Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Interview with Lena Nelson Dooley

Hi, Lena Nelson Dooley, welcome to Rachel Rossano’s Words.

Years ago, I encountered your blog (http://lenanelsondooley.blogspot.com/) where you interview authors most of the time. I am very impressed with your experience in the writing business and would love hear about some of your experiences along the way. But first, my readers and I would love to learn more about you.

How long have you been writing and when did you publish your first book? 

I’ve written all my life, but I started writing my first novel in 1984 and finished writing it in January 1985. I received a contract from Heartsong Presents for the book in 1992, and it came out in December of that year.

Tell us a bit about your family.

My husband and I will celebrate our 50th anniversary later this year. We have daughters, sons-in-law, grand children, a grandson-in-law, and two great grands. All of us live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, except our army grandson, who is overseas right now.

How do you go about seeking publication for your books?

The first years, I contacted publishers myself. But I have a wonderful agent, and she takes care of submitting my proposals. I couldn’t do without her now. And the best part is that we’ve become very good friends.

How influential is your publisher in the content of the novels you write for them? 

Every publisher who offers a contract will an editor or editors who will give input to help make my stories better, but the story is always mine. Working together makes the stories stronger for the reader.

When beginning a new writing project, what aspect of the story do you develop first (e.g. characters, plot, theme, or setting)?

All of my stories are character driven. They come first. Then the setting. And I do major research to make sure the setting is authentic to the place and time period, whether historical or contemporary. The theme develops as the characters play out the story.

What is your favorite era to write about and why?

I have written both historical and contemporary books. My earliest historical was set in 1804 or 5. It was a pirate story. Many of the books that have been contracted are set in the late 1800s. So I’ve become something of an expert on that era.

How do you research your books? 

If I can go to the place, I do. If not I research using travel videos, books, and the Internet. Most libraries have an adult resource person who can help you. I’ve called one in other cities, seeking books or web sites that can help me. I’ve contacted other people who live in the area I’m writing about. I use Google Earth. Actually, I use whatever I can find about the place or time period.

Of your books, do you have a favorite? What makes that one special? 

When I’m asked this question, I often answer, “The one I’m writing right now.” Just as parents love their children equally, but differently to meet the personality of the child, I love all my books equally, but my feelings match the personality of the book. My first major award was the Will Rogers Medallion Award for Excellence in Western Media for fiction. Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, won that award. I loved writing that book. And my latest, the McKenna’s Daughters series, are dear to my heart. Maggie’s Journey, Mary’s Blessing, Catherine’s Pursuit. These books are about identical triplets who were born on one of the last wagon trains on the Oregon Trail. Their mother dies giving birth, and they’re separated. They don’t find out that they have sisters until near their 18th birthdays. I’ve won awards on these as well.

If someone was considering picking up one of your books for the first time, which one would you recommend and why?

Maggie’s Journey would be a good one to start with, or Love Finds You in Golden, New Mexico, or even Minnesota Brothers.

What attracts you to a book written by another author? 

With a number of Christian authors, I automatically read every book that comes out. I know their writing and can trust that whatever the story, I’ll love it. And my tastes in books encompasses several genres. With others, sometimes I’m drawn to the cover, or the theme, or the time period.

We would love to hear about your most recent release? 

That would be my McKenna’s Daughters series I mentioned before. Recently, I was featured on the website of Australasian Christian Writers. I loved hearing that I have lots of readers who love this series Down Under. These books are available in print and ebooks on Christianbook.com, Deepershopping.com, Amazon.com, and Barnesandnoble.com, as well as in many bookstores.

What projects do you have in the works?

I’m actually writing two completely different books. One is a contemporary, with a military suspense thread, titled Beyond Redemption. The other is book one in a new historical series—Love’s Road Home. Book one is titled A Heart’s Gift. Beyond Redemption is set in Texas, Washington DC, and France. A Heart’s Gift is set in Summit County, Colorado, in the 1890s.

I’m also working with Higher Ground Films as screenwriter. I’m adapting another author’s novel to a screenplay for a Christian movie—Abducted to Kill—a romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense, set in the late 20th century.

When will we be seeing a new novel by Lena Nelson Dooley? 

I don’t have a publication date for either of the novels I’m working on right now.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I enjoyed chatting.

Multi-award-winning author, Lena Nelson Dooley, has more than 800,000 books in print. 

In addition to her writing, Lena is a frequent speaker at women’s groups, writers groups, and at both regional and national conferences. She has spoken in six states and internationally. She is also one of the co-hosts of the Gate Beautiful blogtalk radio show.

She has experience in screenwriting, acting, directing, and voice-overs. She has been featured in articles in Christian Fiction Online Magazine, ACFW Journal, and Christian Retailing.

Lena has won numerous awards. She lives in Texas with her husband of over 49 years. Their favorite activities involve time with their family members. Their daughters and sons-in-law have given them four grandchildren, and now they have two great grandsons, who delight them.

Lena has an active web presence on Shoutlife, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Linkedin, Google+, and with her internationally connected blog where she interviews other authors and promotes their books. 

Find her online here:
Other blogs where she’s a regular contributor:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Shanna Hatfield's Pendleton Petticoats Series

Today I would like to welcome a fellow author and friend, Shanna Hatfield. 
She is visiting us today to introduce her current series.

The Women of Pendleton Petticoats

Imagine a mail-order bride from Chicago, who has never been anywhere else, stepping off the train out west to meet her husband and discovering a lively, colorful city that is nothing like the quiet, dull town she anticipated.

Her gaze travels over the milling crowd, taking in the sight of people from all walks of life as they mingle on the platform at the depot.

There’s a tall, handsome cowboy wearing a shiny deputy star. A Chinese man wearing a queue and wide-brimmed conical hat hurries on his way, keeping his head down and gaze averted. Two Indians with colorful wool blankets stand talking to a young woman with her black-haired baby strapped into cradleboard. Finely dressed gentlemen escort women attired in the latest fashions. Ranchers pick up supplies while farmers with huge wagons and lumbering teams unload burlap sacks filled with golden kernels of wheat.

This was Pendleton, Oregon, queen of a golden wheat empire, at the turn of the century.

My latest historic western romance series, Pendleton Petticoats, is set this fascinating western town.
During the period of 1900 through 1910, Pendleton experienced a boom in both population and modernization, making it the perfect setting for this series.

Although many thought it was a Wild West town (which it was), it was also a very progressive town with a theater, opera house, French restaurant, and tearoom. Pendleton opened a telephone office in 1902 and was the second city in the state to install paved streets in 1904.

The people who inhabited the town were an eclectic mix from every background

As I began writing the first book in this series, I envisioned a mail-order bride stepping off the train, completely unprepared for what awaited her. She expected the town to be quiet, dusty, and backward. What she found was something so entirely different.

It is nearly impossible to fathom the bravery and strength of mail-order brides. They left behind everything they knew to travel somewhere they’d never been to pledge their life to a man they had yet to meet.
I can tell you right now, I’m not cut out for that kind of adventure. I also wouldn’t do well with the lack of electricity or in-door plumbing the majority of them faced.

Fortunately, for the women in my Pendleton Petticoats series, they found themselves in homes with telephones and bathrooms.

Aundy, the main character (and namesake) of the first book in the series, knows she is physically strong and capable to work on her husband’s farm, but she has no idea of the depths of inner strength and fortitude she possesses until it is tested.

The second book in the series, Caterina, features a feisty Italian girl on the run from the mafia in New York City. Have you ever wondered how many women journeyed out west because they jumped on a train with nowhere else to go? Unlike Aundy who arrived in town as a mail-order bride, Caterina is free and unfettered - or as free as she can be, hunted by powerful men bent on vengeance.

Ilsa, my latest release in the series, shines a light on one girl’s struggle to toss off the fetters of expectations placed upon her as she learns to believe in herself.

Isn’t that what we all should strive for?


Shanna Hatfield is a hopeless romantic with a bit of sarcasm thrown in for good measure. In addition to blogging, eating too much chocolate, and being smitten with her husband, lovingly known as Captain Cavedweller, she is a best-selling author of clean romantic fiction written with a healthy dose of humor. She is a member of Western Writers of America, Women Writing the West, and Romance Writers of America. Her historical westerns have been described as “reminiscent of the era captured by Bonanza and The Virginian” while her contemporary works have been called “laugh-out-loud funny, and a little heart-pumping sexy without being explicit in any way.”

Find Shanna’s books at:

Follow Shanna online:

Email Shanna at shanna@shannahatfield.com

Excerpt from Aundy:

“You are one of the most stubborn, hard-headed women I’ve ever met, Aundy Erickson,” Garrett said, running a hand through his hair, sending the dark locks into a state of complete disarray. His movements made Aundy want to run her fingers through it as well. “Your ability to be self-sufficient would never come into question. If you need help, ask for it. We’re more than happy to give it. You’ve been through so much since you’ve arrived here and handled it all in stride. Growing up in the city, without any rural background, you’re going to need some help. Never hesitate to ask.”

“I know, but I’ve imposed on all of you too much as it is.” Aundy felt tears prick the backs of her eyes. She would not cry. Giving in to her emotions, as jumbled as they were, wouldn’t help prove she could care for herself and Erik’s farm. Her farm.

“You’ve never imposed on us. Ever.” Aundy was so obstinate. He couldn’t recall ever meeting such a stubborn, headstrong woman. She made him want to… Thinking about what he really wanted to do, he refocused his attention on why she went to the Underground. “Regardless of all that, what information were you hoping to find?”

“I wanted to buy something and no one would talk to me about it. Dressed as a man, I didn’t have a bit of trouble making the deal.”

“What did you buy?” Garrett tried to think of anything Aundy would have purchased in the Underground that could possibly be beneficial to the farm.

“I don’t think you’re going to like my answer.” Aundy didn’t want to tell Garrett about her sheep. He’d been quite vocal when she and J.B. were discussing the pros and cons of raising sheep the other day, about how much he disliked the “stinky little boogers,” as he referred to them.

“What did you do?” Garrett asked, pinning her with his silver gaze.

“I made arrangements with a man to buy something he wanted, quite desperately, to sell.”

Garrett’s patience was nearly exhausted. “Which was?”

She hesitated, taking a deep breath before answering. “Sheep.”

He let out a whoosh of air and sat back in his chair. Blinking his eyes twice, he was sure Aundy couldn’t have said what he thought she did.

“Did you say sheep?”

“Yes,” Aundy whispered, staring down at the cloth covering the table.

“Smelly, nasty, bleating little sheep?”

“Well, I don’t know about the smelly, nasty, or bleating part, but yes, I did agree to purchase sheep.”

“Woman! What are you thinking? Did you sign papers, make payment? Is the deal final?”

“Not yet. Mr. O’Connell was under the impression I was helping a new widow. I asked him to call Mrs. Erickson Monday morning to make arrangements for the sale.”

“O’Connell? The whiskey drinking Irishman? Why he’ll…” Garrett yelled, his eyes flashing fire.

Aundy reached across the table and clapped a hand across his mouth. “Shh. You’ll have Dent and the boys in here if you don’t quiet down. Not only should you not be here, especially with me dressed like this, but I’m not quite ready to impart the knowledge to them that we’ll soon be raising sheep.”

“Fred will quit.” Garrett stated a fact Aundy already knew. He’d made it perfectly clear that he had no interest in tending sheep, so it was a gamble she had to make.

“I’ve taken that possibility into consideration.”

“Did you also take into consideration that a lot of the neighbors around here hate sheep? Not just dislike them, but hate them. I know many people in the area raise sheep, but our neighbors are all wheat growers and cattlemen. If you think about it, there isn’t one little lamb to be found from here all the way to Pendleton.


Thank you for visiting us, Shanna. I am looking forward to reading more of Aundy and the other books in the Pendleton Petticoats Series.

Monday, April 7, 2014

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My friend, Jaimey Grant, tagged me and asked me to join in the MyWriting Process Blog Tour. Basically I answer four questions and tag some writing friends. :)

1) What am I working on?

Currently I am editing, plotting, and writing.

Editing - The King of Anavrea (Second Book of the Theodoric Saga), Honor (Second Novel of Rhynan), and Isbeth's Redemeption are all on my editing plate. The King and Isbeth are in the last stages before publishing. Beta readers have gone over them, the cover is finished (mostly), and I am just fixing the last bits that need attention before formatting and release. Honor  is being prepared for my husband to read it, the last stage of editing.

Plotting - Faith (Third Novel of Rhynan) is on my plotting plate. I know my characters, sort of. Willard Naron lives his life by his father's mantra, money and power above all else. However, he can't help doubting the truth. There must be something more to life than gathering wealth and political strength.

Constance has lived her life supporting her father. He needs someone practical to keep him function and complete his commissions, painting portraits of the noble and wealthy. Despite this weight on her shoulders, she gathers others around her who need her help and support. Poor, powerless, and at the beShe lives a life the antithesis of Willard's.

I am still working out the plot at this point.

Writing - I am working on "Forging Friendships," the second short story in The Making of a Man: the Molding of Simon Cordale (working title). The progress is slow, but I have high hopes to be finishing the story in a month or so.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I write a mash-up of different genres. My preferred setting is fantasy (kingdoms and worlds that don't exist), but the books do not contain supernatural elements. They feel like medieval history. My plots are usually a mixture of adventure, mystery and/or politics, and a large measure of romance. Sword fights, wars, and action occur frequently, but so do dialogue, friendships, romantic moments, and other relationships. My characters tend toward honor, integrity, and other virtues, but they are also flawed. My husband says I have a hero complex. Who am I to argue. ;)

3) Why do I write what I write?

I love both history and writing so I try to meld them. However, I have never been good at remembering dates, times, or details. As a mother of three, I don't have the time or patience for the depth of research I would require of myself to write strictly historical novels. The solution became to write my own version of history for a world similar to Europe and a time period that has always interested me. So, I started writing medieval fantasy.

The romance bit comes from my love of people, romances, and happily ever afters. Not much of a surprise there. :)

4) How does my writing process work?

Each project usually begins with an idea. Someone says something, I see a scene playing out that I want to rewrite, a book I am reading, an event in history, a television/movie scene, or just a simple "What if...?" moment. The idea sticks in the deep places of my mind and keeps reappearing to nag me. When I have the spare time, I take it out and play with it. Add and take away characters, plots, relationship ideas, world ideas, and play around with it until it gathers enough extra pieces to begin developing it in earnest.

This is when I give it a working title, fit it into an existing world of my creation or make it a world all of its own, and figure out what more I need to do to get it to the writing point. This is also when I start writing things down. Ideas, characters, names, places, plot ideas, etc are collected into a single Word document. The process continues until I am confident I am ready to write.

The writing process can take months, one or two devoted months for a short story or almost a year for a novel. My fastest writing production was Honor, which was 89,790 words in eight months. During this time I try to write 300 to 3,000 words a day and take breaks to plot. The focus is to write a decent first draft that will not need a great deal of deep editing.

Then, when the final word of the rough draft is on the screen, I set it aside. A month or two later, I will pick it up, read it, preliminary edit it, and then send it out to beta readers. After they finish with it and I have made changes, I read it once more before handing it over to my husband for the final edit. After he is finished, I start the publishing process to get it into my readers' hands.

I would like to tag Alicia A. Willis and Rachel Heffington because I would very much like to read about their writing process.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Anne Elisabeth Stengl - Author Interview

Anne Elisabeth Stengl, welcome! I am delighted you came to visit with us today. As a life-long lover of fairy tales and fantasy, I particularly enjoy reading retellings and spin off tales. I just started reading the first of your Tales of Goldstone Wood, Heartless, and I couldn’t help enjoying the feeling of stepping into a Grimm brothers’ fairy tale.

When did you first fall in love with fairy tales?
I have loved fairy tales for as long as I can remember! But I think I really fell for them when my father started telling us his own made-up fairy tales about the wood near our house. He invented such exciting dramas taking place among those old trees and in those secret hollows . . . and I realized the possibilities of imaginative worlds beyond what my immediate senses could perceive. I will never forget those stories of his!

What drew you to fairy tales?
I suppose I sort of answered this above . . . I love the idea of worlds beyond immediate perception. Worlds that are very close to our own but which we don’t immediately see and understand. That is the fairy world for you. That is the joy of Grimm and Perrault and all the other fairy-talespinners of history. And it ties directly into humanity’s spiritual longings as well, which only makes the love of Faerie that much more interesting.

What are your favorite fairy tales or fairy tale themes?
It varies according to the story I am writing myself at the time! Currently I love the fairy tale theme of contrasts. The wicked sister who spits toads contrasted to the good sister who speaks jewels. Snow White contrasted with Rose Red. The story I am currently writing deals with a strong man who is considered a coward, and a weak woman who is considered courageous . . . and then flips all of those ideas around again! The contrast is what makes the magic in this type of story.
But there are so many wonderful themes to glean from fairy tales, and I could pick any number of others as my favorites!

What started you writing fantasy?
I wrote a story about a cat. My readers will not be surprised by this at all. I was twelve years old, and I wrote about a magical, wish-granting, talking cat (who happened to look very much like how I describe Monster/Eanrin in Goldstone Wood, though I didn’t intend the similarity at the time!). And there were numerous villains of dastardly intent searching for him, while our heroes did all they could to protect him . . . It was quite a rambling little adventure, but I really enjoyed it and the possibilities a fairy tale/fantasy world opened up to me.

Tell us about the Tales of Goldstone Wood. Is it a series best read in order or do the books stand well alone?
Well, I try to write each story as stand-alone as possible . . . but ultimately I still think they’re best read in order. Readers will get all the references and inside jokes that way, not to mention all the subtleties of character development. But each adventure is a story in itself, with a beginning, end, and resolution. Of all the stories I’ve written so far, I think Veiled Rose and Moonblood are the only two that really MUST be read in sequential order. Though some people have managed to read them out of order and still enjoyed them, so I suppose it depends on the reader!

How many more Goldstone Tales do you plan to write?
Bazillions! Roughly speaking. I have 15 full-length novels in mind, and now I’m starting to write novellas as “extras” in between the longer works. Goldstone Wood is rather an enormous world, so I could keep writing stories in this series for many years to come and still not run out of ideas!

Have you traveled much for research while working on a book? 
Only a little bit. I journeyed to Okinawa a couple of years back, and used research from that trip for the book I was writing at the time (Veiled Rose) and more extensively for my recent novella, Goddess Tithe, and my upcoming book 7, Golden Daughter. Otherwise, my research is primarily reading-based.

What locations have inspired you or worked their way into your books?
Well, definitely the wood by my house when I was growing up in England! The Common, it was called. It has inspired much of Goldstone Wood. And Shuri Castle in Okinawa was definitely an inspiration . . .

What was it like growing up with an author for your mother?
Fantastic! And so inspiring. I would color pictures on the backs of a discarded manuscript page and, when Mum wasn’t looking, turn it over to peek at the story on the other side. It was so amazing to think that my own mother had written these characters and conversations! As I grew, I got to read more of her work and comment on story lines, brainstorm with her, etc. And, of course, as soon as I learned how to write I started penning stories of my own.

What kind of influence do you think you have had on your mother’s writing?
Quite a bit, actually, especially in recent years. We brainstorm together a lot and critique each others’ manuscripts. She took a hiatus for seven years since her last book. But I will take a little credit for pushing her into writing her upcoming release, Until That Distant Day, which is far and away the best work she’s ever written! I am really excited about this book of hers. I am currently reading the final draft before it goes to typesetting, and it is so well done. So beautiful. Readers are going to love it.

What are some key ways your writing is different from your mother’s?
I write a much denser narrative. My style is more classically inspired. However, I will say that—after a bit of coaxing on my part—she has started experimenting with denser narrative herself to beautiful effect! Otherwise, of course, there’s the key difference in genre—I write fantasy, she writes (primarily) historical romance. I like to include some romance in my stories, but it usually isn’t the major point of the plot, while my mother’s stories tended to be more focused on the romance. (Though, again, she experimented with de-emphasizing the romance and upping the plot tension in Until That Distant Day with wonderful results!)

How do you think being homeschooled influenced and helped your writing?
Well, it certainly gave me the opportunity to focus on my writing and my reading. I was able to tailor much of my schooling to emphasize the creative-writing passion and the literary love.

Please tell us about your most recent release or an upcoming release?
Shadow Hand is my newest release, coming in early March. It is book 6 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, and it picks up soon after the events depicted in Moonblood.  So readers who have missed Prince Lionheart will get to see his further adventures. They will also get to learn more of the cold Lady Daylily from Veiled Rose and poor, foolish, bookish cousin Foxbrush. It’s an exciting story, loosely based on the Ballad of Tam Lin but set in an ancient jungle . . . I really love it and am excited to share.

What can we expect to see from you in the immediate future?
Well, I am currently drafting another novella set in Goldstone Wood which I hope to release this summer. I haven’t revealed the title of this one yet, but I will give readers some insider hints: It tells the story of how the House of Lights (the one depicted in Dragonwitch) was built and the history of the Gaheris family. And it is chronologically the oldest story set in this world . . . older even than Starflower.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully with MANY more Goldstone Wood books out for my readers! And hopefully no more cats than I currently have (just took in my sixth . . . a poor, toothless old stray kitty who needs someone to love her! Can’t resist a kitty in need).

You’ve written several books in the past few years.  I wonder how you keep up the pace.  What are the biggest challenges for you about maintaining that kind of pace?  What helps you deal with those things?
It is difficult to keep pace with all the projects sometimes. But writing is my love, and as long as I remember that love, it makes the work a lot easier to deal with. I also have a wonderful, supportive husband who reminds me now and then that it’s okay to say no. He also helps me to organize my schedule to best handle the overload of projects—writing, editing, design, mentoring, kitties . . . the whole works. I couldn’t produce as much or as quickly without him.

Besides your publisher, what people in your life have the biggest influence on your writing?  How are they involved in your writing?
My mother, absolutely. My best and most constant brainstorming partner and immediate editor.
In the years since we’ve been married, my husband has developed into quite a fantastic brainstorming partner as well. He also contributes fun extras to my work. For instance, the two different “Smallman Songs” featured in Dragonwitch were both written by him. He also drew out and designed Castle Gaheris where much of the drama of Dragonwitch takes place. His work definitely helped to clarify that setting in my mind so that I could write it with authenticity.
I also appreciate the support of my sister/friend, Erin, who reads all of my projects long before they go to print and provides me with an ego-boost as necessity dictates. J

Your books are called “inspirational.”  What does that term mean to you and your writing?
I like to think my stories inspire people. The consistent theme repeated in my work is one of undeserved grace. I write about flawed characters who suffer the consequences of their flaws . . . but there is always grace provided for them, even when they are unwilling to acknowledge it. I hope this theme of grace will inspire many readers as the years go by. We are not loved because we are worthy of love. But we are loved even so.
Your books are in the “fantasy” category.  That is a broad category.  Can you describe what kind of fantasy you write?
I always describe my work as “allegorical fairy tales.” I think that’s the closest definition to what I do, though some of the more recent books are tending more toward the “epic” direction than my work used to be.

Thank you so much for stopping with us today. We hope you will stop by again soon.
Thank you for having me, Rachel! It was a delight to be featured on your lovely blog.

Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the award-winning Tales of Goldstone Wood series, adventure fantasies told in the classic Fairy Tale style. 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 studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University.

Check out her books at most major bookstores 
and online at Amazon, CBD, and other retailers.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cover Reveal and Giveaway! - Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl



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.


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.


The cover illustration was done by Julia Popova. Visit her website, http://www.forestgirl.ru/, to learn more about her and her fantastic work!


illustration by Hannah Williams 

Excerpt from Chapter 3

Sairu made her way from Princess Safiya’s chambers out to the walkways of the encircling gardens. The Masayi, abode of the Golden Daughters, was an intricate complex of buildings linked by blossom-shrouded walkways, calm with fountains and clear, lotus-filled pools where herons strutted and spotted fish swam.
Here she had lived all the life she could remember.
The Masayi was but a small part of Manusbau Palace, which comprised the whole of Sairu’s existence. She had never stepped beyond the palace walls. To do so would be to step into a world of corruption, corruption to which a Golden Daughter would not be impervious until she was safely chartered to a master and her life’s work was affixed in her heart and mind. Meanwhile, she must live securely embalmed in this tomb, waiting for life to begin.
Sairu’s mouth curved gently at the corners, and she took small steps as she had been trained—slow, dainty steps that disguised the swiftness with which she could move at need. Even in private she must maintain the illusion, even here within the Masayi.
A cat sat on the doorstep of her own building, grooming itself in the sunlight. She stepped around it and proceeded into the red-hung halls of the Daughter’s quarters and on to her private chambers. There she must gather what few things she would take with her—fewer things even than Jen-ling would take on her journey to Aja. For Jen-ling would be the wife of a prince, and she must give every impression of a bride on her wedding journey.
I wonder who my master will be? Sairu thought as she slid back the rattan door to her chamber and entered the quiet simplicity within. She removed her elaborate costume and exchanged it for a robe of simple red without embellishments. She washed the serving girl cosmetics from her face and painted on the daily mask she and her sisters wore—white with black spots beneath each eye and a red stripe down her chin. It was elegant and simple, and to the common eye it made her indistinguishable from her sisters.
The curtain moved behind her. She did not startle but turned quietly to see the same cat slipping into her room. Cats abounded throughout Manusbau Palace, kept on purpose near the storehouses to manage the vermin. But they did not often enter private chambers.
Sairu, kneeling near her window with her paint pots around her, watched the cat as it moved silkily across the room, stepped onto her sleeping cushions, and began kneading the soft fabric, purring all the while. Its claws pulled at the delicate threads. But it was a cat. As far as it was concerned, it had every right to enjoy or destroy what it willed.
At last it seemed to notice Sairu watching it. It turned sleepy eyes to her and blinked.
Sairu smiled. In a voice as sweet as honey, she asked, “Who are you?”
The cat twitched its tail softly and went on purring.
The next moment, Sairu was across the room, her hand latched onto the cat’s scruff. She pushed it down into the cushions and held it there as it yowled and snarled, trying to catch at her with its claws.
“Who are you?” she demanded, her voice fierce this time. “What are you? Are you an evil spirit sent to haunt me?”
“No, dragons eat it! I mean, rrrraww! Mreeeow! Yeeeowrl!
The cat twisted and managed to lash out at her with its back feet, its claws catching in the fabric of her sleeve. One claw scratched her wrist, startling her just enough that she loosened her hold. The cat took advantage of the opportunity and, hissing like a fire demon, leapt free. It sprang across the room, knocking over several of her paint pots, and spun about, back-arched and snarling. Every hair stood on end, and its ears lay flat to its skull.
Sairu drew a dagger from her sleeve and crouched, prepared for anything. The smile lingered on her mouth, but her eyes flashed. “Who sent you?” she demanded. “Why have you come to me now? You know of my assignment, don’t you.”
Meeeeowrl,” the cat said stubbornly and showed its fangs in another hiss.
“I see it in your face,” Sairu said, moving carefully to shift her weight and prepare to spring. “You are no animal. Who is your master, devil?”
The cat dodged her spring easily enough, which surprised her. Sairu was quick and rarely missed a target. Her knife sank into the floor and stuck there, but she released it and whipped another from the opposite sleeve even as she whirled about.
Any self-respecting cat would have made for the window or the door. This one sprang back onto the cushions and crouched there, tail lashing. Its eyes were all too sentient, but it said only “Meeeeow,” as though trying to convince itself.
Sairu chewed the inside of her cheek. Then, in a voice as smooth as butter, she said, “We have ways of dealing with devils in this country. Do you know what they are, demon-cat?”
The cat’s ears came up. “Prreeowl?” it said.
“Allow me to enlighten you.”
And Sairu put her free hand to her mouth and uttered a long, piercing whistle. The household erupted with the voices of a dozen and more lion dogs.
The little beasts, slipping and sliding and crashing into walls, their claws clicking and clattering on the tiles, careened down the corridor and poured into Sairu’s room. Fluffy tails wagging, pushed-in noses twitching, they roared like the lions they believed themselves to be and fell upon the cat with rapacious joy.
The cat uttered one long wail and the next moment vanished out the window. Sairu, dogs milling at her feet, leapt up and hurried to look out after it, expecting to see a tawny tail slipping from sight. But she saw nothing.
The devil was gone. For the moment at least.
Sairu sank down on her cushions, and her lap was soon filled with wriggling, snuffling hunters eager for praise. She petted them absently, but her mind was awhirl. She had heard of devils taking the form of animals and speaking with the tongues of men. But she had never before seen it. She couldn’t honestly say she’d even believed it.
“What danger is my new master in?” she wondered. “From what must I protect him?”

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Anne Elisabeth Stengl is offering any two of the first six Goldstone Wood novels as a giveaway prize! Winner’s choice of: Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, or Shadow Hand. Check out the details on her blog: http://anneelisabethstengl.blogspot.com/