A Good Friday Meditation

Sunday, 20 April 2014

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

I failed to write up a post yesterday for Good Friday, since we were out all day at the Good Friday service at church, but the little time delay has given me a little moment to reflect, and put into words what I long to share. Yesterday, I felt God's presence gently reaching to my heart, filling me with peace and new strength, new courage, through hearing His Word being read in the Scripture passages on Christ's passion and sufferings, in the words of the sermon, and in the hymns of worship. Texts from the Gospels, Lamentations, and all the prophetic-passages speaking of the death of Christ, such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah, the Psalms... yes, it was truly beautiful! 

So far, this year has been a road paved with struggling with the things I cannot change in my life, with the burdens and trudgeries of things, wrestling with the Lord in my heart, trying to understand the changes heaped in my life, and learning to be thankful for all that He has given me. On facebook the other day, a friend shared a post-status that went like this: "And on the night He was betrayed He broke bread and lifted it up and gave thanks", and the poster went on to say how that if Christ gave thanks on the night He was betrayed... shouldn't we give thanks in all things? That hit home, as they say. I saw how I was forgetting... Calvary Love. I was forgetting, when strength is to be found in looking unto Him and His sufferings and wounds, by following in the steps of my Crucified and Risen Lord... 

For, He suffered and bled.
He was betrayed and received the kiss of a traitor.
He was stricken and smitten with stripes.
He was falsely accused.
He was forsaken by His disciples and followers. He was alone.
He endured the power of God's wrath... 
He cried 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' in the darkest hour of His passion....
For our sakes. He suffered it all, in love for us.
"If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love."
Amy Carmichael
And what Christ did for me is a challenge to live my life for Him totally, following that way of the cross too, denying myself and taking up the cross daily. To love Him and His People selflessly, joyfully, obediently. To hold unto the One who endured such ridicule from men, and sacrificed Himself for our salvation, and to walk with Him in the path of suffering. 

"To look at the Crucifix and then to look at our own hearts; to test by the cross the quality of our love – if we do that honestly and unflinchingly we don’t need any other self-examination. The lash, the crown of thorns, the mockery, the stripping, the nails – life has equivalents of all these for us and God asks a love for himself and his children which can accept and survive all that in the particular way in which it is offered to us. It is no use to talk in a large vague way about the love of God; here is its point of insertion in the world"- Evelyn Underhill

Lord, allow me to have that love for You which shirks not from bearing the cross, and following you the Narrow Way - because if you are there, Lord, where else can I go? Give me that courage to persevere and hold unto you in the times of comfort, and in the times of darkness. Let me know Your love, Lord, the Love of Calvary. 
This week, I was reminded of a poem I wrote many Easter's ago (I think it dates back in 2009, when I was 13 years old or so!), titled 'The Night of His Passion', which basically tells of Jesus' sufferings for our sakes. I cannot say it is in very good form, or meter. But I hope you will be blessed in some small way through it despite its roughness. So, I thought to share it here, today....

The Night of His Passion

One night, I entered a garden.
In the groves, I saw Him.
His agony surged anew to the brim.
That Divine and sacred sigh,
 Wasn’t a bitter ‘why?’
But a cry for the removal of the Cup;
He bore it on that night of His last Sup.
Oh, His sweat poured thick like blood...
 It did the earthly soil flood.
It was the night of His Passion!

“My Father,” he with many tears wept,
“Let this cup pass from me.
“Oh Holy Father, Your Will have I kept!
“But let your will be.”
By His tears, He conquered.
And His Father above heard,
Sending an angel to my Lord
To give Him a strengthening word.
It was the night of His Passion!

He, from prison, they took.
His cowardly friends
Him, they forsook
Yea, all forsook like fiends
Leaving the Lamb of God alone
However, the Father was with Him.
His love to us he has shown.
He has become our closest kin.
Yet remember, what it cost God’s own Son
On the night of His Passion!

The Jews cried ‘Crucify!’
Not heeding His forgiving cry
Pilate, his hands washed
His conscious, he hushed.
I wept for the pain He was feeling
When for my healing
My Redeemer was scourged,
His blood for me was freely poured
It was the hour of His Passion!

Therefore, to the Cross Jesus went
His sacred Life on me He spent
He took my burden from the garden
To buy by His sufferings my pardon
Even to the cruel Calvary Cross-
Where he purged my dross
It was the hour of His Passion!

Alone He hung on the Tree
I didn’t know, He did it for me
He said not a word
Even in the deepest pains,
To those who seized the sword
And by His anguish,
He cleansed my stains
It was the hour of His Passion!

From the Cross-, I heard an expiring cry
God incarnate doomed to die!
His sacred body was wounded
The mockers around His Cross
Cruelly surrounded
They, His only crown, did scorn
Yea, for it was a crown of thorn
It was the hour of His Passion!

He, even in dread pain,
When seeing a thief’s stain
Forgave that sinner on his side
Saying he would be with Him
In Paradise on that Easter tide
His love, in His Passion,
Flowed to others
Aye, to us- beggars
It was the hour of His Passion!

For my sake, His holy hand
Which made cripples stand
Was with cruel nails pierced
For my sake, His gentle meekness
Was by the crowd mocked
And measured as weakness
For my sake, they crucified Him
And with a crown of thorn
His kingly head, did they adorn.
For my sake
Atonement did Christ make
In the hour of His Passion!

To His people, not to me only
Though He was in agony
He cried, “Father, forgive!”
And by His death, we now live.

In a tomb He lay
But on the Third Day
He from the sepulcher arose!
To His followers Himself He shows
Oh, ye Saints, wipe away your tears!
For by His sacred Passion,
He has wiped away all our sin
And with it, all fears,
But, remember His pains
That washed our stains

Remember the night of His Passion!

-poem written 2009 by Joy C.-

Happy Easter!

Mrs. Potts and some other Autumn Rambles...

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

#A Love that Never Fails
Hello, 'ello April. You took me a little by surprise, how quickly you're sweeping our way. Easter is upon us for a thing, and that is exciting, and wonderful, and I very much treasure this week! I love Easter time, the time when we can reflect on Christ's passion and sufferings and His resurrection. It is both a solemn and also a joyful time. This past Sunday, I was very blessed by attending the Palm Sunday church service; the message was upliftings, the worship, and the Scripture readings on the Lord Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem were really encouraging and a beautiful, special blessing.

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." - Zachariah 9:9

As to the season's elements, uhm... things could be better *cough, cough*... They say autumn holds a magic charm to it, a fleck of gold and scarlet to the leaves, and cozy, rainy-days and after-noon soft sunshine peeping through layers of silver cloud on bejewelled pavements; a sort of season that encourages the taking up of the pen, warm socks and a cup of tea! Alas, our Queensland autumns are like contrary children, whiny and disapproving and not quite ready to settle on any one thing - a chill breeze in the morn, followed by a humid heat all afternoon, that leaves you sneezing and sniffling, sweaty and gwumpy. Ooh, I won't say things aren't beautiful. They are, they are... the fields of willowing grass and hilly bushland, for instance, are crisply fresh and green from frequent rainfall. The cows and horses are to be seen grazing in their green pastures with contentment by the highway, and the sun, when it shines is pleasing and warming. The sky at night is alight with tiny glimmering, shimmering snow-white stars. But it is just that autumn (especially this one) has not decided on anything: it is this weird in-between. Summer is something ferocious too, but it is also a darling, for all its hot tempers. Spring is sensible, and fresh and new, even in the rain. But winter. Ah, I love our winters in Queensland and I am quite ready for it to greet us as soon as possible!

Meanwhile, here is a bit of eye-candy for your pleasure :). The other day, my sweet friend Emily, sent me a sort of 'fan' work for A Love that Never Fails that did not fail to bring the biggest smile to my face and cheered up my 'autumnish' mood :). It was so sweet of her! Right back when I first started to dabble in the novel, she sent me a fun mock-up book cover design she had made for the book which was beautiful and I dearly loved it... 
...But of course, as the story progressed I suppose tiny things slipped out of the bag about the novel, and so Emily updated the design with this gorgeous book cover which I totally love, and is more accurate and faithful to the story-feel, and era. A little historical detail: there were distinct changes between 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s in the way people both spoke and dressed up! Anyway, I love how the model of the girl is close in age to Jane during 1940 during the Battle of Britain,  and the title with the planes flying up is beautiful, and a big nod to the story's plot.... :). 
'fan' cover created by Emily Chapman. This is just for artistic, fan pleasure.
Thank you, Em!! <3 :)
How do you like it?

Talking about A Love that Never Fails, and stories, I actually got to write some scenes from later sections of the book, and that was a lot of fun to write, and just made me warm back to the characters, and foresee more character and plot developments which, in a rubbing-your-hand-gleefully sort of way, is very emotional, dramatic... and uhm, heart-breaking. In between the flurry of life, I am itching to get this book written. I really am!!

‘Jane—a war cannot stop you delighting in roses and music and stories’ George said, as the two of them slowly started walking back to the church. He stood an instant at the clearing of the grove. The shadow of a smile crossed his face. ‘But it will make you appreciate them more.’
- A Love that Never Fails

 The wind howled against the glass. Ernest drifted his attention to the drizzling trickle of rain outside through the large commons' window. It was a bleak sort of afternoon, dreary if one had nothing to look forward to but sterile injection needles and white-washed clinics!
- A Love that Never Fails

Besides the occasional scribble in my main novel, and dabbling in other story ideas, I've been keeping busy with all sorts of things this past month, - it probably isn't anymore hectic than normal, but just cramped enough to keep me on my toes. And I am fine with that. Never have to worry about a dull moment ;). Yr 10 is coming to a slow finish... but these last few PACE's demand a lot of perseverance to finish within the time I need it to be done. If you could somehow find the time to remember me in your prayers, that the Lord will help me get it all done, I would be so grateful!!
My current relationship with
 A-L-GE-B-R-A :p

I am also slowly getting back into the zest of things with my violin-playing, and that's fun though a deal of work to juggle and plow through all the same. I am working on 5 pieces at the moment, a 'Study', an 'Allegro' by Handel, a Spanish Tanz, a piece called 'Boy Paganini' and my current favourite 'Evening Prayer'... all of which are in turns a delight to play and a treble mess of hard-work!
Also, I have been doing theory, after an absence of over 6 years, and am returning with the feeling of motivation and interest :). 
.... :) what the staff meeting looks like!
 For blog happenings, you know, I want to assure you I still haven't forgotten those questions I was sent last year on my blog's birthday, and even though I have taken forever to get to them, I am working on polishing them up and posting them sometime soon :). I also have a few more book and movie reviews up my sleeve, so that should keep Fullness of Joy busy yet. As you may well have noticed, I've had the opportunity of doing some blog interviews with authors lately, and actually it has been a wonderful thing and a lot of fun as well. On a level of interest, how much do you enjoy these interviews on Fullness of Joy?  I have a feeling I will be doing more of that sort of thing in the future, and it will be interesting to gauge the enthusiasm you all have for stuff like that, and cover reveals, book/movie reviews, etc. I still want to keep my blog a 'personal' sort of blog, with theme posts, updates, tips and info on my writing, and stuff like that... so we will see how things pan out in the months ahead. School-work is definitely keeping me busy, and also I want to balance blogging time with more writing time. I have been feeling ever so restless and out of sorts these days without time for quality writing... *soft sigh*.
But it was such a GOOD story to be told...

Meanwhile, I have been having been conquering many a delightful book. Which reminds me... I have a bit of a quandary concerning some authors I am keen on getting into; I have the opportunity of acquiring a few books this month, and I am in a muddle on which ones to choose. So, perhaps you'd care to help? Here are some books I really want to read, but I don't know which to pick out for starters (you know, the cream of them, or in some cases the introduction to a particular author/series). Please, if you happen to have read any of these authors or their books, I would be eager for recommendation!
Dorothy L. Sayers: ... which book of her Lord Peter Whimsy should I start with?
Flannery O'Conner: The Violent Bear it Away, Wise Blood, Complete Stories, etc??
Madeleine L'Engle: ??
Elizabeth George Speare: The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Sign of the Beavers, or Calico Captive?
Rosemary Sutcliff: I have read 'The Eagle of the Ninth' 'The Silver Branch' and 'The Shining Company' and own copies of 'The Shield Ring' and 'The Lantern Bearers', so do you know which of Sutcliff's other books might be a favourite with you... Outcast, The Mark of the Horse Lord, etc ??
Separate books I want to pick from:
The Railway Children - E. Nesbit
Little Dorrit - Charles Dickens
Seven Little Australians - Ethel Turner
Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott
The Princess and the Goblin - George MacDonald
Beowulf  - (which translation??)
Never - J. Grace Pennington
Citadel - A. J. Cronin
Fall of Arthur - J.R.R. Tolkien
Mrs. Meades Mystery, Volume 1 - Elisabeth Grace Foley
Dante's Divine Comedy
The Gammage Cup
To Kill a Mocking Bird - Harper Lee
Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis
The Thief, King of Attolia, Queen of Attolia - Megan Whaler Turner
East of Eden - John Steinbeck
The Scarlet Pimpernal 
Old Fashioned Girl - Louisa May Alcott
War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
All Things Bright and Beautiful - James Herriot
Queen's Handmaid - T. L. Higley
Petra: City of Stone - T. L. Higley
Shadowed by Grace - Cara Putman
Firmament: Radiolly - J. Grace Pennington
Firmament: In His Image - J. Grace Pennington

Which five books would you pick out of this list?
Mrs. Potts:“Cheer up, child. It’ll turn out all right in the end, you’ll see.”

*sorry for this rambly post, I promise for more 'substance' posts in the near future =).

Author Interview: Anne Elisabeth Stengl (+ giveaway!)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

For today, I have the very special pleasure of welcoming Anne Elisabeth Stengl for a interview here on Fullness of Joy. Anne Elisabeth has just released her latest novel in The Tales of Goldstone Wood series, Shadow Hand,  and I can vouch for how wonderful it actually is ;). Most Fullness of Joy readers would probably be familiar with who my favourite modern fantasy author is by now, so I shall leave all the 'introducing' to the interview itself... :). As a special treat, along with this interview, Anne Elisabeth is kindly offering an exciting giveaway of any one of her six Goldstone Wood novels to one happy winner! So be sure to read to the end of this post, and enter in the Rafflecopter entries below, for a chance to win any one novel in the series which you choose. And now, without any further ado...

Author Interview:
Anne Elisabeth Stengl
        1.  Hello, Anne Elisabeth Stengl, what a delight it is to have you on Fullness of Joy blog today! To start this off, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself and how you first started writing as a profession?

Hi, Joy! It’s lovely to be here. Thank you for inviting me for an interview.

So, a little about me  . . . I am a crazy-cat-lady, tea-drinking, book-devouring lover of fairy tales, and I spend my time writing fairy tale adventure novels for YA readers. I am married to the ever-so dashing and handsome Rohan, whom I met at fencing class, and who knows how to make the perfect cup of tea (this is very important in a man). He also knows my favourite flower, and surprised me with a bouquet of sweet-smelling stock just this week. (Stock, as a flower, never gets enough attention due to its singularly unromantic name. But it’s my favourite, and Rohan knows. He’s a gentleman with an eye for the details.)

I wrote my debut novel, Heartless, when I was twenty-one, signed my first contract at twenty-two (thanks to my agent, Rachel Kent), and have been busily writing professionally ever since. My sixth full-length novel, Shadow Hand, just released in early March, and I am looking forward to book 7, Golden Daughter, releasing in November. Exciting times!

         2.     Without giving too much away, could you be persuaded to tell us a bit about your newly released novel, Shadow Hand, and how it fits into the Tales of Goldstone Wood series?

Well, to understand how Shadow Hand fits into the series, readers must know that I never write my stories in a precise sort of chronological order. That would be a very “mortal” way of looking at history, all in one continuous stream. But immortals would view history very differently, seeing connections and patterns across the centuries that would be missed if viewed only from a linear perspective.

So the first three books in the series are set in what we will call the “present.” Books 4 and 5, however, go back in time a good 1600 years. But Shadow Hand, book 6, connects the “present” books and the “past” books, tying them together so that it becomes impossible to separate the two, despite the hundreds and hundreds of years between them.

It’s complicated. Yes. But, if you read the stories, it all makes sense!

That being said, I do think it’s very important for readers to have read the previous books before picking up Shadow Hand. I do my best to write each story as stand-alone as possible, and some readers have managed to enjoy Shadow Hand pretty well without familiarity with the rest of the series. But it definitely limits enjoyment if you don’t know the world and at least some of its histories.

The story itself is a wild adventure, full of monsters and curses and dangers galore. There’s a lady running from her own wedding, and a prince determined to find her and tell her that, well, he won’t marry her after all! No matter how much he loves her . . . There are a number of familiar characters from previous books who return in this story, both from the past and the present. And there are new characters as well, most notably Queen Nidawi the Everblooming, a Faerie who is as mad and terrifying as she is endearing. Shadow Hand also features what I think may be my most frightening villain of all time . . . the disembodied fey parasite, Cren Cru.

        3.     Isaac Newton was known to have said, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Who do you see as having been the literary giants or “Greats” that have inspired your writing and perhaps even your life thus far? 

When asked a question such as this, the first name that comes to my mind is always George MacDonald. I have been madly in love with his fairy tales ever since reading The Princess and the Goblin . . . a book which only gets better with age and re-readings. No one since MacDonald has ever written such beautiful fantasy with such delicate handling of allegory.

No one . . . but C. S. Lewis sure comes close. Another masterful giant whose work I adore, from his lovely Chronicles of Narnia to the heart-wrenching, brain-twisting Until We Have Faces. I recently re-read Out of the Silent Planet and was awed all over again at Lewis’s use of prose and his deep passion for his God, which he communicates with far more subtlety than I could ever hope to emulate (though I will go on trying!)

Stylistically, I am a huge admirer of Sir Terry Pratchett, who writes some of the best modern prose I have ever encountered. He often gets passed over among the erudite for writing “comedies.” But a closer inspection of his work reveals such thoughtfulness, such authenticity . . . beauty of work seldom found among modern writers. He is a master. He and I disagree on many and most philosophical and theological points (he is deist, I believe), but that does not decrease my admiration. If I, as a Christian, could learn to write my own beliefs into my work with half the skill Sir Terry Pratchett wields . . .well, I might then consider myself a real novelist!

I also love Diana Wynne Jones and Megan Whalen Turner. I would be happy to be like either of them when I grow up.

I think, in my own version of the world, I would like to be a perfect splice of George MacDonald and Sir Terry Pratchett. But since I am me, I will do the best with what God has given me!

           4.     What inspired the plot of Shadow Hand? Were you aware of this story from the time you wrote Veiled Rose and Moonblood or did the seed of the story come later?

I think I began seriously toying around with the ideas for Shadow Hand partway through the drafting of Veiled Rose. This was due almost entirely to the character of Lady Daylily, who served as the “other woman” character in Veiled Rose and Moonblood. She was just so much more interesting, so much more complex than your typical “other woman,” and I knew she had a story all her own.

Then I had the idea to make Foxbrush the hero. Foxbrush, who is viewed exclusively through the “pathetic” lens in both Veiled Rose and Moonblood . . . Foxbrush, who is the last word in unexpected heroes! Once that idea struck, I knew the story would have to be written.

The rest of the plot came through study. I read the Ballad of Tam Lin—I studied into the legends of Crom Cruach and St. Patrick, along with a variety of other Irish legends—I pored over pages and pages of the extremely strange and extremely dry Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer. Eventually the plot for Shadow Hand emerged.

I also spent an inordinate amount of time researching the cultivation of figs. That was . . . interesting.

         5.     Can you picture any of the novels in The Tales of Goldstone Wood being adapted into movies? How would you feel about it if they were? In the stuff of your dreams, who would you cast for your main characters in Shadow Hand?

I confess, I’m not much of a “movie person.” Most movie adaptations of books have to be reduced to bare bones in order to fit on the big screen, and I hate the idea of that happening to my stories! I think the only one I could see possibly working as a movie would be Heartless since it is the simplest of all the stories . . . the gateway book into the rest of the series. Even then, for modern movie audiences, Princess Una would have to be transformed into a tough-as-nails dragon-slayer type who solves all her own problems with a sword. Which pretty much defeats the entire purpose of that story. And Prince Aethelbald would have to be significantly hotter . . . that, or Prince Lionheart should be the hero and come through in the end.

No. Can’t really see it.

As for casting . . . Wow. I never cast my characters as movie/TV stars since I don’t think Hollywood boasts enough “real” looking people. A bunch of pretty pictures of pretty faces never helped anyone write a more compelling character. Thus I seriously don’t have any ideas here. Sorry!

But readers, I would love to hear YOUR ideas of who should be cast for the major characters, either of Shadow Hand or any of the other books!

           6.     While writing Shadow Hand, did you find yourself learning any lessons or going through any of the journeys/struggles that your characters went through yourself?

My characters are always made up of little pieces of myself—either pieces of my current self or my past self. Daylily struggles with repression in a way that I can deeply relate to, and her final salvation is a reflection of my own. Foxbrush’s struggles with the pressure of kingdom-ruling and his own inadequacy are also a reflection of personal struggles. Lionheart’s struggles were perhaps the most present on my heart . . . his inability to see where his Path will lead, his feelings of abandonment in the midst of an impossible situation . . . I think a lot of people living the daily Christian walk will feel the truth of Lionheart’s storyline in this book!

7.     As a Christian as well as an author, how do you feel your faith affects your writing generally and your stories in The Tales of Goldstone Wood series specifically?

I never set out to write an allegory. I always set out to write a story. However, I consider my writing to be the truest, purest form of worship with which I bring glory to God. As a result, I must bathe my writing in prayer, turning each project over to Him to do with as He sees fit. So, in due time He provides me with any “message” to be communicated. And He sees the stories into the hands of those readers who need them and will be most blessed by them. I am the vessel. I do the work. But He provides the life and the inspiration, and all the glory is His.

8.     In writing in the fantasy/fairy-tale genre, do you hold to any convictions or guidelines on how you approach things like magic, sorcery and allegory in your books, as well as drawing the distinction between good and evil?

As I said above, I pray over my work constantly. And then I write. That’s about as structured as it gets. I never write about “good” witches, and there is always a clear line between good and evil. This being said, my protagonists are not always “good,” per se. They are fallen and sinful, and most of them serve as their own worst enemies.

9.     Carrying on from the previous question, is there a reason for why almost all your villains (except the Dragon himself) seem to have redeemable qualities and regrets over their choice of path? In an allegorical light, do you see them as representative of demons or rather as fallen sinful creatures with the hope of redemption?

The only character who could be viewed as a “demon” is the Dragon . . . and, of course, his Sister. Though I don’t really view either of them as demons so much as “incarnate representations of Evil,” which is not really the same thing.
The rest of the characters—good and bad, mortal and immortal—are all creatures in need of grace. They all, in their own unique ways, represent you and me.

10.  I have always been baffled to understand the background of a certain female villain (not the Dragonwitch) in the Goldstone Wood. Can you tell us a little on the relationship of the Death-in-Life and her interaction with the Dragon? Who is she exactly?

Well, for one thing, she is not the Death-in-Life. She is the Life-in-Death, the flipside of the coin to the Dragon, who is called the Death-in-Life.
She and the Dragon are anthropomorphic personifications of evil. Or, to rephrase it in layman’s terms, they are personalities representing evil. Evil incarnate. They are neither mortal nor immortal, for they are Evil itself captured in person form. They are the same Evil, but they are different sides of the same Evil. Thus they are called Brother and Sister.
They are also in conflict with each other . . . because what is Evil if not conflicted?
These characters stem directly from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, an epic ballad, a stunning allegory, and a long-time favourite of mine. The scene these characters are taken from is this:

Are those her ribs through which the Sun
Did peer, as through a grate?
And is that Woman all her crew?
Is that a Death? and are there Two?
Is Death that Woman’s mate?

Her lips were red, her looks were free,
Her locks were yellow as gold:
The Nightmare Life-in-Death was she,
Who thicks man’s blood with cold.

The naked hulk alongside came,
And the twain were casting dice;
“The game is done! I’ve won! I’ve won!”
Quoth she, and whistles thrice. (The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, lines 177-194)

You can see in this brief excerpt many of the themes from which I drew: The twin incarnations of Death (I made mine Brother and Sister, rather than Mates), the casting of dice, the “Nightmare” theme. In the ballad, since the Lady wins, the Mariner himself does not die but goes on living a nightmarish shade of life, which is in itself a death.
This is what we see taking place with Prince Lionheart in book 2 of my series, Veiled Rose. The Lady Life-in-Death wins the game, and therefore she proceeds to give him all of his dreams come true . . . which results in a “life of death.” Everything Prince Lionheart truly loves and cares about is destroyed or taken away. All because he got what he thought he wanted.
Note: This is not the same direction Coleridge took his Life-in-Death representation. They are thematically similar, but not the same. I absolutely urge a study of Coleridge’s work! I believe he himself may have gotten the Lady Life-in-Death’s name from St. Augustine’s Confessions:
Still, dust and ashes as I am, allow me to speak before thy mercy. Allow me to speak, for, behold, it is to thy mercy that I speak and not to a man who scorns me. Yet perhaps even thou mightest scorn me; but when thou dost turn and attend to me, thou wilt have mercy upon me. For what do I wish to say, O Lord my God, but that I know not whence I came hither into this life-in-death. Or should I call it death-in-life? I do not know. And yet the consolations of thy mercy have sustained me from the very beginning . . .” (Chapter VI)
As for the Lady and the Dragon and their roles in the series . . . these will continue to be expanded upon over the course of many books. In fact, much more of their mythology will be revealed in Golden Daughter.
11.  In one word each, how would you describe each of the main characters of Shadow Hand?
Daylily: Repressed
Foxbrush: Doubtful
Lionheart: Conflicted
Sun Eagle: Possessed
Nidawi: Vengeful
Lioness: Protective
Eanrin: Angry
Imraldera: Confused
Lark: Tough
The Baron: Ambitious
The Baroness: Hopeful
Redman: Wise
Sight-of-Day: Strong
Felix: Bored . . . and then Not Bored At All (which is cheating, I know)

12.  As you wrote Shadow Hand, were there aspects of the story that took you by surprise?

I was surprised by how dark it was. I write by a detailed outline, so this shouldn’t have surprised me. But an outline is never the same as actual prose, so I was a bit taken aback as I watched the developing themes of Love and Blood play out before my eyes. There were several scenes that I wanted to skip over entirely at first, afraid they might be too dark. But after much prayer and searching, I decided to go back and write them in. And the story was much stronger as a result.

           13.  How do you think the main characters, Daylily and Foxbrush of Shadow Hand would react if he or she were introduced to you?

Daylily would be impeccably polite but probably uninterested. Foxbrush would be awkward, trying to impress me with intelligent conversation but making a hash of it along the way.

They would both like my husband, Rohan, tremendously, though. Rohan has a way of putting people at ease. And Foxbrush and Rohan would get caught up in a detailed, animated conversation about tea from Southlands vs. tea from Sri Lanka, and Foxbrush would forget his awkwardness while involved in this debate.

And my lover-boy cat, Marmaduke, would leap into Daylily’s arms and win her over with purrs. So ultimately, with the help of Rohan and Marmaduke, I think we’d have a successful visit.

14.  Can you tell us what are your current favourite movie(s), TV show(s), and/or book(s)? (Stress is on the currentJ!)

I am a big fan of both Doctor Who and Sherlock! As said previously, I’m not really a movie person. I prefer TV shows since there is always more room to flesh out storylines and character arcs. And those two are my current favourites. My favourite current books are anything by Sir Terry Pratchett and anything by Megan Whalen Turner. (I’m re-reading Sir Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series right now and am once more completely bowled over by the sheer genius of that man.)

15.  We love Eanrin to bits, - but because he gets the cake for being our favourite character, can you single out a favourite heroine in the series?

Well, there was a time I would have said Dame Imraldera/Starflower . . . but she has recently been replaced in my affections by Sairu, the heroine of my upcoming book 7, Golden Daughter. Sairu is just plain awesome. But I can’t say too much about her without spoilers, so I need to keep my mouth shut for now.
I also adore Lady Daylily, who turned into the most complicated and interesting of all my heroines. She’s a hard one for many people to love, but I think she’s an easy one to relate to. I know I deeply relate to her struggles and desires.
The other heroine who is often passed over but whom I really enjoyed writing was Lady Leta of Aiven. Definitely a girl after my own heart! My husband tells me I am an “independent people-pleaser,” which is a stressful combination when you think about it. Leta is that part of me, come to life on the page! She only gets a fairly small role in one book, but she will always be a favourite of mine.

16.  In offering advice to young authors when it comes to sharing their stories, do you advocate they pursue the traditional mainstream route of finding an agent, etc and waiting it out, or do you consider indi publishing a healthy alternative?

I always try to encourage the young writers in my life with this maxim: “It is not a race.
These days, indie publishing is a quick and easy way to get a quality-looking product out there to readers. But so many young writers think that just because they have finished a manuscript, they are ready to dive into the publishing world. And it might be true . . . but if it is true, then why not take the time to look into getting an agent? At least take a little time to put yourself out there, get some professional feedback, and continue to grow as a writer. The temptation is to dive head-first into a world that is huge, demanding, and extremely competitive.
But I ask you—Just because you can bake a fantastic pie, does that mean you’re ready to open a bakery? Or because you painted a lovely picture, are you ready to open a gallery?
This being said, I am a huge supporter of indie publishing. Many of the professional novelists I know are moving in that direction. I myself, after successfully launching an indie short last year, am pursuing indie in a big way. It’s a wonderful new opportunity for novelists out there!
I will also say here and now that I know talented novelists and short-story writers who, despite their talent, have not found agents or publishers for their work. This reflects not so much on the quality of their work as on current market trends. In such situations, indie publishing provides an excellent opening to get quality product out to readers who will thoroughly enjoy it.
But again, there’s a big difference between an experienced novelist making a carefully-calculated career move and a young writer with an unpolished manuscript jumping into a world for which she/he is unprepared.
That’s my two-cents. There are plenty of other opinions out there, however, and aspiring novelists should careful explore all options.

17.  I gather you recently have chosen to branch out on your own and initiated your own publishing firm. Can you tell us a little bit about Rooglewood Press and your hopes/plans for it?
Rooglewood Press started as an experiment. I had been hearing more and more about successful indie-publishing endeavours among the professional novelists with whom I am networked. So I wrote up a novella set in my Goldstone Wood world and (after getting permission from my publisher) launched it via my own imprint to see how it would do.
And I was very pleased by the results.
Rooglewood Press is now producing a variety of work, including many more upcoming Goldstone Wood novels and novellas, a historical fiction novel by my award-winning, bestselling novelist mother, Jill Stengl, and the exciting Five Glass Slippers Cinderella anthology. We were delighted with the number and quality of submissions sent in for the Five Glass Slippers writing contest, and are now gearing up for our next contest along a similar vein (featuring a different fairy tale). We are so excited about the enthusiasm surrounding these projects, and hope to see the contests grow each year. Rooglewood Press will not only provide a fantastic home for many established novelists but will also (we hope) prove an excellent launching pad for new novelists, getting new author names out to a broader reading public.

18.  What is your greatest ambition/hope for the series of Tales of Goldstone Wood? Can you tell us a bit about the new writing project(s) you’re working on now?

With the current rigorous schedule I’m under, my biggest ambition for the Tales of Goldstone Wood is simply to get the next project written. And then the next project after that . . . and then the one after that . . .
I am preparing to write book 8 in the series, the title of which is not yet released. This involves quite a lot of research . . . because yes, even fantasy novelists must research! It’s a rather large, complicated sort of work, so I expect this one to take me longer to write than some of the others.
I am also working very hard on getting Five Glass Slippers ready for publication in June . . . which is coming up very soon now!

19.  Out of the many beautiful themes and delightful plots, what would you most like your readers to take away with them from reading Shadow Hand?

As with all of my books, the ultimate theme at the core is one of “undeserved grace.” No matter who, no matter what, no matter how . . . there is grace offered. No one can earn it. No one can deserve it. But the Giver of Grace is able and mighty to save.

20.  In ending, do you have any special words of advice or something you would like to share with young authors as we learn the craft of writing?

The best writing advice is always this: Write, write, write. Read, read, read.
Writing is a skill that must be practiced and pursued. If you want to play a concerto, you must practice your scales. If you want to write a novel, you must practices those scenes and sentences.
I also encourage my writing students to think about what matters to them. Right now. What is the keenest desire on your heart? What is the biggest worry that you wake up thinking about each morning? Because those things that matter to you right now, if communicated into your fiction, will also matter to your readers. If you write a story that deals with the themes and ideas currently weighing on your heart, you will write a story that you love. And if you love it, readers will love it too.

Thank you so much, Anne Elisabeth, for taking the time to answer my many questions, it was wonderful to have you over on Fullness of Joy :). 
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