Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Doings at Drakenheath

I realized January is almost over, and I haven't taken time to write up a Doings at Drakenheath post! My apologies, dear readers. I suppose I did warn you that I wouldn't be blogging quite as much over the next few months, so this is not entirely unexpected.

Anyway, let me update you on the doings.

Poison Crown . . . is coming along.


I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This book is far and away the most difficult thing I've ever tackled. However, while the last Doings post saw me bemoaning my sorry fate, this month I'm feeling ever-so much more chipper about this project. I'm well into the second draft now--or, at least, I just finished Part One of Four--and I am delighted with how it's shaping up. The rough draft was probably the worst rough draft I have ever written. But this second draft is another story altogether . . .

You may remember the post I wrote a few months about about the difference between Plot and Approach? Well, Poison Crown is proving my theory, at least as far as my own writing is concerned. In the rough draft of this manuscript, I got the approach wrong in most of the introductory material. I didn't quite introduce all of the characters and major story arcs in the right manner, and as a result, the subsequent material never really came together. In this second draft, however, I approached those introductions very differently--the same basic information, same basic plots and personalities--but approached from new angles.

As a result of this new approach, I'm discovering that quite a lot of the rough draft material in the bulk of the manuscript is salvageable. It didn't work in the previous iteration because of improper introductions, but with the adjustments made, much of it now slides quite nicely into place. I think I'm ending up able to use about 40% of the rough draft in this second draft . . . which is a decent percentage when all is said and done!

Anyway, all that to say: Writing is tough! Let no one try to tell you otherwise. But at this stage in the game, I really, really love it. I can't imagine wanting to do anything else! There is no feeling more satisfying than seeing a difficult manuscript finally start coming together.

I know many of you have come here today to learn news of the Five Enchanted Roses contest. Alas, I am not breathing a word until Sunday, when the winners will be announced! By the way, for those of you who haven't seen, the winners are being announced this Sunday, February 1.

I had hoped all along to be able bump the winners announcement up to February like we did last year, but wasn't certain if I'd be able to get all the reading in on such a tight deadline. I shouldn't have worried. When all the finalists' stories landed on my desk, it was all I could do to keep myself from reading them in enormous gulps! They were just too fun and too exciting.

Some of you have asked about the judging process for this contest. Since I cannot give away the winners or even drop any hints, I'll try to satisfying some of your curiosity by telling you how the judging works. Basically, we have four judges--editors, authors, and one publicist from a major traditional house, all of whom kindly volunteered to participate. As each story comes in, it is sent to the next judge on the cycle, so each judge ends up with one quarter of the total submissions. They read all of these submissions and then compile their top five picks, which are then sent on to me.

This means, I read only the top twenty picks--which is still quite a number of stories to pick from! And by this time, they're all excellent reads, which makes the decisions that much more difficult. I read with an eye not only to storytelling and narrative strength, but also to how the five winners will fit together as a whole. In this particular instance, I wasn't quite certain of my own top picks until I read the story that will be the fifth one in this collection. When I read that one, the whole of the collection suddenly fell into place and made sense to me--but I needed that final piece of the puzzle before I could see the whole picture.

Once I've finalized my top picks, I enter into discussion with the two Rooglewood Press editors who will be working with me during the polishing stage. I make certain they are on board with my decision, and we discuss the pros and cons. In this instance, they agreed with very little discussion.

This whole process was much easier than last year, when I read all of the submissions and then sent my top twenty picks out to the other judges. Basically, we reversed the process so that no one judge has to carry the bulk of the reading. And a good thing too! We are not revealing the exact number of entries we received, but I will tell you that we saw a 25% increase from last year's submissions. I would have been completely overwhelmed trying to read every last one of them.

I will also mention that, along with the top twenty picks sent in, several of the judges sent me their "very close runners-up" as well. There were so many strong submissions!

This stage of the game is both so exciting and also a little sad. I am thrilled for the five winners we will be naming on Sunday, excited to begin working with them to see this collection launched later this year . . . but simultaneously, I am sad for those writers I have to turn down. Talented voices with great opportunities ahead of them, but just not quite the right fit for this particular project. I can only hope that every writer who participated will feel a great sense of accomplishment and worth having produced the stories they have told. Ultimately, that's what contests like these are about--writing excellent stories.

All right, on to some other doings now . . .

I am working hard on the final stages of getting the Goddess Tithe audiobook ready for launch. It's been a bit difficult finding time to listen to the recordings and check for glitches, though when I do get a chance to sit down to it, it's quite a delight! Stephen John Rees has such a gorgeous reading voice, and I look forward to sharing this project with all of you.

And, of course, we saw the Draven's Light cover reveal launch earlier this month. Huzzah! It's now almost exactly a year since I wrote that project, so it feels like it's been a long time in coming. Still several more months before the official release, though you can pre-order your copy now if you like.

During my "spare time," I am going through the manuscript of Draven's Light, making minor adjustments and checking for typos. I found quite a few passages where I've gotten a bit repetitious, so I'm trimming down and streamlining the text. Otherwise, it's pretty much ready to go. And just wait until you see the pretty interior design! I think this might be my favorite interior look for a book yet! And that cover? Can I just say again how much I love that cover?

Don't forget, you can help me out tremendously by sharing the blog button--either on your blog sidebars or as a Twitter or Facebook photo. Just don't forget to include the pre-order link.

Speaking of covers . . . We are officially in the process of designing the next Fairy Tale cover for this year's contest. Julia Popova will be working her magic yet again, and dare I say it? I believe this one will be the most beautiful yet. The color schemes . . . the mood . . . the setting . . . oh, my! But you'll have to wait until June 1st and the official announcement of that contest to see it. Unless you participate in the cover reveal, in which case you'll get to see it in May . . .

I'm very eager to see what stories we end up with this year as well. The fairy tale we have chosen is not quite as popular as the last two (though still very well known and loved, believe me), and somehow, I feel that might lead to even more exciting retellings. We'll see if I'm right, but I personally would find this story very interesting to explore. I've had several ideas myself which I might store away for future reference.

Other than that, we have several fun features coming up on this blog. I am currently hosting a feature and giveaway for Shonna Slayton and her debut novel, Cinderella's Dress. And on Friday, I'm participating in a Coming Soon feature for Gillian Bronte Adams and her exciting upcoming release! Many more fun interviews and giveaways will be forthcoming, so be certain to visit often.

And, of course, I will be continuing with the Q&A blog series I began last fall. I probably will need to get Poison Crown drafted before I can tackle regular blogging again, however. You understand . . . .

Those are all the Doings for now! How has your January been?

Monday, January 26, 2015

Interview Feature: Shonna Slayton

Dear Imps, you are all perfectly aware of how much we love fairy tales around here, particularly Cinderella! So you will understand my enthusiasm when I bid you welcome a new fairy tale novelist into our midst! Please meet . . .

SHONNA SLAYTON is the author of the YA novels Cinderella's Dress (Summer 2014) and Cinderella's Shoes (Fall 2015) with Entangled Teen. She finds inspiration in reading vintage diaries written by teens, who despite using different slang sound a lot like teenagers today. While writing Cinderella's Dress, she reflected on her days as a high-school senior in British Columbia when she convinced her supervisors at a sportswear store to let her design a few windows--it was glorious fun while it lasted. When not writing, Shonna enjoys amaretto lattes and spending time with her husband and children in Arizona.

About the Book: Being a teenager during World War II is tough. Find out you're the next keeper of the real Cinderella's dress is even tougher.
Kate simply wants to create window displays at the department store where she's working, trying to help out with the war effort. But when long-lost relatives from Poland arrive with a steamer trunk they claim holds Cinderella's dress, life gets complicated.
Now, with a father missing in action, her new sweetheart shipped off to boot camp, and her great aunt losing her wits, Kate has to unravel the mystery before it's too late.
After all, the descendents of the wicked stepsisters will stop at nothing to get what they think they deserve.

Shonna has generously offered a print copy of Cinderella's Dress in a giveaway (USA only, please), so be certain to enter your name down below! But first, enjoy learning about Shonna and her work:


INTERVIEW


Welcome to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog! First of all, would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?

Shonna: Thanks for having me on your blog. I’m a fan, so it’s fun to be invited to contribute! As a homeschool mom to a busy teen and pre-teen, I spend a lot of time driving around to co-ops and clubs, which means I also spend a lot of time waiting. Those waiting times are when I write. For example, right now I’m sitting on a little yellow chair in a Sunday School classroom while a Spanish class goes on next door. If I had been better prepared, I would also have a dirty chai latte at my side (chai tea mixed with coffee). 

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller? How did you get into publishing?
 
 Shonna: As a child, I was too shy to be a storyteller, but after my fifth-grade teacher read amazing books like The Hobbit and Watership Down aloud to the class, I was bursting to try my hand at writing. So, I wrote fanfiction of Watership Down. It’s still in a file box somewhere in the garage. My path to getting a novel published took the long way—down the rabbit trail of magazine and technical writing. Glad the road eventually got here! 

Tell us a little about your work! Cinderella’s Dress is your debut novel, am I right? How did this story come about? 

Shonna: Yes, Cinderella's Dress is my debut novel. Set in the 1940’s, it’s about a girl who finds out her family has been hiding the real Cinderella dress for centuries, and now it is her turn. The novel is the merging of two seemingly unrelated story sparks. One was a picture book of the same title, showing a modern-looking girl sliding down a banister in a ball gown. When I saw that image, I immediately thought it was a story about Cinderella’s grandchildren playing in her dress. (It wasn’t!) The second story spark was a line in a nonfiction book about the history of department stores. Apparently, until the 1940’s, window dressers in those large stores were all men. During the war years, window dressing was one of the new careers that opened up for women. This fascinated me, and I was determined to figure out a way to get Cinderella’s Dress into a department store window. Fortunately, history was kind to me and it turns out the late 40’s were also a pivotal time for fashion, and this helped me with my ending. 

This story is a historical fiction with a fantasy twist. What a wonderful premise! How else does your story differ from other Cinderella retellings?

Shonna: Cinderella’s Dress is more of a spin-off than a retelling. I do have my own version of the Cinderella story in the back of my mind, and it informs this novel, and (even more) its companion novel, Cinderella’s Shoes (Fall 2015). My novels involve the descendants of Cinderella, the stepsisters, and my own creation, Cinderella’s servant. There was a role back in medieval times called Keeper of the Wardrobe. My main character, Kate, comes from the line of Keepers who are charged with protecting the magical dress. 

Can you pick a favorite character from this novel?

Shonna: Aunt Elsie is my go-to favorite character. She surprised me the most because she was supposed to stay in the back story—in fact, in my original plan, she died on the ship as she and her husband were escaping WWII Europe with the dress. But when she survived the trip over and was knocking on Kate’s door, I knew I was in for an adventure with her. 

What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?

Shonna: Inspiration is everywhere, but I particularly enjoy history. Heritage buildings. Antiques. Old photos are amazing—they set my imagination on fire. (Hence, my love of Pinterest.)

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process? 

Shonna: My favorite stage is the research and brainstorming. Oh, the possibilities when you come up with a new idea! But I struggle with first drafts. I write “short” which means I have to return to the manuscript, slow down the camera in my mind, and give the details that make a scene come alive. 

If you were forced to pick a single favorite author, who would it be?

Shonna: L. M. Montgomery. (When you pick a deceased author, you don’t have to feel guilty about choosing one favorite author over another.) 

What are you actively writing right now?

Shonna: Trick question. I’m working through my editor’s first-pass edit notes on Cinderella’s Shoes, and I’m also expanding the outline on what I would do for an actual Cinderella retelling if I were to write a prequel to the duology. So, I’m editing and outlining, but not technically writing. 

Would you share a short snippet from Cinderella’s Dress?

Shonna: Sure. This is where the main character, Kate, meets her future love interest. She is at an audition for a movie role that she doesn't really want, and is about to terribly embarrass herself . . . but I'll stop the snippet just shy of that:

Excerpt from
CINDERELLA'S DRESS

“Next, girls, we’d like to see you jitterbug.” He snapped his fingers twice, and a teen-age boy walked out to the center of the room. Oh no. The boy had been at the back of the room the whole time. He’d seen her moving the props around. As he drew closer, the other girls whispered eagerly to each other.

He was tall with flipped-back dark-brown hair, wearing blue jeans and a button-down shirt with the top button open and a white T-shirt underneath. Kate had no idea who he was, but based on the reactions of the older girls, they did.
He smiled at each of the hopefuls, and when he looked at Kate, her ears burned like the New York asphalt outside.
The man closest to the record player leaned over and switched it on. Out blasted the Andrews Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.
Kate smiled in relief. She’d danced a hundred times to this old song. It would be a cinch after all.
The boy grabbed Sadie’s hand, and the two jitterbugged in front of the casting table. Working his way from girl to girl, he finally reached Kate. He grinned and held out his hand to her. “Care to dance?”
When Kate made eye contact, her stomach did a jitterbug of its own. She didn’t expect his eyes to be so Frank Sinatra blue. Blue like the early-morning sky. She shyly ducked her chin, forgetting for a moment this was an audition.
Without warning, he yanked her in front of the three men and their clipboards and swung her around like she was a teen-age Shirley Temple. He pulled her close and whispered, “Relax, doll, you’re doing swell.”
His warm breath tickled her ear, and she leaned into him. Girl Next Door might be an okay role after all.


_____________

 Thank you so much for being here with us today, Shonna! It's so much fun to learn about yet another fantastic take on this timeless story.

I hope all of you readers are now intrigued to read more of Cinderella's Dress. Be certain to enter your names in the giveaway! (Again, US only this time). Or you can purchase the story on your Kindle. Remember, every time you buy a book, you help to support an author! Every purchase makes a difference.

Happy reading!
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

FIVE ENCHANTED ROSES -- Announcement

I have an important announcement to share with all of you. The judges at Rooglewood Press have finished reading the submissions, and we believe we can put together our final list of winners during this next week. Which means we are upping the declaration of the winners from March 1 to February 1. That is a week from today!


So be certain to stop in next week to see whose stories have been selected for inclusion in this beautiful volume. This year it might be you . . .

Take a moment to spread the word on your Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. I want to make absolutely certain that everyone is aware of this change in the schedule. You can direct them to this link. Thank you!

Friday, January 16, 2015

DRAVEN'S LIGHT - Cover Reveal!

The time has come at long last to reveal the cover for Draven's Light, the newest novella set in the Tales of Goldstone Wood! Well, I say novella . . . really, at 50,000 words, it's more of a short novel. Significantly smaller than your average Goldstone Wood novel, but a good-sized chunk of story even so.

I've been sitting on this cover for a while now due to some changes in our planned release date. But I am very pleased to finally be able to present to you . . .

 

In the Darkness of the Pit

The Light Shines Brightest 


Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor. 

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart. 

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness? 

Coming May 25, 2015
______________________________

So what do you think, dear Imps? Are you excited for this newest adventure? Which, by the way, is set the farthest back in the history of the Near World of any of the Tales so far! Long before the Dragonwitch, when the Brothers Ashiun still walked the Near World, building the Houses of Lights . . .

You can read an exciting excerpt for the story here. Also, by clicking here, you can learn how this story came to be!

Draven's Light is available for pre-order in paperback now. You can help spread the word by sharing this blog button and purchase link:
Pre-Order Here
Oh, and would you like to see what the print book will look like with its wrap-around cover? Because I'm happy to show you . . .


This cover was designed by a very talented young artist, Mihaela Voicu. You can visit her on Facebook and see more of her lovely work! The image she created is the perfect fit for this story, incorporating many subtle details and depicting the atmosphere of darkness and adventure I had hoped to see. This is easily one of my favorite covers for this series . . .

To celebrate this reveal, I am offering advance reader copies of Draven's Light to three lucky winners! These copies will be beautiful print versions with all the fun formatting details and will be sent to the winners a few months before the official release date. So if you're curious to read Draven's Light before everyone else, do enter your name in the giveaway below!
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Big thank you to all the bloggers who have kindly participated in this reveal with me, helping to share the word about this new project! You folks are great, and I really appreciate your efforts:

Miss Melody Muffin at The Splendor Falls on Castle Walls
Rebekah at Backing Books
Athelas Hale at Red Lettering
Heather at The Book Matrix
Carol at Worthy 2 Read
CJ Darlington
Jenelle at Jenelle Schmidt
Amber Stokes at Seasons of Humility
Shannon McDermott at ShannonMcDermott.com
Stephanie Ricker at Quoth the Girl
Morgan at MorganBusse.com
Dorian at Dorian Writes
Jasmine at Montana Made
Emily Rachelle at Emily Rachelle Writes
Maria at Artsy Bookworm
Jennette at J.L. Mbewe                
Katie at Too Read or Not Too Read       
Ghost Ryter  at Anything Everything
Rachel at Bookworm
Rebecca at A Curious Thrill

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Ashlee Willis -- All New Cover Reveal!

Dear Imps, I am excited to have the opportunity to present the new face of Ashlee Willis' debut novel, The Word Changers. Many of you have already read and enjoyed this story. And those of you who haven't, well, you're in for a magical treat! Either way, I hope you will all enjoy this gorgeous new cover. Are you ready?

 About the Book:


Escaping from the turmoil of her home, fifteen-year-old Posy finds herself at her usual haunt: the library. When she chooses an unfamiliar book from the shelf, she doesn't devour its words as she usually does . . .

Its words devour her.

Posy is pulled into the pages of a fairy tale in turmoil. Characters whisper of rebellion against their Plot. And Posy must find a lost princess whose role in the story is crucial, before her own part in the book comes to a horrible end.

With the haughty Prince Kyran as a reluctant companion, Posy ventures past the Borders of the Plot, into the depths of the treacherous Wild Land forest beyond. Secrets are buried there, dangerous and deadly.

Yet the darkest secret of all is the one Posy carries within herself.

Soon it's clear that finding the lost princess is the least of Posy's concerns. The Author of the book must be found. His Plot must be put to rights again, the characters reminded of whom they were first created to be. Only then will the True Story be written, both for Posy and for the tale she has now become a part of.

___________________________________
 
What do you think? Are you ready to dive into this adventure?

Well, you are in luck. Ashlee Willis is offering a generous giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a copy of The Word Changers in its beautiful new binding (just as soon as it releases). So be certain to enter your name in the raffle below!

Take a moment to congratulate Ashlee on this wonderful repackaging. And if you've read the book, do leave a note telling her how much you enjoyed it!
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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hail the New, Ye Lads and Lasses!

In honor of the upcoming New Year (and in conjunction with yesterday's post), I thought I'd post a list of goals and aspirations I have in mind for 2015. This is probably an idealized dream list . . . and it's pretty intimidating to look at now that I've got it all written down. But you know what? Stated goals are often easier to accomplish than unstated goals. So here goes nothing!

Goals for 2015:


Draven's Light cover reveal in January. This should be taking place at the same time as the pre-orders for print become available. (And I'll need bloggers to help spread the word, so email me--aestengl@gmail.com--if you want to participate.)

Get the audio version of Goddess Tithe launched at last. (We've had some setbacks on that one, but it's still coming.)

Finish a polished draft of Poison Crown in February. I really need this to happen in February if I'm going to keep on track!

Read, discuss, shuffle, and finally select five winners for the Five Enchanted Roses contest. This should be happening through January and February.

Announce the winners of the Five Enchanted Roses contest. March 1st, people!

Edits and revisions with winning authors.

Work with design team to create a gorgeous interior look for Five Enchanted Roses.

Host a Goldstone Wood Fan Art Contest . . . hopefully the biggest one yet! Sometime in April, probably.

Get the final cover design finished for Five Something Something, the third fairytale contest.

Get the cover design finished for Poison Crown.

Begin writing the New Series About Dragons. Hopefully finish the first book in a month of two. (These are anticipated to be shorter books than I've been writing, but we'll see.)

Oh, and actually launch Draven's Light. Late May for that goal!

And a cover reveal for Poison Crown, of course. Hopefully time this to go with print copy pre-orders, but we'll see.

Launch the third fairytale contest on June 1st!

All this while, I'll be polishing and perfecting Poison Crown with the help of my editors and proof readers.

Host the second annual Goldstone Wood Music Contest. Possibly. We'll see what kind of enthusiasm we're getting for this contest.

Launch Five Enchanted Roses!

And hopefully get the audiobook version of Five Enchanted Roses out to our readers soon after the print and ebook versions.

Somewhere in here I hope to write the second book in the New Series About Dragons as well. Ideally, I want to write three of these in one year.

I'm really, really, really hoping to launch a new project of my mother's this summer as well.

Fan Fiction Contest for Goldstone Wood! This will be a late summer event, as per tradition. One of the best events of the year, in my opinion.

Get Poison Crown formatted and ready for launch. Begin marketing campaign.

Possibly a Goldstone Wood costume contest this autumn, to coincide with Halloween? We haven't done one of these before, but I think it would be tremendous fun.

Launch Poison Crown! That will be the biggest event of this year for me. And when it's finished? I might just collapse in a heap and never move again.

Should I decide to move again, however, I'll consider hosting a Moonblood read-along for Christmas.

Oh, and finish that third book in the New Series About Dragons. And possibly reveal the cover for the first one before Christmas! That's probably dreaming a little too big, but I'm going to put it down anyway. Got to shoot for the moon, right?

All this while, I hope to keep up regular blog posts and features, host author interviews and giveaways, etc.

Rohan and I might try to take a vacation in there too. (Though really, who has time for vacations?)

So there you have it. My dream list of goals for the year 2015. What do you think? Any events that look particularly fun and exciting to you? What are some things you hope to accomplish in the coming year?