Golden Daughter Cover Reveal

24 February 2014

Two weeks ago I mentioned that it never rains, but pours, and the sentiment continues to prove true. Coming just on the heels of Rachel Heffington's exciting debut release, we have the cover reveal for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's newest novel, Golden Daughter. Keep reading for a sneak peek at this next Goldstone Wood installment!

Coming November 2014


Masayi Sairu was raised to be dainty, delicate, demure . . . and deadly. She is one of the emperor's Golden Daughters, as much a legend as she is a commodity. One day, Sairu will be contracted in marriage to a patron, whom she will secretly guard for the rest of her life.

But when she learns that a sacred Dream Walker of the temple seeks the protection of a Golden Daughter, Sairu forgoes marriage in favor of this role. Her skills are stretched to the limit, for assassins hunt in the shadows, and phantoms haunt in dreams. With only a mysterious Faerie cat and a handsome slave—possessed of his own strange abilities—to help her, can Sairu shield her new mistress from evils she can neither see nor touch?

For the Dragon is building an army of fire. And soon the heavens will burn.

If you’d like to learn more about Golden Daughtervisit the book page for interesting articles, 
illustrations, excerpts, and more! 

anne elisabeth, author of Golden Daughter

Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. Her books include Christy Award-winning Heartless and Veiled Rose and Clive Staples Award-winning Starflower. She makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, 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 and English literature at Grace College and Campbell University.

julia popova, cover designer

Julia Popova is a digital artist from Russia. She lives in Novosibirsk city.
She devoted a long period of time to studying programs of digital image processing. Every day she creates new photo-art uniting fantasy and technical experience. This is a perfect way to allure audience into a bright world of art and happiness, to share dreams and ideas. Julia makes an emphasis on kindness and positive principle. For her digital photo-art is a hobby which grows into work. Work that becomes as pleasant as hobby.
Julia has higher economic education. In addition she studied in art school for a long time. She uses Adobe Photoshop CS5 Extended, Wacom Intuos 4 and stock images for photomanipulation.
Julia is 26 years old. She is happily married. Visit her website here.

join the giveaway

Anne Elisabeth is offering one lucky reader the choice of any two Goldstone Wood novels as a prize! The winner can choose from Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, or Shadow Hand. U.S and Canada residents only, please.

On Christian Sincerity

18 February 2014

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
martin luther

I realize in writing this post that I'm going to be stepping on more than a few toes. Up to this point, I've kept these thoughts close to my chest, thinking and feeling them all the same, but only sharing them with my parents and Bree on certain occasions. The reason for breaking my silence is not a great one; rather, my thoughts have matured and rounded out to the point that I now know I can express them. What was first only a nagging feeling is now a professed statement. 

Brevity being the soul of wit, I will toss aside my own Poloniesque verbosity and cut quickly to the chase:

do Christian authors have to write Christian heros?

Christian authors seem to feel that it would be a denial of God's righteous sovereignty not to either (a) have a Christian protagonist or (b) include the dreaded conversion scene that has become the hallmark of most sentimental drivel. We are Christians, and we know that only those who proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord will live with Him in eternity, but this conviction gives us a peculiar worry that if we don't put a shiny "Christian" sticker on every admirable character we write, our readers will begin to suspect a lapse in our faith.

Is this really our measure of "doing all to the glory of God": an automatic, superficial response, as easily decided as the shoe-crosses Luther mentioned?

Characters matter more to me than any other aspect in a work of literature, because they provide the lens through which I'm going to view a story. I crave something rich and personable in the literary folk I enounter, and this is seldom found within the realm of Christan fiction. Specifically speaking, I do not dismiss Christian characters. When an author takes it upon himself to present a follower of Christ in a realistic and God-honoring fashion, I praise his effort. But herein lies the sting: they rarely do it well.

We've all seen the covers, read the predictable summaries, and passed on to something new. I'm not necessarily referring to Elsie Dinsmore, though she and her ilk have certainly left their mark, but to modern Christian fiction that falls short of real Christan standards. We have the Bible as our model, a book of history, prophecy, poetry, and wisdom; naturally, our own stories will always fall short in some way or another. The object here is not perfection, but glorifying the One Who called us into being. And to be brutally honest, the majority of the literature published under a Christian label is not fulfilling that purpose. We want to proclaim Christ's Name boldy, but what we're really doing is reducing a life of faith to superficial triviality. Dorothy Sayers said it best in her essay, "The Dogma is the Drama"—

We have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore—and this in the Name of One who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which He passed through this world like a flame. Let us, in Heaven's name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of splipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction.

Lewis and Tolkien are praised today as two of the best Christian writers of the twentieth century (and possibly of all time). We lift them up on golden pedestals and erect their stories beside them, drawing rich quotes, stunning plots, and Biblical parallels from the books — and yet, neither Tolkien nor Lewis mentioned Jesus Christ explicitly in their stories, nor did they label their characters "Christians." Their focus — as ours should be — was on writing well, which ultimately means writing truthfully. Tolkien does not need to mention the Devil, for in Sauron we recognize the face of the Evil One and rejoice in his ultimate demise. Lewis creates our sin in Edmund, and though we despise the boy for his betrayal, we also see the same darkness in our own souls and the necessity of a glorious redemption that cannot come from ourselves.

They were strong Christian men whose faith few could deny, and today their names are inscribed on British Literature's page. Hundreds of thousands of readers, Christian and atheist alike, have felt their heartstrings plucked by these two humble British scholars, while you'll rarely find a nonbeliever popping into LifeWay for the next saccharine Amish installment.

wherein lies the difference?

These authors read the right books. They acted justly, loved mercy, and walked humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). Their passion for stories, myths, and legends in all their multi-faceted glory drove them, and in their extraordinarily ordinary tales we recognize the same probing nature of Jesus' parables. Like Christ, they never hand the story's heart to their readers in a glass case that we might see it before we believe it; we must accept it before we can understand it. To the nonbeliever, Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, Space Trilogy, and Till We Have Faces are tales told well, but to the believer, they are so much more! Rather than cheapening the Gospel and making it milk for babes, they offer meat that must be chewed thoroughly before its flavor can be known.

May we strive for the same with the books we write.

Book Review: Fly Away Home by Rachel Heffington

15 February 2014

This book, to use the vernacular of its author, is an absolutely ducky read. When Rachel was planning her blog tour to celebrate Fly Away Home's release and asked if I'd be interested in featuring the novel, I decided that the best option would be to put up a review. I had the opportunity to read it in one of its draft stages, and I wanted to review it, but having no cover to attach with the post (trivial, I know, but a review is bland without a pretty cover), I delayed. Today, just one day after Fly Away Home hit the publishing world with a splendid bang, you can see what I thought of this story about the clash between the material and the eternal.

Fly Away Home
By Rachel Heffington

Self preservation has never looked more tempting. 

1952 New York City: 
Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point. 

The new friendship sparks, the project soars, and a faint suspicion that she is fall for this uncommon man grows in Callie's heart. When the secrets of Callie's past are exhumed and hung over her head as a threat, she is forced to scrutinize Wade Barnett and betray his dirtiest secrets or see her own spilled. 

Here there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life.

My Thoughts: First, I should set the record straight and say that I rarely read recently-published historical romance. The quality of the writing and the feel of the era tend to be sacrificed on the altar of romance and audience reception. Myself, I'd rather tuck away in a corner with some obscure old classic in which the author actually knew what he was doing. But Fly Away Home is so different from your typical historical romance, as anyone who knows Rachel Heffington could predict. The flavor of the time period, the characterization, the dialogue, and the plot progression are all so well executed that it leaves most historical romance "one hundred yards behind, trying to catch up."

This novel is terribly fun, soaked in the colorful history of the era and sprinkled with Hepburnism, but it's not fluff. Rachel deals with some more serious issues in Callie's scarred past, and her light and witty tone thinly obscures the deeper themes she threads underneath. At its heart, Fly Away Home is a story about a lost and illusioned young woman coming face to face with the reality of society. Mr. Barnett's influence — sometimes subtle, sometimes distinct — works on her heart, and though she flounders and rebels, it forces her to analyze the values she's always held close. Is material success really satisfying? Do I have to hide the dark secrets of my past? Is there another way for me to live a happy life? Rachel answers these questions and more in a creative, endearing, and ultimately thought-provoking novel. This is a book worth picking up.

Pros: The witty dialogue is definitely the strongest aspect of Fly Away Home, with the characters falling close behind. Callie and Mr. Barnett meet contrarily on several core issues, and the resulting banter and occasional verbal sparring are diverting to read. I knew I'd love Wade Barnett from the moment Rachel introduced him on her blog, but Callie surprised me, drew me to her with the combined effect of her mottled past and still mottled present, and I enjoyed her honesty and her occasional absurdities. She and Mr. Barnett make a fantastic team. As a caveat, I appreciated every little hat-tip to the time period or a work of classic fiction. Dickens, Wodehouse, and Chesterton all receive a subtle nod, and this was enough to thrill my literary soul.

Cons: One of the characters is rumored to be having an affair, but the supposed circumstances are not detailed. Mr. Barnett comes across as preachy on some occasions, and some of his speeches seem a little out of character and heavy-handed. The theology is sound, though, and creatively presented the majority of the time.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
I recommend this book for ages 15+ because of the more mature themes. 

A Bit o' Reading For the Day:
"Who do we love stories? Why are we addicted to knowing what happened? Because we are part of a Story. A drama. We were made for something more than this—we are always seeing glimpses, hearing news, feeling breezes from the Ever-after. And because we do not acknowledge that we are beings—souls—created for eternity, we are left with an empty ache. We refuse to see our story, and thus we lead empty half-lives, under the shadow of a longing for something—Someone—we push away." — Fly Away Home

rachel heffington, author of Fly Away Home

Rachel Heffington is a Christian, a novelist, and a people-lover. Outside of the realm of words, Rachel enjoys the Arts, traveling, mucking about in the kitchen, listening for accents, and making people laugh. She dwells in rural Virginia with her boisterous family and her black cat, Cricket. Visit her at The Inkpen Authoress to learn more about her upcoming projects!

Rachel's giving away two authographed copies of Fly Away Home on her blog this week — go enter!

Filling Teacups — Sneak Peek

13 February 2014

Back in January, Dani Fisher first reached out to me about writing  a guest post for her blog, A Vapor in the Wind. It's been too long since I've written an honest-to-goodness guest post (in this stage of life I just try to keep the books dusted and the flowers fresh here at Literary Lane), and it was a treat to have the chance to write something for a group of people I don't yet know. I'm sharing a section of my article here in hopes it will whet your interest!

sneak peek

Dinner-time conversations are always interesting ones. We sit around the long wooden table that's scuffed and marked and dinged and has seen more flour spills and soup spills and milk spills than you can count, and in between the chatter, the high giggles, and the interruptions of "pass the rice, please," and a less patient "where's the butter?", we drop seeds with our words. Not all thoughts are brilliant ones — and when we're hungry, the majority are far from it — but every once in a while, the seed falls just so, working its way through the old wooden table and the fabric of our clothes, and nests in our bosoms. There it stays, silent, hidden, until an unexpected splash of water calls it into life and the small green bud pushes itself out of uncomfortable soil and into the light.

Several weeks ago we had a guest for dinner, which meant our own free clamor was diminished as Daddy guided the conversation into more significant avenues. The talk turned to grandparents, specifically my father's father, who passed away in 2011 at the age of ninety-two. Our favorite stories of Grampie are those that take place several decades before his death, way back into the high summer of my own father's childhood, a mismatched bundle including the story of the Native American man who ran a campground store and supposedly answered "Me fixum lantern" to my grandfather's request, the stories of playing at being business men in my grandfather's office and sneaking gumdrops from the secretary's glass jar, and the old, old tales of when he was a pale, skinny boy living in that tremulous time between the Great War and the war that followed it. But this night in particular we discussed his last years.

"You know," Daddy says between bites, "my father didn't retire until he was in his eighties." He went on to say how my grandmother had encouraged him to retire at an earlier age, but Grampie would not give in. He didn't think it was right to stop working when one was still hale and healthy and sharp of mind.

My father's words struck me curiously, though I didn't recall them until a week later, when I was bent on the ground, reorganizing a lower cupboard that flatly refused to stay neat. The sentiment came gushing back over me in a sudden rush. You see, my grandfather was not one of those men who lived for the profit. He didn't scrounge and save his money for retirement and spend his autumn years in the tropics, though he could have if he wanted to. Despite the polio that never left his leg and forced him to walk with a cane more than half his life, he rarely complained and he always worked hard. Even when we visited him in his later years, he was still lively and busy, always reading, always learning. He greeted us with a smile, a cheerful laugh, and an able mind, despite his clumsy, stiffening limbs. 

He was a simple man who lived a simple life in a simple town most people have never heard of. But he taught my father the value of honest labor, of taking pride in your craft and not the money it makes for you, and my father in his turn passes it down to us. 

I need hardly say that our world no longer regards labor as a legitimate virtue. We either squander our time in frivolity or we trudge through jobs that are only a means to an end, eyes alight for the next vacation or break. Work is loathsome, uncomfortable, and dirty. It forces you to sweat, cry, and sometimes even bleed. It's too much for our frail frames to subject ourselves to such conditions without receiving much in return. We shouldn't have to feel the splinters in our hands.

Are you ready for the harsh truth?

Writers do that too.

click here to read the rest of the post on A Vapor in the Wind!

Let the Quoting of Sonnet 116 Commence

12 February 2014

After almost a month of not blogging, this week is going to be a particularly busy one at Literary Lane. (The irony in the phrase "It never rains, but pours" does not escape me.) I've had a few promotional things in the works, some for me and some for other bloggers, and everything fell into the same space of time.

Today's agenda includes a stop at Jessica Greyson's blog for an author interview and a giveaway. It's been a while since I've pulled Violets Are Blue out of the woodworks, but if you haven't had the chance to read it and are interested, you won't want to miss this. I'm joining thirteen other authors in a special book lovers' giveaway, just in time for Valentine's Day! One lucky reader will have the opportunity to win fourteen books, including my Violets Are Blue. (I've had my eye on a few of these titles for some time, and the fact that the sponsors can't enter is a bit frustrating.)  For all the nitty-gritty information, click here, but make haste! The giveaway closes on February 14th.

I mentioned above that there is also an interview involved. As a means of introducing her readers to the authors of these books, Jessica has opened up the floor for fourteen different authors share their respective thoughts on friendship and romance in literature. Some of Jessica's questions made me think deeper and some were just plain fun. I also spoke a bit more openly about some of my books, and I'm hopeful the disclosures will interest you. ^.^

a small sampling

What do you love about writing?

The opportunity to capture a bit of humanity in all its beauty, conflict, and toil on paper. I love tracing the hand of God through history and then weaving it into my own tales. I write stories about great men and I write stories about small men, but no matter the character or setting, my favorite part is painting that certain something in the hearts of all mankind that yearns toward their Maker.

Who is your favorite book couple ever?

I have too many favorites. If the homeschooling community has made Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy a cliche and therefore an implied answer, I’ll add Sir Percy and Marguerite Blakeney from The Scarlet Pimpernel. If you have not read the book, please do so at once, as it is little short of phenomenal.

What is your favorite “first meeting” between a story couple?

Barring Elizabeth and Darcy again (of course), that would be Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Cracked slate, candy heart, and all.

click here to read the rest of the interview at Jessica's blog! (and don't forget to read the other author interviews, too!)

P. S. Keep your eyes out for a guest post and a very special book review, both of which will be going up later this week.
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