Golden Daughter - Cover Reveal!

Monday, 24 February 2014

Hello, one and all! Today, is a pretty exciting day. I have the wonderful pleasure of being part of the Cover Reveal for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's next installment in her Tales of Goldstone Wood fantasy adventure series: Golden Daughter! This book follows Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch and Shadow Hand (coming March 4, 2014). From the little I have shared on this blog, you might know that The Tales of Goldstone Wood is one of my favourite modern fantasy books out there, so I really recommend this series for any lover of the fantasy/allegorical novel.
Without any further ado...

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.

Timeless Fantasy That Will Keep You Spellbound!
Anne Elisabeth Stengl's blog: Tales of Goldstone Wood
GOLDEN DAUGHTER official website:
Julia Popova, cover designer

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?”
illustration by Hannah Williams
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.

GIVEAWAY: In anticipation of the release of Golden Daughter, Anne Elisabeth Stengl is offering any two of the first six Goldstone Wood novels as a giveaway prize for one happy winner! Winner’s choice of: Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, Dragonwitch, or Shadow Hand which will be coming out Spring (or Autumn in Australia) of 2014. If you'd like a chance to win two books from this wonderful series, be sure to enter the Rafflecopter below!

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Home, Honeysuckles, and War - Snippets of Stories

Monday, 10 February 2014

#via A Love that Never Fails board
'To plant a garden is to believe in a tomorrow' 
- Audrey Hepburn

My journal tells me I have not posted a 'Snippets of Story' hosted by Katie in well over a year (March I think), and you've all not had the occasion to read anything else from A Love that Never Fails since the Christmas of 2012. Dear me! That's a sorry state to be in for sure, and one to be remedied at once. I had been meaning to share bits of what I've been writing for a while... but with its odd ends and threads, and with things being so meshed up between what I have actually written and what is inscribed in my brain (The Creative Idea, as Sayers would put it), I've felt quite challenged to dig out appropriate snippets. Slow as progress seems, one does seem to stack up a little writing over a year's time. So, in working on this post I've kept thinking, 'oohh, they won't GET this line unless they read this paragraph, they won't get this paragraph unless...' or 'ohh, this needs so much editing! But it is brilliant, and such an intrinsic part of the book. Jolly! I MUSTN'T LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG!' Oh well, that's why I've delayed this post so long.

In regards to actual progress: as I'm now back to a new school year, with the looming cloud of schoolwork, exams and such, I can see how it is going to be hard to pursue more 'publishable' writing until after I graduate. But that's okay! I can still scribble :). As it is with A Love that Never Fails, I feel I am writing the story... not the book at this stage. I am taking down notes from my characters... they are telling me their lives, and I am trying to scrawl it on the edges of old, dog-worn notebooks and unfinished word-documents... until that distant day when it all fits together, by God's grace. 

Oh! Snip-Whippets...
'Please - please, don't ask me, dear girl!...'
 She felt the raw emotion in his voice, saw a shattered soul in his eyes, and heard the confusion of his heart. If only she had not asked! Ernest hid his face in his hands; he tried to keep back the tears--manly tears she thought them, and loved him the more for shedding them.
 'Some things are best left unsaid,' she said at last, rising from her seat. She lifted the kettle from the stove and poured the tea into his cup, watching the steam waft and curl between the two of them, veiling them in transparent curtains.

‘He’s always been faithful,’ Rosemary said in her quiet voice, her eyes taking in the desolation of the empty house. She walked over to her son and placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘He cares for the sparrows, George, and He will care for you too. Of that, I am sure.’

‘Tut, tut! That won’t do, George – you know that! Send her to a boarding school for girls. I know one in Lancashire which is a quality establishment with matrons; it will be just the thing for your Jane!’ Reid rubbed his thumbs together and with the way the light fell on his gold-rimmed pince-nez George could not see the kindly concern in his eyes.


‘What about Miss Taylor?’ Jane asked softly, her big round eyes meeting her father’s; she fondled Tabby, her orange striped cat that padded in from the hallway and sat on her lap. ‘She’s stayin' too, isn't she?’

At that moment, the young schoolteacher slipped into the living-room, as she took off her apron. A faint shred of colour stole into her cheeks, but she briskly dried her hands and smiled encouragingly at Jane. ‘Your father and grandmother will look after you now, darling—but we’ll be seeing each other a lot at school, won’t we?’
Unfortunately, Jane got tongue-tied; naturally, that left George in what people call 'awkward positions'. 


'You wretched blunderbuss!'
Ernest turned his head up from the mangled body; his muscles tensing, his whole body tipped for flight. Captain Pole, covering a gaping burn on his face with a gloved hand, scrunched his boots against the gravel and flung his dog leash towards Ernest. 
'By thundering George, what do you think you're doing?'
The roar of enemy planes, far away now though they were, almost drowned out his voice. 'He is... was... breathing.'
'"Was" you said,' Pole scoffed. 'Was! The man is turned cinder and ash. What do you think you are-a fool?!?'
 'I'm a doctor...' Ernest said, and his voice cracked, '... was.'

Jane stood by the old shed and watched the bleeding shades of evening blue and orange sky paint the farmstead with gentle golden hues. The crumpled old tractor with green rust marooned conspicuously by the row of tangled mulberry trees leading to the Munson houseplace; the honeysuckles with cherry-red tips, and the fluttering blue butterflies by the pump - everything was touched with a grandeur and magic that was as fleeting as it was beautiful. The sun sank away beyond the encircling hills. It was a scene from a play - all gone in a flash.

'GET DOWN!' the man howled, his voice not sounding unlike an urgent wolf. Ernest obediently crawled into the hollow of the bushes, brushing off the thistles and briers tangled in his yellow scarf. Poor scarf. His sister would be as mad as a hornet, or as mad as the flying bullets above his head.

Reid, pulling sparks from the strained mood around the table, drained down his glass of wine, shaking his head. ‘War is inevitable for those of us who wish it to be so.’ He spoke in his clear, forceful way, pulling out his thick cigar broodingly. ‘But I say “No!” to this bloody warmongering between us and Germany; we cannot plunge this nation yet again into a war loosing countless lives after the last Great War. We must avoid it at all costs.’ Jane saw her father grimace in the following silence; his eyes remained fixed on the flickering candles, watching, it seemed, the uneven sparks of blue-flame rise and fall and sputter away. 

"I think of Poland and the stakes of freedom for the people of that nation and the way we play this chess game so selfishly. How fine these Poles are, so sensitive in their music, so fine in thought, so hard in battle! God knows that I—we all— do not wish for war. But one thing I do know... neither security, nor peace even is worth this sacrifice of truth... or our freedom.’

Ernest watched his classmate hop off the chair, and reach for his umbrella standing by the coat-hangers. ‘Professor Tulloch, bless him—he said I passed the physiology examination! The blighted thing...’ he chewed the words out of the corner of his mouth, ‘And I so badly wanted to go to Sydney. Now, I will be a stuffy old doctor and sit behind a stodgy consultation room before I am twenty-four.’
            Ernest' grin slid away into seriousness; he stuffed his hands deep into his trouser pockets. ‘Nothing stuffy about saving a human life.’

A sound of feet on the gravel, crunching behind her, made Jane turn about. It was Amelia. She sauntered up to her with an arrogant tilt of her neck and a scornful laugh up her sleeves; as she walked up close, Jane noticed a strange frightening fragility in the young woman's eyes, in the way she restlessly toyed with the top button of her pink chiffon blouse, and flicked bits of hair away from her mouth. With a sudden jerk of her head towards the house, she threw herself onto the oak bench. 'The patriarch is asleep,' she commented, her voice addled with bitter sarcasm. 'He's sleeping like a baby in the Nursery Rhythms.'

‘My father, with all his fastidious virtues for hard-work and integrity, is like a saint from a far... getting closer makes me in danger of his fangs...'

'It's all gold, Granny,' Jane let her fingers trace irregular circles on the piece of brick in her hand, 'in the sunlight it is like a mocking phantom of beauty. It's horrible!'

His nose buried back in the newspaper, Ernest licked his dry lips. Robert was right. The landscape had a way of pulling you towards it, haunting you with homesickness, reminding you of old half-buried memories. He shook his head, half-smiling. That first train ride with Dad—the way the leather seats felt clammy and ticklish against his small chubby palm, and the thing that made him feel so contented and secure in his father’s big arms as he pointed out the window towards the grazing cows, the mighty hills and the silver and brown brumbies galloping at their peaks.

His commander seized him by the shoulders and rammed him fiercely to the back of the wall. Ernest drew a ragged breath, as George's face contorted into what seemed something like a bodily pain.
  'This is a war, boy!'