Rooglewood Press invites you to join the adventure of the Five Poisoned Apples creative writing contest!

The cover model/photographer is WYNTER CLARK. Want to peek at her photography website? Here it is.

And, as always, the gorgeous cover design was done by the amazing JULIA POPOVAwhose website is here.

I loved this book! 

Like all of Anne Elisabeth Stengl‘s anthologies, Five Magic Spindles is a collection of five very different novellas that all involve events and themes from one fairy tale – in this case, the Sleeping Beauty story. I highly recommend this fun anthology! Here’s a little information about each of the individual stories.

The Man on the Buckskin Horse
Emma, a good-hearted midwife, rushes to warn a neighbor about the hired gunman headed to his ranch but can’t prevent the catastrophe in store for his daughter.

A fairy tale retold as a Western? How fun! The author makes it work entirely without magic. This story was also unique in that the main character was neither Sleeping Beauty nor the prince.

Guardian of Our Beauty
Palli, the prophesied daughter of a king, is fated to rescue her people from the destruction called forth by a vengeful priest. 

Talk about an unusual part of the world to set a re-told fairy tale in. But the author pulled it off! I enjoyed Palli’s personality and abilities.

The Ghost of Briardale
Roselee, a ghost with a faulty memory, flits through the halls of an insane asylum in search of the mortal boy who can help her save the day. 

I thought this one was quite clever. True Heroes in this world are people who have either saved a kingdom, slain a dragon, or moved a mountain, and only a True Hero can get through the enchantment around Sleeping Beauty. How is an ordinary boy with a hero’s heart supposed to manage?

Spindle Cursed
Arabella, a living spirit trapped in her own comatose body, helplessly watches from the realm of dreams as her usurping cousin plots to destroy her once and for all. 

This story is unique in that it’s told largely from the fairy godmother’s point of view. Unlike most of the others, it begins shortly before the prince sets out to rescue Sleeping Beauty instead of before she falls into her enchanted sleep.

Out of the Tomb
Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, struggles to make a living and doesn’t need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life. 

I have to say, this one is definitely my favorite out of the five. The author has done an amazing job of worldbuilding, perhaps the best I’ve ever seen in a story of this length. Her descriptions give a vivid picture of the planet’s history, technology, plant and animal life, and culture. In many cases, this is done with just a few well-placed words and phrases here and there that blend seamlessly with the action. I definitely want to read more by Ashley Stangl!

In summary, this is an exciting and entertaining book that is definitely worth the $3.99. Grab your copy today!

Download your Kindle copy here!

Order your paperback copy here!

Welcome to Realm Explorers!  In this weekly series, we visit a variety of unique worlds created by talented science fiction and fantasy authors.  Enjoy your travels!  And don’t forget to read to the bottom of the post to find out more about each author and see how to purchase the featured book. 

Author’s name: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Title of book and/or series: Golden Daughter, book 7 in the ongoing Tales of Goldstone Wood
Brief summary of the story:
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.
Brief description of the world or location you created for this story: 
Most of the action in Golden Daughter takes place in the Noorhitam Empire, which is loosely inspired by a variety of East Asian cultures. My research focused primarily on ancient China and ancient Japan/Okinawa, but I also delved into Korean, Mongolian, and Thai histories, cultural practices, architecture, etc.
The empire itself is made up of a variety of subcultures, but the two most prominent are the ruling Kitars and the nomadic Chhayans. Two hundred years before the story of Golden Daughter takes place, the Chhayans were overpowered by the Kitar. The cultural clashes of the two people groups provide much of the drama for this tale.
If we were to visit Noorhitam as tourists, what would you recommend that we see or do there?
You should definitely take time to visit Manusbau Palace, the home of the emperor. This palace is actually a series of beautiful complexes, gardens, and grounds—almost a mini-city in and of itself—fortified by magnificent walls. It is a sumptuous testament to the power and grandeur of the Kitar nation. Just be certain you don’t drink any tea laced with gold-leaf poison!
Built beside the palace and rivaling it in grandeur is the Crown of the Moon, an enormous temple dedicated to Hulan, the moon goddess worshipped by the Kitar and Chhayans alike. But while the temple is glorious indeed and well worth seeing, more interesting still are the humble ruins of an ancient House which stood on this site long centuries ago. The foundation stones of this House are still warm with the heat of the great conflagration that burned it to the ground . . . .
What dangers should we avoid in Noorhitam?
Noorhitam is crawling with enemies of the emperor, particularly the lethal Crouching Shadows, assassins from the neighboring kingdom of Nua-Pratut. You should also keep your eyes open for Chhayan bandits roaming the hinterlands of the empire. If they take you for a Kitar, they will show no mercy!
The Golden Daughters themselves—highly trained bodyguards of incomparable skill—are possibly the most dangerous threat you might face. Only if you threaten one of their patrons, however, so you should be safe.
Is there a distinct or unusual type of food or meal that we might be served in Noorhitam?
Travelers may enjoy an eggplant mash seasoned with oil and a variety of spices and served with flat bread. In the palace of the emperor, you will be treated to teas, both black and herbal, candied fruits, and sweet pastries.
What types of weaponry or fighting styles are common in Noorhitam?
The Emperor of Noorhitam boasts a lethal artillery brigade of  longbowmen. Their bows are tall, and their arrows include weighted hare-fork arrows which can tear a man apart.
The Golden Daughters carry two knives which they hide up their sleeves. They are also trained in hand-to-hand combat and are comfortable with a variety of other weapons and poisons.
The Pen-Chan people of Nua-Pratut have discovered the secret of “black powder,” with which they have created dangerous explosives. So far they have managed to keep this secret from falling into the hands of neighboring nations, but it’s only a matter of time . . .
What types of vehicles, animals, technology, etc. are used to travel in or to Noorhitam?
The Chhayans out on the wide plains of Noorhitam travel in gurtas, buffalo-hide dwellings on wheels, pulled by teams of buffalo. Not very fast, not terribly comfortable, but durable and providing decent shelter when the cold winds blow.
Pilgrims traveling to the various holy sites and shrines across the nation often ride mules or donkeys. Horses are considered the steed of noblemen.
What role, if any, does magic or the supernatural play in the lives of people in Noorhitam?  If there is magic, please give some examples of what it involves or how it’s used.
Magic in my world is not really . . . magic, per se. Faeries abound in this series, and they have “magical” powers available to them (depending on the type of Faerie), but these are really more extensions of their Faerie selves than actual potions-and-spells magic. There are some characters who work enchantments and sorcery—and humans who dabble in Faerie magic are considered misguided and dangerous. But much of the magic of this world is not really magic in the traditional sense.
One of the major characters in Golden Daughter has the ability to walk in the Realm of Dreams. This is a strange, between-worlds dimension from which dreams are supposed to originate, and most mortals cannot access it. But the Dream Walkers are trained to send their spirits beyond mortal realms and explore deep into the Realm of Dreams and the surrounding dimensions. This could be considered a form of magic, achieved through concentrated meditation and chants.
Is there a particular religion practiced in Noorhitam?  Please describe what it involves.
Noorhitam is deeply devoted to a heavenly-spheres-centric religion personifying the sun and the moon as Anwar and Hulan respectively, and the stars—or Dara—as their angelic children. This was originally an old Chhayan religion, but when the Kitar people took over, they usurped the religion as well as the land (exchanging it for their vague ancestor-worship, which is now considered grossly out of fashion).
The Dream Walkers are considered sacred priests, using prayerful meditation to access realms beyond the mortal world with the hope of someday crossing the Dream and walking in Hulan’s Garden (a sort of Heaven where the moon and the stars are said to dance and sing).
There are quite a number of priestly orders, with the most prominent priests devoted to Anwar and Hulan, and lesser priests dedicated to the service of various Dara, such as the North Star, Chiev, and the star of the Emperor’s City, Maly. The duties of these priests vary according to their specific deities, but involve seasonal prayers according to which lights are most prominent in the sky.
Even priests devoted primarily to Hulan offer morning prayers to Anwar when he rises. Anwar is considered the most powerful of the celestial deities, although the High Priest is devoted primarily to Hulan.
What is the political or government structure in Noorhitam?  Who is in charge there at the moment, and what kind of leader is he/she?
Noorhitam is ruled by an emperor called the Anuk Anwar—which means the “Son of Anwar.” He is considered semi-deific and absolutely god-touched. He wields quite a lot of control, but intricate political dances require him to keep his various warlords and the clan leaders appeased.
The current Anuk Anwar of Noorhitam is a middle-aged man with a young face, fairly immature for his age. He isn’t particularly pleased with his lot as emperor, preferring the carefree life he used to know as a prince. He’s not above throwing his imperial weight around as he sees fit, however, and his warlords tread softly around him.
What, if any, “hot-button” or controversial topics do you touch on in your book?
This book openly deals with the question “Where is God in times of suffering?” It was a difficult question to tackle, and not one I would have jumped into willingly. But when I write these stories, I spend a lot of time in prayer, asking God to lead me to what (if any) message He wants to communicate. My role is simply to be a willing vessel, and I earnestly seek to be open to His leading. In the case of Golden Daughter I was thrilled and amazed by the storylines I saw unfurling, by the message that bloomed naturally from the text and characters.
Author Autobiography
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. Her novel Starflower was awarded the 2013 Clive Staples Award, and her novels Heartless, Veiled Rose, and Dragonwitchhave each been honored with a Christy Award.

To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:
Where, and in what formats, can we purchase your book(s)?  Please include links.
You can purchase Golden Daughter in ebook and print formats on all the major online bookshops! Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.
Where can readers connect with you online?
I love to connect with my readers! Be sure to follow my blog, Tales of Goldstone Wood. You can also sign up for my quarterly newsletter and keep up-to-date on all the upcoming Goldstone Wood projects (of which there are many). Be sure to like me on Facebookas well!

I hope you all enjoyed the trip to the Noorhitam Empire.  Questions about the world or the book?  Ask them in the comments and the author will get back to you!  

Click here to read other posts in the Realm Explorers series.

Please join us again next Monday for a trip to the Land Uncharted, in Realm Explorers Part XXXVII!
-Annie Douglass Lima

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


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 Dragonwitchhave each been honored with a Christy Award.
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth Stengl and her books visit:

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.

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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.

My Review:


I received an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  And wow, I loved it!  Of course, I love all of Anne Elisabeth Stengl‘s books, so I expected nothing less.

One of my favorite aspects of the Tales of Goldstone Wood series that although the setting is an imaginary world (or set of worlds, actually), it’s obviously inspired by real cultures and geographical locations in our world.  The empire in which most of Golden Daughter takes place is based on a mix of East Asian cultures, which I especially appreciated, considering that I live in East Asia myself.

The characters here are vividly portrayed, and I couldn’t help but care about their struggles and triumphs.  It was nice to see a few old friends from Stengl‘s other books, but we mostly meet new characters in Golden Daughter.  The author threw out a few intriguing tidbits that help connect the dots between events in various other books in the series, some of which take place thousands of years apart.  Now I want to go back and re-read certain scenes in certain of her other books that I know will make more sense now.

If you enjoy fantasy at all, I highly recommend the Tales of Goldstone Wood.  If you’ve read any of the other books in the series, you’ll definitely want to read Golden Daughter.  If you haven’t, Golden Daughter can stand on its own – but after you read it, you may find yourself eager to get your hands on the rest!

Click here to download Golden Daughter from Amazon.

Click here to download Golden Daughter from Barnes&Noble.

Click here to view Golden Daughter on Goodreads.


What happens when Cinderella is so painfully shy that she cannot bear the idea of attending the royal ball? Or when the slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl? What happens when Cinderella is determined to oust an imposter prince from her rightful throne? Or when she is a cendrillon miner working from a space station orbiting a cthonian planet? What happens when Cinderella, a humble housemaid, is sent with a message for a prisoner trapped in a frightening fairy circus?

Here is Cinderella as you have never met her before, wearing glass slippers and off on unforgettable adventures!

Available now in paperback and Kindle formats!

Kindle eBook Sale!
The Five Glass Slippers collection will be on sale for only $.99 in Kindle formatfor the duration of the blog tour (June 23-28)!

About “What Eyes Can See” by Elisabeth Brown

Painfully shy Arella begs her stepmother to let her stay home from the prince’s ball. But kindly Duchess Germaine is determined that her beautiful stepdaughter should be presented at court along with her own two daughters. So, dressed in a gorgeous gown and a pair of heirloom slippers, Arella catches the eye of the crown prince . . . and finds her life suddenly far more complicated than she ever desired.
About “Broken Glass” by Emma Clifton
The slipper fits . . . but on the wrong girl! Rosalind never once danced with Prince Marius at the ball, for she is in love with his brother Henry. If only Rosalind and Marius would stop bickering long enough to invent a scheme, perhaps the three of them can find the real mystery lady. But they must work quickly, for dark deeds are afoot, and the kingdom is poised on the brink of disaster.
About “A Cinder’s Tale” by Stephanie Ricker
It’s a dangerous life, yet Elsa wouldn’t trade this opportunity to work at Tremaine Station, mining cendrillon from the seething surface of planet Aschen. Nevertheless, when a famous deep space explorer and his handsome son dock their starcraft at the space station, Elsa finds herself dreaming of far galaxies beyond Aschen’s blistering heat. There is no time for dreaming, however, when danger threatens the space station, and Elsa and her fellow miners are tested to the limits of their courage.

About “The Moon Master’s Ball” by Clara Diane Thompson

After her terrifying experience there several years ago, the one place young housemaid Tilly longs to avoid is Bromley’s Circus. But when kindly Lord Hollingberry begs her to deliver a message to the mysterious Moon Master hidden away among the circus dwellers, Tilly can’t refuse . . . and finds herself ensnared in a web of enchantment cast by the loathsome Mrs. Carlisle and her beautiful goddaughter.

And now for the story by this post’s featured author:

About “The Windy Side of Care” by Rachel Heffington
Alisandra is determined to have her rights. She knows that she is the king’s secretly dispossessed daughter, the true heir to the throne. Prince Auguste is an imposter, and if she plays her cards right, Alis will prove it to the world! That is, if charming Auguste doesn’t succeed in winning her heart before she gets her chance . . .

About Rachel Heffington

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.

In February 2014, Rachel released her debut novel, Fly Away Home, and is excited to collaborate on Five Glass Slippers with her fellow authoresses. She hopes to release her second full-length novel and first mystery (Anon, Sir, Anon) in autumn 2014. For more on Rachel, her current projects, and writing in general, visit her on her blog:

I had the opportunity to ask Rachel one question about The Windy Side of Care.  Here’s my question and her answer: 
Question: Tell us about a character in your story who you would NOT want to meet in real life. What is he or she like, and why does his/her personality work well in the story?

Answer: I would not like to meet Laureldina, the step-mother character, because she is one of those people who never gets angry. By that, I mean she never displays anger, but smiles a sort of venomous smile and pretends to like you while entirely undoing you in the back of her eyes. Her personality works well, if briefly, in The Windy Side of Care because she proves a foil to Alis and I could just sense how awful it’d be to end up having her for a … well goodness. I almost spoiled it.

* * *


Here’s your chance to be Cinderella of the ball! One lucky winner will receive a paperback copy of Five Glass Slippers, several Cinderella-themed items (including a bookmark crafted by Belle on a Budget, a journal, and a DVD copy of the Disney movie), as well as special gifts handpicked by a few of the collection’s authors (a glass slipper cookie cutter with recipe, freeze-dried astronaut ice cream, and an Apple Tree Inn cup and saucer). This giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only.
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Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their second fairy tale novella contest—
Five Enchanted Roses
a collection of “Beauty and the Beast” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Beauty and the Beast,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!
Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Enchanted Roses collection, which will be packaged up with the gorgeous cover you see displayed here. Perhaps your name will be one of the five displayed on this cover?
All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.
Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers, is available for pre-order now and will be released on June 14. Do grab yourself a copy and see what these talented writers have done with the timeless “Cinderella” tale!
Blog Button:
Please post the blog button (shown at the top) on your sidebars so that others will learn about this contest! Invite your readers to share it as well. Here is the link to include:  This link will take readers directly to the contest information.

Cover Illustration Credit:

This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website:

I’m so excited to be interviewing one of my all-time favorite authors on my blog today!  Anne Elisabeth Stengl is the author of the fantasy series Tales of Goldstone Wood.  Her latest book, Shadow Hand, is available on Amazon today (you can read a description of the story at the bottom of this post).  Now she’s taken the time to answer some questions about the book and about her writing in general. 
Tell us a little about your “real” (non-writing) life: family, pets, job, church, etc. Does it give you inspiration for your writing? Does it get in the way of your writing, or are there times when you get help from people or circumstances?
Hmmm, let’s see . . . in my real life I am a crazy-cat-lady/introverted bookworm, who somehow managed to meet Prince Charming despite all of the above! His name is Rohan, and we have been married for three-and-a-half years. We live in a little house on a hill beside a bamboo forest. We’ve named our house Rooglewood. Just because we can. The bamboo forest is home to a whole colony of feral cats, so I spend a good bit of my free time rescuing and finding homes for wild kittens—and getting the adults spayed/neutered. I just successfully rescued and tamed my first wild adult, a mother cat from whom we got three litters of kittens before I could catch her and have her spayed! She is now named Mutti, and she is going to live with us, bringing our total cat-count up to six. I told you—crazy-cat-lady.
I am also an artist, and I dabble in design projects for marketing purposes. I’ve been learning the ways of photo-manipulation this last year, which has been very interesting and challenging at the same time. I used to be a pretty decent classical pianist, but I’ve gone quite rusty in recent years. I love to teach, and I have a lovely host of creative writing students whom I mentor online. They are all so talented and inspiring! I’m sure you will all be reading their work someday. I run a small editing business called Stengl Fiction Editing Services. I and my fellow editors provide many kinds of edits to suit stories at various stages of polish.
All of this does, yes, keep me very busy, and it can be difficult sometimes to carve out writing time. But the cats are very inspirational. As is Rooglewood itself, for that matter. My husband helped me create a cozy little writing study out of one of the rooms, and I spend most of my days in here, surrounded by my cats and my long-suffering miniature Newfoundland (aka mutt), Milly. My husband makes a big difference in helping me create time for my writing career . . . he does most of the laundry, cooks better than I do, and brings me mugs of tea or warm milk to soothe me at need. He really is an angel come to earth.

Tell us about working with any people who help you create your books.  Do you use beta readers? Hire an editor or proofreader? How do you get your covers?

My mother helps me the most when it comes to creating books. She is always the first person to hear the story ideas, and she patiently brainstorms with me as I chop away the “dead-wood ideas” to get to the solid story underneath. She reads every chapter as I write it and encourages me when I hit rough spots. Later on, she is my first and most detailed line and copy editor, going over the manuscripts before my publishing house even sees them.  I seriously could not do these stories without her!
My husband is my other great contributor. Aside from basically just keeping me sane when I’m in the throes of creativity, he also brainstorms, helping me find solutions to problems when I can’t see my way clear of a sticky patch. He has written poetry (Bard Eanrin’s poetic verses have to come from somewhere!) and designed castles and locations. He’s very patient when we go on dates and I spend the bulk of a romantic dinner talking about the weird research I’ve been doing lately.
AE: “Oh Rohan, let me tell you all about guanine, which is this disgusting slimy substance I just read about today . . .”
Rohan: “Happy anniversary, sweetheart.”
AE: “. . . it coats the hides of certain deep sea fish; isn’t that fascinating?”
I recently started working with a new cover designer, Julia Popova. She has been so much fun to work with! I get to be involved in much of the design process, though all of the beautiful artistry is hers. Readers who are interested can see the step-by-step design process of my newest book cover, Golden Daughter.
Since you have several books out, tell us what you think works for promotion. What are your thoughts on ebooks versus print books and different ways to let people know about you and your books?
I mostly work on promoting via the blog world. I do interviews (like this one!) and have done blog tours in the past. I also participate in scavenger hunts (I’m part of a new one this spring), which is a fun way to join up with other authors to promote each other’s work. On my own blog I host fun contests such as the fan-fiction and fan-art contests, which generate a lot of interest in the series and give my fans a chance to demonstrate their own creativity!
Ebooks are great. They provide a whole new, wonderful way for readers to access good fiction. I’m a huge fan! My husband and I try to run free or low-priced specials for my ebooks, and we make certain to run ads for those with various companies such as BookBub or BookGorilla.
For the most part, I adhere to the philosophy that your “front list sells your back list.” That is to say, the more books you put out, the more all of the books sell. So I try to always have the next big thing in the works for my readers, whether it’s a full-length novel or a novella.
Have you done anything writing-related, but besides actually writing your books, that seemed to get a lot of positive response? Something that encouraged you?
Well, my husband and I also run a small publishing imprint called Rooglewood Press. We hosted an exciting writing contest last year—the Five Glass Slippers contest. This was for novella-length retellings of Cinderella. We ended up with submissions from across the world! So many wonderful stories were sent in. And the result is a fantastic collection of Cinderella retellings which will be releasing this summer. This contest was so successful, we’re hosting another one this year, based on another fairy tale. Info on that will be available in June! This was definitely an exciting writing-related task, and one I hope to repeat and improve in years to come.
Rooglewood Press is also excited to be releasing a new historical-fiction novel this spring. It is called Until That Distant Day and was written by award-winning novelist Jill Stengl . . . who also happens to be my mother. J It is a beautiful book set during the French Revolution, and I can hardly wait until it hits the shelves!
Tell us about Shadow Hand. Make us want to read it.
Shadow Hand is a dark fairy tale featuring the most frightening villain yet seen in Goldstone Wood . . . the disembodied, soulless parasite, Cren Cru. We rediscover familiar characters from the first three Goldstone Wood books and learn how their stories directly entwine with stories from the past. Many questions of the series are resolved in this tale . . . and many new questions are asked. It is a story about blood and love . . . and all things that lie Between.
Dragons are a common theme in fantasy, but the ones in your books are very different than most!  Why have you chosen to portray them like this, and where did you get the idea?
I have always particularly enjoyed stories featuring evil dragons. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good dragon now and then, but I never met a friendly dragon that could compete with Tolkien’s Smaug for pure, delightful fascination. So I knew that my series would be peppered with evil dragons . . . though when I first began developing Goldstone Wood, I didn’t realize how important the dragon theme would be!
The original idea for my dragons and their origin stems from classic sources. Many people have compared the idea to C.S. Lewis’s Eustace in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but the idea is actually much older than that. Fafnir, the most famous dragon of Norse mythology, underwent a transformation similar to Eustace’s (a likely source of Lewis’s inspiration for that tale). The notion of “dragons of the heart” is very old and interesting.
It also fit the point I was trying to make when I wrote the book Heartless—that ultimately my heroine, Princess Una, was her own worst enemy. Her own sin nature, as represented by her dragon form, was the true, crippling villain of her story.
This theme worked so dynamically in Heartlessthat it went on to become one of the core themes of the entire series.
What is the “message” of your writing? (For example, is your purpose to promote old-fashioned values, encourage romance, or do you have different purposes in different books?)
I always say that the central theme of this entire series is undeserved grace. I don’t write about perfect heroes or heroines. My characters never make sudden transformations, nor do they discover some brilliant talent that suddenly enables them to conquer all. They are flawed individuals, very much like you and like me. They struggle and they often fail. They never deserve to succeed, for they are as flawed at heart as any of the villains they face. But grace is offered to them despite their flaws. The same grace, by the way, which is offered to the villains. For ultimately everyone in this series is offered the same gift, whether or not they choose to accept it.
What’s the worst trouble you ever had with getting a book written (plots, finding needed information, getting a cover done)?
The opening of Dragonwitch proved the most difficult piece of writing I have ever attempted. While the plot was strong, and I loved the premise, I struggled and struggled to find the right place to open that story! I tried five different beginnings, all of them about 40,000 words long . . . all of which had to be scrapped as I tried again. I nearly had a nervous breakdown trying to get that story started! I have always struggled a little bit with openings, but nothing before or since has equaled the Dragonwitchopening. And this was all on a very tight deadline, I hardly need add! I finally had to start that book in the middle, write to the end, then go back and plug in an opening that worked. This is not a method I would ever recommend—I’m a firm believer in the organic unfolding of a plot—but it is what finally worked for Dragonwitch. I love that book, but I will always look back on the drafting of it with a shudder!
What’s your next project? Tell us so we can’t wait for it to come out!
Well, the next book to release is going to be Golden Daughter. This one is book 7 in the series, and it picks up just a few years after the (historical) events of Shadow Hand. It is set in the far eastern Noorhitam Empire, which was an extremely fun setting to write about and to research! The cast of characters includes Sairu, the titular “Golden Daughter,” who is a highly trained bodyguard. She is given the task of guarding a temple girl, one of the sacred Dream Walkers, who is being stalked by a variety of assassins and villains, all of whom want her for different purposes. Sairu is not told why but is left to sleuth out her new mistress’s secrets on her own.
Of all the heroines I have ever written about, Sairu might be my favorite. She is smart (almost frighteningly so), intuitive, and extremely tough. She is a bright, perky, lighthearted, ever-smiling young lady—the exact opposite personality one would expect in someone with her training and performing her role.
She also owns three fluffy little dogs whom she adores: Dumpling, Rice Cake, and Sticky Bun. You can imagine how much Bard Eanrin (the fan-favorite poet-cat) enjoys interacting with them . . .
What future writing projects do you have in mind?
There are MANY more Goldstone Wood stories to come! I am currently working on a new novella set far back in the ancient days of Parumvir (loooong before Dragonwitch) during the time the Brothers Ashiun still served the Near World of mortals. Once that is complete, I’ll be getting to work on book 8 in the series (the title of which is still secret). More news on that should be forthcoming!
What is your favorite of your books/characters?

My favorite book is always the one I just finished. So right now, that would be Golden Daughter, though I have high hopes of surpassing Golden Daughterwith my various plans for book 8. My favorite character is Eanrin. I do love all of my characters, but I am a crazy-cat-lady! So you know I’m going to love the cat. He’s also just so much fun to write. Every scene in which he features is bound to be interesting and entertaining. I know him very well, having been writing about him since high school days. He and I seem to understand each other rather well.
Thanks for having me on your blog, Annie! These were fun questions to answer. J
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.
Shadow Hand, book 6 in the Tales of Goldstone Wood, releases on March 4, 2014. Golden Daughter, book 7 in the series, is coming November 2014.
To learn more about Anne Elisabeth, visit:
Facebook: Anne Elisabeth Stengl, Author
Twitter: @AEStengl
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.

One of my favorite authors, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, has just released a new book in her fantasy series Tales of Goldstone Wood.  I had the privilege of receiving an early copy of the novella Goddess Tithe in exchange for an honest review.
Each of the stories in the series so far has seemed to me not just a book but a window into one part of an intricate world.  Stengl has built up this world so thoroughly that when I read one of her books I feel that I’m getting just a glimpse into something much bigger.  So far, every one of them has left me feeling that I’ve just paid a short visit to a place I could spend years and years exploring (and never grow tired of, so I’m glad she has several more planned!). 
Though significantly shorter than Stengl’s other books, Goddess Tithe provides the same kind of reading experience; the same kind of window.  It gives an intriguing glimpse of a culture alluded to only briefly elsewhere, but one that Stengl has obviously put a lot of time and thought into developing.  The characters are well rounded and believable, and I feel that I know them well now.  Their adventures and the settings, though unique, are still consistent with the rest of the series.  
This story takes place during the time of one of the previous ones, Veiled Rose, and provides readers an extra look at an episode in the life of the character Leonard – from a new character’s point of view.  This little novella serves to enrich the world of Goldstone Wood by adding one more angle through which we can see it; one more set of eyes through which to seethe experiences of a character we already knew.  And like all the rest of the books, it makes me wonder what other angles there are that I don’t know about yet; what other cultures exist there that we have yet to see.  I can’t wait for the author’s next books!
Click here to view or buy Goddess Tithe on Amazon.

A couple of months ago I featured Goddess Tithe on my blog when Anne Elisabeth Stengl did a cover reveal.  Click here to read that post, which includes an excerpt from the story.

Have you read any of the Tales of Goldstone Wood?  I’d love to hear what you like about them, or which one is your favorite.  Feel free to reply in the comments!

I’m excited to feature fellow author Anne Elisabeth Stengl’s new book Goddess Tithe on my blog today.  I’ve really enjoyed all the others in the Tales of Goldstone Wood series, and I can’t wait to read this one!  Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the bottom for your chance to win a free copy.

Title: Goddess Tithe
Author: Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Series: Tales of Goldstone Wood
Expected Release Date: November 12, 2013
Publisher: Rooglewood Press
Page Count: 130 pages
The Vengeful Goddess Demands Her Tithe

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

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

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

Goodreads * Blog Page

You can learn more about Goddess Tithewhich novel it’s connected to and read Chapter 1, here: 

Excerpt from the Story:

Here is an excerpt from the middle of the story. In this scene, Munny has been ordered to Captain Sunan’s cabin to clear away his breakfast . . . an unexpected task, for a lowly cabin boy would not ordinarily dare enter his captain’s private quarters! Munny hopes to slip in and out quietly without attracting the captain’s notice. But his hopes are dashed when Sunan addresses him, asking how their strange, foreign stowaway is faring:
“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
 Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s. “We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door open.
Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands, even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up, using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the ocean. And he saw them.
 They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants, even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more, hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death, reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.

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

Anne Elisabeth is offering two proof copies of Goddess Tithe as prizes! (U.S. and Canada only) 

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