Friday, August 30, 2013

Friday Tidbits: Research and the Fantasy Novel--Part 1

So, when you write a fantasy novel, you just make stuff up. Right?

Actually, no. Not if you want to create a world with a sense of authenticity behind it. Even the most fantastic of worlds require a bit of research and preparation before the fun of overt creativity begins.

For me, research is a bit of an eclectic business at best. Oh, don't get me wrong! I take it seriously enough. But it's hard to know, when concocting a tale of dragons, unicorns, interlinked worlds, etc. what exactly to research. So I tend to do it on an as-it-comes-up basis.

Here are some things that I have found myself stopping mid-scene to research and which might, depending on your personality and creative preferences, be worth looking into before sitting down to the story proper.

1. What do my characters eat? How do they eat it? Make certain the culture you're establishing has the wherewithal to create or barter for whatever utensils or flatware are in use. How is the food prepared? What sorts of spices are available for flavor? Do they have salt? Even if you don't end up including all of these details in the manuscript (I don't believe I ever have!), knowing the answers for yourself helps to create a groundwork for believability.

2. What do my characters wear? What sorts of fibers would go into cloth-weaving? Or do they (as with Starflower's people) wear skins? Might be helpful, in that case, to research tanning, at least a smidge. What sorts of undergarments were they likely to have? Outer garments? Ornamentation? Again, these are not details that need to be (or even should be) included in exhaustive detail. But they are good to know.

Similarly, have an idea about hair styles. Depending on the culture, style of hair can denote a number of important facts concerning rank and position or even personality. Look at Leta, who wasn't even permitted to show her hair. Or Una, whose messy braid became a bit of a trademark, demonstrating a flare for rebellion in her spirit. My current heroine wears different hairstyles depending on the specific character she is portraying to the world at large, and the difference between a twist and a braid can be of great importance.

Note: Hair color is not as important a detail as hair style. Hair color is a matter of genetics; hair style is a matter of culture.

3. Forms of transportation. Some of you horsewomen will have a much easier time over this than the rest of us. I, for one, have had just enough experience with horses (riding lessons when I was 7 and 8. Did you know they say that it takes three falls to make a rider? I've had two. So I'm no rider.) to know that I know nothing about them. It is rare that you'll find any of my characters on horseback. I just don't feel as though I can write them authentically. In my current work-in-progress, I avoided the issue of horses by sticking my heroine and company on a big plodding mule and a cluster of shaggy donkeys. (Not that I know anything more about mules and donkeys . . . it's just become a point of principle!)

I did have to research the mules and donkeys, familiarize myself with some of the various breeds, basic care, temperaments, etc. My mother (who is a horsewoman) is a good source of information. If nothing else, she serves to remind me that horses (donkeys and mules) are not furry bicycles and should not be treated as such.

There are other forms of transportation to be considered. A working knowledge of carriages, curricles, coaches and the like is helpful. What it costs to own and maintain them, how many men are needed to service them, etc. Figure out if yours is a society that even has the ability to make certain types of carriages or carts and, if not, what they would have instead. Then discover whether or not your characters are affluent enough to own them.

Seriously, even if you stick your characters on a magic carpet, it's worth it to do the research on carpet-making, the history of the magic carpet legends, and so forth. It's all about creating a sense of authenticity. You don't have to be an authority . . . but you should be able to drop just enough information here and there that you sound like one.

4. Lighting. What sorts of light sources are available to your characters? Oil lamps? Gas lamps? Torches? Candles? What sorts of candles? Rushes? Paper lanterns? Again, make certain your setting has the proper resources to provide for the types of light sources used. It's amazing what a difference this simple research can make to the authenticity of a scene. I spent time researching various types of candles and their makings when I wrote Dragonwitch. For my current novel, I researched earthenware lamps and paper lanterns.

Okay, those are the first few basic things that come to mind. But there are tons of other little things that can crop up depending on the story. With Dragonwitch, I researched chronicling arts, book-binding, ink-making, calligraphy, parchment-making etc. I researched various types of ovens that would be available in those days (though I ended up deleting the scenes that involved this research). I researched cloth-making and encaustic tile-making, and none of that information ended up in the manuscript, but it simply let me know whether the inclusion of certain cloths or encaustic tiles was appropriate for my time period.

In my current manuscript-in-progress I spent some time researching poisons in general, gold leaf poisoning in specific. Now there is some interesting (and gruesome) reading!

All of this is very as-you-come-to-it research. I'll post next week on some of the broader-scale research I have done in preparation for writing a fantasy novel.

So what about you? What kind of research have you done for your various projects? Come upon any interesting little tidbits recently? What are some basics you think would be helpful to research to create a realistic world?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Interview Feature: Introducing Meredith Leigh Burton

Dear Imps, many of you know Meredith already via her award-winning fan fiction from the 2012 Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction contest. She also submitted wonderful fan fiction to this year's contest (there's still time to vote!), contributes thoughtful comments, and offers encouragement to all of us on a regular basis.

You might not have realized that she is also a published author.

So today, I invited Meredith to join us for an interview. Below, she will tell you about her writing experiences, her favorite author, her various published works and works in progress, and she'll share an excerpt from her fantasy adventure, Crimilia. What is more, she is offering a giveaway for a print copy of Crimilia, so don't miss out on a chance to enter your name!

About the Author: Meredith Leigh Burton, born July 4, 1983,  is a graduate of the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville and Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. Her love affair with books began at an early age. She devoured every book she could get her hands on, either in Braille or audio. She has a Bachelor's Degree in English and theater, and is a certified English teacher for grades 7-12.
Her debut novel was published through Tate Publishing, a mainline publishing house dedicated to working with aspiring novelists and giving their works a great chance in the marketplace. Find her website at: crimilia.tateauthor.com.

And here is a little about her debut novel:

A benevolent baker… a diabolical queen… an ancient prophecy… and a secret strength that can only be found in two very special people.


Hannah Wilkins is bitter. In addition to being teased at school about her weight, she has now been struck blind in a terrible accident, causing her to lose all sense of normalcy, and her tight-knit family. She struggles through every day, each of which only seems to get worse than the last, until one fateful morning when her bus hits a deer and the resulting jolt sends her flying into another universe.

Brandon Pringle struggles every day to fit in and function like the rest of the children at his school. Afflicted by a debilitating limp, he doesn’t seem to be useful to anyone. But when he is thrown from the school bus and lands on an unfamiliar riverbank, everything he knows about himself is completely overturned.

Tossed together in the unfamiliar and turbulent land of Crimilia, Hannah and Brandon must fight their way through the unfamiliar landscapes of jealousy, greed, temptation, and hate in order to help restore peace to a land run by a tyrant. With the help of a few friends and through the goodness of a kindly baker named Jamal, they might just succeed in freeing the citizens of Crimilia from the ruthless Queen Salak. Join author Meredith Burton for an unforgettable tale of friendship, faith, and perseverance in the land of Crimilia.

Interview

Welcome to Goldstone Wood, Meredith! Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?

Meredith: I’d be happy too.  To begin with, I was born on July 4, 1983.  Being three months’ premature, I was placed under oxygen so that my lungs could complete their development.  God was gracious in that everything developed fine.  However, the long exposure to the oxygen caused my retinas to scar and detach.  Yet, I am blessed to have a wonderful family who opened up the world to me through their encouragement to explore using my other senses.

I find solace in music and other forms of art, and I express myself best through writing and music.  I was a loner, particularly in elementary and middle school.  During high school, I joined choir and was involved in theater, so that helped me to break out of my shell.  I love getting to know people, so it usually doesn’t take me very long to make friends.  I am a voracious reader, I love singing, helping with church activities and spending time with my family and friends.

Coffee or tea? Both, but especially coffee on a cold winter’s day.  Mind you, I have a killer sweet tooth, so when I say coffee, it’s basically cream and sugar with just a splash of coffee for appearances’ sake.  I am an espresso addict, however, so I must avoid coffee shops or I will succumb to temptation every time.

What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?

Meredith: I’ve always had stories dancing around in my head but never seriously considered writing as a career.  When I was little, I wrote stories, (usually ones that I didn’t finish), and I never showed them to anyone.  I read continuously, and my mother read to me a lot when I was young, so I’ve always had an adoration for words and how stories are developed.

In college, I began as a music major.  However, I wasn’t accepted into the university’s music program.  So, being a lover of literature, I changed my major to English with an emphasis in secondary education.  After college, I applied for positions and went for several interviews, but I was never hired.  This was a particularly depressing time for me, but something kept nudging at me, a persistent desire to write a story.  Thinking that nothing would come of it, yet knowing it was better than feeling sorry for myself, I sat down and began to seriously write for the first time.  God has opened so many doors through my writing that I am still overwhelmed.  I have had many wonderful opportunities to speak at schools and churches, educating teenagers about blindness and sharing the ways that God has helped me through the years.  In addition, I’ve gotten to work with an exceptional middle school English teacher.  We just never know what marvelous plans God has in store, and his ideas for our lives are more amazing than we could ever dream.

Tell us a little about your work! What led you to start writing Crimilia? Will there be a sequel?

Meredith: I have always adored fantasy literature because it reiterates the truth that good ultimately triumphs, (not without major sacrifice, of course).  However, Crimilia began with a complaint that has always bothered me about the fantasy genre.  There are so few fantasy books that feature disabled protagonists.  Mind you, fantasy has to have an element of believability, (a sword-wielding blind girl might not be feasible).  Sir Eanrin has me rethinking this! Anyway, I wanted to write a story in which two ordinary children with physical challenges find themselves being called to fight against evil.  Also, there are very few current fantasy novels available to the blind population in accessible formats, (a major gripe of mine).  The book industry seems perfectly willing to produce audio versions of vampire stories or things of that nature, but finding edifying fantasy novels is very difficult.  I wanted to write a story which was relatable to disabled individuals and which would be available for them to read.  So, Crimilia is available in audio as well as electronic and paperback additions.

Crimilia was also inspired by a Bible study in the Gospel of John.  I was amazed at the many figurative ways in which Jesus describes himself.  John 6:35 jumped out at me one day, and a character began to take shape, a baker whose food contains life-giving properties.  I could actually smell bread baking and visualize a small, unimpressive-looking bakery that was more than it seemed.  A man stood at a makeshift table kneading dough, and strength emanated from him.  The other characters took shape soon after that.

Yes, a sequel is in the works.  Soral’s Rising is in the final editing stage.  It should be available in February or March of 2014.

Have you published other works as well?

Meredith: Yes.  My second novel, The Jarah Portal, is set in a world where everyone is blind.  Called Tactiria, the world is technologically advanced, featuring machines and other items particularly geared for the blind inhabitants.  Tactiria appears to be an ideal world because the people are valued not for their looks but for their abilities.  However, evil lurks beneath the surface.  The novel is basically a coming-of-age tale in which the two protagonists must learn the truth about their world and must decide if they can trust a mysterious stranger.  The strange man uses odd words such as look and color.  Everyone is frightened of him.  This story was a joy to write because I got to explore one of my favorite themes: What truly makes a person different, and does being different automatically mean you are dangerous?

Can you pick a favorite character from Crimilia?

Meredith: Naturally, I relate the strongest with Hannah Wilkins, the main protagonist.  She is an embittered thirteen-year-old girl struggling to come to terms with her recent loss of sight.  An accomplished flutist, she has abandoned her talent and shows very little interest in life, seeking solace only in food.  She is often the victim of bullying and verbal abuse because of her weight, (an issue that I myself struggled with, particularly when I was little).  Crimilia is a story not only about Hannah’s journey in the alternate land, but also a journey into herself.

Another favorite character is one who is almost non-appearing.  She is a scullery maid named Madeleine.  She’s brooding, and you never know what she’ll say or do.  I like her because she reminds me of one of my cousins, and because some of her actions are things I might do in similar situations.  She and Hannah are actually a lot alike even though they are from different worlds.

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

Meredith: Scripture inspires my work, particularly Zephaniah 3:17.  The knowledge that the all-powerful, infinite God watches over us, that this “Mighty Warrior” seeks to save us, that he loves us so much we make him sing, is utterly incredible.  That verse gives me so much comfort.
 
Music and poetry are huge sources of inspiration as well.  Any type of music will bring about ideas for a character or theme, but I particularly love Broadway show tunes because, of course, they are so character driven.  Regarding music that inspired Crimilia, two hymns really jumped out at me: “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and “Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded.”  Poetry from the Victorian Era, particularly works by Christina Rossetti and Gerard Manley Hopkins give me ideas as well.  Temptation sequences in Crimilia took root in my mind when I read Christina Rossetti’s powerful fairy tale poem entitled “Goblin Market.” I also get ideas from John Donne’s Holy Sonnets.
 
My nieces, Aliya Davine and Tristyn Layla are huge sources of inspiration.  Their antics and Tristyn’s profound questions always make me think.
 
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
 
Meredith: My favorite parts of the writing process are the creation of dialogue and characterization.  I love how conversation flows when you really get into a scene.  I’m not a formal outliner, (though I like to know where a story’s going), but I love how scenes take shape and surprise you.  It’s truly astounding how often this happens, and I find myself asking if I really wrote that.  The characters seem to take over at certain points.
 
My least favorite part is determining what scenes to cut during the revision stage.  I’m very wordy, and I know things must be cut, but it’s very difficult for me.

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

Meredith: Ouch! I know this is a clich├ęd answer, but I have to say C.S. Lewis.  He was the first fantasy author I ever encountered, and I will never forget my sense of wonder at stepping into Narnia with Lucy Pevensie for the first time.  His imagery is so profound.  I’ll never forget dismantling my closet one day, throwing clothes to the floor and groping for the back of the wall, desperately seeking my own entrance into that wonderful land.  Lewis’s books for adults are outstanding as well.  I love his candor.  He doesn’t mind expressing his honest feelings toward God, (even his anger), yet I believe he was a very devout and humble man.  My favorite of his adult works is his retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, Till We Have Faces.  It’s a book I thoroughly recommend, particularly if you’re going through a difficult time in your life.

What are you actively writing right now?

Meredith: I am writing a short story entitled “Eleanora’s Quest.” It’s a tale that combines elements from three of my favorite fairy tales, but I won’t say which ones.

Would you share a short snippet from Crimilia with us?

Meredith: Absolutely! Here is a scene in chapter 3.  It takes place shortly after Hannah arrives at Plenty Palace.

excerpt from

Crimilia

 
The room was dark and cool. On the walls, jeweled tapestries shone with many colors.
            In the center of the room on a golden throne, a slender woman sat ensconced among plush cushions. Her heart-shaped face was framed by billowing strawberry blonde locks. Ice blue eyes shone from the alabaster pallor of her skin.
The woman wore a crimson dress of the finest silk covered in every imaginable jewel: ruby, emerald, jasper, diamond, and dozens of other precious stones.
            The woman raised a commanding hand, and a man in the corner looked up inquiringly. “Bring me my mirror!”
            The man nodded and withdrew.  In a moment he returned, placing a large cherry-framed mirror before his queen.
            The mirror was made of imported Venetian glass studded with strange gems of indescribable beauty. Only the queen knew that the stones were the Gems of Discord, deadly objects that lay entombed in the bowels of Crimilia’s wastelands. Using these gems, she’d fashioned her greatest tool: the Mirror of Revelation.  This mirror served as her looking glass and spying tool.  With it, she could monitor her subjects and summon them when necessary.
On the cherry-colored frame of this mirror, small pictures of flowers and blooming trees swayed in a lifelike breeze. In the center of the frame, a carving of a red rose overshadowed all others. Its petals opened wide as if spreading its perfume throughout the room. Only if you looked closely could you distinguish the small carving that emerged from the rose’s center. The carving was of a scarlet serpent coiled as if to strike.
            The queen stared in rapture at her breathtaking image.
            Suddenly, the throne room door crashed open. “Queen Salak! The guards have found a girl wandering about the palace grounds!” a black-cloaked man yelled.
            Salak looked up from her perusal. “Aufeld. What is that to me? Do what you like with her.”
            “She’s blind, my queen!” Aufeld cried desperately.
            Salak sucked in her breath. Her left hand convulsed as it slapped the arm of her throne. “It can’t be!”
            “I thought it best to come to you right away.”
            “Bring her to me,” Salak whispered in icy tones.
            When the throne room door closed, Salak turned to her mirror and gazed fixedly into its depths. A twisted smile suffused her pale features. “Show me Jamal,” she murmured.
            The glass clouded, and she peered transfixed at the image of her enemy. He was moving determinedly forward, purpose driven, and refusing to look back.
Yes, she thought, keep coming closer. I’m waiting!
            The throne room door opened, and Aufeld propelled a young girl forward. The girl was struggling in his iron grip. “Let me go!” she screeched. The girl wore a red, short-sleeved shirt and blue pants woven from a coarse-looking material. She clutched a strange object.
            “Aufeld,” Salak’s voice crooned gently, “there’s no need to alarm our guest. Release her.”
            “But, Your Highness—”
            “Do as I say.”
            Growling deep in his throat, Aufeld complied. He thrust Hannah toward the throne. Her cane clattered to the floor. Hannah stumbled.
            “Where am I? Somebody help me!” Hannah shouted. She groped for her cane.
            A hand brushed hers as the cane was handed back. “Is this what you’re looking for, my dear?” Salak’s voice was gentle and bell-like.
            “Thank you,” Hannah managed to whisper. “Where am I?”
            “You’re in Plenty Palace in the Land of Crimilia. What is your name?”
            “I’m Hannah Wilkins. I’m from Tennessee.”
            “Tennessee? What land is that?” the woman asked sharply.
            “It’s in the United States.  This must be England.  Your accent--”
            “England? You are a strange child.  How did you acquire that large swelling on your head?”
            “I don’t know!” Hannah cried in frustration.
            “Aufeld!  Have Louise doctor that bump on her head, and get some food inside her. Then bring her back to me.”
            Aufeld nodded. “Come, child,” he said gruffly.
            “You’re not grabbing me this time!” Hannah snapped.
            Salak laughed a bubbling laugh. “Of course not, my dear! You may use the peculiar apparatus you brought with you.”
            “It’s called a cane,” Hannah informed her.
            When the throne room door had closed, the queen turned back to her mirror. “Reveal the information about Hannah Wilkins,” she instructed. The mirror shimmered, and Salak leaned forward to peer at images of the girl’s life. She smiled in satisfaction. Everything would work out to her advantage.
 
_____________
 
 
Thank you, Meredith, both for a lovely interview and a lovely excerpt! It was delightful to have you visit today . . . and I hope we will see you again for many more book features.
 
Now, dear imps, are you excited about Crimilia? If so, do take the time to enter your name in the giveaway below!
 
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/0cd52415/" rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway


 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Five Glass Slippers: Almost Halfway!

 
We are now three months into the Five Glass Slippers creative writing contest! I, and the editors of Rooglewood Press, have already received and read a number of wonderful submissions. And I know many more will soon be on their way. I've been so impressed by the wide variety of ideas displayed by each of these authors, all of whom are recreating the age-old story of "Cinderella."

Despite the familiarity of the storyline, they have all still managed to take me by surprise and leave me eager to find out how it will all end!

With the December 31st deadline still a good distance off, I'm sure none of you who have quite hit Mad Scramble Mode yet. So I thought, Let's enjoy the creativity before it gets stressful . . . .

If you are participating (or hoping to participate) in the contest, do share with us the working title of your story and a 1-3 sentence summary of the premise (no spoilers!) in the comments below. If you're feeling really brave, perhaps even share the first 3-4 sentences. Maybe we can all encourage each other, applaud the creativity, and look forward with eager anticipation to so many wonderful fairy tales in our readerly future.

Oh, and if you haven't heard of the contest yet . . . .



Click Here For Details

Monday, August 26, 2013

Blaming Disney

We hear plenty of talk--both joking and otherwise--blaming Disney and its poor princesses for our generation's unrealistic expectations of romance, beauty, gender roles etc. etc.

Personally, I've decided to start blaming Disney for something else entirely . . . this.

 
Do you know who that is? That is Dinah, Alice's charming little orange kitten from Alice in Wonderland, her faithful companion and confidant, who appears only for a few moments at the beginning and again at the end of the film.

And who changed my world and expectations forever!

This summer, my Rohan and I read Lewis Carrol's ridiculous and wonderful Alice books out loud together, and sometime during the midst of the first novel, Rohan confessed that he'd never seen the Disney movie. Well, when I was growing up, do you think my obsession was with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, or any of the other lovely princesses in the Disney canon?

Nope. I was obsessed with Dinah the cat. I begged to watch Alice in Wonderland every single day, purely because I wanted to enjoy the delightful relationship shared between Alice and her kitten, and I would spend the bulk of the movie fantasizing over how much more interesting it all would be had Dinah happened to fall down the rabbit hole along with Alice. When the film credits rolled, I would go on with my day, pretending that I had my own invisible Dinah keeping me company wherever I went, and promising myself that, when I grew up, I would have as many cats as I wanted.

So yesterday, Rohan and I watched my childhood favorite together, and I was just as charmed by it as I was when I was small. Yes, it's bizarre. Well, bizarre kind of suits me!

And I turned to Rohan and said, "Do you want to know the source of my crazy-cat-lady-ness?"

 
And you know, I drink a lot of tea, and I do invent my own worlds . . . so while I may have watched for Dinah, a lot of other things probably sank in as well.
 
Thus, while sitting here with Magrat Fat Cat in my lap this morning, I thought I'd share with all of you. Did you watch Disney movies growing up? Which ones are your favorites? Do you think they influenced you, either for good or ill?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Scared of the Manuscript

Some days (like yesterday), I adore my manuscript-in-progress. I think about it all the time, I dream about it, I can scarcely pull myself away from the screen. On these days I'll write anywhere between 7,000 to 10,000 words, and it'll scarcely feel like work at all, so deeply am I invested in the story, the characters, the themes.

Other days (like today) I find myself utterly terrified to look at the thing.

Seriously, I've been so bad all day. Everything went so beautifully yesterday, I should have leapt out of bed this morning, rushed to the manuscript, and breezed through another several thousand words. Instead, I've been making excuses. The dog needs to go out. The cats need brushing. The dishes need washing. I should probably make the bed now. Don't I have some edits that need looking over? Surely there's something wonderful happening on twitter! The bathroom needs cleaning.

(I cleaned a bathroom rather than write. What is wrong with me?)

I even drove half an hour away to meet my husband for lunch--partly because I wanted to see his handsome face, but mostly (truth be told) because I wanted to escape the manuscript, which sits in my laptop, accusing me in silence.

Often these scared days come a day or two after an adoration day--something to do with the balance of nature, I would imagine. Actions and equal-and-opposite-reactions, etc.

There is no moral or message to this post, dear readers. It is simply an observation. Please (please!) tell me I am not the only one . . . .

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Blog Tour: BLEEDING HEART

Dear imps, today I have the pleasure of hosting debut novelist, Amber Stokes for an interview!

Amber is a young writer who will, I believe, prove an inspiration to many more aspiring novelists. She sets a fantastic example for others who might wish to follow in her footsteps. She has invested her time wisely by getting a solid education and working hard to grow her writing skills. She built a loyal blog following by creating a blog where readers know they can find thoughtful reviews, entertaining interviews, and the occasional "for fun" post about daily life and experiences. She has participated in writing contests, hosted giveaways, and invested in her reading audience. She has started her own editing business, Editing Through the Seasons, and used this as a way to help other writers on their publication journeys. She has networked with professionals by offering features and forming true friendships.

In short, she has, by virtue of being a lovely, hardworking, and friendly young woman, set herself up to make a splash with her debut novel! Young writers would do very well to follow her lead, whether they intend to pursue traditional or self-publishing.

 Earlier this month, Amber's novel Bleeding Heart released, and the blogging world has been abuzz with news. And you may have seen the cover featured here a few months ago . . . but here it is again anyway, because it's so pretty!

_________

 Five bleeding hearts. One profound journey.

Summer 1886

Sally Clay’s livelihood has been snatched away, but in its place arises an opportunity to escape from her sordid past and an unrelenting, unwanted suitor. Boarding a train with a heartsick rancher and an enigmatic miner, she leaves Virginia City behind and heads to Northern California, waiting for the chance to make right what went wrong three long years before.

But the road to revenge is far from smooth. Sally soon learns that the jagged pieces of a broken heart can far too easily wound the hearts of others – and hers isn’t the only heart that’s broken. Tragedy and fear dog her steps as she flees from the redwood forests to the high desert and back again. Will her bleeding heart ever find a way and a place to heal?

A desperate soiled dove. Three men who come to care for her. One man determined to claim her.

All on a journey that will show them what true love really involves.

Inspirational Historical Romance



Here is a little about the author herself too:


Amber Stokes has a Bachelor of Science degree in English and a passion for the written word - from blogging to writing poetry, short stories, and novels. After her brief time at college in Oregon, she is now back home among the redwoods of Northern California, living life one day at a time and pursuing her passion via freelance editing and self-publishing her debut novel, Bleeding Heart
 
____________
 

INTERVIEW

1. Would you mind telling us a little about yourself? Hobbies, personality . . . tea or coffee?
 
Amber: My name is Amber Stokes, and I am a book addict. *wink* Besides blogging about books, reading and reviewing books, writing books, and editing and publicizing books (and talking about them more than my family and friends probably care to hear!), I love to spend time with my family, quote movies, sing and dance (in the privacy of my room, generally, although I love going to dances when I can!), and do touristy things, even in my own home county.
 
As for tea or coffee, I prefer tea – usually a fruity flavor, although peppermint can be good! And if there’s a third option, hot chocolate is always nice. *grin*
 
2. What led you into the writing life? Were you always a storyteller?
 
Amber: I’m not quite sure when it all began…perhaps with my mama reading me stories as a little girl? I fell in love with reading at a young age, and I’m sure it was my passion for reading that bled into my passion for writing. I had an affinity for poetry in my younger years (which hasn’t completely gone away!), so I wrote a lot of poems as gifts for my family and friends for birthdays and holidays. I did try to write some “novels,” if you will (short stories or story beginnings that should never see the light of day again), when I was in middle school, but it was in high school that a story idea hit me that hasn’t let me go. That story was Forget Me Not, my first inspirational historical romance novel. I finished the first draft my first year of college, and I have hopes of going back and editing it in order to publish it as the prequel to Bleeding Heart. I wasn’t ready to edit when I finished that first draft, but I think maybe it’s about time.
 

3. Tell us a little about your debut novel, Bleeding Heart. How long have you been working on it? Can you recall what inspired you initially?

 

Amber: I’ve been working on it for about two years, ever since I finished Forget Me Not. I wasn’t ready to face edits for Forget Me Not then, so I turned to writing a sequel, taking some of the feedback I had received for the first book and applying it to the second. The story was inspired by some secondary characters from the first book, some settings I love, the title I chose, and some fears and questions I had about love that I wanted to work through.
 

4. Can you pick a favorite character from this novel?
 
Amber: As I’m sure practically every author answers this, I love all of the characters for various reasons. *grin* But I think one of my favorites – if not my favorite – is Myghal, a redheaded Cornish man who is sort of the “best friend” character in both Forget Me Not and Bleeding Heart. I wrote him into the first book after visiting an archaeological dig in Virginia City one summer and learning that the town’s highest street back in the day used to be where the Cornish miners lived. I just thought it would be fun to include a Cornish character after learning that, but ever since I introduced him, he’s been stealing scenes and stealing little bits of my heart.
 
5. What inspires your work? Where do you turn when you need a renewal of inspiration?
 

Amber: I think one of my main sources of inspiration – beyond my own experiences and the places I’ve visited – is music. For this series, that’s mainly bluegrass and folk music. I actually compiled a “soundtrack” for Bleeding Heart of songs that seem to capture my characters’ emotions at various points in the story, which you can find HERE. The order of the songs can be found on that page, and the Pinterest link will take you to YouTube videos of the songs.
 
6. What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the writing process?
 
Amber: After my initial reaction to receiving feedback on Forget Me Not, I seriously thought editing would be my least favorite aspect of the process. I mean, even with college papers I generally just worked really hard on one draft (usually last-minute…) and didn’t go through various drafts. (Not saying this is the best way to go – it’s just how I approached them!) But once I finished Bleeding Heart, I felt ready to polish it and to make it ready for publication. I actually enjoyed editing (despite getting frustrated at times) and seeing the story come together and become better than it had been.
 
I guess it’s hard to pick a favorite part of the process now! I love daydreaming about a story and discovering it as I write. Maybe my least favorite part is the waiting – waiting for feedback, and then finding the courage to face the edits, or even the strength to just sit down and write. And for Bleeding Heart, the formatting (for the Kindle version) gave me some grief. Once I could see the goal so close to being realized, it was hard to push through the finalizing process when I was ready for the “fun part” (these interviews, working on the blog tour, having actual readers, etc.). But I knew it was important to make sure it was polished, especially since it would be my first impression on readers and the publishing world!
 
7. Which authors inspire you as you develop your own storytelling voice? Any historical romance novelists you would consider a particular influence?
 

Amber: A few of Tracie Peterson and Linda Lee Chaikin’s books hooked me on Christian historical romance back in elementary school. I think the “Yukon Quest” series and the “Buccaneers” series showed me how exciting and engaging stories from that genre could be. More recently, I’ve been especially inspired by MaryLu Tyndall, Laura Frantz, Karen Witemeyer, Tamera Alexander, Joanne Bischof, and Elizabeth Camden – although I’m sure I could list many more who have made me fall deeper in love with the genre through their books! I think just reading a ton of books, writing my thoughts on them in reviews, and seeing how other authors succeed in the genre has influenced me and my writing a great deal. Oh, and I for sure have to mention author Elizabeth Ludwig and Rachelle Rea (not yet published, but hopefully in the not-too-distant future!) – my editor and my proofreader – as they certainly influenced my writing for the better in the editing stages.
 
8. So what is next on your publishing horizons? Can we look forward to more fiction from you soon?
 

Amber I sure hope so! (In answer to the second question.) My goal is to edit Forget Me Not and publish it as the prequel Winter 2014. After that, I’d like to write another sequel and publish it later in 2014 – maybe next August? I guess that depends on how fast I can write now that I have a book out there and self-imposed deadlines, LOL.
 
I’m also planning on writing a companion short story that I may or may not enter in your Cinderella contest… *grin*
 

9. What are you actively writing right now?
 

Amber: Sadly, nothing at the moment. I’m writing these responses! I haven’t really had a chance to start on a new writing project since I got Bleeding Heart up on Amazon… However, I hope to start in on that companion short story very soon. An early reviewer inspired me, and some ideas have been eager to get from my mind to the page!
 
10. Can you share a short snippet from Bleeding Heart?
 

Amber: Of course! This is from Chapter 2 – a little background on the heroine, and a glimpse at why I love Myghal so much…
 

Excerpt from

BLEEDING HEART

Chapter 2

 
California looked like gold as it sped by the window of the train. The summer-warmed hills of the interior might seem dry and barren to some, but to Sally the tan interspersed with some light green spoke of promise. A desire to begin anew rushed up from her heart, but it was a foolish notion. She would never break free from the sins of her past, nor would she be able to find peace until she confronted the reason she was out here in this beautiful but savage land in the first place. The admission caused an ache so deep she was sure she felt it in her bones.
“It’s nice to get out of the Nevada desert, isn’t it?”
She glanced over at Joe, but he just stared out the window, and she wondered if he had even uttered the question. The words sounded hopeful, but she could tell they were hollow inside, empty of life. For what reason, she could never guess. Nor did she want to try.
“Here.” The man named Myghal handed her his tattered coat.
She shook her head. “I don’t need it. I’m not cold.”
“It’s not for the cold.”
Her hand went to her neck, then slid down to where her fingers brushed her collar bone. She squinted up at him through her long lashes and smiled – a slow, seductive smirk that came as naturally to her now as her girlish giggles used to do. “My dress bother you, Myghal?”
He shrugged his bony shoulders, unblinking. “No, ma’am, but I think it’s drawing unnecessary attention.”
Not bothering to acknowledge the leering gazes aimed her way, she tilted her head and chuckled. “Maybe I like attention.” He would never know that she was once a shy, albeit determined, girl who only craved the attention of one man.
“Well, humor me, will ya?” He leaned forward and placed the coat around her shoulders.
His gentle touch and the protective gesture confused her. This was the same miner who had dumped a pitcher of water on her when she’d tried to comfort a dark-haired, lonely man in the only way she knew how anymore. The man had appeared so lost as he downed his whiskey, speaking angrily with her boss but obviously searching for a distraction to whatever was causing his eyes to glisten in the low light of the barroom. In that moment she had felt a kinship with him that she didn’t want to let go. But Myghal had stopped them cold with a splash of water and taken the dark-haired man away, leaving her in that awful room, drenched and alone. So very, very alone.
Tears came to her eyes unbidden. While she had learned long ago to cry whenever the act was needed, this was different. She didn’t want to cry.
 
 
Amber: Thank you so much for hosting me, Anne Elisabeth ! I’ve so appreciated your support during this time as I’ve prepared to share Bleeding Heart with readers.
 
*****
 
You are most welcome, Amber! It has been my pleasure! :)
Dear readers, if Bleeding Heart looks like the book for you, be certain to enter your name in this generous giveaway (US only). So many fun goodies listed here! Also, be certain to continue reading along the rest of the tour.

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Be sure to congratulate Amber on her debut release! Such an exciting time for a novelist! 
 
 
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