Una, recently transformed (and already losing her own name within her new, terrible identity), comes to the Village of Dragons deep in the decimated Red Desert:

A heavy shoulder knocked into [Una], ands he stumbled up behind the yellow-eyed boy. "Hey, watch your step," he growled, but not at her.
The person who had jostled her stopped and turned. Man or woman, it was impossible to tell in the dark, but the frame was huge and the voice deep and rocklike.
"What have you there?" the giant asked the yellow-eyed boy.
'A new sister, just arrived. She is forgotten."
"Ha!" the giant snorted. "They'll always forget you, small one, no matter how pretty your little pale face may be. They'll always forget you. Unless you make them remember. But then . . . Ah, then they do not forget so soon!" (Heartless, pgs. 273-274)

Thus Una first met the true being behind her haphazard tapestry and the little garden ornaments. The woman who became a dragon and, in vengeance for first a lover's then a kingdom's betrayal, destroyed her entire nation, burning it beyond all hope or recall.

"Nothing but charred ruins. Great cities, shining Destan, luminous Aysel, and the magnificent Queen's City of Nadire Tansu . . . all gone. Now there is nothing but desert as far as the eye can see." (Heartless, p. 274)

The former queen of Corrilond is now the stuff of nightmares. But for some, nightmares are a dream come true!

When we meet the Bane of Corrilond again within the pages of Moonblood, we see her first through the eyes of King Vahe of Arpiar. This is what he thinks of her:

He stood before the most enormous dragon of all, a creature as tall as a house, her scales as red as fresh blood. Her face, of all the sleepers', was the most twisted in pain. As though even now she experienced the unending throes of death.
"It's the queen," Vahe said, delightedly. "The Bane of Corrilond. What a fire she had back in her day! You remember, don't you, sweetness? It was not long after our blissful wedding day when we saw, even from Arpiar, the glow of flames rising in Corrilond. What a force! Heat carried from the Near World to the Far. There have been few like her in all of history, this most glorious of her Father's children. Like the Dragonwitch reborn, some said." (Moonblood, p. 156)

Those of you who have read Veiled Rose might remember the scene between Rose Red and the Dragonwitch. Well, the Bane of Corrilond is not the Dragonwitch (for one thing, she's not dead yet), but she is a force possibly as bad!

But when we meet her there, soon after the death of the Dragon King, she and all her brethren lie sleeping, unable to wake with their Dark Father gone from them. It will take the blood of a red, red rose to wake them . . .

And when only one drop of that blood falls, it is the Bane of Corrilond who wakes first. Wakes and finds a unicorn approaching. All terror and fire build up into a destructive force inside her, and she will desolate all in her path!

Or, she might have . . . were it not for one cheeky poet calling out the name, "Demarress! Demarress!"

"This riddle is for Demarress, Queen of Corrilond. She was a keen one for riddles," says Eanrin. But the red dragon protests, "That mortal woman died in my fire long ago."

Perhaps the old Demarress is not completely gone, however. Perhaps some little piece of her survives, deep down inside the burning. For her curiosity gets the better of her, and the Bane of Corrilond demands hear the riddle Eanrin offers.

I am the remnants of hammers,
Of fire and file, firmly confined,
Beloved of kings and princes.
Those who feel my kiss may weep!
And she who never touched me
Will gnash her teeth in vain.

With those cheeky words, a memory forces its way through the flames to the deeper places of the dragon's mind. Memories of a king, gazing upon her in disappointment. Memories of his sword, "with a golden hilt carved like two wildcats, set with rubies." Memories of a father's sad voice saying to her, "Ah! Would that I had fathered a son!"

We don't know what sort of life the young Princess Demarress--who became the last Queen of Corrilond--might have known. All we know is the bitterness and the poison. But there is probably a whole story to be told, somewhere back in time . . . the story of a struggling princess, determined to prove her strength in a world of men . . .

Whatever that story may be, the Bane of Corrilond--and all that remains of Demarress--meets her end within the pages of Moonblood. I do hate to give that away, however, so I think perhaps you ought to go and read it for yourself!

What are your thoughts, dear readers? Did you fear or feel sorry for the dreadful Bane of Corrilond?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Things on the Heartless Page

There are changes happening!

Check out the Heartless page to see the first of them. I've created new tabs, including "amusing extras" and the original short story from which the complete novel eventually developed. More fun changes to come for both this book and all the others . . . and possibly a sneak peek from Starflower! So keep your eyes open! And let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

C is for Carrun Corgar

If you've been following the Tales of Goldstone Wood for any length of time, you've probably already begun to notice that most things--people, places, and events--have an implied story behind them. Carrun Corgar, the name of a certain ruin atop Goldstone Hill in the Between, is no exception.

 In the Near World, a palace in ruins stood at that hilltop. But in the Between, Goldstone Wood extended over all save the very crest of the hill. Here too there were ruins, not of a palace but of a once-tall tower of black stone.

A doorway remained standing. All around it was forest and the rubble of old stone. But through that doorway was . . . darkness.

"It's been many centuries since I saw Carrun Corgar," said the king with a smile. "What a rundown little hap it is. Nothing like in my day!" (Moonblood, p. 154)

Whatever Carrun Corgar once was to King Vahe, it now marks a gateway to the Realm of Death for him. Passing through a crumbling doorway, Vahe leads his queen into a barren landscape and on to the Village of Dragons where the fire-bound children of the Dragon sleep . . .

We only have a few more glimpses of Carrun Corgar through the course of this novel. Much later on, Sir Oeric, who has lost Lionheart somewhere in the Wood Between and is frantically searching for him, finds his way leading up Goldstone Hill. There, while looking through Oeric's eyes, we learn a little more of the history of the ruined tower.

The once high tower had been built in the early days of Vahe's power, and therefore it had been strong, solid, not spun from enchantments. By building, Vahe had grafted this whole part of the Wood onto Arpiar, making it a part of his demesne. Then he had linked Arpiar to that small portion of the Near World, an invisible parasite clutching that hill. (Moonblood, p. 292)

If Vahe built the tower there, you can bet he used it for nefarious purposes! What those purposes were, we can only guess. Oeric, while looking at it, has memories of captivity . . . both his own and others'. Perhaps it was once a prison, standing in the Between.

And perhaps Vahe was not the only prison-keeper.

Oeric remembers, while among the ruins, climbing to the rooftop. In his memory he pushes open a door  and . . .

On hesitant feet he stepped out onto the parapet from which one could gaze into the Near World or the Far without crossing into either.

The night was cold. He remembered that. Cold and moonless. No light illuminated that dark place save that which shone from Life-in-Death's white eyes.

He saw her again, standing before his beloved, who was crumpled at her feet. His memory self cried out, and Life-in-Death turned to him and laughed.

"You are no better than your brother. Goblin. Outcast. You are Vahe." (Moonblood, p. 293)

But whatever the secrets of Carrun Corgar may be, they shall have to exist in nothing more than hint and rumor for the time being. But one day, I hope, I may reveal more . . .

In the meanwhile, what did you think of this strange tower which means so much to the two goblin brothers? Did you have any thoughts or ideas about it while reading Moonblood?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Guest Blog for Tricia Goyer

Hello, my dears. I thought you might enjoy reading this guest blog post I wrote for Tricia Goyer's blog. Many of you already know the story . . . some of you might not. But I hope all of you will enjoy this updated version of my real-life romance! :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friday Tidbits

Who Is This Person? - Getting to know your character

There are SO many different methods out there to help writers get to know their characters on a deeper, more personal level. I have writer friends who "cast their characters," picking actor or model images to "play the part" of the character in their heads. I have writer friends who spend long hours interviewing their characters about everything under the sun, from their favorite ice cream flavor, to the darkest secret of their suppressed subconscious, to what might be found in the glove compartment of their car. Spread sheets, character charts, long family histories . . . the methods are many, and varied!

I've used some of these methods myself. But not anymore. It may work beautifully for you, and that's great! For me, it tends to distract me from the work at hand, and I have actually found that I lose the true sense of the character while playing with these various methods. (But you should probably experiment with all of them at some point to see what works for you.)

However, there is one trick that I have used that has actually stood me in good stead and which I continue to use to this day. So I'm going to suggest it to you as a possible addition to whatever other methods you are currently trying.

Write your character as a child.

Here's the thing: The childhood Me is as real and present in my memory as the adult Me. While I've matured, I don't feel all that different. Grown-up and married Anne Elisabeth is still little girl, tomboy Annie . . . just a bit taller with a few more experiences under my belt. What makes me Me, down at the very core, was already in place when I was just becoming aware of Me.
The thing about children is that they are equally complicated as adults, but they tend to be more honest. As adults (beginning when we're teenagers) we have to start wearing certain masks of social expectations. When we were younger, however, we were just OURSELVES.

My husband teases me that I have more childhood memories than any person has a right to. I vividly recall events and scenes of my life from as early as three years old . . . and, indeed, I have at least one crystal clear memory from before I turned one year, a memory of my big brother splashing in the kiddy-pool then running up to give me a kiss while I sat in my motorized swing. My childhood is still very present to me.

Not everyone experiences this. But, whether they remember it or not, every person is made up of who they were as much as who they are. The same goes for your characters!

So, in an effort to get to know my characters better, I will spend time writing scenes about them as children. Often these scenes work so well to establish the characters that they make it into the final novel itself! Look at the opening prologue of Heartless. Look at all of Part One in Veiled Rose. Even in Moonblood, there are several scenes throughout of Lionheart, my protagonist, as a little boy with his nursemaid . . . scenes that clearly illustrate exactly who Lionheart is. Many of these scenes began purely as exercises to learn more about these characters of mine.

What about you? What kind of child would your protagonist be? Popular? Confident? Eager ? Shy? Wallflower? Bookish? Makes friends easily? Makes enemies easily? Close with parents? Not-so close? Naughty? Helpful?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

B is for Bebo

We started this series two days ago with one queen. Allow me now to continue with another!

Queen Bebo, King Iubdan, (and the golden mare gate-guarder of Fionnghuala Lynn) are among the few fairy tale figures I have lifted directly from our-world literature and placed in the Tales of Goldstone Wood. They were some of my very favorite fairies (as seen in this article), and I could not resist the charm of them and their Merry People! 

However, despite their names and some strong similarities to their original legends, I have taken both Bebo and Iubdan in my own direction as fitting for Goldstone Wood. Bebo especially has acquired a greater dignity and presence in this new setting than she enjoyed back in her folklore days.

My Queen Bebo, you see, walks in the Gardens of the Moon. 

The night sky itself spread below [Lionheart], an inky-black landscape unbroken but for a few straggling clouds. Stars bloomed as the brightest flowers around him, and the world, wherever it was, was far from sight. Lionheart stood on the top of Rudiobus Mountain in the Gardens of Hymlumé,. And Hymlumé herself was so bright and so near, he thought she would blind him. (Moonblood, p. 248)

To this place of imposing perspective, Bebo leads Lionheart, my unfortunate protagonist. And there she asks him to look upon the wonders of the Spheres, to see the very face of the Moon in all her glory . . . and there, perhaps, to know himself a little better.

Queen Bebo hears the Songs of the Spheres more clearly than others do, better than her husband or all the Faerie Folk of the Far World. She hears them singing all the time, and therefore, she is a woman who speaks many prophesies, telling others as she chooses what the Sun, Moon, and the Stars sing to her.

Iubdan Tynan may be king of Rudiobus . . . but his queen is far more powerful than he!

Bebo turned her childlike face to [Lionheart]. She was, he noticed, eye level with him. Queen Bebo might be small enough to stand in his hand, yet she could also look him in the eyes; and, he realized with a start, she could also loom far above him, towering like a giant with a majesty of age and wisdom he could never hope to match.

He would not meet her gaze.

"Take my hand," she said softly. He obeyed. Her fingers were small and delicate, and they could crush every bone in his hand without a thought. "Now can you see Hymlumé's face?" (Moonblood, p. 248)

 So Bebo tells Lionheart the prophesy of the coming Night of Moonblood and the fate that awaits him should he so choose.

What are your thoughts on the golden-haired Queen of Rudiobus? Would you follow her up the long stair to stand in the Gardens of Hymlumé? What might she say to you?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A is for Anahid

Dear readers, in preparation for the upcoming release of Starflower, I am going to write up my usual A-Z blog posts detailing aspects of Moonblood. Be forewarned: These posts may contain SPOILERS!!!!! If you have not yet read Moonblood, I would recommend skipping! Don't want to ruin any plot-points for you.

So, to get this thing started, allow me to introduce you to Queen Anahid of Arpiar.
Anahid was a character I'd written about before turning my pen to Moonblood. Several years ago, after writing Heartless (and while in the process of finding first and agent then a publishing house for that first novel in my series), I took a step back in time and drafted a novel called Goblin Son. A novel set five hundred years before Heartless. It opened like this:

The Queen of Arpiar bore twin sons, but only one could inherit the kingdom, so she was faced with a choice.
"No," she said to her two handmaidens, Sosi and Anahid, when her labor was complete and both babes were swaddled in gold-edged linen. Her handmaidens were her only attendants in that dark chamber, both sworn into her service with vows so strong that should either girl ever break her word, she would fall dead upon the spot. "No, I do not wish to hold them. Not yet." She motioned the bundles offered her away, refusing to so much as look at them. "Bring Zada the Soothsayer to me."
Those of you who have read Moonblood will immediately recognize the parallel openings . . . the queen of Arpiar upon her birthing bed . . . newborn children untouched by their mother . . .

But in Moonblood, the former queen's handmaiden has become the queen.
This backstory is hinted at in the pages of Moonblood. Do you remember? The statue of the old queen of Arpiar, whispering her angry secrets to her granddaughter, Rose Red?

"I told Sosi to kill it . . . Sosi was too squeamish for that kind of work. Anahid was better. But a queen? Faugh! He's made her pretty enough, I'll grant you, but she'll never have the force to rule  Arpiar!" (Moonblood, p. 164-165)
So Queen Anahid, we learn, has a long and bloody history with Arpiar, from back before her husband, King Vahe, was even born! A history which, we know, includes her love of a young knight named Diarmid.

Regret and repentance do not always walk hand in hand.
Queen Anahid wore guilt like weighty chains about her neck, but repentance was far from her. Thus she inflicted upon herself all the torments of love forsaken and the bitterness of slavery under the King of Arpiar. It seemed just punishment for her sins . . . for the lives she had taken as the old queen's slave. For the atrocities she had committed at the bidding of monarchs; first the queen, now King Vahe. She suffered every day, hating each moment of her life, waking or sleeping--for even her sleep was plagued with nightmares.

But it was punishment meted out by herself alone. And in that, she found a grain of satisfaction. (Moonblood, p. 185)
Anahid, we see, is so twisted up inside with bitterness and resentment, it is difficult to find any shred of goodness left inside her. The one redeeming light in all her life is that daughter she bore: Princess Varvare. For this daughter, she risks everything, fleeing even to the mortal world to find sanctuary for her tiny newborn.
She closed her eyes and placed hand upon her daughter's heart. "With all the love I have to give," she murmured, "though that is little enough." (Moonblood, p.12)
Her bitterness has driven her too deep for her to allow any grace for herself, however. Even the gentle call of the Prince of Farthestshore fails to move her, though we must guess that once she had followed his Path. See what she says to the yellow-eyed dragon who was once Diarmid:
"I want you to go from Arpiar. I want you to return to the Prince's Haven. Return to that place where we met so long ago, and where you loved me once. Find the Knights of Farthestshore and warn them of my husband's plan." (Moonblood, p. 186)

Yes, she once communed with the knights and knew safety at the Haven of the Prince. How she came to this dreadful state of power and slavery we do not yet know. But perhaps, one day, I shall have an opportunity to tell you . . .
What did you think of Queen Anahid? Do you think she and Rose Red share any characteristics?