Thursday, July 28, 2011

Z is for Zeal!

Okay, I'm cheating again. I simply cannot come up with something Heartless-related that starts with Z! So instead, I shall try to communicate in tiny part the zeal with which I am fired for this series.

It won't come as a surprise to my readers (especially those who have been reading these little articles of mine) to learn that I love these stories. I love these characters as dearly as though they were my own brothers and sisters. Not only in Heartless, which was only the first, but also in Veiled Rose and Moonblood . . . and in Starflower.

Yes, my dears, I have the privilege of letting you know that come October 2012, my fourth novel, Starflower, will be available for purchase! I just signed a three-book contract for more Tales of Goldstone Wood.

It's going to be exciting, and I will need all the zeal with which God has blessed me. These books will be (Lord willing!) coming out much closer together than the last several, which means less time to write than I have taken with the others. I'm going to be feeling those deadlines now!

But honestly, I'm not afraid. I have loved the story of Starflower for many years now. And the characters of all three of these books are so vivid in my mind. Their struggles are my struggles . . . yes, fictionalized and placed in a Fairy Tale context. But the battles in their hearts are my battles too. And their triumphs are my triumphs. I learn and grow so much through the writing of each novel. I an hardly wait to see what God has in store for me through Starflower and the following two.

So, it is with great zeal that I turn to the writing of my next synopsis (due in another week or so). Synopsis-writing is not my very favorite endeavor . . . but the sooner it is complete, the sooner I can tackle the next adventure!

Blessings to all of you, and thank for all your prayers and support of my writerly endeavors! This A-Z series is now complete.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Y is for Yellow-Eyed Dragon

We first glimpse him disguised as a mortal captain.

Later, he sheds the disguise and reveals himself as the monster he is, ready to tear Prince Felix apart.

He will choose his own chains.

The yellow-eyed dragon is the first dragon from the Village who finds Una after her transformation. I wouldn’t say he “befriends” her exactly, since dragons are too self-absorbed to have friends as such. But he takes on the role of her teacher in these early days of her change. He calls her sister when he sees what she is, continuing the notion of kinship that the Dragon began when he declared himself her Father.

Una and the yellow-eyed dragon have an interesting little exchange early on.

“Have you a name?” the yellow-eyed stranger asked.
“No,” she answered.
“Neither have I,” he said.

Later on, when Aethelbald penetrates the Village, the yellow-eyed dragon pushes his way through the crowd to stand face-to-face with him. He greets the Prince of Farthestshore.

"Hello, Diarmid,” Aethelbald replied.
“What do you call me?” the yellow-eyed boy snorted. “Is that a name?”
“It is your name.”
“Funny thing, that. No wonder I forgot it.”

This is one of the many side-effects of becoming a dragon, it would seem. You’ll notice with Una herself that the longer she is a dragon, she loses her name. Even the narrative ceases to refer to her as “Una,” but simply calls her the dragon girl. Her identity is lost in her fire, in her own self-absorption.

The same thing happened to the yellow-eyed dragon, only so long ago now that he no longer even feels pain when reminded of who he once was. He is lost in his fire and bitter toward the Prince who, we discover, tried to save him. It is through the yellow-eyed dragon that we get the first hint of Una’s eventual rescue.

“This is the Prince of Farthestshore, my one-time master of yore!” He spat the word with a spark of fire. “The selfsame master who, five hundred years ago, tried to undo the gift our Father bestowed upon me. He tried to quench my fire!”

And later:

He offered to help me too, long ago. I was young and foolish then, frightened at first by the change worked in me by our Father. And he, my noble Prince, my master, set his servants upon my trail, and they tracked me down until I was too weary to flee. Then he came to me himself. He came to me, claiming that he wished to help me. Hounded down, exhausted, I agreed to accept his aid and made myself vulnerable before him, swallowed my flame. But you know what he did? . . . You know what he did, little princess? He took out his sword and tried to run me through. I submitted to him, and he tried to kill me! I trusted him, and he betrayed me!”

So now we know what will happen to Una if she gives in to the Prince of Farthestshore and allows him to help her. She will have to die. All her selfishness, all her pride, will have to put to the sword. What a terrible price to pay for freedom, the loss of yourself!

It was a price too great for Diarmid. So he refused Aethelbald’s gift and remained the yellow-eyed dragon. He chose his own chains, clinging to self-will, even though he knows it will eventually cost him everything. He would rather die by the Dragon’s viciousness than by Aethelbald’s kindness.

Of course we know what follows for Una. In the end, she makes the hard choice and trusts Aethelbald. So she knows what the yellow-eyed dragon perhaps will never experience: Freedom from herself. She experiences the joy of living for love of others, of living a life so much bigger than the tiny little world of her own woes and hurts and frustrated dreams.

We don’t know what will happen to the yellow-eyed dragon, however. He is one of the many little mysteries that Heartless never completely unravels. But his story is not complete just yet. He has one more role to play before his end . . .

Monday, July 25, 2011

X is for . . .

You knew it was going to happen. I knew it was going to happen.

But seriously, dear reader, what is there in Heartless that involves an X in any sense? No X-ratings. No eXtraordinarily X-centered plot-twists. It’s just not a very Xy story, so sadly . . .

X must be skipped.

Sorry for the delay! Will move on to Y asap.

In the meanwhile, let me take this moment to let everyone know that my foster kittens (pictured below) have both found loving homes!

Marbles, renamed Maxwell, went to his new family yesterday and is settling in perfectly.

 Musketeer, renamed Mycroft, found his forever home on Saturday!

So pleased. I really fell in love with both of those little guys, and they are going to make their respective families wonderful pets! (Make their respective families into wonderful pets, if you look at it from the kitty perspective.)

I’m a little lonely without all the kittenness around. A little relieved too. Six cats in one house, three of them kittens, was INSANE. Even for a consumate crazy cat lady!

And I still have my Monster, who is sitting in my lap grooming my arm as we speak. He’s a little sad not to have any brothers left too, so he’s extra-cuddly this morning. Good thing he still has Marmaduke to rampage with!

Stay tuned for an upcoming Y is for Yellow-eyed Dragon in the next day or two. In the meanwhile, thank you for your patience and apologies for X.

Monday, July 18, 2011

W is for Wood

There has to be an enchanted wood. This story is a fairy tale. How can you have a proper fairy tale without a proper fairy forest?

I spent much of my growing-up years in England when my father was stationed at Lakenheath AFB. Within a few blocks of our little brick house was the Common Grounds which, to my childhood brain, were huge, sprawling, and O-so wild. My brothers and I would go exploring there nearly every day with Mum and Papa and Fritz the schnauzer. We climbed the ancient English oaks, some of which, my mother speculated, may have been growing since 1066 and the time of William the Conqueror!

There was a dragon on the Common. We saw it a few times, though it was disguised as a tabby cat at the time. “Just because a dragon is disguised doesn’t mean it’s any less a dragon,” Papa said. This dragon’s name was Spitfire, and she was about as mean-spirited a monster as you will ever meet, albeit small and furry. My big brother, Tom, being of a heroic bent, rescued more than one gamboling baby rabbit from Spitfire’s hunts.

There were elves that lived in one of the old hollow oak trees. Tom told me about these. They were invisible, naturally. Elves aren’t going to let themselves be seen by just anyone, especially not humans! And they were a fierce, warlike people, constantly in battle against the goblins in the gorse thicket or even Spitfire herself. Tom and I would climb the hollow oak tree and wait for ages (five minutes can seem like ages when you’re 8 years old), hoping to catch a glimpse of just one elf. We never did. Elves are much too crafty.

There were many, mysteries and stories to be had on the Common Grounds, both magical and historical, and at that age, I could scarcely tell the difference. There was the old stone church with its old, old graveyard. We never ventured to that graveyard after dark, but sometimes we would dare all manner of phantoms at dusk! There was a rabbit village complete with post office, school house, and market. There was a tree that, once climbed, became a mighty sailing vessel, and another that was a castle, fortified to defend itself from sea attacks. The adventures were without number!

When you grow up next to your very own enchanted forest, how can you not write fairy tales just a few years later?

Goldstone Wood is a place of mystery in Heartless, and it’s a mystery that only increases as we learn more about the Wood in other stories. It’s not a Fairy Forest in that you will meet fairies or fantastic being living there. No, for Goldstone Wood serves as a barrier between the Near World of mortals and the Far World of immortals. Hundreds of gateways to hundreds of strange Faerie demesnes are scattered throughout the forest, and none of these gateways are easily recognized my mortal eyes. To immortal eyes, they may appear completely obvious. But Una and Felix and any other mortal foolish enough to wander without a path into Goldstone Wood run the risk of inadvertently passing through a Faerie Gate and ending up in any number of fantastic and even dreadful realms.

We don’t see this actually happen in Heartless. Neither Una nor Felix crosses a Faerie Gate (though how close they came to doing so will be revealed in later books). But both have strange encounters in the Wood. Una meets the Dragon there. Felix is pursued by a younger dragon and eventually taken for safety and healing at the Haven.

It is in the Haven that Felix (and we the reader) learn the most about Goldstone Wood. The Haven rests thoroughly in the Between . . . that space of existence that is neither Near World nor Far, that is neither Immortal nor Mortal. It is a place of safety for all, a place of healing.

Dame Imraldera explains it to Felix as such: “This Haven, you must understand, rests in the Halflight Realm between your world and Faerie. Sometimes it will show you the world beyond; sometimes it will not. It is strange and uncomfortable, I understand . . . Long, long ago I once saw as you see. But please trust me when I tell you, you are safe. You are safe in the Prince’s Haven, and you are safe in my keeping.”

Though monsters come and sniff at the very door, they cannot enter the Prince’s Haven. But we will have to wait to hear more of the Haven and the purpose it serves as the series progresses! As of right now, we know only that it belongs to the Prince, and that Felix found healing there . . .

But what about Goldstone Wood itself? How big is it? No one knows. No one even has reasonable guesses. The Wood as it appears in Parumvir is big enough, but Felix, from the Haven, looks out and realizes that it is much, much bigger than he ever imagined! It apparently stretches across all known lands, though it is only visible in pockets of the Near World.

And what about that name? The Wood has many names, as we will learn in later books. It is called Goldstone, of course, but also the Wilderlands, the Wood Between, the Gray Forest, etc. Goldstone is actually a fairly recent name for it, historically. We will learn in subsequent novels, that it has only been called Goldstone for the last 500 years. And why Goldstone?

Recall something the Dragon said to Sir Oeric late in the story: “If not for you, little knight, I might yet be bound to the Gold Stone.”

The Gold Stone of Goldstone Wood obviously means something. Something we have yet to learn, for Heartless drops nothing more than hints. I hope intriguing hints that will keep my readers coming back for more as they put together all the pieces of the puzzle that make up the Tales of Goldstone Wood.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

V is for Veil

All right, dear reader, I am finally getting back to finishing these posts! Just a few more to go. As I type, I have a foster kitten crawling all over me and my keyboard, so do please excuse any unusual typos.

rt76tttttttttttttttttttttttttttttb       ner

Exactly. That was courtesy of Marbles, in case you were wondering. Anybody want to adopt a kitten from me? Please?

All right, Marbles is sent off to play with his Blue Rat with Bell, and I can try to figure out this latest post as I go.

I have decided to go with “Veil,” even though veils are nowhere near as important symbolically in Heartless as they are in Veiled Rose (go figure). But there is nothing else with a “v” that I can think of, so this will have to do!

Do you recall the scene, dear reader, where Una, in dragon form, flies to Southlands and lands in the gorge below the tablelands. There she transforms back into her human form, but this time, the transformation is incomplete. Her arm is marred by ugly dragon scales. Already, she is finding it more difficult to disguise her true nature . . . that nature which, the Dragon says, has been hiding inside of her all along.

Una begins the climb up from the gorge, which she finds difficult with her dragon fire low inside. But she is met partway and aided by the strangest, possibly the most enigmatic character in the entire story. A girl covered in veils. Una, rather harshly (for there is little of the princess left in her at this time), demands to know who the girl is.

The only response she gets is, “I’m nobody.”

I love the comparison created between the two characters here, the one character known, the other a mystery. Una is slowly losing the veil she has worn all her life—veils of naïveté and thoughtlessness—and revealing who she is underneath. Though she wishes to hide the truth by shoving her disfigured arm beneath the tatters of her gown, she cannot conceal it in the end.

The stranger, meanwhile, in an effort to reach out in help, strips the glove off her hand and displays her disfigurement. “Please, m’lady,” she says to Una, “I am not one to judge you. Will you look?”

How different from Una is this girl! Una would give anything to hide her shame . . . but this stranger, in an effort to reach out in help, is willing to humiliate herself. She is willing to let her weakness show if it will make the difference to Una.

And it does. When Una sees how ugly, with hard skin and claw-tipped fingers, the hand of the other girl is, she allows herself to be helped. If she thought this stranger were perfect, were beautiful, her own pride would have prevented her from accepting aid, though she desperately needed it.

What an example this is to all of us. How often do we hide behind veils? We put on displays of ideal marriages, sweet friendships, uncluttered lives, always afraid that the truth might show. How could we bear for people to know that we fight with our spouses, that we gossip about our friends, that we struggle with sin on a daily basis? The world expects perfection, and we would rather die, smothered beneath those veils, than show the truth of our inner lives.

We are selfish creatures. Our pride will carry us so far, but it will always prevent real connections. Our focus on ourselves and how we must appear to others will always stand in the way of true intimacy. Opportunities for service will be lost the longer we pretend that we can get by on our own goodness, the longer we insist on our own perfections.

What a difference it would make if I were willing to strip off my glove and let my neighbor see that we are, indeed, very alike. I struggle with the same sins. I am, at heart, just as foul. But in my weakness, God may be strong. In my humility, God may pour out His grace.

“I'm nobody,” says the veiled girl. So great is her humility. She does not matter in this moment. She does not care what perspective Una might have of her . . . what she cares about is Una herself. Even though she sees what Una is, she sees the deformed dragon arm, she does not turn from helping. She does not turn from offering grace, no matter how ungracious Una is in return.

I like the continued parallels and contrasts between these two that aren’t so readily apparent. For instance, as the story progresses, Una loses her name.

“Have you a name?” asks the yellow-eyed dragon.

“No,” she answers.

“Neither have I.”

Like the veiled girl at the gorge, they have no names. But unlike her, they have lost theirs. They have consumed themselves in their self-obsession. She simply refuses to make herself of first importance.

The veiled girl at the gorge has such a tiny moment in Heartless that I often wondered if I should remove it altogether. It seems so very incongruous, yet another plot thread apparently winding to nowhere. But bear with me, dear reader! Continue with my series, and see how these threads will ultimately come together in a pattern by the end. For she will return, and she will have a name, yes, and an important role to play in the greater context of this tale.

"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Christy Awards!

Faithful Readers, I have returned from a weekend away to Atlanta. And what a weekend this has been! My Rohan and I enjoyed ourselves tremendously, getting a greater taste of the professional writing world, eating many marvelous dinners, meeting new people, publishers, editors, authors, agents, and more . . . not to mention celebrating the anniversary of our engagement! What a marvelous trip. Thought you might like to see some pictures!

My dashing husband and me!

This was taken at the Baker Publishing dinner on Sunday Night. It was held at a elegant restaurant called Ventanas,  my first rooftop dining experience! There we met several authors including Cecil Murphy (who told me it's okay to be shy . . . he's been publishing for YEARS and is still shy at big events like this. I really appreciated that, for it was intimidating to be in such an enormous crowd of professionals!), and Tamara Alexander. I also sat next to Jim Parrish, Executive Vice President and Director of Bethany House . . . whom I had met two years ago . . . and I asked him what he did at Bethany House . . .

Yes. I sure did. I had completely forgotten meeting him, and I totally asked him what his role at Bethany House was!


Gracious man that he is, I don't think that he held it against me. Sigh . . . One of these days, I'll learn to keep names and faces straight with job descriptions!

Anyway, here's another picture of my handsome husband:

Looking so dashing that night!

It definitely boosts one's confidence to walk into a fancy dinner on the arm of the handsomest man in town! Sadly, I didn't get any great pictures of us or even the event itself. But here's one more, just for fun.

It's blurry, but you can kind of see the pretty city lights far below us. I'm scared of heights, so I had more than one dizzy moment of vertigo on this trip! Rohan has a good, steady head, however, so that helped.

The next morning, we strolled over to the convention center and walked around ICRS for a while. Then Bethany House had me sign copies of both Heartless and Veiled Rose, which we were handing out for free. That was a busy forty minutes, let me tell you! I have never signed my name so much, so fast . . . and I had to keep reminding myself to sign Stengl and not de Silva. Here I'm just starting to get used to being a de Silva! It was a lot of fun, but my husband took all the pictures of that event, so I don't have those yet . . . his camera is much fancier than mine, so I'll wait until he gets a chance to download them before I post them. It was a great event, and Rohan and I had a bit of time to chat with my acquisitions editor, David Long, afterwards, which was great.

Then Rohan and I strolled the city for a bit, went back to our hotel for a cup of tea and a bit of rest . . . then the night of the awards banquet! We had to get ready first, of course, a long and laborious process for yours truly. But the Christy Awards are considered the Oscars of Christian Fiction, so we couldn't stint on our glamour!

And right before we walked down, my Rohan surprised me with a gift: A gorgeous, diamond tennis bracelet! He thanked me for saying yes to his proposal one year ago, while I did my utmost not to cry off all my carefully applied mascara. With a kiss for luck--and help working the complicated bracelet clasp--we swept downstairs to the ballroom.

The Christy Awards really was the highlight of the trip (well, except for all the great quality time with handsome, that is!). Liz Curtis Higgs was our MC, and what a marvelous woman she is! She had us all in stitches the entire evening, while simultaneously being as gracious as she could be. (And what a beautiful speaking voice she has too . . . so rich! I'd be willing to bet she's a singer.)

The night began with calling the finalists for each category to the front where we all received medals. Kind reviews were read of each of our nominated novels, and Liz gave sweet introductions for everyone. I was introduced to the crowd as the kitten-owning-princess-type with the dashing new husband. And I wore pink. Yes, please, world. Take me seriously! Oh, well. I write YA fantasy . . . I daren't take myself too seriously!

Now please understand, dear reader . . . yours truly is not fond of a public situation full of people I do not know, no matter how lovely those people may be. All the finalists were called up to the front and given medals at the beginning of the night, and that more than enough for me! The notion of giving a speech before all these people was nothing short of terrifying.

But after receiving my finalist's medal, I settled back into my seat completely confident that I had NOT won my category. After all, as stated above, I am the pink-princess-kitten-cutsy one. Not award winning material. And it was a nice relief! I was able to enjoy dinner, sitting with Rohan, my editor, and the lovely Siri Mitchel (who was, by the way, such a neat and interesting woman! She is fluent in French, so well-traveled, and quite the prolific author, writing in so many historical contexts and places. And she was able to tell us that the weird vegetable served on our plate was a cauliflower/broccoli crossbreed. It looked more like an alien life form to yours truly, but Siri was probably right. Which means, you should order and read her books.)

So the dinner passed with surprisingly little inner-turmoil. I thoroughly enjoyed the company, the night was ever-so glamorous, and I knew I was neither going to win nor going to have to get up in public to give an acceptance speech. A great combination for a great evening!

Our keynote speaker was Randall Wallace of Braveheart fame (he wrote the screenplay). What a wonderful, humble man he is! Rohan and I both enjoyed his speech. Both he and Liz emphasized the importance of remembering why we write and who it is we write for. Mr. Wallace's speech reminded me all over again of how it is God's work . . . how He is the one who directs our steps and lays out the plan for each work of fiction any of us pens. He knows who will be touched by our work, who will need the message contained therein. And He will see to it that His work is accomplished through us, despite any outer barriers or restrictions of the flesh.

Wonderful, refreshing speech. Moved me to laughter and to tears.

After that, it was time to name the winners of each category. They have a great method of doing this, by announcing the category, then reading the first line of the winning novel. That way, the author truly is the first person to know, for of course the author will be listening for those familiar words.

Well, most authors, that is. I wasn't. I was listening for some other, unfamiliar first line. And wondering if it would be all right for me, when my category was over, to slip away for a quick visit to the "powder room" or if I should wait until all the categories were finished--

"Two children, a brother and a sister, played down by the Old Bridge nearly every day, weather permitting. No one observing them would have guessed they were a prince and a princess."

That's right, my dears. They read my sentence.

And I gasped so loud, I think my editor thought I'd choked! And my dear husband had to prod me out of my chair to go up there and accept the award! And, after a whole evening of confidently believing I would NOT have to give a speech, I jolly well had to march up there and GIVE A SPEECH! Without crying, by the way. You can't cry while wearing a pink dress, or you'll never be taken seriously again as long as you live (at age 25, of course, this is of utmost importance to me).

It was an honor that I certainly never expected. And an honor, I cannot honestly say I deserved. But someone, somewhere, must have been touched by the message of grace contained in Heartless's pages. So, by grace, I was awarded the Christy.

I had written a very nice speech, most of which I forgot, naturally. I said something somewhat reminiscent of what I had written, I think (I really don't remember much of what I said . . . I was a bit dazed). But here I would like to post what I had originally intended to say:

"My novel Heartless is a story of undeserved grace. Standing here tonight reminds me yet again of all the ways this story has been brought home to me over these last few years. The story came to me during a period of deep hurt and disillusionment. It was easy during that time to think, ‘I don’t deserve this! I am a good person! It’s not fair that I should be treated this way!” Yet God, in His infinite mercy, gently reminded me that what I truly don’t deserve is His love and His grace. Thus the story of Heartless was born, a fairy tale about a girl who, through bitterness at the loss of her dream, becomes a far worse evil . . . but to whom grace is extended.
The story of Heartless’s journey to publication is in itself one demonstration of God’s grace after another. It was by grace that my agent, Rachel Kent, understood immediately the important message within the little fairy tale on her desk. It was by God’s grace that my editor, David Long of Bethany House, recognized potential even in that early draft he first read. It was God’s grace that placed my story in the capable hands of my line editor, Rochelle Gloege, who knows so well how to draw the best out of an author without changing that author’s individual voice.
I cannot even begin to thank all the people who poured work and prayer into this project. Lovely authors, Kim Sawyer and Jill Eileen Smith, who gave me much-needed advice on submissions and the dreaded art of proposal-writing . . . All my dear friends back home who patiently read various drafts and offered honest feedback . . . my agent, Rachel, who is, I believe, a real life superhero . . . the wonderful people at Bethany House, David Long, Rochelle Gloege, Paul Higdon (who gave me the most gorgeous cover), and so many other people who I don’t even know but who put countless hours of effort into making this book the very best it could be. Heartfelt thanks to you all!
But most especially, I must thank my long-suffering and patient mother, Jill Stengl, who read and proofed every single dragon-eaten draft of this book and, miraculously, still likes it! That is mother love for you. I can honestly say I could never have written this story without her support, encouragement . . . and knowledge of the humble comma.
So let me conclude by thanking you again for this award and for being yet another demonstration of God’s undeserved grace in my life. Blessings to you all and good night."

Yes, well, in reality, I didn't say anywhere near that much, nor did I thank anywhere near as many people as I had intended to. But I hope I said what I meant to about undeserved grace. Because that night really was just yet another demonstration of grace showered down upon me!

There were many talented authors there that night! It was just wonderful to get to stand up with them, both at the beginning when we received our medals, and at the end when we stood with our trophies:

Here I am with Steven James, DiAnn Mills, Nancy Rue, Lynn Austin, and Julie Klassen. Not pictured are winners Chris Fabry and Jill Williamson.

This one is straight on, but we're not all looking, sadly. Oh, well! You can see our shiny trophies and our medals. And some of my face (that which isn't hidden by my inadvertent peekaboo hairstyle).

 But the best part of the whole evening was getting to share it with that handsome, supportive, wonderful man of mine!

Who looked like James Bond.

Two very happy people here!

Thank you all for your support and prayers! I hope you enjoyed this post of our adventures.

P.S. Rohan got so many more and so much better pictures! Once he puts them on my computer, I'll put them up on my facebook fan page and direct you that way. He has some artsy shots of our hotel and fun things like that! Because he's brilliant, that's why.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Monsters in our midst . . .

Faithful Readers,

So sorry for my slackness this last week! I had every intention of continuing my A-Z posts right through to the end of June. But alas, such was not to be my fate. Instead, I have been massively distracted of late, both with the finishing of my latest manuscript and with . . .


Yes, it is true. Rooglewood has acquired yet another member to its kitty collection. But seriously, how was I to resist?

He is a fluffy orange tabby! He looks like the cat in Heartless (except, not blind. And I intend for him to stay that way!).

His mother, a silver tabby whom I have named Misty, came strolling into my backyard a few months back, and I could see that she was expecting. My high school animal-rescuing days came back to haunt me, and I started feeding poor Misty. After all, motherhood is enough of a trial without wondering where the next meal is coming from! Eventually, Misty had her kittens, and about four weeks later she brought her little babies to my yard for the first time.

And among them was this fluffy little bundle of adorability!

Having successfully worked with a feral kitten back in April and May, I decided to have a go at these babies. I got a humane trap and succeeded in catching Mister Monster almost immediately after putting it out! He was eight weeks old at the time, weaned, and ready to leave home. He lived for the first week in my basement while having flea and worm treatments. After a flea bath or two, we brought him up to the sun room to introduce to the rest of the cat clan.

Molly was more interested in taking his face off than making friends . . .

Despite initial reservations on the part of established felines, Monster soon made himself a place in our home and hearts!

Marmaduke: "A minion to scratch my back . . . might come in handy."

My Rohan and I, smitten with kitten, decided to make him a permanent member of the Rooglewood household. Monster approved.

Helping me while I type. He's an inspiring fellow is our Monster!

The next week, we succeeded in capturing two of Monster's brothers as well. Allow me to introduce you to Marbles (orange) and Musketeer (known as Musky):

Marbles was caught three days before Musky. I took this picture the day I brought Musky in. Marbles was SO happy to see his brother, it was adorable!

Marbles and Musky are both undergoing the same flea and worm treatments that Monster had and also learning the fine art of being a House Cat. Little feral kittens need to learn how to sit and laps and purr (plus other little things like litter box usage). They are both doing very well! Marbles, especially, has turned into a little Love Bucket. If I am sitting down, he must be in my lap!

Marbles: "Pet the pretty kitty, yes, please?"

We are searching for permanent loving homes for these two little boys. We have found a family for one of them (probably for Marbles, but they haven't quite decided yet). If you or anyone you know are interested in adopting the other, let me know! We live in the Raleigh area, so we need a family who lives near by. Both of these boys are sweet natured and litter box trained, healthy little boys. All three brothers are likely to be BIG cats, but they are all so mild mannered, you can expect a gentle giant. Musky is still a bit shy, but we are making good progress. Let me know if you can help me find homes for these sweet babies!

So now you understand why I haven't been posting as much lately . . . Kittens take a lot of time! But it's worth it to give these guys a loving start to life (and we got Misty spayed, so hopefully our kitten problem is now solved!).

Hoping to finish the A-Z posts this months. Do please forgive me if I don't keep up quite as much this week, though! I'm finishing my manuscript and then off to Atlanta for the Christy Awards this weekend. Say a prayer for safe travel! Rohan and I are really looking forward to it . . . the night of the awards banquet is also the anniversary of our engagement. Hoorah!!!

One more picture of gratuitous kitten cuteness:

Look at those little white boots and mittens!

Yes, I admit it. I am a crazy cat lady . . .