Now, what did Leo see in the forest the day before . . . ?
Excuses: It’s too rainy to play outside. Really, it’s much too nasty, and who wants to go out in all that mess?
But a hero wouldn’t let such things stop him.
I do appreciate that Leo recognizes the excuses he is making in this scene. In fact, his guilt at what he suspects may be cowardice does eventually drive him out of doors and back up the mountain . . . again, character foreshadowing! As time goes on and the stories develop, Leo continues to make excuses for his actions. But will he always be as sensitive, as aware of his own cowardice? Or will years of excuse-making dull his perspective?
Long Algebraic Equations: Okay, we knew from chapter 1 that we would never have anything in common with Foxbrush. But seriously, the kid amuses himself by solving long algebraic equations! What is wrong with this child?
Various games and toys: I like seeing some of the toys and games Leo has with him up in the mountains. Chess, for one—did you notice in chapter 1 what he intended to do with the chess pieces?—and now marbles. Reminds me a bit of Felix’s “game of sticks” referenced in Heartless. I think Leo and Felix, had they been closer both in age and geography, probably would have gotten on really well together. Have I mentioned any other toys for characters? I don’t remember. Keep your eyes open for them.
Heroic References! Did you see? Those of you who have read later in the series? Did you see the foreshadowing? But of course you did! It seems a bit random when read out of context with the rest of the series, but now that those later books are either out or soon to be out, it’s kind of fun, I think! Sight-of-Day who stood up to the Dragonwitch . . . Maid Starflower, Southland’s most beloved heroine, who battled the dreadful Wolf Lord . . .
And best of all, the enigmatic reference to King Shadow Hand, who bargained away his own two hands to a powerful Faerie queen for the sake of protecting his kingdom. Now there is a story worth telling, don’t you think?
Here is a snippet from the “Ballad of Shadow Hand” as can be read (if you’re a Southlander) in Eanrin’s Rhymes for Children. Leo had an illustrated copy growing up (as you will earn when the novel Shadow Hand releases). It’s a much longer ballad, and I can’t share it with you in its entirety here. But I thought you might like a taste of the story young Leo knew, and the hero to whom he compares himself:
O! Shadow Hand of Here and There,
Follow where you will
Your fickle, fleeing, fiery Fair
O'er woodlands, under hill.
She'll not be found save by the stone,
The stern and shining Bronze
Where Crooked stands the Mound alone
Thorn-clad and sharp with awns.
How pleasant are the Faerie folk
Who dwell beyond your time.
How pleasant are your aged Kinfolk
Of olden, swelt'ry clime.
But dark the tithe they pay, my son,
To safely dwell beneath that sun!
A Miserable Hike: Poor Leo, hiking through the rain. It’s cold up in the mountains too, despite how far south this country is.
Personally, I rather like a good explore in the rain, or at least in the drizzle. I grew up in England, so you either learn to love the drizzle, or you spend your life sulking. My brothers I spent many a happy afternoon with Wellies on our feet and slickers over our shoulders and hats on our heads, tramping up hill and over dale, watching for goblins and generally enjoying ourselves. So I can’t help but think Leo’s a bit of a wimp as I’m reading this.
Though, I must admit, cold water down the neck is never pleasant. And I can’t stand having wet socks! Maybe I should be a bit more sympathetic.
The odd tree that bent at a right angle three feet up: That description made me grin. The girl I shared an apartment with for a few years after college—dear friend, Charity—used to take me hiking with her on a favorite trail of hers nearby. And there was one tree, about four miles in, that seriously was bent at a right angle, three feet up from the ground. I think we took pictures of each other sitting on it, for it did make a perfect little perch! Can’t find the pictures now, sadly. Fun to see that tree making an appearance in these pages. I had forgotten about it.
For all it lacked features, stared accusingly back: Heheh, that made me chuckle. Poor Leo is so sick with guilt, even the inanimate objects seem to mock him! You can see where this boy’s heart is. He really does want to do the right thing, and when he fails, he is so wracked with shame.
Monsters . . . Dragons eat them! Again, foreshadowing? Possibly?
Probably not. It’s just Southlander slang, or rather, “my world” slang.
I remember my editors and Bethany House were concerned about me using “blast” as a euphemism in Heartless. While doing the final round of editing on that book, they asked me to change that word to something less potentially offensive. So that’s when, “Dragon’s teeth!” was born. Which eventually morphed into a variety of expressions: “Dragons blast it!” “Dragons eat it!” and “Dragon’s teeth, and tail, and gizzard!” and even the occasional “Spitfire!” though I think that one is considered pretty heavy language.
And there are a couple of phrases more specific to the various people groups. The “apparition” in this scene exclaims, “Silent Lady!” for instance, which is a distinctly Southlander expletive. In my current work-in-progress, the three major people groups I’m writing about worship the sun and the moon, whom they call “Anwar” and “Hulan.” So there is a lot of “Anwar’s elbow!” and “Anwar blight it!” tossed about. Hulan is usually used in gentler contexts, such as, “Hulan bless me!” or “Hulan love me!”
I’ve had a lot of fun with the expletives, oddly enough . . .
The apparition: Imp Hannah (with help from Missy!) did a fun cosplay photo shoot of herself dressed up as Rose Red, which is featured on Dame Imraldera’s Library. I think she’s a little older version of Rose Red than we see in this scene, but the costume is spot-on! Imagine coming upon such a figure unexpectedly in a dark wood. I don’t blame Leo for being frightened!
I ain’t no ghost: Here we get the first indication of Rose Red’s characteristic speech pattern. She’s a humble country maid, raised very solitary up in these mountains, so it struck me that she would have a more rustic speech pattern. Indeed, when I first wrote this book, I gave her a much stronger accent and drawl than this version! But my editors didn’t like it at all and wanted me to take it out entirely.
But I really felt like it added some fun dimension to my heroine—who, granted, is already quite unexpected. I hated to lose her speech pattern completely, so my editors and I went back and forth for a few drafts before finally hitting on a compromise we both liked. On the whole, I think readers have enjoyed Rosie’s way of speech as well, though I believe I read a few critical reviews—back in the day when I still read reviews—complaining about it. Oh, well! Someone will always find something to criticize. I think it’s cute, though, even now several years later.
"If you aren’t a ghost, what are you?” “I don’t know.” Another telling phrase! She doesn’t know what she is, and neither do we . . . for most of this novel! Poor little thing. It’s hard enough growing up not knowing who we are or who we might become. But to not even know what you are? That’s really tough.
Nothing but a girl! Leo could hardly be more disgusted had the apparition turned out to be a flesh-eating zombie or something along those lines. A girl. How dull. How disappointing and dull. And more than a little sexist on his part, the little pill. He’s got a lot to learn about girls in general and this girl in particular.
But in the meanwhile, he does absolutely everything he can to chase her off and make her leave him alone. He has a monster to hunt, after all, and he doesn’t need a girl tagging along behind him. He even tries to scare her off, baring his teeth and threatening with the beanpole. What a brat. But Rose Red is not so timid as all that.
Leo’s Playmates: It says a lot about Leo, I think, to see what he thinks of his so-called playmates. He doesn’t mind them because they’re easy enough to bend to his will. A bit of a controller our young Leo, isn’t he?
But you’ll notice that he doesn’t consider himself able to control Foxbrush. Interesting, that. Something worth tucking away into the back of your mind . . .
“My nanny.” I do like that when Rose Red refers to Beana as “my nanny,” Leo instantly thinks she means a child-care/babysitter type of nanny. He’s certainly not a country boy, this young adventurer of ours!
But Rose Red isn’t lying, as we’ll see in another few chapters.
“I’m good at fighting monsters! That is, I beat my cousin at wrestling all the time . . .” What an inflated ego our Leo has too! And a bit of an exaggerator, though I won’t say liar, because that would be unkind. He does make me laugh, though. So tough and determined, and yet . . . what does that bravado hide?
Hunting the monster: When Rose Red (who, I realize, has not yet given her name at this point in the story, so I do apologize to those of you who are reading it for the first time during this read-along!) realizes what Leo is actually up to out here in the woods, she suddenly seems to be afraid. Is she frightened of the mountain monster? Has she seen it perhaps? Does she know some truth about it which Leo has not been able to discern from overheard rumors and whispers?
And so the plot thickens . . . and Rose Red disappears!
Questions on the Text:
1. For those of you who have read the whole series . . . how many different expletives can you count from the Goldstone Wood world? Do please list them!
2. Have you ever been frightened of something, but even more ashamed of your fear? Can you tell us about it? Can you tell us what you did? Which proved a stronger motivation, the fear or the shame?
3. What were/are your first impressions of our heroine, having now met her? Do you think our intrepid Leo may have met his match?
4. Our Leo is a brat. He really is. But I find him kind of a loveable brat at the same time. At the very least, amusing! What were/are your thoughts on him as of this chapter? Like him? Dislike him?
5. Any favorite lines or passages in this chapter?
Q & A
Stacy C wants to know: "Did your publishers give any specific reasons for not liking the first version of "Veiled Rose"? I couldn't imagine the series without it!"
My publishers felt like the original version read more like a looooong prologue to Moonblood and not enough like a stand-alone novel. They read Veiled Rose and Moonblood right at the same time, and Moonblood was/is the more exciting of the two, so I think they wanted to just jump directly into that excitement.
(SPOILERS!) In the original version of Veiled Rose, the relationship between Rose Red and the Dragon was not so dominant. Or rather, it wasn't set-up for at the very beginning of the novel. I also did not have Rose Red's journey down to the Netherworld. All of her adventures took place in the Near World of mortals, facing the Dragon in the Eldest's House. While it was fairly suspenseful, it didn't have the excitement and otherworldliness of this version.
My publishers also STRONGLY disliked a whole cast of theatrical performers that I originally had Leo travel with when he was becoming a jester. I had thought he should have some training, and gave him a minstrel troupe to take him in. But my publishers just hated those characters. Which made me sad, because I really liked them! But I revised, and Leo's journey became much more solitary in this version. It's okay . . . I'm planning to reuse those minstrel troupe in a later book, so they'll get their moment of glory.
Other than that, the plots of the two versions are very similar. And you're right . . . I can't imagine the series without Veiled Rose either! I'm very grateful that BHP allowed me to revise it into a story they liked.
And you know what? A little extra dose of humility never hurt a writer . . . LOL.
Anna wants to know: "How do you make everything tie together so perfectly? Do you know what is going on many stories ahead, or do you just choose a character in your book and make a whole new novel about them?"
This is a question to which I don't have a very clear answer. I tend to have several stories in my head at once, and I plan accordingly. But when I say "stories in my head," I mean vague notions of what those stories might possibly be. There's a lot of flexibility involved.
In the case of Rose Red's brief appearance in Heartless, I added that in after having written both Veiled Rose and Moonblood, thinking it would be fun to have that connection in place. I probably wouldn't do a connection like that now, since I try not to introduce characters that don't contribute to the story in significant ways. But it worked for that book, and it's a fun little glimpse at what's to come.
Otherwise, I will say I am sometimes very surprised myself at how the connections work out. I am beginning to put together notes for Book 8, and just the other day realized an important connection that goes all the way back to Book 1 . . . something I had never before seen, but which will make such a fabulous difference. Sadly, I can't be more specific than that right now, since I really hate to give away spoilers. I'll say this, though: It has to do with Eanrin and his nephew, Diarmid.