Thursday, January 31, 2013

Braille Editions!

Dear readers, I am so pleased to officially announce the Braille editions of the first few Tales of Goldstone Wood!

A few months back, I began corresponding with our own favorite Goldstone Wood Imp, Meredith. Meredith, who is blind, graciously introduced me to her favorite Braille transcriptionist, Laurie, and exciting things began to happen soon after. Laurie felt led to offer Braille copies of the Tales of Goldstone Wood to a larger audience of readers. After several weeks and months of negotiations, a couple of signed contracts later, she had the rights to transcribe all of the stories!

And now both Heartless and Veiled Rose are available to Braille readers, with Moonblood and Starflower following very soon. You can have a look at Laurie's business here. Isn't this exciting?

If you have any visually impaired friends, do please pass on this information. Braille transcriptions of novels can be very expensive, but Laurie is offering these at a much more affordable price. And I am just thrilled to know that a whole new set of readers will now have access to my stories . . . and to the charming, blind Eanrin!

What do you think, my friends? Are you excited?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

An Invitation

You are Invited

to a Banquet

Where: Oriana Palace, Parumvir
When: April 11, 2013
What to Bring: A dish worthy to be served at a Banquet in Parumvir
What to Wear: Party Dress, of course!

Dear readers, I am very pleased to inform you of one of the upcoming events on this blog! For my birthday this year, I am going to host a Parumvir Banquet, and I want all of you to participate.

In order to attend this banquet, you will need to make a dish that you think would be appropriate to serve at a feast in Oriana. Take a nice picture of it (and of yourself in a Party Dress to go along with it if you like) and email it to me along with a recipe sometime in the next few months.

On April 11th, which is my birthday, I will compile all the pictures and recipes to host one glorious "banquet" online! We will all get to see each others' creativity and hopefully acquire a bazillion wonderful new recipes to add to our collections.

To give you an idea of what is expected . . . .

Gleamdren's Tea Dainties
These are raspberry meringues with white chocolate centers, invented and submitted by my beautiful sister-in-law, Kristen. She gave them the name "Gleamdren's Tea Dainties," because they are incredibly rich and impractical, just like something Lady Gleamdren would enjoy. And of course, Gleamdren is a popular figure of legend in Parumvir, so I'm sure her Tea Dainties are a favorite sweet to be had at any feast!

Marmaduke thinks they look tasty . . .
You'll have to wait for the banquet itself to get the recipe and to see the other fabulous entries Kristen is submitting! But in the meanwhile, you can start coming up with your own submissions. These can be things right out of your cookbook or new inventions of your own. And remember, a feast is going to need:
A soup course
A salad course
A main course
A cheese course
A dessert course
So plenty of options for your creativity!
What do you think? Do you have some ideas brewing? Will you come up with some Goldstone Wood-appropriate names for you dishes?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Announcing Book 6

Dear reader friends, I received word today on the official title chosen for Book 6 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood! Are you ready for it?

Official cover art and back cover copy coming in the next few months! But feel free to share this poster if you like. I can't tell you too much else about the story at this point, but . . . just to pique your interest a bit, I will give a snippet from a ballad written by our own beloved Bard Eanrin:

The Ballad of Shadow Hand
As put to verse
by Eanrin, Bard and Chief Poet
Iubdan Tynan,
 King of Rudiobus
(Inscribed at the hand of Dame Imraldera,
who claims no part of these verses as her own)
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!
Tell me what you think? Does this title sound fun? Do you recognize the name from any little hints dropped in previous books?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Blog hop tour: The Next Big Thing

Last week, Jill Eileen Smith tagged me on her blog, so if you found me via her site, welcome! Glad to have you here. I've decided to talk to you about my new release coming out this summer, so if you are curious, here's a little bit about that story.

The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
The title of my upcoming release in the Tales of Goldstone Wood is Dragonwitch.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Wow, that's hard to say. The ideas were brewing for quite a few years before I finally wrote this novel! Actually, it started out as two separate stories, one focused on the Dragonwitch and her story, the other focused on a character I called "the Smallman King" and his fight with an evil ogre that was reminiscent of David and Goliath. I wrote the original stories in the style of legends, and they were referenced in the novels and novellas I worked on through high school. But later I realized that they were really one story, intricately joined.
The character who really brought them together, though, was Mouse. That character sprang out nowhere in the summer of 2010 while I was deeply involved in writing a completely different novel. But once Mouse came to mind, the rest of Dragonwitch began to fall into place, becoming the story that you will be reading in another few months!
What genre does your book fall under?
This novel, like all my novels, is a fairy tale fantasy, aimed at the YA audience.
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I would cast Jamie Bell as Alistair, the young heir to Gaheris House.
I think a young Samantha Morton would make an excellent Lady Leta of Aiven, Alistair's betrothed.
For the other characters . . . well, they would be a lot harder to cast! But Eanrin would still be played by Jude Law, and Imraldera by Shay Mitchell.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
When a terrifying evil breaks through a death-house gate and sets upon the North Country, three unlikely heroes set out on an impossible quest to bring nursery rhymes to life . . . but in so doing, they must enter the realm of the Dragonwitch.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
This novel is represented by Books & Such Literary Agency and will be published this summer by Bethany House Publishers.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Let's see, I started writing it in July 2011, I think, and finished the first draft in January 2012. It seemed like a whole lot longer, however! That book was a very difficult one to write.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
My stories are similar to Robin McKinley's wonderful retold fairy tales, such as Beauty or Rose Daughter. But my fairy tales are original, rather than retellings, so in that they differ.
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
The Dragonwitch herself made me want to write this book. I have been toying around with her as a character since I was sixteen years old. Then she had a dominant role in my last novel, Starflower. I was very eager to continue exploring into her character, finally giving the reader the whole of her story rather than the hints and pieces dropped so far.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Death-house gates . . . monsters from another world . . . doomed heirs . . . prophetic dreams . . . the power of words and books in the hands of the weak . . . disguises, escapes, intrigues, and one very terrifying dragon, trapped in a woman's body and bent upon revenge. Add to that a dash of romance, and I think it's a pretty fun story altogether!
Thanks for stopping by on the blog hop tour! Next week, January 23rd, be sure to check out these fine authors:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Blog Tour

Today is the day Starflower begins it's book tour with I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. I have been working super hard putting together the articles, tens lists, interviews and more for this tour, and I hope all of you will enjoy reading them! Check the list below for upcoming events, and don't miss your chance to enter the Book Blast giveaway and possibly win a $50 gift card!


January 15th - Book Blast

January 16th
I Am A Reader, Not A Writer - Kick Off
Fiction Playground - Guest Post
LovLivLife Reviews - Guest Post
Book Haven Extraordinaire - Review & Interview
Letters to the Cosmos - Interview & Review
Peace from Pieces - Interview

January 17th
Monique Morgan - Guest Post
My Random Life - Interview
Framed in Words - Tens List
Cuzinlogic - Interview

January 18th
Open the Page - Review & Giveaway
Where Fantasy & Love Take Flight - Guest Post
Bunny's Reviews - Tens List
Author Cheri Schmidt - Interview
A Writer's Dream - Guest Post & Review

January 19th
Magical Manuscripts - Review
ReaderGirls - Tens List
Books, Books the Magical Fruit - Guest Post

January 20th
Books Books & More Books - Interview & Review
From the Bootheel Cotton Patch - Guest Post
Colorimetry - Tens List

January 21st
Up All Night Reviews - Guest Post
Becky's Barmy Book Blog - Review & Tens List
Books Beside My Bed - Review, Guest Post & Giveaway
Blkosiner's Book Blog - Interview
The Bookmark Blog - Review

January 22nd
~Oh, The Books You'll Read! - Guest Post & Review
The Book Diva's Reads - Tens List
Yellow Hat Writer - Guest Post
Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews - Character Interview

January 23rd
Pieces of Whimsy - Review & Guest Post
icefairy's Treasure Chest - Guest Post
Deal Sharing Aunt - Review, Tens List & Giveaway
Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Reviews - Guest Post

January 24th
MK McClintock - Tens List
LDS & Lovin' It - Review
On Starships and Dragonwings - Review
Crossroads Review - Review & Giveaway

January 25th
Tamara's One Stop Indie Shop - Guest Post
Storeybook Reviews - Excerpt
Making the Grade - Review & Guest Post
A Dream Within A Dream - Tens List

Monday, January 14, 2013

Upcoming Events!

Now that the read-along is finished, I wanted to alert you readers to some of the fun events coming up here at the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog. First of all, is the 2013 Fan Art Contest! 
This contest will officially begin on March 21st, the first day of spring. On that day and for the week following, I will post all submissions for viewers to enjoy. And this year, for the first time, we will choose the winner via fan voting!
How to submit: If you want to contribute to the contest, email me a picture of your art (
What to submit: You can submit any form of visual art you want! Last year, we had drawings, paintings, clay scultures, quilts, embroidered tapestries, photography, ceramics, computer graphics, and more. Any form of visual art is welcome!
When to submit: You may start submitting your fan art now! I will take submissions up to March 20th. Be sure to title the subject of your email: "Submission for Fan Art Contest."
How many pieces may I submit? You may submit as many pieces as you like!
Any rules? Yes. Two rules. 1) Your art work must be directly related to the Tales of Goldstone Wood somehow. 2) You cannot submit artwork that has already been entered in one of the previous fan art contests. New work only, please!
How to vote: To vote, you may email me your Three Favorite Picks. For the subject of the email, put: "Fan Art Voting" so that I will know. Then list the three images you liked the best. I'm going to have you vote via email so that it's a little more anonymous than just leaving your vote in the comments. Though you may, of course, leave encouraging comments to the artists!
Who can vote? Anybody can vote. You may feel free to invite your family and friends to join in the fun. And, of course, the arists themselves may vote for their favorites as well!
When will voting start? March 21st, and it will run for a week. At the end of that time, the winner will be announced!
What is the prize? The winner will receive a free copy of Dragonwitch!!!! (Just as soon as it releases.)
Any questions? Let me know in the comments if I haven't covered something. I am looking forward to seeing all of your beautiful artwork! I was completely blown away by the work sent in last year, and I imagine I will be even more thrilled this year.
Other events of note:
February is going to be February Feature Month here on my blog. I will be interviewing and featuring various folks in the writing world, including fantasy authors, my agent, editors, etc. It's going to be a lot of fun, and there will be multiple giveaways as well, with opportunities to win books and bookmarks, etc. Looking forward to that!
In April, for my birthday, I am going to be hosting "A Parumvir Banquet" to which you will all be invited. But more on that later.
And, yes, I'll probably try to get back to that long-neglected A-Z series on Moonblood . . . .

Sunday, January 13, 2013


And the winner of the Grand Prize for the Heartless read-along is . . . .


You have officially won Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower in one fell swoop! Congratulations, and thank you for all your faithful participation throughout this read-along. Your answers to questions and various insights were much appreciated by everyone. Email me your mailing address ( to receive your prizes!

And thank you to the rest of you who also contributed your thoughts and answers. This has been a blast. Keep your eyes open for many more upcoming events at the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog. Pretty soon, I'll be offering opportunities to win copies of . . . Dragonwitch!

Read-along: Chapter 39

Last day of the read-along! What an epic adventure this has been. I'm going to miss coming here everyday and talking book-talk with all of you . . .


A Wedding. A proper fairy tale should end on a wedding. It's just the way of the world! And this is, so far, the only one of my books that follows that classic fairy tale trend, so we definitely need to enjoy it while we can.

Oddly enough, I found this scene rather difficult to write. I much prefer writing all the scenes of adventure and comedy and tragedy. I enjoy the drama of a good battle or a good chase! But a romantic wedding scene just seemed inordinately difficult. This is why I don't write romance books, I'm afraid!

This is also why I chose to feature Felix most prominently in this scene. You'll notice that most of it is told from his perspective. He's not one of the two romantic interests here, so I can take a slightly more comical view of things. Plus there's the added danger of the dragon poison inside him; poison which he has forgotten, but which will need to be cured before it's too late. Leaves things with a  bit of a suspenseful edge, despite all the romantic details.

Una's dress. We finally see Una stand up for herself against the Parumvir fashion experts, refusing to wear one of their obnoxious creations. Instead she wears a simple white gown "without ornaments or jewels," and she wears flowers in her hair. I love the look of flowers in a maiden's hair! I chose to wear a wreathe of flowers myself for my wedding crown, in honor of classic fairy tale princesses everywhere (though my dress was a little more fancy, and I did sport some elegant jewelry).

How do you like this little design for a possible wedding gown for Una? I think she looks sweet!

Wedding Guests. Aside from Oeric and Imoo, standing at Prince Aethelbald's side, there are many other fantastical guests at the wedding of the Prince of Farthestshore. Some of them we will meet in later books. The small dark-haired king and his queen with the long hair of liquid gold . . . the flame-orange tiger . . .

Others we have met in fan fiction! Thanks to Hannah, the girl on the back of the giant frog now has her own personality and storyline. Check out Hannah's award-winning short story, Spring Sprig.

And others--like the child leading the white lion on the leash--we will be seeing in another few books to come. (But shhhhh, don't tell!)

Sneaky hint: If you've read through Moonblood, you've actually heard the name of the child leading the white lion. But I doubt you'd be able to guess which one, based on the information given in Heartless (which is a bit misleading).

Imraldera and Monster. I like that first little glimpse we get of the relationship between Imraldera and Monster. They aren't together at all save for this last chapter of Heartless, but we definitely get a hint at a long history between these two! But one you will have to wait to find out over the course of many more books . . .

The song. One last time, we get to hear the wood thrush's song, but this time sung by the wild Faeries of the ocean and the sea unicorns, all singing in celebration of the Prince's great victory and the winning of his forever bride. And Una herself, with newly opened eyes, can see them and their fiery hair and strange beings.

And so we come to a happy ending! As Una smiles into the eyes of her husband, we must close the book, I hope with a happy sigh. It's been quite an adventure, both comical and tragic, taking us all over strange landscapes and into the very depths of an evil heart. But ultimately, this is a triumphant story after the fashion of classic heroes of old. My own, humble retelling of the Great Story, presented to you in the best I could do at the time.

It's been tremendously fun for me to revisit Heartless after many years away from it. I am delighted to say that, on the whole, I am still quite pleased with it! I've improved as a writer, but even so, I wouldn't go back and chance this debut novel of mine. If I wrote it now, it wouldn't be the novel it was meant to be. I hope and pray that it has blessed you to read it as much as it blessed me to write it. God has a plan for this story, and as time goes on, I learn to trust Him with that plan more and more.

All of you readers are a complete delight to me! I feel I've gotten to know all of you through this read-along, and I am quite attached to each and every one of you. You have all brought unique insights, challenging questions, and moments of laughter. Some of you have contributed with artwork and even music! Goldstone Wood is so much more alive in my heart, because it is alive in yours. You are the reason I love to write so much! These stories are for you.

I think it would be very fun to do another read-along, possibly later this year. I think I might not do a Christmas one again, since the Christmas season does tend to be rather busy! But perhaps this fall? We'll discuss it again then as the time draws near.

And in the meanwhile, we have many more fun things coming up on this blog! This week, I'll be posting information on the Fan Art contest I will be hosting this spring, so keep your eyes open for that. And February is going to be a particularly fun month on this blog, for reasons I will make known very soon.

My Personal Favorite Lines.

1. He pulled at the tight collar around his neck and wished to heaven some horrible disease would take all the fashion experts of Parumvir and prevent them from ever designing anything again. (p. 362)

2. Una, as she stood back from her husband's embrace, looked out to the ocean and for the first time saw the Faerie beings in the water, their hair glowing like fire. The sea unicorns raised their heads from the foam and gleamed like so many suns as they sang. (p. 363)

Questions on the Text.

1. So, after all this adventure we've had together, what was your favorite part of Heartless?

2. Who was your favorite character? Can you tell me why?

3. Do you feel you learned anything about yourself while reading this book? Do you feel you learned anything about God and your faith?

4. Would you like to do another read-along with me later this year? If so, what book would you be most interested in?

Reader Questions.

1.  "Is Una basically done from being placed in this series again? She just kind of fades out completely and I miss her." -- Courtney

Courtney's question is echoed by many of you who love my Princess Una and miss her. And I am so delighted by that! Una continues to receive a lot of venom from reviewers even now who cannot stand her immaturity and have no patience to watch her grow through the novel. Modern readers want to identify with tough-as-nails super-heroines, not people like my little Una. So she (and I) get a lot of grief for her immaturity and bad decisions.

Thus I love to hear the love you readers have for her. However . . . I think due to the negative response I received, even from Christian readers, I'm a little shy of featuring Una prominently again. If she does return to the series, it will only be in a small part as a side character. And not for a while, I have to warn you as well. These days, I'm going back in time to tell the stories that came before and led up to Heartless, so Una isn't even born! (Though she will be referenced and even prophesied about at one point.)

I do have tentative plans of writing a novel about Felix someday. Again, not for many years since I'm focusing on the back stories at the moment. He does have a fairly prominent and heroic role in Book 6, which comes out spring 2014, but he's not the hero of that story. If I do end up writing a story featuring him as the hero, I will probably try to bring Una back into that one. She is such an important part of his life, after all!

I hope that answer isn't too disappointing to you, dear readers. And I hope you will find yourselves very attached to the other protagonists I bring into the series! There are a lot of wonderful characters to come.

2. "Also, if it's alright to ask (spoilers for others, perhaps?), is Una or for that matter, Felix, at all mentioned in Dragonwitch?" -- Molly

Actually, I don't believe either of them are mentioned at all in Dragonwitch. So sorry! Dragonwitch takes place a good 1500 years before Heartless, and Parumvir isn't even a nation yet. However, Book 6, as stated above, features Felix in a prominent role, and Una is mentioned several times over. So you will get a little more of our favorite royal siblings in another few books!

3. "Oh, btw, where did you get that artwork?? its SO beautiful!!!! I love it!!!! I wish I could draw like that." -- Molly

Why, thank you, Molly! That is actually one of my own illustrations. I studied Illustration for two years at collage, and I once thought I wanted to write and illustrate novels. Maybe I still will someday? As it is, I just spend time doing sketches and paintings for various promotional things and marketing for the series. If you click on any one of the book pages (listed on the side of this blog), you will find a selection of my own art for each novel. Only one or two pieces per book right now, but I'll probably put up more over time. And, of course, Dragonwitch features the "Characters You Will Meet" page, which are all my own sketches.

And, as a former art teacher, I have to put in the plug . . . anyone can learn to draw! They simply have to A) want to and B) be willing to put the time into learning. :)

4. "About Una: Is there any possible way we will see her in the future--a short story perhaps, or a glimpse in a future novel? She's such a great character, and I love her at the end so much! I'd love to see what her new-found wisdom and stateliness could bring to the world." -- Beka

I, of course, already answered this with Courtney's question, but I wanted to address yours too, Beka, because you bring up an interesting little point! If and when we do see Una again in a much later book, she will be in a very different state than she was in Heartless. As the Prince of Farthestshore's bride, she is transformed and will serve in a powerful and stately role. I have ideas . . . not sure when those ideas will take shape in a novel, but they are brewing!

All such great questions! And so many wonderful comments as well. I particularly liked Anna C.'s comment yesterday about opals and their history. That was fascinating! If you haven't read it yet, go back and see what she found out and shared with us.

I'm going to really miss all this great interaction with you intelligent women. We will definitely do this again. Hugs and blessings to you all!

Check back this evening to learn who won the Grand Prize Giveaway!!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Read-along: Update!

I'd forgotten! I'm going to be swamped all day today! So please come back tomorrow for the last day of the read-along and the announcement of the Grand Prize Winner. See you all then!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Read-along: Chapter 38

Oh, my goodness! We are almost done now! Just today and tomorrow left . . . .

I'll be picking the winner of the Grand Prize giveaway tomorrow evening, so be certain to leave your comments just to make certain your name is entered. You could win Veiled Rose, Moonblood and Starflower!


Better late than never. As I said in the previous book, these last two chapters of resolution didn't come until a much later draft of the novel. It's just so hard after all that drama and tension to then start letting everything unwind.

I ended up starting the chapter with Fidel and Felix because I felt like it would be easier to look at resolution through their eyes rather than Una's. There are just too many emotions to deal with in Una following her transformation, salvation, and that final epic battle! Maybe I was a bit of a coward to do it this way . . . and maybe, as a more experienced writer now, I would have been able to tackle this bit from Una's perspective. But the writer-me of years ago certainly found it far too intimidating.

And face it: we all like getting back to Felix anyway.

Monster's back. Well there you are, dragon-eaten cat! Where were you when all the action was taking place?

But here he is, purring and rubbing around Felix's ankles as though nothing had happened. Silly beast. But who knows, maybe he was involved in some part of all the drama of which we are unaware? Maybe there was something going on with some of the soldiers of Shippening . . .

Running down the hill. I love this moment when Felix, catching sight of his sister--whom, you realize, he might have believed was killed--yelps and goes racing down the hill into her arms. Yes, the squabble and fight. They're siblings! But they really do love each other. All of these adventures have only strengthened the love between these two. I think this is a really touching little scene . . . I might have even teared-up a bit (but shhhh. Don’t tell).

I will return for you. Aethelbald leads the family into the Wood and guides them by Faerie paths across miles and leagues. At last, they emerge at the coastal city of Glencrocus, where they are greeted with much joy by the people of that city.

And there, before they are overwhelmed by the crowds, Aethelbald quietly tells Una that he must go. He has others he must look after, his own servants and those of her father. But he promises that he will return for Una. And he asks, "Will you wait for me?"

The crowd parts them before she can speak, but I'm sure he saw everything he needed in her smile.

Nurse! After many, many, many chapters without her, Nurse finally appears again, well and whole, delighted to be reunited with her dear princess! Hoorah! And, of course, she has to disguise her joy by telling Una what a mess she is and immediately falling into her usual, fussy ways.

*Happy sigh.* I do like the ends of books, so full of meetings and greetings and reunions. I don't like writing them particularly, but they are fun to read!

Felix and Una. While awaiting Aethelbald's return, Una and Felix spend a good bit of time together. I think they know that things will never be the same as they were. They'll never be as close, playing their games, teasing their tutor, running away to the old bridge. They've both grown up a lot, Una especially.

And they know that she is going to marry and move on, never to return. Never to be the sweet, young, immature Princess of Parumvir that she was.

It's a bittersweet time in a way. The fact is, you can't want everything to stay the same. It's not healthy. We have to move and grow and learn how to love each other in new ways along the paths of our lives. But it's hard not be wish--just a little bit--that things could go on the way they always have.

I think that's what this scene is about, between Una and her brother. But they love each other better now than they did before. And ultimately, their love will go on growing.

Aethelbald returns. When he does, he brings with him a certain treasure found in the ruins of Oriana: Una's opal ring, the gift from her mother.

And Una makes the wisest choice she's made through this entire novel. She says to Prince Aethelbald, "I would be . . .  I think I should like you to keep it. If you would."

So we know they're definitely going to get married now!!!

"I'll have to think about it." I liked having Una say, "I'll have to think about it" when Aethelbald proposes to her for the second time. It makes me laugh, because it's so obvious to everyone that she is absolutely ready and willing to marry him! And Felix rolls his eyes, because he knows too . . . he knows Una is just being a pill and tease.

My editors almost took this little bit out, however. In fact, in the advance reader copies of Heartless, this little "I'll have to think about it" section isn't included. They thought it distracted from the romance of the scene. But I asked them to put it back. I like a little laugh along with my romance!

And now, there's nothing but a wedding left . . . .

My Personal Favorite Lines

1. Una, her father, and her brother were too full of joy after their bitter separation to consider the fragility of their position. They clung to each other and laughed and cried and interrupted each other and laughed and cried some more. When at last Prince Aethelbald asked them to follow him into the Wood, they did so without question, still laughing, still crying, and saying words very little worth hearing save for the glad voices in which they were spoken.
Aethelbald never once let go of Una's hand. (p. 356)

1. "Are you going to marry Aethelbald?" Felix asked . . .
"Marry Aethelbald?" Una said with something like a smile. "I don't know."
Felix snorted.
"Don't snort at me, Felix. It's not seemly." (p. 358)

Questions on the Text

1. What do you think it means when Una tells Aethelbald to keep her ring?

2. Any favorite lines?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Read-along: Chapter 37

Again, a bit late in the evening, but here I am!

Only two more chapters to go on this read-along. I'm a little sad. A little relieved--it takes a good chunk of my work time to do these write-ups each day!--but also sad. I've really enjoyed this, particularly all of your insightful comments and answers to the questions. You've proven yourselves willing to read on a deeper level, willing to plunge with me and explore. It's so very satisfying!

Keep asking questions as you have them. I'll be answering them over the next two days, I promise. And let me know if I forgot to answer something you asked a while back.


After his promise. Una stares down at the burned bones, lying where Aethelbald stood only moments before. You know in that moment she was thinking through the promise he just made to her. "No matter what happens, I will come for you." How can he come for her now? How can he if he is . . . gone?

See, little princess? The Dragon, having separated Una from everyone else, bringing her into the desolation of ruined Sondhold, taunts her. See what the Prince's promises came to? Nothing! Just like all the other promises made to her. Just like everyone else she chose to depend on, this suitor has also abandoned her. Once more, it is just her and the Dragon, as it was always meant to be!

Take back my fire! The Dragon urges Una to take back the fire of dragonhood, to become the evil he wants her to be. But Una, despite her despair, closes her eyes and listens . . . and she hears . . . .

The  voice of the wood thrush. It has been calling to her since the beginning, always present, always comforting. And even now, through the heat and hatred, Una hears it singing into her mind, "I love you. Won't you return to me?"

And so she faces the Dragon and tells him that she would "rather die" than take his fire.

First reading. I remember when I let my roommate, Charity, read this manuscript for the first time. I had been plunking away on it for a few months, and after finishing a draft or two, I finally printed it out and let her read it. I happened to walk in on her at one point, and she was lying on the couch, staring at the page. I hadn't spoken to her about it since handing it to her, so I casually asked her, "How's it coming?"

She turned to me with saucer-eyes. "Prince Aethelbald is in the Dragon's mouth!" she gasped. "I didn't know he was the wood thrush!?!?!?!"

Timing. Great timing.

She shooed me away, and I had to let her finish it before she would speak to me again!

The Dragon's death. With thrust of his sword, Aethelbald slays his great enemy. And in the thrashing fire of the Dragon's death agonies, Una flees to the pier and leaps into the ocean. There she shivers in the water until at last fireballs cease to fall from the sky. Then, there is nothing left for her to do but make her way back and discover what she will.

You promised! At the sight of the Prince's sword, twisted and ruined in the mouth of the Dragon, Una begins to weep. She begs Aethelbald not to leave her, declaring that she would rather die than live without him now.

A ghost? When Prince Aethelbald comes to her and speaks her name, so gently, Una cannot believe it is him. After all she has been through, she is still afraid! She refuses to look at him, even sharply says, "No!" when he asks her to. He reaches out to take hold of her, but she struggles to get away, still weeping.

So he holds out his hand and shows her. She sees the two stripes of red, fresh blood on the palm of his hand where he grabbed the Duke's sword. And Aethelbald asks her, "Does a ghost bleed?

Stigmata symbolism. Stigmata are bodily marks, sores, or sensations of pain in locations corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ, such as the hands and feet. When I was in my last year at University, one of my English professors--a brilliant man, by the way--had a way of finding stigmata symbolism . . . but not always in places they were meant to be!

For instance, I took a creative writing class with this doctor of English. I cannot tell you how many times, as we discussed the works of classmates, Dr. V. would mention the stigmata symbolism used here and there. "Did you see how the mother cut her hand while preparing dinner? That's stigmata symbolism." "Did you notice how the little girl accidentally got paint on her fingers? That's stigmata symbolism."

And so on and so forth.

Most of the time, you could tell by the looks on the faces of the students that stigmata symbolism was probably the furthest thing from their minds. Many of them probably didn't even know what it was!

A year after that class, when I sat down to write this climactic scene in Heartless, I grinned to myself. I was, after all, writing an allegory. And my hero was a Christ-figure. Would there ever be a more perfect time to insert some stigmata symbolism?

So that's what I did. When Aethelbald shows Una the wounds on his palm, it is a direct correlation to Jesus showing doubting Thomas the wounds on his hands and feet. A little overt, perhaps . . .

But this one's for you, Dr. V.!

"Dawn found the black carcass of the Dragon. The light of the sun pierced through the fading dragon smoke, disintegrating the body to ashes. A sweet breeze carried the ashes away to the desert and scattered them across the sand."

So what would you say if I told you that, in the first draft of this novel, that was the last line?

I seriously got to the end of this enormous climactic scene (which remained pretty much the same from the first draft through to this final print version) and was so exhausted that I simply typed "the end" and didn't bother with anything more than that! I sent it off to my mother and my best friend to read, figuring I'd write an ending of some sort later.

A day or two after sending it, I got a call from my best friend: "WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE END?!?!?!?"

Oops. I'd forgotten about that.

Wrapping up a satisfying conclusion was possibly the hardest part of writing this entire novel, however! It took me a good several drafts  before I finally managed to sit down and write the next two chapters you hold in your hand . . . .

My Personal Favorite Lines

1. The Dragon's voice hissed, filling the air and echoing down the long, dark, dead streets of Sondhold. It seemed as though a thousand demon voices repeated each word, flinging them at her like knives. (p. 349-350)

2. Her hands clutched her chest, feeling beneath her skin the heartbeat so strong inside her. It was his heart, not her own, but she felt it must break. (p. 352)

Questions on the Text

1. Why do you think the Dragon carried Una down into the city, away from the Oriana Palace? What do you think this might symbolize?

2. Favorite lines?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Read-along: Chapter 36

Still making my way through the murk of sickliness . . . but here I am with today's write-up! So close to the end now, we can almost taste it.

Keep leaving those comments! On the last day, I'll be picking a winner who will receive three books, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower, all in one fell swoop.


The duke's bargain. In the opening of this chapter, we see the Duke of Shippening, who has all along been surprisingly cavalier with the Dragon, starting to questions the wisdom of  making bargains with such a mighty ally. The problem with being allied with the devil is the devil lies.

The Dragon follows his own code of conduct. But part of that code is a perfect willingness to turn truth on its head or simply to burn it into nothing whenever he sees fits.

Now bring Fidel and his son. The Duke is completely surprised to learn that he not only has King Fidel imprisoned, but also Prince Felix . . . Prince Felix whom the duke has presumed dead for many weeks now! I think the Dragon takes pleasure in watching the duke--always so confident in his buffoonery--squirm.

Fidel and Felix are dragged up from the dungeons, Felix very much alive and kicking! Fidel tries to bluff his way out, claiming Felix isn't his son and telling the soldiers to let him go unharmed. The Duke, knowing full well who Felix is, is about to slit Felix's throat right there in front of Fidel and . . . .

. . . . and I can't help wondering while reading this, WHERE is MONSTER? Surely he's got to be nearby, still watching over Felix, even under the Dragon's nose! I'm a little irked at the writer-me of years past for not bringing Monster into this scene. It would have been a perfect heroic, if futile moment, for our favorite blind cat.

Oh, well. I guess it wasn't meant to be.

But seriously, writer-me of back then, you should think about these things!

Anyway, moving on . . . 

The Dragon's plans. The Dragon stops the duke from hurting Felix. He looks into Felix's eyes and sees the dragon poison lurking deep inside. And he hints at the possibility of transforming Felix even as he transformed Una.

No hurry. But the Dragon has other plans to occupy his immediate future. He won't bother with Felix just yet, but orders him and his father chained up in the yard. Meanwhile, he intends to find Una wherever she fell and gnaw upon her bones.

This really gave me the creeps, reading it years later. I'd forgotten about that promise of his, and that he actually was setting out to do it. It's just . . . horrible. But that does make for a very convincing villain in the end! He is the Death-in-Life, and he is the Destroyer of Dreams and Devourer. He is truly the embodiment of evil.

Standing in the way. But before the Dragon can follow through with his evil intention, he is stopped by a lone figure standing in his way. A figure the Dragon does not at first recognize.

We have known since the beginning of this novel that the Dragon has been intent upon wounding "his Enemy." And he focused on taking and transforming Una because he knew that would be a wound that would cut his Enemy to the quick! It is never overtly said who the Dragon's Enemy is, but it doesn't take a whole lot of digging to realize that it's Aethelbald.

Which makes this moment all the more interesting, I think. If the Dragon hates his Enemy so much that he would hunt down someone as insignificant as Una and wreck all this havoc . . . don't you think he would recognize that Enemy when he sees him?

Instead, the Dragon says, "Do I know you? You seem familiar."

At the sound of his voice, however, the Dragon immediately recognizes the Prince of Farthestshore. But his reaction is again not quite what you would expect. He laughs!

"What are you made up as?" he demands. "Look at you, pathetic creature, a little man-beast! Never thought I'd see the day that you, my Enemy, would reduce yourself to such a state."

So now we know something new about our hero. This human form he wears as the humble Prince Aethelbald is not his natural state. It is so unlike his true state, in fact, that his bitterest enemy did not recognize him!

Later on the series, we glimpse the Prince of Farthestshore in other forms. But we do not see him in the shape of a quiet, unobtrusive man until much later. I don't believe he even went by the name "Aethelbald" until he came to woo and win Una! But that's all information for another story at another time . . .

A history. The Dragon hints at a great deal more history between him and the Prince as well. He speaks of being bound to the  Gold Stone (recall the picture of the sleeper on the golden altar?) and of being stronger now than he once was. The strife between these two goes back farther than we can know from this one simple story.

A girl dressed in white. Just as the Dragon begins to taunt Aethelbald, telling him that his Beloved is lost to him, Aethelbald steps to one side and reveals Una. Though the Dragon calls out to her, "My daughter, my sister! You cannot live without your fire, and I still hold your heart!" she is no longer his. Aethelbald has given her his own heart so that she no longer needs the Dragon's fire to survive.

And he will now claim her heart back from the Dragon.

Epic battle. We all knew it was coming! We've been reading this book waiting for this moment! The moment when the Dragon and Aethelbald will fight for the heart of Princess Una, a vicious and yet symbolic battle of Good and Evil in the vein of all the classics we know and love, in the vein of the Great Story that speaks to the truth of our hearts.

Awwwww.  In the middle of all this tumult, even as he makes ready to plunge into the inferno and battle his enemy, Aethelbald kisses Una again and promises he will return for her. I had forgotten about that! It actually made me go, "Awwww!" and maybe even a smidge of a fan-girl, "Squeeeee!" It was very romantic. Usually Aethelbald gets shuffled into such a tight corner of Christ-figure character that the romantic part doesn't get any time to shine. But the fact is, this is an allegory that deals with the symbol of the Church as the Bride of Christ. And that is a great Romance.

We understand the Romance in part through the smaller-scale romance of love and marriage. Which is why, I believe, so many girls get lost in romance novels and bad relationships, because they're hunting for that big-scale Romance and don't know quite what it means!

Finding a balance in Heartless was tough. Aethelbald is the Christ-figure, but he's also the romantic hero. And while he is a type of Christ, he isn't supposed to be Christ himself, because this is another world, not our world. Some people in reviews have been VERY uncomfortable with that storyline. And I am sad about that. But personally, I do love the symbol, and I really enjoy how it played out here.

And the romantic in me really likes that moment where he kisses her before they both plunge into danger: Aethelbald to fight he Dragon, Una to rescue her father and brother.

(Maybe a good moment for an illustration? Any of you talented artists out there? Perhaps consider this for the fan art contest???)

Una heroic. Una finally gets a good heroic scene in this chapter when she hastens across the burning courtyard to liberate her father and brother from their chains. She grabs the keys fallen from a soldier's hold and hurries to find the one that fits their lock.

And then the Duke of Shippening grabs her.

Felix heroic. Roaring like a lion, Felix jumps on the Duke of Shippening, knocking him off his sister. Una takes the moment to grab the keys again and manages to free her father. Fidel then turns to face the duke, throwing his chains at the duke's face . . . a good maneuver, I think! Turn what you have on  hand into a weapon.

But then the Duke grabs Felix and is about to make an end of him.

Then Aethelbald takes hold of the duke's blade in his bare hand, pulling it out of the duke's grasp and rescuing Felix . . . all setting up for one of the more important symbols to come in the next chapter.

Just in time, Fidel grabs his children and drags them behind the stone. Fire roars over them, filling all the world. The duke screams for an instant, then his voice is cut off forever.

And when the fire passes, Una jumps out and looks to where Aethelbald and the duke were but moments ago. And she sees only charred bones.

My Personal Favorite Lines

1. The soft gold melted at the touch of his hands, and the elegant curves sank into an unlovely lump. He tossed it back to the pile with a smile. The shape was nothing, the beauty unnecessary. All that matter was the gold. (p. 341)

2. His black cloak billowed into black wings, and his body became long and sinewy and horrible by the time he reached the broken gate. The men of Shippening scurried from his path like so many cockroaches scuttling into safe nooks in the rubble of the wall. (p. 343)

Questions on the Text.

1. What do you think it means when Aethelbald tells the Dragon that he has come to claim Una's heart?

2. Given everything that has happened, do you think it is still difficult for Una to trust Aethelbald when he says he'll come back for her? Or do you think she is now free of those doubts?

3.  Favorite lines?