CrossReads Book Blast: The Swaddling Clothes, Amber Schamel

swaddling clothes

The Swaddling Clothes
By Amber Schamel

About the Book

Through the ages, many stories have been told about Mary, Joseph and the birth of the Messiah. Stories of shepherds and sheep, kings, angels, and stables. But there is one story that has never been told. One story that has remained hidden in the fabric of time. The story of The Swaddling Clothes.

Mentioned not once, but several times in the Scriptural text, what is the significance of these special cloths? And how did they make their way into a stable in Bethlehem? From the author that brought you the Days of Messiah series comes a whole new adventure critics are calling “intriguing…thought provoking… a fresh twist on an age old story.”

“I get tired of Bible stories sometimes, but The Swaddling Clothes brings the story to life.”

“Heartwarming… truly inspired. A story you will want to read again and again. Rich details and a suspenseful plot will keep you reading while giving you a glimpse of God’s wonderful power and His amazing love.”


Amber SchamelAmber Schamel is a multi-published author of Christian Historical Fiction. Her passion for history and culture has led her to travel extensively throughout the United States, Europe, and the Holy Land. Amber is actively involved in her church and enjoys volunteer work and music ministry. Raised in a family of twelve children and homeschooled throughout her education, she currently resides in the beautiful state of Colorado where she also serves as bookkeeper and marketing director for their family businesses. Find Amber on her blog, or on all the main social media sites.

Follow Amber Schamel

Website | Facebook | Twitter

This book blast is hosted by Crossreads.

We would like to send out a special THANK YOU to all of the CrossReads book blast bloggers!

Prism Tours: Death by the Book Grand Finale

A themed review tour by Prism Book Tours
It’s the Grand Finale for
Death by the Book

by Julianna Deering

Did you learn a little more about Drew Farthering and this suspenseful series? If you missed any of the posts, go back and check them out now! Then go on and enter the giveaway, if you haven’t already.

There’s murders, controversy and destruction going on in this mind blowing read. Derring will captivate you with each page you turn. “You also wont believe who the real killer is.”

“Not much to go on.” Drew stood and picked up the two halves of the bookend, a bust of Shakespeare only recently separated at the neck. “You did say this had been checked for fingerprints?”

“I did not say. But yes, it has. There aren’t any.” Chief Inspector Birdsong pursed his lips under his shaggy mustache. “Weren’t any.”

Pieces of Whimsy Author Interview

What do you hope readers take with them when they read your books?

My books vary widely from series to series, but I would say throughout them all is the theme of forgiveness and reconciliation, that God is a merciful, loving God who never leaves us and who walks with us through every trial and that it is never, never too late to turn to Him. Even though my Drew Farthering books tend to be lighter, fun reads, there is still that element in them.

JoJo’s CornerReview

“Julianna Deering has done it again!!! Spectacular!!!

I love love love this series and I hope it never ends!!!

Drew is absolutely one of my fave all time amateur sleuths- right up there with Hercule Poirot (not an amateur, I know) and Miss Marple.

Who wouldn’t fall for a man who smelled of fresh linen, new books, tea and honey?!?”

Kelly P’s BlogExcerpt

“I just managed to slip out the back way.” Nick jumped into the car and wiped his sweating face with his handkerchief. “Madeline. She said I had to warn you.”

“What’s happened? Is she all right?”

Crafty Booksheeps Top Ten Mystery Novels

In choosing my top ten favorite mystery novels, I couldn’t possibly go farther than my trio of favorite authors from the Golden Age of Mystery: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers.

Continue reading to found out what her top picks were…

The chief inspector managed a grim smile. “Ah, Detective Farthering. Good of you to come.”

“Not at all, Inspector. What’s happened?”

“Act Two, it would seem, of our little drama in Winchester last week. I thought perhaps another pair of eyes that saw the aftermath of the Montford murder might help us here.” Birdsong shrugged a little self-consciously. “Saw your car turn into the drive.”

Letters from Annie Douglass Lima Interview About the Cover
About how much time does it take to design a cover like this?
Rules of Murder roughly took 50 hours, give or take, for art direction and design—composition, layout , typography. That included research, team discussions, Illustrator reviews, art direction, thumbnail sketches, type development, character development, image and inspiration research, and revisions/finessing to nail down an approved, final look…
Mel’s Shelves Review

“I loved this book! As soon as I started reading it, I knew it would be hard to put down. I enjoyed everything about it: the time period–1930’s, the location–London (Farthering St. John), a compelling mystery (hatpin murderer), an obstinate aunt, humor, polite society and a light, clean romance.”

Deal Sharing AuntSeries Inspiration

I am often asked why I started writing my Drew Farthering mysteries. It all came about because I love to read Agatha Christie and Margery Allingham and Dorothy L. Sayers, the queens of the golden age of crime fiction, the 1920s and ’30s. Their famous detectives (Poirot, Campion and Wimsey, respectively) are a delight to read. And the BBC has filmed versions of many of their novels which are always a sumptuous treat. After enjoying the genre for so long, I simply had to try my hand at writing it.

The Wonderings of One PersonDrew Description

There was a little spark of mischief in his gray eyes that she had already come to know so well. Surely even Aunt Ruth couldn’t dislike him for long. In the weeks Madeline had been here in Hampshire, she had seen him with the older ladies in the village– well, with all the women to be honest. He didn’t intentionally flirt, not really, but he was never lacking in charm, charm that was all the more attractive for its artlessness, charm that made them girlish and indulgent whenever he was around.

Cherry Mischievous Excerpt

“Hello there.”

They both turned at the decidedly American voice, and Madeline’s face was all-over smiles.

“Well, hello to you. What are you doing here? Oh, let me introduce you to Drew Farthering. Drew, this is Freddie Bell. I met him yesterday when I was out.”

Beck Valley BooksExcerpt

Madeline turned from the shelf where Mrs. Harkness kept books on lace making and other traditional crafts.

“And just why couldn’t she have done it?” She put her hands on her hips and looked up into Drew’s face, a challenge in her periwinkle-blue eyes and a defiant set to her mouth that made it not a whit less captivating than usual. “You never think women are capable of real crime.”

I also found Drew an engaging, sympathetic character who sincerely cared about those he was trying to help. The romance between him and Madeline was sweet and the interfering Aunt Ruth provided a humorous touch. With plenty of unexpected events and suspicious characters, Death by the Book, provides an entertaining and enjoyable read.

My Love for Reading Keeps GrowingMikado (book 3) Teaser

Even though Death by the Book, the second in my series of Drew Farthering Mysteries, is hot off the press right now, I am thrilled to tell you a little bit about Book Three, Murder at the Mikado.

After everything that happened during the past summer, Drew is happy to have some peace in his life. His company, Farlinford Processing, is doing nicely under competent, trustworthy management, and his relationship with Madeline Parker is better than ever. Everything is going well until an old flame, Fleur Hargreaves, suddenly makes an appearance at Farthering Place begging for Drew to prove her innocence in a murder case.

Roger’s voice was scarcely a whisper, and so broken that Drew knew he wouldn’t have recognized it if he hadn’t known who it was.

“Drew. Oh . . .”

Drew heard a wrenching sob, then silence once more.

“Roger? I say, Roger!”

“You’ve got to help me. I just . . . I don’t . . . Sweet mercy, she’s dead. She’s dead.”

“Julianna Derring did a remarkable job of weaving a wondrous murder mystery set in England around the late 1920’s. It kept me reading into the wee small hours of morning to find out if my suspicions of who the killer could be were right or not.”

Death by the Book (Drew Farthering Mystery #2)Death by the Book
by Julianna Deering
Christian Mystery
Paperback, 320 pages
March 4th 2014 by Bethany House Publishers

Drew Farthering wanted nothing more than to end the summer of 1932 with the announcement of his engagement. Instead, he finds himself caught up in another mysterious case when the family solicitor is found murdered, an antique hatpin with a cryptic message, Advice to Jack, piercing his chest.

Evidence of secret meetings and a young girl’s tearful confession point to the victim’s double life, but what does the solicitor’s murder have to do with the murder of a physician on the local golf course? Nothing, it would seem–except for another puzzling note, affixed with a similar-looking bloodied hatpin.

Soon the police make an arrest in connection with the murders, but Drew isn’t at all certain they have the right suspect in custody. And why does his investigation seem to be drawing him closer and closer to home?

Bethany House
Other Books in the Series:

ALL readers, who are interested, can receive an autographed bookmark.

You can see a picture of the bookmark here.

Just send a self-address STAMPED (7″ long) envelope to:

Julianna Deering
P. O. Box 375
Aubrey, Texas 76227


Julianna Deering

Julianna Derring has always been an avid reader and a lover of storytelling, whether on the page, the screen or the stage. This, along with her keen interest in history and her Christian faith, shows in her tales of love, forgiveness and triumph over adversity. A fifth-generation Texan, she makes her home north of Dallas with three spoiled cats and, when not writing, spends her free time quilting, cross stitching and watching NHL hockey. Her new series of Drew Farthering mysteries set in 1930s England debuts with Rules of Murder (Bethany House, Summer 2013) and will be followed by Death by the Book (Bethany House, Spring 2014) and Murder at the Mikado (Bethany House, Summer 2014).


Grab Our Button!
Are you a blogger and want to receive information about new tours? Go HERE.
Are you an author or publisher and would like to have us organize a tour event? Go HERE.

CSFF Blog Tour: The Staff and the Sword

The central question of The Staff and the Sword is who will be the next king – Illustra’s soteregia, who will die to save the kingdom. When the church casts the lots for the answer, half the lots say Liam and half say Errol. Errol is the staff, for this is his weapon, the weapon with which he slayed monsters and climbed to fame.

And Liam, I suppose, is the sword.

Though of primary importance to the story, Liam is at best a second-tier character; in terms of page count, he might be a third-tier character. Martin, Adora, Luis, Rokha, maybe even Rale and Merodach are invested with more time and certainly more emotion than Liam.

The story unveils little of what he thinks or feels about any of his life’s circumstances, from his lost parents to his unusual upbringing to his given fate. We see that he accepts – maybe even embraces? – fighting and then dying as Illustra’s royal sacrifice, but we don’t know why. Did he abandon himself to Deas’ choosing? Was he the sort of born hero who dies easily if he dies well? Had he so built his life around one purpose that he had nothing else in it? I read all three books, and I couldn’t say.

I don’t think that readers of The Staff and the Sword trilogy really know who Liam is. I don’t think the other characters knew, either. The Staff and the Sword is Errol’s story and no one else’s. Liam is left an unplumbed mystery. The reader’s emotions are mostly with him, as are the characters’. It’s sad but it’s true: The only character in A Draw of Kings who didn’t prefer Liam to die instead of Errol was Antil.

Not to invest in Liam was a curious choice on Patrick Carr’s part; the suspense of who was the soteregia would have been greater had readers been led to know and care about Liam as well as Errol. It may be that Errol was The Hero and that’s all there was to Carr’s decision. It would have been a very different series, and quite possibly a longer one, if Liam had been raised to a similar level.

Possibly the story held Liam at arm’s length in order to pursue the contrast between him and Errol. The books always paired them opposite each other. At the beginning, it was Errol the hopeless drunk and Liam the promising young blacksmith; later, the solis and the omne, the savior and the king, the staff and the sword, the everyman hero and the warrior from a legend.

Perfect, several characters thought of Liam. Untouchable, Rokha called him. You need distance to maintain that. When you get near something, it grows more flawed. But also more loveable.

CSFF Blog Tour: A Draw of Kings

The kingdom of Illustra is faced by a two-front war. Or a three-front war. It depends at how many different points the foreign hordes can force their way into the country. Illustra needs to find their soteregia, their savior-king. Then they will crown him. Then he will go and fight for them.

Then he will die, and save them.

Every time they cast the lots to find the savior-king, the lots say Errol and Liam, each name as many times as the other. So Illustra prepares for war, and goes out to battle, all the while waiting for something to reveal the truth, to untwist the Gordian knot. Who is soteregia, and why does the cast of lots fail?

A Draw of Kings is the final book in The Staff and the Sword trilogy, written by Patrick W. Carr. Here Errol’s journey – begun as the village drunk two books earlier – finally ends, and here they discover at last who the Soteregia is.

Carr handles a large cast of characters, and honors all the principals with a true part to play in the story. The narrative is complex, as the characters divide into three storylines, for a while widely divergent from each other. There was a little confusion to this at the beginning, when it took Carr several chapters to return to one storyline. (Two missions actually began on a ship, and at one point I forgot they were different ships. I remember when I figured this out. Huh! That’s why Martin wasn’t around during the storm!)

Even at the beginning, I appreciated the multiple storylines, where the characters pursued the same goal with different quests and in different theaters. It suited Illustra’s many troubles.

It also allowed Patrick Carr to display the vastness of the world he has created, from Ongol to the steppes to Illustra herself. Finally, the different storylines gave the assemblage of characters space to work and to shine.

The most important part of any story is the end. Ending a story that has sprawled across three books and a thousand pages is especially hard, and hardest of all is ending a story you yourself have tied into a Gordian knot. But Patrick Carr succeeded in crafting a satisfying ending, in cutting through his Gordian knot, and it is this success, of all his successes, that is most impressive.

A Draw of Kings had a strong religious element that still felt somewhat to the side of the action. I enjoyed picking out the real-world parallels (I caught a nod toward Calvinism!), and I was moved by Errol’s final conclusion regarding the mercy of Deas. I wish that part of the book had been stronger, though perhaps the story didn’t have room for it.

The flaw of this book was a favoritism towards Errol that infected the other characters. They were partisans for Errol, and occasionally it made them act less than what they were. Adora was wrong to invite Antil to dinner, only to prod and taunt him; if you make someone your guest you need to treat him as a guest. Far worse was the archbenefice, who punished one man’s insolence to Errol by having his teeth broken.

Worst of all was Martin. He expressed his willingness to “search church law and tradition” for a way to execute Antil. Justice is rarely served this way. I have already determined I want to kill you, so all that’s to do now is to scour law and tradition for some technicality on which to do it. And with Illustra on the brink of annihilation and the church having just regained holy Scripture that had been lost for centuries, Martin made a priority of “correcting perceived slights to Errol on behalf of his predecessor and Rodran”.

Yet this flaw was ultimately a minor one, and A Draw of Kings is not only the last book of its series, but the best. It seals The Staff and the Sword as a rich and compelling fantasy, the sort of story that suggests a thousand other stories to be told.

In conjunction with the CSFF Blog Tour, I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

CSFF Blog Tour: A Draw of Kings, and an Irish Prayer

First came A Cast of Stones, and then The Hero’s Lot. What could be next but A Draw of Kings?

With A Draw of Kings, Patrick W. Carr concludes The Staff and the Sword trilogy. The first books of the trilogy have both been nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award, making it really easy for me to slip in a plug for the award here. (Cast a vote for the finalists!)

I think that most books published in Christian SF are part of a series, and only a few series consist of connected but free-standing stories. Unlike the Chronicles of Narnia or the Tales of Goldstone Wood – where you can read one book and, generally speaking, finish the story you started – most series are spent on one journey, one story, one cast of characters.

I always enjoy it when, as with The Staff and the Sword, the CSFF begins a series and then follows the story through every book to the end. We don’t always do so, and I don’t know if we always should, or can; there are too many authors and too many stories and, arguably, too many series.

No less for that – maybe more for it – there is a special interest in tours like this, where we reach the end of a long story and give our final measurement.

Finally – and this has nothing to do with either the CSFF or A Draw of Kings, but it’s my blog, you know – happy St. Patrick’s Day! “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me.” ~ St. Patrick

Although it’s not related to St. Patrick’s Day, nor even to Ireland, here are the links to Patrick Carr’s website and to A Draw of Kings on Amazon. And of course, the blog tour:

Gillian Adams
Jennifer Bogart
Keanan Brand
Beckie Burnham
Mike Coville

Pauline Creeden
Vicky DealSharingAunt
Carol Gehringer
Victor Gentile
Rebekah Gyger
Nikole Hahn
Jason Joyner
Carol Keen
Krystine Kercher

Jennette Mbewe
Amber McCallister
Shannon McNear
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Joan Nienhuis
Writer Rani
Nathan Reimer
Audrey Sauble

James Somers
Jojo Sutis
Steve Trower
Shane Werlinger
Phyllis Wheeler
Nicole White
Jill Williamson

Interview: Anne Elisabeth Stengl (+ Giveaway!)

Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the popular Tales of Goldstone Wood – a series boasting six full-length novels and one novella, with a seventh novel due out in autumn. Her novel Shadow Hand was released just this month. Here is my interview with Anne Elisabeth, discussing Shadow Hand, the Tales of Goldstone Wood, and Rooglewood Press.

Good to have you here! Tell us something about your new book.

Hi, Shannon! Thanks for hosting me.

Let me see, something about the new book . . . Well, Shadow Hand is book 6 in my ongoing Tales of Goldstone Wood series. It is a standalone story, but I personally think it reads best in context with the rest of the series, particularly Veiled Rose and Moonblood. It features cold Lady Daylily of Middlecrescent as the heroine . . . an unusual protagonist, since she played the much-hated “bad girl” in previous books. But she proved a challenging and fascinating character, one to whom I think many people will relate.

This story also features possibly the most frightening villain of the series to date: the parasite Cren Cru. It is unlike anything else we’ve seen in Goldstone Wood . . . but I really can’t say too much without spoiling the story!

It’s a dark tale, but full of lighthearted moments and characters I dearly love. I think it’s one fantasy readers will enjoy.

What is the greatest adversity – outward or inward – that your characters grapple with in Shadow Hand?

Well, Cren Cru is certainly a great adversary for my protagonists. Lady Daylily is also struggling with the secret, frightening truth of her soul, which she is terrified will “get out” and destroy everyone she loves. Foxbrush is a gawky, earnest young man, the last person to fit the heroic role in which he finds himself, pitted against the dreadful Cren Cru and the twelve Bronze Warriors. There’s always a balance of outer and inner conflict in my stories . . . but usually the struggles my characters face in their own souls are the more bitter and brutal.

What characters in Shadow Hand did you most enjoy working with and why?

I adored working with Prince Foxbrush. He is set up as such a chump in the first two books in which he features (Veiled Rose and Moonblood). And I really didn’t change anything about him from those two stories . . . I simply changed our perspective on him. Which made an enormous difference! He’s a fun character to write, and I loved seeing him come into his own.

I understand you’ve founded Rooglewood Press, which will be publishing (among other things) your novel Golden Daughter. That’s a lot of work and investment. Can you tell us why you’ve chosen this direction?

Rooglewood Press allows me the freedom to write my novels how I want and when I want, not to mention as big as I feel the story needs to be. I like having that flexibility! Golden Daughter, as a result, is going to be a good 50,000 words longer than Dragonwitch (which was my longest book thus far). Book 8 may well be longer still. I have epic stories in mind, and I like knowing that I can decide how I want to write them. I also like knowing that I don’t have to crunch everything into some of the tight deadlines I have been working with these last several years. I still plan to produce a lot of work as quickly as possible, and I set my own rigid deadlines. But some of the pressure is off, which is nice for creativity.

What books are currently in progress at Rooglewood?

Let me see . . . first we have Until That Distant Day, a novel of the French Revolution by award-winning novelist Jill Stengl (my mother!). That is our spring release, and it comes out in late April. I am so excited about sharing that story, I could just burst! It’s a fantastic novel, my mother’s finest work.

We also have the beautiful Five Glass Slippers anthology releasing in June. This is a collection of novella-length retellings of Cinderella by five talented new novelists. We hosted a writing contest last year to pick the winners and were overwhelmed with wonderful submissions from all over the world. Narrowing down to five winners was tough, but I really love the stories we finally settled on. It’s going to be a fabulous book, and I’ll be doing all I can to launch these new writers into the publishing world.

We are making plans for the next fairy tale-related writing contest as well . . . Details coming on June 1. We have a cover designed, and it’s gorgeous. I hope to see this second contest be even more successful than the first.

Golden Daughter is currently in production, due to release in November. And we also have another novella set in the world of Goldstone Wood, though the release date on that one is still up in the air.

These are the primary stories we’re focusing our efforts on at present, though we have a few other projects bouncing around. Lots of exciting fiction to come!

Judging by the reaction you have received from fans, which of your characters is the most popular and what do you think is his/her special charm?

Oh, easily Bard Eanrin, Chief Poet of Iubdan Rudiobus. He’s sometimes a cat, sometimes a beautiful man, and always a charmer. Funny fact: My editors at my first publishing house didn’t care for this character at all. But I knew he was going to be the fan favorite, and I have subsequently been proven correct. He’s so much fun both to write and to read! He’s arrogant, self-centered, sarcastic . . . and he’s also brave, loyal, and (odd though it may sound) surprisingly humble at times.

Have you ever been surprised by the reaction of your readers – what they liked and what they didn’t?

I’ve been surprised at some of the bad reviews I’ve gotten from people who hated this, that, or the other about my work. I’m not as surprised by these reactions as I was when I first started out, however. I’ve come to realize that not every book is going to suit every reader. So I write for my audience, and if a reader doesn’t happen to fit that audience . . . oh, well.

Some readers completely despised the spoiled princess heroine of book 1, Heartless. Many seemed to think I had accidentally written her as spoiled and selfish and called me all manner of variations on “bad writer” as a result. But then I still get fan mail from readers telling me how Princess Una is their favorite character of the series and the one they most deeply relate to. I think many of us have a “spoiled princess” side to our nature, whether or not we like to admit it. So while I was surprised at the negative reaction to her, I’ve also learned to accept (as stated above) that not every book is going to suit every reader.

I wasn’t surprised at all by the general adoration for Eanrin. As I said, I strongly suspected from the get-go that he would be the fan favorite. He’s my favorite too, after all!

I know the Tales of Goldstone Wood has endless potential to be mined, but do you foresee yourself writing books outside the series?

Possibly. But my focus is pretty much centered on Goldstone Wood right now. It’s so ripe with new ideas all the time!

What do you hope for yourself and for your readers in the publication of a new book?

I hope that new readers will always be swept up in an exciting new story, completely unlike the last story . . . but always filled with the same refrain of grace extended to the undeserving. For myself, I just hope to continue having opportunity to write these stories I love, sharing the vivid worlds and characters in my head.

Any last thoughts (anything you want to say that I haven’t gotten to)?

Well, I want to give a big shout out to all of my wonderful Goldstone Wood Imps! These are the core fans who have really jumped on board with this series, adding to the life of these stories in profound ways I would never have expected. They bring fan art and fan fiction that is completely delightful, and they contribute to discussions and ideas. I write these stories for all of them. They are always so inspiring and encouraging to me . . . I know this series would not be what it is today without the Imps!

Thanks you again for featuring me on your lovely blog, Shannon. ☺

To learn about all of Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s works, visit her Goodreads page.

Anne Elisabeth has graciously provided a book for a giveaway. Enter below to win.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Feature: Shadow Hand and Golden Daughter

I have a fun announcement today. On Wednesday, I will be interviewing Anne Elisabeth Stengl, author of the Tales of Goldstone Woods, including the newly-released Shadow Hand. She has generously provided a copy of Shadow Hand for a giveaway, so along with the interview I’ll be hosting a giveaway.

You will find, directly below, the cover art for Shadow Hand (isn’t it lovely?) and the book’s description (doesn’t that sound intriguing?). I’ve also posted cover art and a description of Golden Daughter, which will be published in November, and which I already think I must read.

Shadow Hand (available now):

This is a story about love, and blood, and the many things that lie between . . . By her father’s wish, Lady Daylily is betrothed to the Prince of Southlands. Not the prince she loves, handsome and dispossessed Lionheart, but his cousin, the awkward and foolish Prince Foxbrush. Unable to bear the future she sees as her wedding day dawns, Daylily flees into the dangerous Wilderlands, her only desire to vanish from living memory.

But Foxbrush, determined to rescue his betrothed, pursues Daylily into a new world of magic and peril, a world where vicious Faerie beasts hold sway, a world invaded by a lethal fey parasite . . .

A world that is hauntingly familiar.


Golden Daughter (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.

Author Bio

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.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her work, visit her at her …




Cover Art, Maps, and The Valley of Decision

I am pleased to announce that the cover of The Valley of Decision (due to be published May 31, 2014) has been completed. Some of the concept art centered around mountains, valleys, and the image of a soldier, but I’m glad we went with this one.

The map is actually a map of the countries in the book; if you were to get close enough, you would see the Black Mountains, with Alamir to the south and Dokrait to the north, and forests and towns marked on either side. The map was created whole, and then was bent and torn and integrated with the knife and the light. There is symbolic meaning to the torn map, but it obscures some of the details.

The original map encompasses nearly all the places of note in the story: the Rhugarch Gap, the Ushleen Moors, the Anuin mountains, Ataroth, the Northwood, the Glahs Forest, the Crown, and on. A few places mentioned in The Valley of Decision were beyond the scope of the map: the Coldlands, too far to the north; the Wildheath, south beyond Alamir; and out on the ocean, the western isles.

The map and the entire cover were created by my sister Meghan McDermott at Myristica Studios. I think the style is a bit different than much Christian fantasy, and while I won’t say it’s better, I will say I like it.

With the completion of the cover, The Valley of Decision has acquired its own Goodreads page. If it seems to you that you might be interested in reading the book someday, please add it to your “to-read” shelf.

And thanks. Really.

Character Profiles: The Long-Lost …

She felt like she was talking to a scared animal, and her heart went out to him, much as it had gone out to Nugget when she’d found him as a puppy. Something about his face looked familiar – a thought that had never occurred to her before. She’d seen him bouncing through town, but she’d never really stopped and looked at the strange man before. She knew that he was prone to speaking gibberish to lampposts and attacking street signs, but she had never spoken to him. No one did. The Glipwood Township ignored him like a stray dog.

– Andrew Peterson, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

We’ve all seen them. They pop into stories, spring into books out of nowhere, leap out from behind the curtains onto the stage in mid-act.

The Long-Lost Relation. Long-lost fathers, long-lost mothers, long-lost children and brothers and sisters.

Even, on occasion, long-lost uncles. But it tends to be a rare occasion.

Contemporary stories use the device of the Long-Lost Relation shamelessly; fantasy and sci-fi stories use them just as shamelessly. I fancy, though, that the Absent Father and the Never Known Mother are more likely, in SF/F, to have a legitimate and even noble reason for their absence. Maybe they had their baby daughter hidden with fairies to protect her from an evil curse. Maybe they were under an evil curse themselves. Maybe they’ve been mouldering in somebody’s dungeon for the past decade.

And if the Absent Father – it’s usually the Absent Father – has a bad reason, it can be a very bad reason. Like, you know, he betrayed everyone he ever loved and everything he ever fought for to become a Dark Lord of the Sith, causing his Former Best Friend to spirit his children away and hide them beyond his evil clutches. (This ripples out, of course, to other Long-Lost Relation moments: the Epic Father Discovery, the Kinda-Convenient-But-We-Don’t-Care Sister Discovery, etc.)

That, you see, is why the Long-Lost Relation device is more fun in what they call speculative fiction: It’s far more likely there that the Long-Lost Relation is an epic villain. Or an epic hero. Or royalty.

To date, Andrew Peterson has in his Wingfeather Saga pulled the Long-Lost Relation ploy twice (surprising me, I confess, both times). We are holding our breath to see if he pulls it a final time in the last book, and having read the preview, we strongly suspect a Long-Lost Distant Cousin is involved somehow.

The Wingfeather Saga’s first revelation is so far the best – more surprising, more unique in what Long-Lost Relation was found, more unique in how he came to be lost so long. Not often is the Long-Lost Relation lost in plain sight, or found so reluctantly.

The Long-Lost Relation is popular because it aims at something universally understood, though rarely experienced – the shock and the emotional power of discovering a lost relative. The device lends itself to all kinds of fascinating and emotionally compelling situations, and no matter how many authors have used it, every author is entitled to make use of it himself.

Only one word of warning: Like other excellent things, the Long-Lost Relation must be used only sparingly. Every author may use it, but every author has a limit in how many times he should use it. George Lucas is out.