Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Enter to Win!

Grand Prize: Signed copies of all three published Tales of Goldstone Wood! That's Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Moonblood, along with specialized bookmarks, Goldstone Wood magnets, pencils, and stickers.

Second Place: A signed copy of Moonblood.

How to Participate: Submit a work of your own original art. You can use any medium: Drawing, painting, sewing, pottery, photography, jewelry-making . . . anything!

Subject: Your art work needs to be Tales of Goldstone Wood inspired. It can be a character portrait, a scene from a story, or (in the case of pottery or sewing) thematically inspired by some aspect of one of the books.

Number of Submissions: You may submit as many pieces as you like. Each one increases your chances of being a winner!

How to Submit: Send a clear and detailed photograph (or several photographs) of your art to my email address:

Display: Your art will be displayed in a series of posts on this blog, along with your name, age, medium, and the title of your piece. It will also be featured in an album on my Facebook author page.

Winner Selection: All submissions will be judged by a panel of three (author not included!) according to effort (did you take time over this, or dash off a doodle?), theme (is this Goldstone Wood inspired or just a random picture?), and originality (If you submit stick-figures, those had better be some interesting and detailed stick-figures!). All ages and media will be judged together. Judging will be based on a point system, not artwork against artwork, so that artists of varied skill-levels and media may feel free to participate!

Deadline: April 24th. All submissions will be judged that week, and the winner announced on May 1st.

Be original! Be creative! Have fun!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

P is for Portrait

Do you remember it? That strange little moment? It happens in both Veiled Rose and in Heartless. When a character stands in the gallery of Oriana Palace and his or her eye is drawn by an unusual portrait on the wall.

It was a small piece in a very old style; a storytelling style intended to convey a certain truth of the tale without specific accuracy to the characters. There were three men with the same face, two of them chained together, the third one crowned. There was a woman in the center of the piece, and she wept beside a gold stone, an altar, on which lay a figure that was like a man and yet, horribly, like the Dragon. (Veiled Rose, p. 311)

In the course of both these books we do not learn who all of these characters are. However, a careful reading of each text might reveal a few secrets.

This figure that is man-shaped but also the Dragon lies upon a gold stone. It's an easy leap to see the connection between this image and the name of Goldstone Wood. So we might infer, at least, that this scene took place in the Wood between the Far World and the Near and that this golden altar is the Gold Stone for which the Wood is now named.

Just a few pages earlier in Veiled Rose, we see Rose Red in the Netherworld sailing upon the dreadful Lake of Endless Blackness (as it was named by Leo back in a younger, more innocent day). While making this dreadful journey, Rose Red sees an awful sight:

Something flickered in the lantern light. Rose Red gazed forward and a little to her left and saw an enormous rock jutting from the lake. The little stick boat glided past it, and she saw that the rock was smooth and polished and gleaming, a pure gold stone. An altar. The sight of it made her sick, though she did not know why. (Veiled Rose p. 300)

Could this be the same stone as that seen in the portrait? The argument is strong, especially if we look back at the description of that same portrait as described in Heartless, which reveals details omitted in Veiled Rose.

Three men stood on the shores of a black lake; one of the three worse a crown upon his head while the other two were bound in chains. Otherwise, their faces were identical. In the center of the lake lay another man upon a golden altar that rose up out of the water. (Heartless, p. 124)

So it must be the same, the Dark Water, the Lake of Endless Blackness. This place, once located in the Wood, has now sunk to the Netherworld itself.

There are a few more small details we might pick up from these two novels alone. Near the end of Heartless¸ we see three Knights of Farthestshore defending King Fidel against the onslaught of the Dragon. Their defenses are useless against his great fire, and yet Sir Oeric, the ugly, goblin-esque knight, refuses to back down, even when he sees his two companions tossed aside like dolls.

The Dragon laughed again, a thunderous sound. Fidel dropped his own sword and fell to his knees, and even the knight stepped back and cringed away as sparks flew and burned his skin. "I owe you too much to crisp you to cinders," the Dragon said. "I do not forget a service rendered, however unwillingly. If not for you, little knight, I might yet be bound to the Gold Stone!" (Heartless, p. 303)

So what is this Gold Stone, featured in this picture, glimpsed in the Netherworld? Again, we don't know the complete story. All we know is that it served as a prison of some sort, binding the Dragon. But why? For how long? And how was he released?

Many of these questions will have to wait to be answered in Moonblood. Others . . . well, others might have to wait a little longer!

In the meanwhile, what are your thoughts on this odd little image? Who do you think the three men, one a king, two prisoners, might be? Or the woman weeping beside the gold stone? Any guesses?

Friday, February 24, 2012

O is for Oracle

One of the most chilling moments in all of Lionheart's adventures is the moment he sits face-to-face with the Mother's Mouth, the oracle of Ay-Ibunda.

A light struck and flared. It nearly blinded Lionheart and he covered his face with his hands. When he looked again, he saw an ancient, wrinkled woman sitting cross-legged before him, smiling a hideous smile. She held a candle cupped in both hands, and the glow from it cast her face into awful shadows.
Her eyes were white. She was blind. (p. 293)

In this temple set in a world outside the mortal realm, this oracle sits solitary in darkness. Not even the hum of the monks beyond her tiny cell are audible. She is so lost in darkness that she scarcely remembers what it is like to see. All light and song are far from her.

"There is no hope in this place," she says. "There is no hope, only fulfillment."

The fulfillment of a hopeless life. Even the Netherworld offers the light of Asha Lantern to those wandering in the half-lit shadows. But here, there is nothing . ..  nothing but a greedy old woman who devours even the precious pearl Lionheart offers her in exchange for a vision. No beauty, no goodness.

The Life-in-Death has consumed it all.

Using the oracle as a vessel, the Dragon's sister meets Lionheart in this place and finally drags from him the secret-most dream of his heart. And this she vows to give him. Then she vanishes, leaving Lionheart alone once more with the ugly, blind oracle who tells him how he may drive the Dragon from Southlands.

Then she blows out her candle.

The horror of being in the dark with that crone was too much. Lionheart backed out on his hands and knees, finally turning around and crawling as fast as he could. (p. 295)

I don't blame him! After all, that foul old dame, a servant of the Lady Life-in-Death, is a reflection of what Lionheart himself may all too soon become. What dreams did the Life-in-Death fulfill for that blind woman that brought her to a state of such utter wretchedness? We can only wonder. Perhaps she is not even a native Noorhitamin, though the temple is found within the Noorhitam empire? After all, she speaks a language unknown to Lionheart, although he has studied (to varied degrees of success) the various Noorhitam dialects for the last two years.

And one language she speaks translates itself in his head . . . like Faerie tongue. Could this frightful, lost soul be one of the Faerie-folk? Or is she simply so ancient that she has even learned Faerie languages?

All this will have to be left up to speculation for the time being, I'm afraid! After all, I'd hate to give away future storylines. But you can be sure, I hope to one day revisit Noorhitam, Ay-Ibunda, and even the presence of the Life-in-Death's oracle once more . . .

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

N is for Netherworld

We have seen glimpses of this world before. In Heartless, Princess Una, nearly lost in her newly burning dragon-fire, makes her way to the Village of Dragons which lies in a world outside her own.

Now, in Veiled Rose, we see Rose Red take a different path, but a path that leads the same direction: Into the world of Death.

Into the Half-light Realm. The Netherworld.

Here we find the dead, cut off from the worlds of the living, but unable to rest as they wander in shadows. Rose Red herself meets several ghosts and denizens of the Netherworld as she seeks after Lady Daylily, whom the Dragon has down into the depths of his kingdom. Among them is the dreadful Wolf Lord who meets her at the Place of the Teeth.

She knew the story behind the Place of the Teeth, a secret hallow somewhere on the slopes of Bald Mountain to which no one ever ventured anymore. It was a site of sacrifice. Five stones like jagged teeth, carved from the natural rock, rose up from the smooth slab of stone, four of the teeth at the slab's corners, and one jutting from the middle. All were stained with blood, the middle one most of all. For here, in ancient days, the warlike elders had sacrificed ewe lambs to appease the Beast that was their god.
And here too it was that Maid Starflower had been bound and left under the cold light of the moon (p. 257).

This site of evil once was found in Southlands itself. But all dead and dying things are drawn to the Netherworld at last.

Nevertheless, as Rose Red discovers, not all paths through the Netherworld belong to the Dragon. Indeed, even into this place of darkness and despair, the light of the Prince of Farthestshore reaches, comforting and strengthening Rose Red.

This Path you walk is perilous, and Death waits at its end, the Prince, her Imaginary Friend, tells her. Those without hope will not survive. So please, my child, take this lantern. Take Asha in your hand and hold on to its light . . . as long as you carry Asha, no monster of this realm may harm you. It is my gift, my protection (p. 255-256).

So Rose Red passes safely from the Place of the Teeth and on through the door guarded by the ghost of the evil Dragonwitch, firstborn among dragons. She even escapes the cunning Black Dogs, those hellhounds, servants of the Dragon.

But can Rose Red remember to hold on to the Prince's gift even as she faces the Dragon himself?

Well, I'd hate to spoil that!

I had a lot of fun working with and developing the Netherworld, which we will see again in later books. Much of my inspiration for Rose Red's journey to rescue Lady Daylily came from the classic myth, Orpheus and Eurydice . . . with the added twist that Rose Red is not striving to rescue her lover but, indeed, her rival! For all her faults, I'm not convinced I would have had Rose Red's pluck in her place.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

M is for Middlecrescent

The kingdom of Southlands is split into twelve distinct baronies governed by barons. Each barony consists of multiple counties, towns, cities, etc. and the government trickles down to a smaller level. But over his barony each baron rules, answerable only to his Eldest and fellow barons.

And of these twelve, Middlecrescent is the strongest.

It lies in the center of the nation on fertile ground with good access to all the other baronies. Were its baron less powerful, this central location might make it an easy target among rival barons. But Middlecrescent has, since ancient times, dealt with this very issue of vulnerability (as we will see come Starflower . . .), and has grown up a warlike people, fierce enough to not only keep hold of their own land, but also to reach grasping fingers out to others.

Of course, in Veiled Rose, we see a unified Southlands with a ruling Eldest and, for the most part, peaceable barons. But that doesn't mean the rivalries of ancient times have been entirely forgotten. Not in the hearts of those barons.

Least of all, in the heart of Baron Middlecrescent.

[His] desk was more like a throne really, a true seat of power from which the baron controlled his barony and, truth be told, the baronies of more than a few of his peers. All in the name of good King Hawkeye, of course. Middlecrescent was unbendingly loyal. If ever his views crossed the Eldest's, it would only be because Middlecrescent was best positioned to recognize benefit to his liege lord. If he pulled a few strings here and there, subtly gainsaying his master's wishes, manipulating his pawns into positions he deemed more suitable, it was only with the best interests of King Hawkeye at heart (p. 168).

Who doesn't love a man like that?

Of Middlecrescent itself, we learn little enough in the course of this book. If seen from an aerial perspective (perhaps from dragon's flight?), it would appear like a huge crescent arching across the landscape. It is shaped by the gorges which cut all of Southlands into a series of deep ravines and tablelands. The capital of Middlecrescent is a center for the arts.

[Daylily] was used to spending her holidays with friends in Middlecrescent City, enjoying the society there, the balls and assemblies and theatrical performances (p. 109).

It is also a center for conspiracy. But we will have to wait until Moonblood to learn more of that . . .

In the meanwhile, I hope you enjoy seeing small glimpses of the life, history, and development of Southlands as a nation. I look forward to sharing more in future books!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

L is for the Lady Life-in-Death

Well, Klahan is more than a little pleased at the response to his post! I don't think he ever expected to be quite that popular, and it is most gratifying even to a nine-year-old emperor.

Now we'll see if our L feature can generate as much interest. Not as much popularity, I'm sure, but interest, maybe . . .

The Lady of Dreams Realized. The Life-in-Death. The Dragon's sister.

Personally, I find her much more terrifying than her fire-breathing brother. She is the more insidious of these two terrifying entities, creatures living beyond time in realms of their own dominion.

. . . he crosses into the world where dreams come true. There they ceased to be dreams and dissolve into nothingness. No color exists in this land, only shades. Even nightmares dare not venture past its borders for fear of losing themselves. It is a solitary world, wherein only one being can dwell.
She is the Lady of Dreams Realized.
The Lady Life-in-Death.

Where the Dragon himself is all fire and destruction, the ruination of all hopes and dreams, the Lady is their fulfillment. She gives to mortal man what he believes he desires. And in so doing, she destroys him. Far from being the opposite of her brother, she is rather his completion. Though seemingly at odds, playing with dice for the souls of mortals and Faerie folk alike, this brother and sister are two sides of the same coin.

"All yours must come to me," says the Dragon. And this is true. For all to whom the Lady grants dreams are granted also their ultimate death.

In Veiled Rose we see her mostly in a woman's shape, white hair, black skin, and eyes filled to the brim with emptiness. The opposite of her brother, with his skeletal face, black hair, and fire-filled eyes. But while her brothers also takes the form of the Dragon, we don't see the Lady of Dreams Realized assume another guise. Perhaps she has one that we haven't seen, however. Perhaps a shape more deadly even than that of her dreadful brother . . .

But we will have to wait to learn more about that! In the meanwhile, we watch her seduce Lionheart into the realm of dreams come true; we watch her manipulate his all-too eager heart into a place of self-justified cowardice. For the sake of his dream, he is willing to give up everything, even his honor. And this, I believe, is a worse fate even than that which met Princess Una at the hands of the Dragon.

The Lady Life-in-Death was initially inspired (as I have stated elsewhere) by a moment in Samuel Taylor Colleridge's Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Though I have posted them before, I will again share with you those epic lines:

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a DEATH? and are there two?
Is DEATH that Woman’s mate?
Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
Her skin was white as leprosy,
The Night-mare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.
In the scene that follows, we see Death and Life-in-Death playing dice for the soul of the titular Ancient Mariner. Life-in-Death wins, so the Mariner lives  . . . or rather, he dies in living form. He is given his desire, to live, and in that, he enters true hell. It is a chilling poem, and that moment with Life-and-Death is the most chilling of all.
Perhaps Collerige himself was inspired for this awesome image by a passage in St. Augustine's Confessions.
"For what do I wish to say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came hither into this life-in-death. Or should I call it death-in-life? I do not know. And yet the consolations of thy mercy have sustained me from the very beginning . . ." (Chapter VI)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Favorite Unicorn Name Drawing--THE WINNER!

Hello, dear readers! I know, I'm late on my next A-Z post yet again. So sorry . . . I've taken in feral kittens again, and I'm spending much of my life right now working on taming them. Which is like taming tiny, vicious, frightened tigers! Blog posts have kind of fallen through the cracks . . .

But, I did not forget our name-drawing winner! I selected a name at random, and the winner of a free copy of Moonblood is . . .


Writing about his/her favorite unicorn, BJF said: "I really like the unicorn in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe because it helps Aslan."

Please email me your mailing address: And I will be certain that you receive your free copy of Moonblood!

And for those of you interested, the overwhelming favorite all-time unicorn was:

Jewel, Warrior Unicorn, faithful friend of King Tirian, and servant of Aslan.

Lots of fabulous unicorns were mentioned, including several of whom I had never heard before! Fun times, my friends! Keep your eyes open for more name-drawings in the future!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

K is for Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan

Wow, it seems like it's been a while since last I posted part of my series! Sorry about that, dear readers. I'm back now, though, ready to give a little inside scoop on one of my favorite characters in Veiled Rose. He is the supreme ruler of all her surveys, father of his people, the Imperial Glory of Noorhitam.
And he wanted clowns for his coronation.

Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan, son of Molthisok-Khemkhaeng Niran, was only nine years old when his father died, possibly by nefarious means. The death of the father meant a subsequent coronation of the son, naming him once and for all the Sacred Father of the Empire. Rather a lot of responsibility for one small boy.

One small boy who should, according to his (quite possibly wicked) uncle be easy to control.

Sepertin Naga liked the look of that babyish face. It reminded him of his dear, departed sister. She had been a most pliable girl.
But there was a set to the emperor's jaw that his uncle failed to see. This jaw he had inherited from his father and a long line of emperors. Dynasties are not made of weak links. (p. 268)

Granted he's still a child. One might even say a petulant child given his insistence upon clowns at his coronation. Sepertin Naga, his uncle, sees nothing but a spoiled brat who, because he is the Imperial Glory, must be carefully catered to.

"We never have clowns," said Emperor Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan. "Not funny ones. The only clowns I've ever seen always teach a moral."
"Such is the role and duty of those who strive in the comedic arts, to instruct and enlighten their Sacred Father."
"You, most Glorious One."

Nevertheless, if clowns the Emperor wants, clowns the emperor will have. So it is that Lionheart, under the guise of Leonard the Lightning Tongue, is brought to the Aromatic Palace and made to perform before the solemn seated upon a magnificent throne. He sees the boy and is at first ready to dismiss him as too young and too inexperienced to possibly fulfill the enormous task before him.

But one thing Emperor Klahan does not lack is courage. For though the mantel of the empire is far too great for him, still he sits under its weight, untrembling, unafraid. He knows the duty to which he was born, and he will fulfill it with honor.

Lionheart would probably have hated the boy had they met when the same age; everything about him was so carefully put together, ever word spoken with such care. At age nine, it was not a manner that would win him friends among his peers.
It might win the respect of an empire. (p.288)

I really like this character. He is full of unexpected depths, for all he is a child. He is wise beyond his years and extremely well educated. He speaks Lionheart's language with completely fluency that takes the poor jester-prince (who is himself desperately struggling to learn the complicated Noorhitamin dialects) by surprise. Klahan also knows many of the deeper, darker secrets of Lunthea Maly city, secrets his uncle does not suspect he possesses.

One cannot help but think that Emperor Klahan will have a difficult life, balancing the rule of his empire against the machinations of ambitious Sepertin Naga. And the temple, Ay-Ibunda, lurks at the very heart of his city, and it is more dangerous by far than any conniving uncle! Somehow, I think Khemkhaeng-Niran Klahan will prove himself a hero in the end, however.

And I think we all might just have to make a visit to Noorhitam again one day . . .

Friday, February 3, 2012

2nd Moonblood Name-Drawing

I think everyone needs another chance to win a free copy of Moonblood. How about you?

The last name-drawing was a lot of fun, so I will stick to the unicorn theme for the moment. This time, if you would like to have your name entered for an opportunity to win my newest book, tell me the name of your favorite fictional unicorn! This can be from any type of fiction: Novels, picture books, movies, even video games. Just tell me who your favorite is and why. Sound fun?

Here is a picture of my favorite:

This is the title character of Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. Isn't she lovely, hidden away in her lilac wood? For a little while she goes by the name Amalthea, but I won't give away why . . .

So go ahead and tell me who your favorites are! I will announce the winner of this name-drawing in one week.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Interrupting Once More . . .

I'm sorry to interrupt my A-Z series yet again. But I thought perhaps you all might prefer a sneak peak at the cover of Starflower.

When a cursed dragon-witch kidnaps lovely Lady Gleamdren, Bard Eanrin sets boldly forth on a rescue mission . . . and a race against his rival for Gleamdren's favor. Intent upon his quest, the last thing the immortal Faerie needs is to become mixed up with the troubles of an insignificant mortal.
But when he stumbles upon a maiden trapped in an enchanted sleep, he cannot leave her alone in the dangerous Wood Between. One waking kiss later, Eanrin suddenly finds his path entangled with that of young Starflower. A strange link exists between this mortal girl and the dragon-witch. Will Starflower prove the key to Lady Gleamdren's rescue? Or will the dark power from which she flees destroy both her and her poet rescuer?

Coming to a book store near you October 2012!

What do you think of it?