Cover Reveal: Draven’s Light

In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?

Coming May 25, 2015

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ANNE ELISABETH STENGL makes her home in 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 is the author of the critically-acclaimed Tales of Goldstone Wood. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitch have each been honored with a Christy Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:

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Excerpt from
By Anne Elisabeth Stengl
(coming May 25, 2015)

He heard the drums in his dreams, distant but drawing ever nearer. He had heard them before and wondered if the time of his manhood had come. But with the approach of dawn, the drums always faded away and he woke to the world still a child. Still a boy.

But this night, the distant drums were louder, stronger. Somehow he knew they were not concocted of his sleeping fancy. No, even as he slept he knew these were real drums, and he recognized the beat: The beat of death. The beat of blood.

The beat of a man’s heart.

He woke with a start, his leg throbbing where it had just been kicked. It was not the sort of awakening he had longed for these last two years and more. He glared from his bed up into the face of his sister, who stood above him, balancing her weight on a stout forked branch tucked under her left shoulder.

“Ita,” the boy growled, “what are you doing here? Go back to the women’s hut!”

His sister made a face at him, but he saw, even by the moonlight streaming through cracks in the thatch above, that her eyes were very round and solemn. Only then did he notice that the drumbeats of his dream were indeed still booming deep in the woods beyond the village fires. He sat up then, his heart thudding its own thunderous pace.

“A prisoner,” Ita said, shifting her branch so that she might turn toward the door. “The drums speak of a prisoner. They’re bringing him even now.” She flashed a smile down at him, though it was so tense with anxiety it could hardly be counted a smile at all. “Gaho, your name!”

The boy was up and out of his bed in a moment, reaching for a tunic and belt. His sister hobbled back along the wall but did not leave, though he wished she would. He wished she would allow him these few moments before the drums arrived in the village. The drums that beat of one man’s death . . . and one man’s birth.

His name was Gaho. But by the coming of dawn, if the drums’ promise was true, he would be born again in blood and bear a new name.

Hands shaking with what he desperately hoped wasn’t fear, he tightened his belt and searched the room for his sickle blade. He saw the bone handle, white in the moonlight, protruding from beneath his bed pile, and swiftly took it up. The bronze gleamed dully, like the carnivorous tooth of an ancient beast.

A shudder ran through his sister’s body. Gaho, sensing her distress, turned to her. She grasped her supporting branch hard, and the smile was gone from her face. “Gaho,” she said, “will you do it?”

“I will,” said Gaho, his voice strong with mounting excitement.

But Ita reached out to him suddenly, catching his weapon hand just above the wrist. “I will lose you,” she said. “My brother . . . I will lose you!”

“You will not. You will lose only Gaho,” said the boy, shaking her off, gently, for she was not strong. Without another word, he ducked through the door of his small hut—one he had built for himself but a year before in anticipation of his coming manhood—and stood in the darkness of Rannul Village, eyes instinctively turning to the few campfires burning. The drums were very near now, and he could see the shadows of waking villagers moving about the fires, building up the flames in preparation for what must surely follow. He felt eyes he could not see turning to his hut, turning to him. He felt the question each pair of eyes asked in silent curiosity: Will it be tonight?

Tonight or no night.

Grasping the hilt of his weapon with both hands, Gaho strode to the dusty village center, which was beaten down into hard, packed earth from years of meetings and matches of strength held in this same spot. Tall pillars of aged wood ringed this circle, and women hastened to these, bearing torches which they fit into hollowed-out slots in each pillar. Soon the village center was bright as noonday, but with harsh red light appropriate for coming events.

Gaho stood in the center of that light, his heart ramming in his throat though his face was a stoic mask. All the waking village was gathered now, men, women, and children, standing just beyond the circle, watching him.

The drums came up from the river, pounding in time to the tramp of warriors’ feet. Then the warriors themselves were illuminated by the ringing torches, their faces anointed in blood, their heads helmed with bone and bronze, their shoulders covered in hides of bear, wolf, and boar. Ten men carried tight skin drums, beating them with their fists. They entered the center first, standing each beneath one of the ringing pillars. Other warriors followed them, filling in the gaps between.

Then the chieftain, mighty Gaher, appeared. He carried his heavy crescent ax in one hand, and Gaho saw that blood stained its edge—indeed, blood spattered the blade from tip to hilt and covered the whole of the chieftain’s fist. Gaher strode into the circle, and the boy saw more blood in his beard. But he also saw the bright, wolfish smile and knew for certain that his sister had been correct. The night of naming had come.

“My son,” said the chief, saluting Gaho with upraised weapon.

“My father,” said Gaho, raising his sickle blade in return.

“Are you ready this night to die and live again?” asked the chief. His voice carried through the shadows, and every one of the tribe heard it, and any and all listening beasts of forests and fields surrounding. “Are you ready this night for the spilling of blood that must flow before life may begin?”

Gaho drew a deep breath, putting all the strength of his spirit into his answer. “I am ready, Father.”
Gaher’s smile grew, the torchlight flashing red upon his sharpened canines. He turned then and motioned to the darkness beyond the torchlight.

The sacrifice was brought forward.

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.

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Review: Goddess Tithe

There is one thing Munny is determined to do, and that is to return to his mother with the white peonies. No storm, no danger in the ocean shall stand in his way.

Except, maybe, Risafeth, the vengeful goddess who demands her blood tithe. Her wrath is roused against Munny and all the crew of the Kulap Kanya by Leonard the Clown, who stowed away and has not drowned for it.

Goddess Tithe is a novella written by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, taking place within the larger scope of the Tales of Goldstone Wood. The novella is 120 pages and illustrated; the illustrations are full-page, black and white, and – by my judgment – quite well-done.

I stumbled across Leonard while reading Heartless; I have not read Veiled Rose, the larger story that contains Leonard’s quest. I enjoyed Goddess Tithe just the same. This is not really Leonard’s story, and the question of the book is not what he will do, but what others will do with him.

The heart of the story is with Munny, with other characters adding flavor and the captain adding mystery. As in other Anne Stengl stories I have read, the characters are full of life, thrumming with their own purposes and emotions and traits. They draw you along into their stories – sometimes with sympathy, sometimes with interest.

Anne Stengl beautifully captures Faerie – the wonder, the beauty, the terror. The things she imagines and brings to written life are captivating. The dangers she brings for her characters out of Faerie are unearthly, effectively menacing and unnatural. There is a way besides violence to build fear and suspense, and Stengl finds it.

Goddess Tithe is a short work, within the breadth of a larger one, which may account for my one complaint against it. I would have liked to learn more about the captain, though I understand why I didn’t. I understand, too, why the story of Munny and his mother was ultimately unfinished. But I think I could at least have learned what Munny’s true name is, especially with so many stories only hinted at.

Goddess Tithe is a lovely novella – beautifully written, full of heart, with the wonder and terror of Faerie. I recommend it, and not only to readers of the Tales of Goldstone Woods.