Sunday, January 13, 2013

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!!!


Beka said...

It's so sad that it's come to an end, but it was soooo much fun! Thanks for taking the time to host it! :D It's been awesome hearing all the answers to our questions! God bless you! <3

1) I think my favourite part of Heartless was... all of it? I honestly can't choose, because every part is so unique and important in its own way!

2) Felix, because he's exactly the type of little brother I've always wanted....

3) I saw a lot of myself in Una, and that's been a revelation. It's given me a place to start from, to try to shape my life differently.

4) YES!!!!! Umm, since I haven't read any of the other ones, I'm just going to say.... Starflower?

Bookishqueen said...

2)Monster is awesome from this book. But over all the others, I have a different one.

4)I would love one for Starflower, since that is the one I am going to read next. That way I could answer the questions without knowing what was happening.

Also, I love the picture of the dress and think it would be great as Una's wedding dress.

Anna C. said...

1. I suppose my favorite part was Felix's goodbye to Una (right before she gets married). I know it's kinda anticlimactic after all the fighting-Dragons and beautiful-professions-of-love, but that little scene always made me happy (I have an annoying but somewhat lovable brother myself, so maybe it was just really personal.)

2. In the series overall, Monster/Eanrin is my favorite, but in Heartless, Felix wins hands down. He reminds me of practically every boy I know (including my brother). Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is up in the air at this point. :)

3. Yes, but I haven't quite been able to formulate the idea in my head yet, so I'll just say yes, I learned something about myself and my Faith.

4. Yes!!! Mmmm, probably Starflower, because I love Eanrin, and I really really REALLY like the fact that you based the plot/theme of the story off of one of my favorite poems (which I shall not mention so that I don't give anything away).

Thank you so much for doing this read-along! It has been very fun and educational and cool. :D

Courtney said...

4.I think it would be fun to do another read along. I don't know if I will have time for it. (being my last semester in college) We shall see... I love the insight that these bring to the stories though so even if I can't type comments, I probably would go back and read some of it.

Meredith said...

1. It's so difficult to choose a favorite portion of this book, but I'd probably have to say Chapter 35 and onward through Aethelbald's confrontation with the Dragon. Amazing! I love these scenes because they reiterate the necessity of surrender and the fact that evil is indeed frightening but God is always victorious in the end. I love the fact that the Dragon was vanquished by something that was seemingly small, yet in reality was not. Hope that statement makes sense.

2. My favorite character was Monster. I loved his loyalty to Aethelbald and their interactions. He seems boisterous and audacious toward his prince at times, yet you can definitely see the respect he has for Aethelbald. Also, the fact that Monster is blind resonated so strongly with me, of course. It's very rare to encounter a blind hero in fantasy literature. Thank you. My other favorite characters are, of course, Una and Aethelbald.

3. Your story reminded me that God chooses the weak and often overlooked people. Aethelbald chose a stuttering and stubborn princess for his bride; a person who surrendered totally to evil. A truly moving depiction of grace. Also, his knights, (particularly Monster and Sir Oeric), are inferior in the eyes of others yet are regarded as true servants in Aethelbald's eyes. So, your novel gave me lots of encouragement and reminded me that God's opinion is the only one that truly matters.

4. Yes, another read-along would be outstanding! I'd be interested in a read-along of either Veiled Rose or Starflower.

Thanks so very much for such an enlightening and fun read-along. Also please remember that Una is a wonderful character. I'm not quite sure why the negative reviewers are so down on her, but she's so relatable. God bless you.

Anonymous said...

1. The whole book is my favorite part.

2. A tie between Una and Felix. Una is a favorite because she isn't as 'tough-as-nails' for a heroine; Felix is a favorite because he is just funny.

3. Not that I've learned anything, but I've been reminded of some of the characteristics of God.

4. It is a little sad to come to the final chapter in this read-along. Yes. Which book? I don't know.

To salve their wounded dignity, those selfsame tailors pounced upon the Prince of Parumvir, Felix--as he'd suspected would be his fate--was stuffed into the stiffest, most choking of lace collars, complete with little jewels dripping along the edges, a set of sleeves so puffy and slashed with scarlet silk that he thought he might tip over if they weren't perfectly balanced out by yet more dangling jewels, and a pair of shoes that curled at the toes. pg. 361


Jennette said...

This read along has been awesome, will be missing it.

1. That is such a hard question. I think when Aethelbald triumphs, Una sees the truth, she lets him kill the dragon, and then their wedding. Sigh. Such a beautiful story!

2. Not sure about favorite. I love how they all interact with each other, but I do like Felix, Monster, Una & Aethelbald the best. ha!

Felix & Monster for their comic relief, & their hearts. Una for I can relate so completely with her in her struggles. and of course Aethelbald, for his steadiness, trustworthiness, integrity. not swayed by others around him. his quiet confidence.

3. Now that's a deep question. ha! It reminds to step back and realize I can't kill the dragon on my own, that only Christ can, and in submitting to Him, then I can have life.

4. I would love to do another read along with ya. Veiled Rose would be cool as it is the next book. Starflower would be awesome too, I've yet to read Veiled Rose & Moonblood, but will be fixing that soon. :-)

I really appreciate you taking the time to do this with us. Life is so busy, and at Christmas time too. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing Heartless! I am looking forward to reading it with my child(ren) when they are older. It is one of those wonderful combinations of story and message, if you understand what I mean.

Christa said...

I'm glad to hear that you have plans for Una in the future! I don't know why some readers hate her, as I found her very relate-able to myself at some points. I feel pretty sad that this has come to an end, too. This was a lot of fun!

1. Chapter 35 was my favorite serious moment. My favorite comical moment was in Chapter 9 when Eanrin gives Aethelbald advice on women.

2. Prince Aethelbald. I'm not sure why, but I'm always drawn to the Christ figure whether it's Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia or the Prince of Farthestshore here in these Tales of Goldstone Wood. Perhaps because he represents the True Hero. Some readers like heroes who have flaws in them, to make them "more interesting" is what I heard. And true, most heroes in books aren't perfect. But I like the True Hero who I know is just, true, good, noble, honest, etc. because Christ is the ultimate Hero. All that He did and does is for our good. (And I better stop now before I start preaching. =P lol!) I have a question for whoever can answer me: Any other books that you know of that have a Christ figure in them besides Narnia?

3. I could probably go on and on about what I learned, so I'll say yes, I learned about myself, God, and my faith in this book.

4. I'd like to do the read-along again. I'd like to read Veiled Rose.

Clara said...

Such a perfect conclusion to a perfect book!

1. I cannot--CANNOT choose a favorite part. That is an impossible question for me to answer.

2. Eanrin!!! He's brave, a bit proud, and is very loyal. But I also love Una. She is so much like me, (and I'm sure alot of other girls) it's easy for me to relate to her.

3. Oh my yes. After reading Heartless, I cried. You painted such an accurate picture of my life, and the "Prince" I sometimes choose to ignore. This fantasy fiction book has given me more insight than many devotionals that I've read!

4. Ooooh! yesss! Veiled Rose would be nice...might as well go in order:)

(I'm going to pick up some drawing books from Hobby Lobby, and I'm going to give drawing a go! I saw a particularly nice one about faeries and dragons...)

Hannah said...

Oh, I love the ending to this story! But now it's all over! =(

The wedding dress is just gorgeous and Una looks so very sweet? Where did you get that picture? Did you design it on some sort of website?

I'm much intrigued to hear that we learn more of the child leading the lion. When I went to write my short story, I was unsure whether to write about the child with the lion or the girl with the frog. Guess I chose the right one! :)

1. I loved the whole book!

2. My heart screams "EANRIN!" But that's because I've read all four books. My brain reminds me that when I first read this book my favorite was probably Felix or Una. But I did really like Eanrin too!

3. I don't think that I can figure out a good question to this answer. All I can say is that I was very touched and encouraged by the message in this story. It is so beautiful.

4. It would make sense to go in order, but I impatiently say "Starflower!" Nevertheless, "Veiled Rose" is great too.

@ Clara: I think it's SO great that you're pursuing drawing. It's tough work, but very rewarding! :)

@ Christa: You asked Anne about books with Christ-like figures in them. A couple years ago, I read two corresponding fantasy series called "The Kingdom Series," and "The Knights of Arrethtrae" by Chuck Black. The first series is written more for middle-schoolers, but the second series got longer and better. They are beautiful allegories. I enjoyed them, especially the second series.

Becky said...

Thank you, Anne Elisabeth for hosting the read-along for Heartless! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments and insights, as well as the comments of all the others. I fell way behind in my reading, but don't be surprise if some of my comments show up over the next couple of years! I have had the book read to me, but while reading some of the comments, I would think, I don't remember that part. Reading Heartless along with your comments is something I would really love to finish. I'm looking forward to the next read-along, and I think in published order would be great, but if you choose otherwise, that would be wonderful also. :o)

Your story communicated so beautifully the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, to His church, to me, to you.

Somewhere in the middle of the read-along you mentioned that your brother was a highly decorated helicopter pilot with the Air Force Search and Rescue team. When I mentioned it to my son(Hannah's brother), who is a helicopter enthusiast and a member of our county search and rescue team, his head whipped around and he said, "In my opinion, the Air Force has the best search and rescue team in the world!" So, please let your brother know how much we appreciate his service to our country!

Ladies, it has be great reading your comments! Thanks again, Anne!
Blessings to all!

Hannah said...

Hi Christa!

I just heard the song you suggest for the end credits of a dream-movie version of Heartless. "Wedding Day" by Casting Crowns is so PERFECT for the end!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

Molly said...

1. That is a hard question. I love it all!

2. You must get this a lot...but Eanrin is porbably my favorite. Partly because of Hannah W.'s drawings...I am SO in love with them. (I tried printing them, but we got a new printer and it was working funny and COMPLETELY cut out Eanrin, minus the hand and knee, which were still confusingly seen...)
I do like Aethelbald a lot too. He's so calm...and other words I just can't describe.
And Felix and Una....I have quite a few favorites.

3. Why, yes, I learned that you shouldn't judge someone by their outward appearance and name. I always had trouble with that, but not so much now.

4. I completely agree with Clara. Veiled Rose would be UTTERLY and COMPLETELY awesome to do. (hey, maybe I'll send in some drawings for it too, who knows?)
PLEASE do another read-along!!

OH my GOODNESS you are SUCH an amazing artist. I'm trying to learn to draw better, and only just recently learned that I can't possibly be done with a drawing in an hour.... :/ but it's fun.

I almost laughed when I saw those three questions (including mine) that all asked about Una. Who cares if someone else doesn't like her, she's wonderful all the same.

Hannah said...

I'm glad you liked my drawings of Eanrin, Molly! I'm so sorry that you're printer isn't working. That's a bummer. :(
Be patient with's worth it!

Molly said...

Oh goody I got one printed right!!! yay oh yay!!

I'll try to be patient... I do know its worth it and I get excited about it and I love to draw so patience will be a new but rewarding thing for me haha! :)

Molly said...

OH and I forgot to mention to Miss Anne Elisabeth that I LOVE Una's dress!!!!!!!

Hannah said...

Yay, it worked! Just out of curiosity, which picture did you print?
Keep up the good work on drawing...there's an art contest coming up here! :)

Molly said...

I printed the one of Eanrin and Immeraldera in the Haven, and I'm going to print "On the Shores of Gorm-Uisce". I'm debating whether to print "Oeric Pledges Service" or "Immeraldera Has Her Say". I love the latter one a LOT.

Christa said...

@Hannah: You're welcome. ;) When I first heard "Wedding Day" I was immediately reminded of Heartless, but I couldn't find the perfect moment to share it with everybody until now. =)
And I have indeed read "The Kingdom Series". Since it's geared towards middle school kids, I didn't really enjoy it as much as I had hoped. But since you say that "The Knights of Arrethtrae" is better, I'm willing to give it a shot.

Hannah said...

@Christa: Hope you enjoy them! They're each stand-alone novels except for "Sir Dalton" and "Lady Carlis" which have to be read in that order. "Lady Carlis" is the best of them though, in my opinion.

Meredith said...

To Ms. Christa:

You asked about other books with Christ figures. There are lots of excellent ones. One that I really enjoy is entitled Arena, by Karen Hancock. Be warned that some scenes are kind of violent, but she handles things very tastefully. Also, if you haven't read Calvin Miller's The Singer Trilogy, then it is one of the most beautiful allegories I've ever read. It's written in a free verse style, yet it's beautifully descriptive. Also, The Door Within trilogy by Wayne Thomas Batsun is good, too, and The Archives of Anthropos series by John White, (I think that's his name). Hope these recommendations help you. I love allegories with a passion!

Have also listened to The Kingdom series and The Knights of Arrethtrae series. Excellent.

Meredith said...

Oh my, Ms. Christa. I've just located the song you suggested to correspond with Heartless. So very beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl said...

@Those who asked . . . The picture of Una in her wedding dress was made on the website Doll Divine with "The Tudors" game. I enjoy making Goldstone Wood characters on there upon occasion. I might even host a character/dress-design contest on there one of these days to win a book! :)

Molly said...

That would be FUN. I hope you do. @Anne Elisabeth :)

Christa said...

@Meredith: You are most welcome. =)
And thank you for suggesting those books. When I have the time, I'll try to read them.

Maiden G. said...

What do you mean you don't write romance stories?!?!? ALL of the Tales of Goldstone Wood is romance, really.

And, I am now gi\oing to shift completely through 'Moonblood' for reference.
1) EANRIN. I feel awful saying this, but he was both my favorite part, and character.
3) I was saved only a few months before I read Heartless, and I can't begin to tell you what I feel that did for me. Thank you.

I have loved this read-along, and even though this comment is late, thank you for doing it.

God bless, Maiden G.

Rebekah said...

First off, I LOVE Una's dress!
4) Please, YES! I would love what ever book you did, but I would especially love STARFLOWER.

And I love how you have, at the end of Heartless, 'The story has just begun....' Because, really, the seris started at the end, in a way!

Thank You so much, Anne Elisabeth Stangl, for writing the book, hosting this blog, and being just generally awesome!