Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy

Flower Fairies

When you take a moment to look at the fairies listed as part of Queen Titania's entourage in A Midsummer Night's Dream, one can guess at the ancestry of the Flower Fairies: Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, and Mustardseed are nothing if not Flower Fairy names!

But the Flower Fairies as we know and love them today really got their chance at literary life under the illustrative pen of Cecily Mary Barker.

This lovely young woman suffered from epilepsy which prevented her from going to school. So she schooled at home and spent a great deal of her time studying art, especially the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Fairies were a popular theme in Victorian society. Queen Mary (who owned the most MAGNIFICENT doll house EVER) was particularly interested in all things fairy. And she was a tremendous fan of Cecily Mary Barker's work!

 Ms. Barker was a devout Anglican . . . which pleases me since my husband was raised Anglican, and we attend and Anglican church. She illustrated Bible stories and hymn books for children, but her most famous work will always be her Flower Fairies.

These childlike little imps, while completely magical, have a very natural air in their garden settings. According to Ms. Barker's stories, every time a seed drops, a Flower Fairy is born.

This baby grows along with the flower and tends it, watering it and chasing away pests. While having other adventures along the way, of course!

Cecily Mary Barker's beautiful fairies have inspired many variations since. My first encounter with Flower Fairies came from the picture book The RunawayFairy by Molly Brett, who was heavily inspired by Ms. Barker's works.

This was, quite possibly, my favorite picture book growing up. I just adored the story of Rose and her quest to save her rose garden! And I always watched for flower fairies in the beds of my mother's sumptuous English garden, especially among the pink climbing roses.

I even tried disguising myself as one of their kind . . .
never with any luck, alas!

These days, my love of Flower Fairies continues strong. I have a lovely collection of Cecily Mary Barker fairy Christmas ornaments that decorate my tree every year:

I also have an extensive collection of fairy figurines and pictures from my childhood, saved up and tucked away in the attic. For someday, if God blesses me with a baby girl, she might just like Flower Fairies too . . .

So what about you? What Flower Fairies have you encountered?

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Sploosh" Pie

This weekend I baked a "Sploosh" Pie for my darling Rohan, and I wanted to share it with you.

"What is a Sploosh Pie?" you ask.

"Sploosh" comes from the Newberry Award-winning novel, Holes, by Louis Sachar. If you have not read it, I recommend that you should! Rohan and I just listened to the audio version on our trip down to Orlando for the Christy Awards, and it kept us laughing and entertained even at the dragon-eaten hour of 3 am when we were on the road. An important story facet is a certain woman and her brilliant knack for canning spiced peaches . . . which, through a variety of circumstances I hate to give away, end up being known as "Sploosh."

So this is a Sploosh Pie . . . otherwise known as a Spiced Ginger-Peach. I invented it based off a can of amazing spiced peach preserves my lovely sister-in-law recently gave us, and I think it turned out well.

If you'd like to give a whirl, here's the recipe.

Crust: Use your favorite pie crust recipe. I used my mum's recipe which is:
2 cups flour
2/3 plus 1 Tbls shortening
1 tsp salt

Cut with two forks or pastry cutter until dough resembles course meal.

For this pie, I also added:
Add 2 tsps cinnamon,
2 tsps ground ginger
2 Tbls sugar

Once your mixture resembles course meal, add 4-5 Tbles water. (This time of year is so humid in NC, I actually only used 2 Tbls and it was plenty)

Roll into a ball and refrigerate until ready.


2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup minced FRESH ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 pounds medium peaches
Mix sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and spices in large bowl. Bring medium saucepan of water to boil. Drop in 3 peaches at a time; blanch 1 minute. Transfer peaches to bowl of cold water. Using small sharp knife, peel 1 peach. (I found the longer I let the peaches sit in the cold water, the easier the peel came off.) Cut peach in half; discard pit and slice thinly. Stir peach slices into sugar mixture. Repeat with remaining peaches. Let filling stand until juices form, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out larger dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13- to 14-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch-diameter deep-dish pie dish. Spoon in peaches and ginger filling.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Roll out smaller dough disk on lightly floured surface to 11-inch round. Using ruler as aid, cut dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Roll out larger dough disk on lightly floured surface to 13- to 14-inch round. Transfer to pie dish. Roll out smaller dough disk on lightly floured surface to 11-inch round. Cut dough into 1/2-inch-wide strips.
Arrange some of dough strips atop pie, spacing 3/4 inch apart. Form lattice by arranging more dough strips at right angle to first strips, spacing 3/4 inch apart. Trim overhang of bottom crust and lattice strips to 3/4 inch. Fold under and crimp edge decoratively.

Bake pie until crust is golden and filling bubbles thickly, covering edge of crust with foil if browning too quickly, about 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool pie to room temperature before serving. 
 The most important part of this recipe is the FRESH minced ginger. This was what my sister-in-law recommend based off her experience with her peach preserves. You want the little chunks of ginger in your pie, not ground ginger.

This pie just supplanted my Apple Caramel Cranberry pie for the coveted honor of My Husband's Favorite. And I have to admit, I think I might prefer it myself . . . it truly was amazing! Next time, I plan to add a tsp of nutmeg and a half-tsp of allspice, possibly leaving out the cinnamon altogether, just to see what happens.
Let me know if you make it and how it turns out! A delectable, summery treat.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Weekend Reminder!

One last reminder, dear readers! Tuesday night at 11:59pm is the cutoff for this first-ever Goldstone Wood Fan Fiction Contest. Submissions have started pouring in fast and furious, and don't let yours get left behind.

So far I've seen tales of humor, tales of heartbreak, tales of loyalty and loss. I've seen writing styles everywhere from lyrical to exuberant, short-and-sweet to long-and-epic . . . and everything between!

So don't miss out. I want to see your creativity at work as well. And if you want to jump in last minute, that's fine too . . . you can find the rules here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Friday Tidbits

So you're stuck, are you? - 10 Tricks to Seeing Your Manuscript Differently

1. Read it out loud. Does it sound natural? Does it sound consistent? Does it sound like you're trying too hard/not hard enough?
2. Make a synopsis of your story. Does it have a beginning building to a middle, building to a slam-bang end? If not, time to rethink.
3. List the most important events of the story. Now shuffle them into a new order. (i.e. What happens if the Prince discovers the identity of the Princess before the masked ball?) Better storytelling? Worse? Worth experimenting with?
4. If you're a typist, try writing a scene by hand. If you're a hand-writer, try typing a scene.
5. Take that most recent, tricky scene. Rewrite it from someone else's point of view. Rewrite it from multiple points of view at once. Rewrite it first-person or third-person. See anything new?
6. Role reversal: Write a scene with your antagonist as your hero and your hero as your antagonist. See anything new?
7. Print out your document and bind it like a book. Do the errors suddenly pop out at you? The slow passages? The repetitive passages?
8. Write an editorial letter to yourself. Let Editor You inform the Writer You of your strengths and your weaknesses, including suggestions for improvement.
9. Write about what happened before the story took place. Write about what happens after the story is over.
10. And, if you really are getting too close the manuscript and having a wretched time seeing it with fresh eyes . . . try reading it backwards, last scene first, etc. Anything jump out at you?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New in CBA Fantasy

I don't read enough new stuff. Let me just say that right now.

I read a lot of old stuff, and I spend probably far too much time rereading favorites. But new books don't often fall under my readerly eye . . .

That being said, I do see new stuff coming along here and there, and I do hear great things about them. So I thought I'd take a moment to alert you, my dear readers, to some of the works emerging in CBA fantasy these days that I keep hearing buzz about.

First is from my own publisher, Bethany House. R. J. Larson just released the first in her series, The Books of the Infinite. Isn't it pretty?

Ms. Larson puts a whole new spin on the fantasy genre by setting her novel, Prophet,in an ancient world with a feel of Biblical times. It's a romantic adventure story with exciting world-building and plenty of inventive twists along the way. A close friend of mine read it and thoroughly enjoyed it ("Couldn't put it down," being the key phrase here.)

The second book in this new series, Judge, is due to release around the same time as Starflower. So you might want to hurry up and get your copies of Prophet soon so you can be caught up!

The next fantasy novel that I am excited to highlight for you is another Bethany House book. Isn't it great that Bethany House is branching more and more into the Visionary and Speculative genre? This new book is by debut author Patrick W. Carr, and it sounds VERY exciting, though perhaps for an older audience than YA. Here's the description I've found.

In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone's search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he's joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.

Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom's dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

First of all, I'm a fan of the names. They set a great fantasy feel without being oddly made-up and hard to pronounce. I love a fantasy grounded in a sense of realism. Second, what's not to love in a flawed hero? Third, assassins . . . fourth, heirs of kingdoms . . . fifth, a play on words in the title (A Cast of Stones . . . and the hero's name is Errol Stone). One thing after another to catch our interest here! So watch for this book coming in February.

Last, but not least, is a novel that has actually been available for a while, but which you might not have heard of yet. It is the first book in the Restoration Series which was initially being published by OakTara . . . though, through recent internet sleuthing, I've learned that the authors have decided to leave OakTara and pursue new avenues for the rest of the series. Still, Awakenings is in print through the end of the year, so you should go get yourselves copies while you can!

This is another one that I have not read, but a close friend read it and enjoyed it immensely. Especially, she said, the flawed heroine, Anathriel, cold, ambitious, and intriguing.

Anyway, I am certainly not a great source for the latest and greatest going on in my genre. But I thought you might be interested to hear about these three novels! Let me know if you get a chance to read them and what you think.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy


Also known as: Auberon

Oberon is best known for his appearance in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in which we learn that he is King Consort to the reigning Queen Titania. Consort or otherwise, Oberon is a bit of a bully when it comes to his queen!

Both monarchs, you see, have entourages made up of both mortals and immortals alike. One of Titania's mortal followers died, leaving behind a lovely changeling child whom Titania wishes to bring up as one of her followers.

Oberon, however, covets the child and wishes to raise it as a henchman for his own entourage. The two monarchs begin to quarrel and, as powerful fairy entities, their quarrel even effects the weather!

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents . . .
. . . the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.
(Act 2, Scene 1)

Never a good sign when faeries begin to brawl!

Oberon famously decides to show his wife who's who and what's what. With the help of his servant Puck, he pours the juice of a magical flower into Titania's eyes while she sleeps. Thus when she wakes, she falls madly in love with the first thing she sets eyes upon . . . which turns out to be a mortal man named Bottom, who has been given a donkey's head by Puck!

Oberon and Puck

Things turn out well enough in the end, however. Oberon eventually feels sorry for what he did to his wife and reverses the magic, thus reuniting the king and queen . . . much to the relief of all the Fey Folk, I'm sure!

The name Oberon first appears in literature in the first half of the 13th century when the fairy dwarf Oberon helps the hero in the chanson de geste, titled Les Prouesses et faitz du noble Huon de Bordeaux. This elf appears dwarfish in height, though he is very handsome. He explains that at his christening, an offended fairy cursed him to the height (an example of the wicked fairy godmother folklore motif), but relented and as compensation gave him great beauty. You can read this story HERE if you like!

Shakespeare was probably familiar with this tale, thus discovering the name of Fairy King Oberon for his own use. You see, my readers? All writers are beggars and thieves in the end! And aren't we glad this is the case?

Oberon has made many appearances throughout literature since the time of Shakespeare. My favorite author, Diana Wynne Jones, featured him in her novel The Enchanted Glass along with a very dangerous Titania. He and his queen also appeared in several of Neil Gaiman's Sandman Chronicles, chilling and otherworldly as only fairies may be!

There have been many fairy queens throughout the history of literature. But tell me, have you ever known a fairy king more renowned than Oberon?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

MOONBLOOD Name-Drawing Winner!

I have selected a random winner for the most recent name-drawing. And that winner, of a free copy of Moonblood, the third in the Tales of Goldstone Wood is . . .


Congratulations, Molly. You may email me your mailing address at aestengl@gmail.com, and I will get your winnings out to you shortly!

Thanks so much to the rest of you who participated. I appreciate the efforts you made to get word of my series out there just a little further! It's word-of-mouth recommendations from you faithful readers that will ensure these stories get into the hands of fairy tale lovers everywhere.

Keep your eyes open for more giveaways in the near future. And DON'T FORGET the Fan Fiction contest (rules here) is still running with the deadline of July 31st coming up soon! I've been very much enjoying all of your submissions and look forward to seeing more!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Christy Awards 2012: Adventures in Orlando

Hello, my dears! We are back from our exciting long weekend in Florida and, yes, we are exhausted. We decided to drive there and back again this year, stopping to visit family along the way, so that made for an even more fun, but even more tiring escapade. Not helped by the fact that we set out at 2:00 am on Saturday . . .


But we survived, and I will now share with you some of the fun times of our trip!

First of all, here was the beautiful resort at which we crashed in Orlando.

It was warm, but no warmer than here in NC, and there was a constant, lovely breeze!

 The gardens were lush and tropical, which is a fun change of pace for us.

And, really, when it comes right down to it, who doesn't love palm trees?

The afternoons tended toward thunderstorms, but the mornings were clear and bright! So handsome and I made a point to get up early and get a swim in the pool. I really enjoyed that! Nice to limber up after a nine hour car ride.

The first evening we arrived a little late due to traffic . . . so we ended up playing hooky on the Baker Publishing Dinner and went on a date instead. I missed meeting some of the wonderful Baker authors, which was sad. But it was awfully nice to explore Orlando a little bit with my sweet man.

This is one of the many gorgeous restaurants in Orlando.

Here we are, all dolled up for dinner . . . and both a little tired! It had been quite the trip already. But we were still having fun. 

Ordering room-service. Do you know, I'd never had a room-service breakfast before? Another great experience. I mean, strawberries and cream waffles? Oh, my.

Then, on Monday after a swim, it was on to the ICRS at the Orange County Convention Center.

This was, I will admit, the impressive side of the convention center . . . and, alas, not the side where we were! But hey, it's so pretty, I thought I'd share anyway!

The convention itself, much like last year, was bustling with all things CBA retail. Baker Publishing Group had a beautiful booth set up for their various authors. I had a nice book signing that kept me busy for a while!

I had the fun of author Steven James coming up in the line and telling me that his daughter had asked him, of all the things he could bring back from the conference for her, to find a copy of Moonblood. I was happy to sign it over to her and to chat a moment with this award-winning suspense writer!

Following the conference, my Rohan took me for a much-needed sushi lunch which relaxed me greatly and filled me up nicely . . .

. . . which turned out to be a good thing, because the next thing on the agenda was the Christy Awards Banquet Dinner! And I was, to put it mildly, a tangle of nerves. I don't know why! The awards dinner is a fun event and a friendly atmosphere of all people who love CBA fiction and CBA publishing. But still, it's a little hard to sit through a meal when you're waiting on pins and needles to hear judges' results!

I had a chance to meet and/or glimpse several amazing authors whom I bet you will recognize. For instance:

New York Times bestselling author Liz Curtis Higgs, who was the fabulous MC that evening as well as a finalist in the Historical Fiction category.

Also co-authors Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee:

These two were finalists in the Visionary Category along with me, and they are some major names in CBA spec fiction! They are also both lovely and gracious people who very sweetly came out of their way to chat with me and Rohan at our table. I was a little star-struck!

These two lovely ladies were there:

Authors Jill Williamson and Melanie Dickerson. Melanie was a finalist in the Yong Adult Fiction category that night.

There were so many others, I couldn't begin to list all of them. It was quite the gala occasion, and everything looked lovely . . . even prettier than last year, if that's possible! And, according to Rohan, the food was better. But I was far too nervous through the whole evening to eat much of it, so I really can't remember!

But we had a lovely time, nonetheless, and enjoyed the keynote speaker, Allen Arnold, who shared his heart with us concerning his hope and prayer for the future of CBA publishing. It was very touching and convicting to many of us, I believe.

Then came the time for the big reveals! Similar to last year, they announced each winner by first reading the first several lines of the nominated book. This way, the author was always the first to know that he/she had won . . . and had a moment to regain some composure before stepping up to give a speech.

While I was certainly not even hoping for a win . . . not when my competition was such powerhouse writers as Ted, Tosca, and James L. Rubart . . . I couldn't help myself. I strained my ears when the Visionary Category came up, listening for the words: Hill House. Hill House. Hill House . . .

And then it came:

"Hill House, though abandoned, had remained unscathed during the years of the Dragon's occupation."

Though I had been listening for it, it took me a moment to realize what had actually just been read over the speakers. My first thought was, No way! My second thought was, Dragon's teeth! Now I have to give a speech!

I had just enough time to grab a sip of water and pull myself together, before I had to hurry up front and give my speech. For those of you curious, this is sort-of what I said. It's what I'd planned to say, anyway, and I think what came out of my mouth was similar!

"This was a book that should never have been written. This 120,000 word novel which, due to a variety of circumstances, I was obliged to draft in its entirety within two months. Two months during which I was also trying to work three jobs, becoming engaged, planing a wedding, moving, temporarily from Raleigh to Wisconsin, and fighting off a variety of illness, most of them stress-induced!

Even in ideal circumstances, it's difficult to dredge up creative inspiration and put it down in an interesting form on page . . . and, while that summer was the best of my life, it was not the most ideal circumstance for noveling! Many times during those two insane months, I remember saying, "If this book gets written at all, it will be by God's power!"

And now, you see, the book is written. And here I stand, receiving this award that has been so graciously bestowed upon my efforts tonight. And I can only say that it was God enabling me that made this book possible. But then again, isn't that always the way? Whether in ideal or impossible circumstances, when we turn our hand to the work God has set before us, it His power that enables.

I would like to take a moment to thank some of those whom God used as instruments to enable this process. First, my editor at Bethany House Publishing, David Long-suffering . . . ahem . . . David Long. Who is indeed a long-suffering man, but who put up with many last-minute changes and bumps in the road, all the while believing in this project and my ability. That belief was more encouragement than he'll ever know.

Also my line editor, Rochelle, who spent so many hours combing through the manuscript! And my agent at Books & Such literary agency, Rachel Kent, ever my advocate.
A big shout-out to my mother, author Jill Stengl, who brainstormed with me at crazy-odd hours and was always willing to read and critique drafted chapters as I wrote them.
Most of all, I want to thank my darling Rohan, who endured that ridiculous summer, always sweet, supportive, with a listening ear and lots of chocolate . . . and who, at the end of it all, still wanted to marry me! This book is dedicated to you, my love. And it really was the least I could do!"
 That was the gist anyway!

After that, the evening is a bit of a blur. So I'll simply share some pictures with you now!

Christy Award Winners
(left to right)

I finally got to meet in person lovely author Kim Sawyer!

Fellow Books & Such author Julie Klassen won for her novel The Maid of Fairbourne Hall . . . and looked amazing in her blue dress! She gave a sweet thanks to my Rohan in her acceptance speech for his help in her fencing research for that particular novel. That pleased me!

 But, as always, the best part of the evening is being with my darling Rohan, always my support and encourager. He truly is the greatest blessing I have ever known!

I hope you all enjoyed this pictorial account of the Christy Awards. If you'd like to see a few more pictures, be sure to get on my author facebook page where I'll be sharing an album of various shots. Thanks to all of you for your support and prayers and good wishes. You are the reason I write . . . and a very fine reason you are!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Another Moonblood Name-Drawing!

Would you like to win a free, autographed copy of Moonblood?

Here's what you have to do to get your name entered in a drawing!

Post the picture below on your blog and/or facebook page along with a reason why you think your friends should read the Tales of Goldstone Wood.

Leave a comment for me letting me know you've done so, and I will enter your name in the contest! The winner will be drawn next Saturday, the 21st (when I get back from the ICRS conference).

If you'd like to get your name entered twice, take a moment on your blog or facebook page to let your readers know who your favorite character is from the series and why!

Thanks to all of you loving and supportive fans. I couldn't write these stories without you!

EDIT: Just to clarify, do NOT post a link to this blog page itself. Post the PHOTO on your blog or facebook page. Sorry if that was confusing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy

My dear readers, I have finally managed to produce another Weekly Fairy write-up for you! Do forgive me if you don't see one again next Tuesday, however. My husband and I are leaving this weekend for Orlando, the ICRS conference, and the Christy Awards Banquet! We're really looking forward to it, and I promise to take lots of pictures of the glamorous evening to share with all of you.

In the meanwhile, I hope you will enjoy reading about . . .

Fairy Godmother

The loving figure of the Fairy Godmother has become so popular in our current fairy tale culture that we all-too easily forget her abnormality among the hosts of the fey. Until her, who among the fairy folk every showed any concern for the well being of a human? Most fairies couldn't care less for humans and many of them are overtly malevolent!

But the Fairy Godmother takes a keen interest in the comfort and social security of her godchild. Indeed, one might even be led to believe that she, immortal, otherworldly creature though she is, might truly love the mortal for whom she assumes the maternal mantle!

The Fairy Godmother was first introduced to the literary world via the pens of Madame d'Aulnoy and Charles Perrault. A supernatural being, she sometimes assumes the form of an animal or is imagined to be the spirit of a dead mother. The original Grimm's fairy tale version of Cinderella, for example, envisions the classic fairy godmother as a white bird that builds its next in a certain hazel tree which grew of Cinderella's mother's grave. That bird kept an eye on Cinderella as she grew. And when the time came for her to make her bid for freedom and attend the ball without her stepmother's blessing, she went out to the hazel tree and cried:

Shake and quiver, little tree,
Throw gold and silver down to me.

Then the bird threw a gold and silver dress down to her, and slippers embroidered with silk and silver. She quickly put on the dress and went to the festival.

For the most part, however, the fairy godmother takes the form of a woman. Sometimes she is an older woman, as suited to her maternal role. The classic Disney vision of a fairy godmother has always tended this direction, both with Cinderella's fairy godmother:

And Sleeping Beauty's three fairy godmothers:

Other times, she takes on a more beautiful form, serving as an admirable mentor. This is more the vision Charles Perrault painted for his fairy godmothers: women well-connected with influence enough to see their protégées properly established in society, i.e. wed to the prince.

The popularity of the Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella stories have led to the Fairy Godmother being widely regarded as a common fairy-tale motif. In actuality, compared to the great bulk of fairy tales out there, however, the Fairy Godmother is not so common a blessing to young heroes and heroines as all that.

The Fairy Godmother is not universally good either, at least not always from the perspective of our heroines. For instance, in Madame d'Aulnoy's story The Blue Bird, the Fairy Godmother works to aid the heroine's evil stepsister, attempting to destroy the heroines hopes of marrying the hero. I'm sure from that Fairy Godmother's perspective, she is doing the right thing, seeing to the welfare of her godchild. From our perspective, though, she's a pretty scary cookie!

For the most part, however, we can look upon the Fairy Godmother as a figure of love and support in times of need.

There are so many Fairy Godmothers in popular fiction today, I couldn't even begin to mention all of them. Who is your favorite Fairy Godmother? Perhaps in a retelling of Cinderella? Or a movie or TV show? I'm curious to know what you know!