Goddess Tithe Cover Reveal!

23 September 2013

I'm pleased as punch, as the old saying goes, to be participating in today's cover reveal for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's first Goldstone Wood novella, Goddess Tithe! This newest tale from Stengl, the first  in her series to feature illustrations and to be published by Rooglewood Press, will stand as an in-between story before Shadow Hand's big release in Spring 2013. The book picks up in the middle of Veiled Rose and follows young Munny, a cabin boy onboard the Kulap Kanya. Read the description below and see if it does not pique your interest! As an added bonus, Anne Elisabeth has also shared about her adventures designing the cover, the story behind the illustrations, a sneak peak of Chapter 1, and a giveaway! That's more than enough to tide us over until November, is it not?

the story

The Vengeful Goddess Demands Her Tithe

When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home.

Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.

Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?

Due to release November 12, 2013.

the cover

I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (www.phatpuppyart.com), whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.

The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny, and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.

You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!

the illustrations

There are eight full-page illustrations in Goddess Tithe featuring various characters and events from the story. This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.
I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus the perspective of age.

an excerpt

“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
 Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. “We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door open.

Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the ocean. And he saw them.
 They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.

the giveaway

Anne Elisabeth is offering two (2) proof copies of Goddess Tithe as prizes! Enter your name in the Rafflecopter below for the chance to win one for yourself.

the author

Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.

A Splintered Fragment

13 September 2013

we have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. 
j.r.r. tolkien

I don't know where the summer went. They tell me it disappeared back of the north wind for a time, and I'm still deciding whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I love autumn, but my sentimental side hates to see anything leave. Autumn means cozy sweaters and boots at long last, mugs of steaming tea clenched in cold fingers, and windy azure afternoons spent buried beneath piles of books and apples, but with summer flees the majority of my leisure hours. Ah, well, c'est la vie.


School and work and the occasional nine hour drive to visit my grandmother (actually, that only happened once) have consumed my time. I dream of the theoretically lazy summer days, but between teaching American history, dancing, and working, they never really arrived. I suppose that's a good thing; as my father always used to say when we were very small, "Remember, people in the real world don't get whole summers and their birthdays off from work!" I haven't felt like a child for nearly a decade, but it seems like all the stereotypical milestones of adulthood — driver's license, paying job, college searching — have come crashing down upon me at once. I don't like crashing. I like when one things falls gently and orderly after another, like the pearls slipping off a string that Anne Shirley once mentioned.


Slowly but surely, I've been adjusting to my school schedule, and that means more time for fun reading. At least, think it's fun. My literature choices may be a bit eclectic for some. I finished The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer on that aforementioned nine hour drive (official review coming shortly), and poor Bree had to ask me to stop quoting at her since she didn't want the story ruined. (She's reading it now, by the by, and she couldn't get past the first page without laughing and quoting at least three times each.) I always said I'd never read a romance (contrary to popular opinion, Jane Austen's novels are satirical comedies of manners), but as The Grand Sophy is so much more than your typical romantic comedy, I feel somewhat gratified. Both Abigail and Jenny had wholeheartedly recommended it, and I certainly wasn't disappointed. Truly, it's a rip-roaring novel filled to the brim with witty banter, unforgettable characters, ridiculous entanglements, and more than a dosing of matchmaking gone right. You must read it for yourselves, but I wouldn't recommend drinking tea at the same time, as the results aren't pretty.

Now to get back to that long-abandoned Count of Monte Cristo.


Rifles in the South Field needs to be finished. I tremble at the thought of cracking open that document after over a month of ignoring it. More to the point, I tremble at even admitting that here, but blogging, while not soul-baring, should always be truthful. I have all the ideas in my head, but actually sitting down and typing them out intimidates me, so I frequently push it to the proverbial back-burner. I need to work on that. Goodness gracious, more self-improvement. I'll start to sound like something of a Transcendentalist if I'm not careful.

As regards other projects, I've been scribbling notes and gaining inspiration at every corner, but all the while trying to keep it moderately supressed for a time. My goal is to have my next novel fleshed out and outlined by the time I've finished Rifles, but that doesn't allow for editing, of course, so there will be some overlapping here and there. I'm trying not to think about NaNoWriMo at this point, and yet all the while it knocks on the back of my brain. I'm still not sure whether I'll join this year: please await further developments on that front.

"By diligence and patience, the mouse bit in two the cable."

Every Breath We Drew Was Hallelujah

06 September 2013

Back when I answered Meghan's questionnaire, I mentioned that I'm very picky with my writing music. I can't write without it, as my pen tends to grow dry without a tune to jog it along every now and again, but the majority of it has to be instrumental, or else I struggle with focusing on the task at hand. Words in my head and words in my ears do not mesh well together. But even though I don't listen to a lot of lyrical music while I'm writing, music still remains a heavy influence over all the stories in my head. One line in a song can spark an idea that, in time, becomes a suitable plot. I thought it would be interesting to share a few of these songs, lyrical or otherwise, that tie with my characters. As a little caveat, I have seen this idea floating around the blogosphere from time to time, but I can't recall who first started it, so I'll only say that it did not originate with me, and leave it at that.

violet bradshaw

I could hardly write such a post without mentioning the first of my characters to ever see the light of day. Even as I grow in my writing and am able to recognize the errors I made in my earlier attempts, I will always have a warm hollow in my heart for Vi and the rest of the Bradshaw family. "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North reminds me so much of Violet, particularly near the end of Violets Are Blue. She reaches a point where she grows tired of fighting, tired of weeping, tired of all emotion. She is simply worn and doesn't know how to remedy that.

let me see redemption win
let me know the struggle ends
that you can mend a heart
that’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
from the ashes of a broken life
and all that’s dead inside can be reborn
'cause I’m worn

susannah dixon

As the main character of Rifles in the South Field, she gets two songs. The first is "Song For the Broken" by Barlow Girl (an odd choice, I know), which has elements in it that resonate with Susannah. That steadfast, hardworking, stoic attitude is very much a part of her and something she struggles to shed in part throughout the course of the book.

(oh why does it take so much?)
to bring me to my knees,
(oh why does it take so much?)
pain for me to see,
(if strength is only found when)
I am on my knees,
(why is it so hard)
to show that I am weak?

The second song is "Paradise" by Coldplay, which has more to do with Susannah's early years than anything else. The sense of childlike faith and dreams that pervades the song corresponds perfectly with her personality as a young girl.

when she was just a girl
she expected the world
but it flew away from her reach
and the bullets catch in her teeth

life goes on, it gets so heavy
the wheel breaks the butterfly
every tear a waterfall
in the night, the stormy night, she'd close her eyes
in the night, the stormy night, away she'd fly . . .

kenneth hughes

There's something about "Some Nights" by Fun* (the clean version, that is) that fits Kenneth perfectly. It can make for depressing listening when taken in large doses and doesn't fall along the lines of my usual music preferences, but it's a remarkable echo of my British infantryman's heart. He didn't choose his battle, and when called to defend his land, he struggles to rationalize shedding his blood for a cause in which he puts no faith.

but I still wake up, I still see your ghost 
oh Lord, I'm still not sure what I stand for 
what do I stand for? what do I stand for? 
most nights, I don't know... 


Mercédès has lived in my head since the spring, but she's only been the subject of a few hastily scribbled scenes and a secret Pinterest board since, as she and her world are not quite ready to see the light of day. In time I will reveal some, but for now, I enjoy holding her story very close to my heart. The significance of Sara Groves' "Painting Pictures of Egypt" rings so true for Merche that it can cause a subtle ache to rise in my throat if I listen to the song too closely. As I mentioned a several weeks ago, Mercédès is a stranger in a strange land, learning about and adjusting to customs that could not be farther from her own.

the past is so tangible
I know it by heart
familiar things are never easy 
to discard
I was dying for some freedom
but now I hesitate to go
I am caught between the promise
and the things I know

I've been painting pictures of egypt
leaving out what it lacks
the future feels so hard
and I want to go back
but the places that used to fit me
cannot hold the things I've learned
those roads were closed off to me
while my back was turned

stephen & agnes randolph

You haven't met them yet, save for a picture of Agnes in one of my three (!) posts in August, but I could hardly resist leaving this husband and wife out of the mix. Their relationship has a distinctly unique nature, and I can't wait to explore and develop it further after I finish Rifles in the South Field. "Dancing in the Minefields" by Andrew Peterson, a favorite of mine already, was and continues to be a source of inspiration.

'cause we bear the light of the Son of Man
so there's nothing left to fear
and I'll walk with you through the shadowlands
'til the shadows disappear


Again, someone I haven't officially introduced on Literary Lane. Giles hails from a novel that won't be written for at least two more years, but inspiration is a fickle creature, and I've learned to snatch him up when I can. "A Place Only You Can Go" by Needtobreathe matches him perfectly. He's a simple character and a man of few words, but his love runs as deep as anyone else.

take my notions and words to heart
this is the cry of a man
I can't bring you fortune or noble life
but I'll love you all I can

oh, I know this song won't do
enough to prove my love to you
in my heart you'll always know
there is a place only you can go


Rowen's theme, "For the Love of a Princess" from the Braveheart* soundtrack, remains the only movie track I've included in this post. I meant for the focus to be on music with lyrics that coincide with or inspire my characters, but Rowen can be such a shadow of a girl sometimes that only an instrumental piece will suffice. The haunting and lonesome melody reminds me so much of her.

What songs define your characters?

*I can't recommend any other songs by this band, having not heard any more myself, but I would definitely advise listening to their music with caution. I also have not seen Braveheart, but I love the soundtrack, as I'm sure you know full well.

Book Review: Moonblood by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

03 September 2013

Writing book reviews, like writing books, grows harder still with each review I write. Every time I sit down to share my thoughts on my most recent read, my brain shuts down and refuses to offer up a single intelligent statement. Maybe it's a good thing, then, that most of my book reviews remain drafts for a month or two after I finish the book itself, as that keeps me from out and out gushing. I've found that the best way to write up a review is to leave the book for a time until you're able to adequately cover its most valuable aspects, while Goodreads is better suited to the squealing and gushing that naturally follow the completion of an excellent story.

In other words, I've had this post in my drafts folder for over two months, and I'm decidedly unapologetic.

By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
*Summary taken from Goodreads.com

Desperate to regain the trust of his kingdom, Prince Lionheart reluctantly banishes his faithful servant and only friend, Rose Red. Now she is lost in the hidden realm of Arpiar, held captive by her evil goblin father, King Vahe. 

Vowing to redeem himself, Lionheart plunges into the mysterious Goldstone Wood, seeking Rose Red. In strange other worlds, Lionheart must face a lyrical yet lethal tiger, a fallen unicorn, and a goblin horde on his quest to rescue the girl he betrayed. 

With the Night of Moonblood fast approaching, when King Vahe seeks to wake the Dragon's sleeping children, Lionheart must discover whether or not his heart contains courage before it's too late for Rose Red . . . and all those he loves.

My Thoughts: As those of you who have read my reviews for Heartless and Veiled Rose are aware, I have a pet interest in Lionheart, alias Leonard the Lightning Tongue. After two books of watching him struggle and fail, I rejoiced at the chance to see him redeemed. True, the beginning of Moonblood didn't encourage me much — banishing the only faithful friend you've ever had isn't the most conventional way of turning your life around — but he soon realizes the ghastly mistake he's made. Before long, the former prince is valiantly journeying through Goldstone Wood with skeptical Eanrin by his side, bent on retrieving his dear friend and subsequently scrubbing the stain from his name once and for all. But can he manage to fulfill such an impossible task in the few days left to his disposal?

The quality of Anne Elisabeth's writing improves drastically with each story. I enjoyed Moonblood even more than Veiled Rose and Heartless, and I have no doubt the books that follow in her series will be better still. This brings to the surface one of the elements in Stengl's writing that I so appreciate — she's never afraid to keep improving her craft, even though there was little at fault from book one. She maintains her original style, a charming mix of ancient fairytales, modern expressions, and Christian allegory, and yet with each book I grow, as Alice would have it, curiouser and curiouser to read more of her tales. She truly is a gifted wordcrafter.

Pros: The allegory within Moonblood is expertly woven, and the fantasy is at it's prime. Each layer runs deeper and deeper in much the same manner as King Vahe's veils until you're completely entangled. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and even stayed up past 3 A.M. at one point for the purpose of having some of my curiosity satisfied.

Cons: Violence is a darker, albeit necessary, aspect of this book. I did not find it excessive, but between it and the one or two instances of strong language, I would not recommend Moonblood for younger readers.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 12+

A Bit O' Reading For the Day:
“I'll never tell you to stop loving. You see, I believe in hopeless love. Oh yes. I believe in it with all my heart, though you may discount the heart of an old nanny like me. For real love brings pain. Real love means sacrifices and hurts and all the thousand shocks of life. But it also means beauty, true beauty.” — Moonblood
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