Until That Distant Day Cover Reveal

Until That Distant Day
Jill Stengl
April 25, 2014
Where did Anne Elisabeth Stengl first get her passion for writing?  You've heard the story: from her mother!  And after a seven-year hiatus from the writing world, award-winning author Jill Stengl is happy to announce the completion of a new book, Until That Distant Day, coming out of Rooglewood Press in April, 2014!

Until That Distant Day
paris, france

Colette DeMer and her brother Pascoe are two sides of the same coin, dependent upon one another in the tumultuous world of the new Republic. Together they labor with other leaders of the sans-culottes to ensure freedom for all the downtrodden men and women of France.

But then the popular uprisings turn bloody and the rhetoric proves false. Suddenly, Colette finds herself at odds with Pascoe and struggling to unite her fractured family against the lure of violence. Charged with protecting an innocent young woman and desperately afraid of losing one of her beloved brothers, Colette doesn’t know where to turn or whom to trust as the bloodshed creeps ever closer to home.

Until that distant day when peace returns to France, can she find the strength to defend her loved ones . . . even from one another?

excerpt from until that distant day
opening chapter
I was born believing that the world was unfair and that I was the person to make it right.
One of my earliest memories is of Papa setting me atop a nail keg in the forge; I could not have been older than two at the time.
“Colette, give Papa a kiss,” he said, tapping his cheek.
“Come and sit on my knee.”
My response to every order was the same, asked with genuine curiosity. I did not understand why his watching friends chuckled. Why should I press my lips to Papa’s sweaty, prickly cheek? Why should I hop down from the keg, where he had just placed me, and run to sit on his knee, a most uncomfortable perch? I felt justified in requesting a reason for each abrupt order, yet he never bothered to give me one.
Mama, when thus questioned, provided an answer in the form of a sharp swat. This I could respect as definitive authority, although the reasoning behind it remained dubious.
My little brother Pascoe was born believing that the world was his to command. As soon as he acquired his first vocabulary word, “No,” he and I joined ranks in defiance of established authority.
Many impediments cluttered the path of destiny in those early years: parents, thirteen other siblings, physical ailments, and educational difficulties. And as we grew into adulthood, more serious matters intervened, even parting us for a time. But I will speak more of that later. For now, let me assure you that, no matter the obstacles thrown in our way, our sibling bond seemed indissoluble; the love between us remained unaffected by any outside relationship.
Pascoe and I were young adults when revolutionaries in Paris threw aside the tyranny of centuries and established a new government based on the Rights of Man. From the seclusion of our little village in Normandy we rejoiced over each battle fought and won; and when our local physician, Doctor Hilliard, who had first mentored then employed Pascoe for several years, was elected as deputy to the National Assembly from our district, a whole new world opened at our feet.
My story truly begins on a certain day in the spring of 1792, in the little domain I had made for myself in the kitchen at the back of Doctor Hilliard’s Paris house. Perhaps it wasn’t truly my domain, for it did not belong to me. I was merely the doctor’s housekeeper and could lay no real claim. Nevertheless, the kitchen was more mine than anything had ever been, and I loved that small, dark room; especially during the hours when sunlight slanted through the bubbled-glass kitchen windows, making bright, swirling shapes on the whitewashed walls, or each evening when I arranged my latest culinary creation on a platter and left it in the warming oven for the doctor to discover whenever he arrived home. That kitchen was my home. Not the home I had grown up in, but the home I had always craved.
On that particular day, however, it did not feel the safe haven I had always believed it to be. Loud voices drifted down from the upper floor where the doctor and Pascoe were in conference, disturbing my calm. When I closed the connecting door to the dining room, the angry voices drifted in through the open kitchen windows. I couldn’t close the windows; I might smother of heat. Yet I needed to block out the sound, to make it stop.
So I slipped a filet of sole into a greased skillet and let it brown until golden on both sides. The hiss and sizzle did not quite cover the shouting, but it helped. Then I slid the fish onto a waiting plate lined with sautéed vegetables fresh from my kitchen garden; and I topped all with an herbed wine-and-butter sauce. A grind of fresh pepper finished off my creation.
But my hands were still trembling, and I felt as if something inside me might fall to pieces.
Pascoe often shouted. Shouting was part of his fiery nature, a normal event. He shouted when he gave speeches at section meetings. He shouted about overcooked meals or inferior wines. He shouted when his lace jabot refused to fall into perfect folds.
But never before had I heard Doctor Hilliard raise his voice in anger.
Doctor Hilliard was never angry. Doctor Hilliard never displayed emotion. At most, he might indicate approval by the glance of a benevolent eye or disapprobation by the merest lift of a brow. Yet there could be no mistaking the two furious voices overhead. I well knew Pascoe’s sharp tenor with its sarcastic edge; but now I also heard the doctor’s resonant voice crackling with fury.
I managed to slide the hot plate into the warmer alongside a crusty loaf of bread and closed the door, using a doubled towel to protect my shaking hands.
Behind me the connecting door was flung open, and Pascoe burst in as I spun to face him. “Gather your things; we are leaving,” he growled. His eyes blazed in his pale face, and the jut of his jaw allowed for no questions. He clapped his tall hat on his head as he passed through the room.
I donned my bonnet and sabots and picked up my parasol. “What has happened?” I asked just above a whisper.
“I’ll tell you once we are away from this house.” His lips snapped tight. His chest heaved with emotion, and he grasped a portfolio so tightly that his fingers looked white.
I could not recall the last time I had seen my brother in such a rage.

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author biography

Jill Stengl is the author of numerous romance novels including Inspirational Reader's Choice Award- and Carol Award-winning Faithful Traitor, and the bestselling novella, Fresh Highland Heir. She lives with her husband in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, where she enjoys her three cats, teaching a high school English Lit. class, playing keyboard for her church family, and sipping coffee on the deck as she brainstorms for her next novel.

giveaway of jill stengl's works

Jill Stengl is offering an enormous bundle prize of ten print novels and novellas, including her award-winning Faithful Traitor, several novella collections, and her three-book Longtree series. These will all be autographed! (US and Canada only, please.)

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The Scenes Inside My Head


My November has been full of toying with a bunch of plot-points for my novels.  I think I have managed to work out the gist of Talldogs, and some of the larger aspects of my other novels have been tentatively set down.  Three and a half months is a long time to be away: I'm now looking forward to getting back home and settling into the comfortable routine of my life so that I can focus a little better on the scenes inside my head. 

stray snippets

The pale, stormy face wormed its way against his chest as he crouched beside her. Her grip on the open front of his doublet was surprisingly strong: the scent of her fear was biting in Raymond’s nostrils. He put his arms around her, and it occurred to him that he had never held his sister before, not even when she had been a baby: the gesture was awkward and he was not sure how he liked it.

Raymond had the acute sensation of coming to empathize with the cuckolded husband of second-rate comedic plays.

[She] must have spotted the figure at the same instant, for along the length of the rampart Alwin could hear her voice raised in a wild cry—deep, for one her size and age—shouting for all she was worth: “That man!—shoot me that man on the caparisoned horse! Shoot him down! All of you, bring everything to bear on that man! Shoot—him—down!” 

The bay hurtled by. The black screamed and charged wildly in the track. A body in blue and steel crashed from its back, caught in the stirrup, and was dragged a few plunging paces in a storm of shield-shards and broken lance before detaching and tumbling across the sand. 

Avery passed over a shield with the Cognizance of the City of God. 

The man upon whose arm she stood was almost unrecognizable to [him]. Accustomed to plain dress, with perhaps only a little adornment to break the monotony of dark, earthy colours in which the man so often clothed himself, his cousin stood instead this evening in a tunic of crimson: a deep, guttural red chased over heavily with embroidered work of black dragons, picked out with copper thread to lend the creatures a malevolent dimension. 

What a rummy piece of novel!” crowed Goddgofang appreciatively.

Hate you!” Goddgofang broke into movement and came forward several angry strides. “You exasperate me, you are an incomprehensible handful of unbroken horseflesh, but thunder of heaven, I do not hate you! How could you think such nonsense?”

"My dear, in my heart of hearts, I am but rarely a gentleman."

"Feel that pain? Is it not exquisite?"

"If You Can't Do Something Smart, Do Something Right"

"It ain't all buttons and charts, little albatross."
malcolm reynolds

As a general rule, I don't read how-to books on writing. I find them incomprehensible and frequently a hindrance if I try to think about their tenants while I'm doing my own writing.  I know they work well for some people, and occasionally I do click on a link on Facebook and scan through someone's blog post on writing (rather like this one here), but otherwise my only teachers on how to write have been actual works of literature.  I have said it before, I started writing long before I realized what I was doing, and I was far too young to analyze my work to death, and so the thing became intuitive.  I learned what a good story was (probably through reading them: my early works are, understandably, abysmal), I learned to appreciate a good storyteller, and I learned most of it through simply doing it without over-thinking the business.  I read once that beginnings are the hardest, because that is where the fear is.  That is true, and I am glad I began when I was too young to realize there was anything to be afraid of.  I loved what I was doing, I loved my characters and my melodramatic plots, I loved hitting the sweet spot with the words that made them taste like rage in your mouth.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was doing it right.

"You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take a boat in the air you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as a turn o' the worlds.  Love keeps her in the air when she oughta fall down - tells you when she's hurtin' 'fore she keels.
Makes her a home."

Despite all the hitches and stress and editing and wrangling of plots and characters (without which what I do would not be worth a hill o' beans), I love it: and the love makes the writing work.  While writing Ethandune, my husband remarked that he could tell what a fun time I was having working with it: it bled through the story.  I have ups and downs and mood swings about my writing the same as everyone else.  Some days I stare at the cursor on the page and curse right back at it, feeling that I will never be able to put two words of sense together again.  But maybe I'm just feeling down: maybe my tea hasn't kicked in, or the sun hasn't shone for three days straight.  In the end my husband reminds me that I am a good writer and I know that I love what I do.  And in the end I make something good after all.

I was really shocked by the response to "The Tarot Smile."  I was expecting feedback: instead I got a barrage of "How do you do that!" which naturally put me on the spot and drove me back inside my introverted shell.  Again, I don't know!  I'm not one to analyze my writing - or anyone else's much, for that matter.  I just do it.  How do my husband and I make our relationship work?  We love each other.  How do I make my imagination join with words on the page?  I love it.  There is a certain something which no writing book can give you and which is crucial to the life of a story.  Call it love, call it genius, you can't get it out of a writing book - you can't even get it out of years of practice.

There are writing principles just as there are rules of etiquette in life.  You learn them and you live by them, with respect and honour to the craft just as you respect and honour your fellow men.  But the human imagination is a huge world, with plenty of space for the exploring, and maybe that imagination isn't in line with the marketable writing of your time, maybe it isn't "the thing," - but you're honest, and you love it, and the love makes you good at what you do.  I know that the surest way to take the fighting life out of my writing is to try to cage it.  Writing is about making something alive, not putting a bicycle back together.  No matter how much you shock that corpse, if you haven't got that genius with which to fill it, it will never live.  In the end, our books stand or fall on the basis of the life inside us - and stand they will if the life inside us is good, for an abundance of good things will come out of it.

In the end, I write a little blindly, often unaware of what I do.  Writers are a strange breed of creature, perpetually examined by the outside world as curios of the human race, and I will probably continue to be asked how I write, and I will continue to cast about for an answer: for in all my wordsmithing, that is one piece of dialogue which I will eternally neglect to construct.  In my head the characters are all living people, looking out at the world with countless different views, making countless different stories, and I write those stories, and I love them, and loving them makes them live.  I in them and them in me and somehow in the midst of it all a little creative glory gets thrown in through grace and I am satisfied. 

Goddess Tithe Novella Review

After sending up the cover reveal for Anne Elisabeth Stengl's newest Tales of Goldstone Wood story Goddess Tithe, I was asked if I would like an advance digital copy of the novella to read and review.  It is all of 130 pages, so it didn't take long to read.  And now - the review! I have (mis)used the standard reviewing setup used for the site Squeaky Clean Reviews, because ostensibly I review on that site, and the setup is easy to borrow. 
goddess tithe
anne elisabeth stengl
What is the plot?
Captain Sunan is the skipper of the Kulap Kanya, and Munny looks up to him as a hero. The Captain always knows what to do and when to do it: when a stowaway is discovered on board the ship, Munny is confident that the Captain will give the miscreant over to the jaws of Risafeth, goddess of the sea—for all stowaways are hers by right. But when Captain Sunan unexpectedly vows to bring the stowaway alive to harbour, the life of everyone on the ship is thrown into jeopardy. With the life of the stowaway placed in Munny’s care, will he choose to let the strange foreigner die, or will he, too, risk the fate of the ship to save one man?

What is the mortality level of this story?
Humankind is accurately portrayed in this novella of Goldstone Wood’s stories. Among heroic sentiments, cowards, the honourable and the superstitious, Stengl maintains a firm line of morality and beautifully praises godly behaviour.

What kind of spiritual content does it have, or not have?
As with the rest of the Goldstone Wood universe, the faerie world comes into play in this novella. Some of the fey proclaim themselves to be gods and goddesses, and accept the worship of mortals, but there are those who do not acknowledge the deity of these beings.

Is there any degree of violence?
Life on shipboard is rough, and as the bottom-most rung of the social ladder, Munny gets stepped on a lot. He is often beaten and mistreated, but the violence, while realistic, is never graphic.

Do people smoke, chew, or get drunk?
All clean here!

Is there any sexual content that I should scrunch my brows at?
None explicit. A character is referenced as having married beneath her station and her family refused to acknowledge the alliance, so that her child is looked on as illegitimate.

Does anyone cuss or behave unseemly?

In conclusion!
This is only a novella, not a full-blown Goldstone Wood novel, but it packs an excellent story all the same, depicting a beautiful image of courage and self-sacrifice and the world’s confusion over watching something foolish be saved from a demise it probably deserves. This is not your typical sea-yarn! Between Munny’s life on shipboard and the intrusion of the faerie world to grasp a mortal’s life, this voyage of the Kulap Kanya is a rollicking ride. It is exciting, sweet, full of the simple ambitions of a boy for whom life is little more than the next seaman’s knot and a cluster of mystical white flowers. Do you enjoy The Tales of Goldstone Wood? I recommend this novella!

interested in purchasing a paperback copy of goddess tithe? check it out on amazon!

The Tarot Smile

Who comes from the bridal chamber?
It is Azrael, the angel of death.
sir walter scott
It is November (wah!) and time for another Chatterbox session from Rachel Heffington's blog The Inkpen Authoress.  The rules?  She comes up with a topic and all who care to participate write up a scene between their characters involving (or discussing) that topic.  It's quite a bit of fun once you've dashed your brains against the wall and thought of something...  Last month's topic was coffee, and you can read my piece here.  This month's topic is
and by thunder, it is my stock-and-trade, and by thunder it was hard to come up with something to write.  Congratulations, Rachel, you very nearly stumped the Grim Reaper.
the tarot smile

With rhythmic movement, her hand moving only at the wrist, Akilina Loriermayne spun the slender instrument around the little tea cup, her even breathing filling her nostrils with the heady scent of ginger and the pine-tree tang of olibanum.  The metallic report of her spoon against the delicate china was the only sound in the room; the edges of the chamber were darkened, like a room in a dream, but around her low seat and her little work table burned dozens of candles, like a kind of shrine—and she sat like a phoenix in the midst of them, stirring the sheeny brown granules of sugar into the gilt liquid, her breathing even, deep, sleepy.  Outside, the world was kneeling down like a horse, tired, bowing under the dark heavens for rest.  Within, beneath the soft surge of her regulated breathing, Akilina Loriermayne’s heart was afire with battle heat, and in her mind’s eye the sleeping world outside was like the chunks of golden olibanum which smoked on the heated coals clumped in their concave obsidian bowl: it was beautiful, bright, a mere handful of pretty things that she could cup in her palm…and turn over upon the embers of vengeance until it sent up an aroma to heaven.
The bells upon the veil outside her chamber sang softly, like the passing of a spirit, and she lifted her head slowly, heavy black hair sliding up her shoulders and falling back from her bare arms.  Her spoon held still.
It was her butler who came into the entryway, one arm holding back the curtain, the other hand supporting a little plate of silverwork.  He hesitated, his eyes in the dark shining out at her.  She dropped her chin a fraction and he stepped in, coming forward a pace and kneeling down, pressing his forehead to the carpet.
“My Lady,” he said, “there is a gentleman in the Court who wishes to see you.  He has sent his card.”
Akilina removed her spoon from her cup and set it aside among the coals.  Putting aside also her steaming cup, which was as yet too hot to drink, she waited as the butler surged to his feet and drew close, extending the platter to her.  She had not grown accustomed to the culture which sent slips of paper by way of address, but as her eye fell with dulled criticism on the object in the centre of the silver, her curiosity was piqued to discover it larger than most cards she had seen, rounded at the edges, much worn, and lying on its face so that all she could see of it was a heavily decorated back of ivy-vine in a faded teal colour.  She did not touch the card, but she murmured,
“What is this?”  Then, to the butler, “Honour, I think.”
“Indeed, my Lady,” the man replied.
She raised her hand and allowed him to place the silver on her work table.  An idea of this gentleman’s identity was swift to congeal in her mind.  “Put him through.  I will speak to him alone.”
The butler did as she bade him without a moment’s hesitation.  Presently the bronze bells of the curtain were chiming in the quiet, and Akilina was left kneeling on her large square pillow in the small circle of candlelight, hands upon her knees, staring unblinkingly at the circle of silver before her and the rectangle of worn card directly in the middle of it.  The smell of incense was heavy; the soft throb of fighting spirit, like a three-year-old throwing its chest against the bars of the racing gate, drummed in her quenched, quiet body. 
So, he has come, she thought to herself and to the deep-heaven spirits.  Today we will set a key into the keyhole of our victory. 
There was a step at the curtain—a whisper of bells.
She lifted her head.
Today we will prevail.
The Devil stood in the entryway, arm outthrust to hold back the curtain.  He was tall, very tall and lean and strong like a horse that has known nothing but war, and he gazed down on Akilina with pale, laughing eyes.  All in a moment she took in that, though he was a southlander, he wore the customary clothing of her people, dark-stitched and understated, but elegant, and over the heavy scent of olibanum rushed a salt-smell like the ocean, and a gentle wind lifted the hair from her brow.  For a moment she was surprised.  She should not have been, she realized, looking up into those almost colourless, mocking eyes which were harsh and bladed like the blade of a knife.  She had not expected him to bear all the hallmarks of a man: handsome, experienced, domineering, with a smile that could wrench a woman’s gut.  But then she, too, smiled, and knew that the Devil could do these things with ease, and she was no longer surprised.
Akilina extended her hand to a pillow across from her.  “You have come to call upon me,” she remarked languidly, “and it is very late.”
The Devil let the curtain drop behind him and came in on bare feet, making no noise as he moved.  He thrust one foot under the pillow and levered it directly across from Akilina—though it put his back to the curtain.  “I like to see things with my own eyes,” he explained—also with a languid tone, as if he had known Akilina for years.  He, too, folded down upon the pillow, hands upon his knees, back straight and his head up, his dog-teeth shining a little through the part in his lips.  “It was in my mind, also, that you were waiting for me.”
She lifted one brow.  Save for the crisp, handsome body in which he walked, he was much as his reputation proclaimed: feeling between her thumb and forefinger like a wet pebble, ready at the least pressure to slip away, very powerful in the ancient way, and very full of the love of himself.  “I called you all.  And indeed,” she added lightly, “you all have come.”
He smiled indulgently.  “Verily.  But when you whistle, and the men come to hear what you have to say, it is I who you really want, for it is I who really matters.  Otherwise, my dear,” he lifted his shoulders, “you have a particular taste for one of my neighbours—God pity him—and the rest of us can all go home.”
He finished this with an inexplicably ragged edge to his tone.  She let the barb pass by, for it was not worth her while to attend, but she suspected her whistle, as he had termed it, had called him from some business which was more palatable to him.  That pleased her.  The Devil was displeased, and his smiling mouth and mocking eyes were of a piece with the deepest rage of him of which she had heard so much.  She decided to touch him to see how he would move.
“If you are all that matters, and the others are mere retainers to you, why have you come into my bower alone?  We are deep enemies, you and I.”
But the pebble, it seemed, had been pressed too tight.  The pale eye turned down toward the red-hot olibanum, and travelled upward, following the tendrils of smoke.  “They are not mere retainers.  They have seen much hardship and have endured much, and they know how to bar the house-place door and put their backs into the shield-wall.  I have watched them do it—I have watched them do it for myself.  I am the head of the dragon, your majesty,” the eyes sprang up to hers, fiercely shining and hot with mingled pride and defiance, “but they are the scales.  I would never for the life of me call them mere retainers.”
It did not escape Akilina that in his boast, like the boast of a man used to poetry, the Devil had sketched her a pretty warning.  She looked at it to be sure she had got the shape of it memorized, then let it pass from view.
“They are not my concern.”  Her tea having cooled sufficiently, she slid a long fine hand around it and raised it to her lips.  “I have small thought for the scale of a worm when it has no skull-fire with which to devastate the land.”
There was a small silence.  The coals squealed softly, full of heat; one cracked and spread cinders on the obsidian plate. 
The Devil put up one hand, chin in his palm, his fingertips set against his cheek.  It did not adequately hide his smile.  “I see the cards are upon the table.  Do you play?” he asked.
Akilina allowed herself a brief frown, hardly more than a passage of thought across her brow.  “I enjoy the game,” she admitted, unwilling to expose the truth that she was a masterful player.  The fighting desire in her wanted both to lift the flesh from the Devil’s bones and to dare him with a game at cards.
“Then you will know that I hold a high hand, my dear.”  He pulled his palm from his face, holding it out indicatively.  “Have you seen my hand?  I am like to shoot the moon!”
“Again,” said Akilina, “it is of no consequence.  For this is not a game of cards.”
“No,” the Devil replied, without a trace of humour, “it is foolhardiness.  I know what you want, my dear—cards are upon the table—and while it perplexes me to wonder why you want it, anyone will tell you that to play against the House is imprudent and unwise.”
Akilina tasted ginger and the rattle of drawn steel.  She set the cup down with deliberation on the tabletop, hearing as if from a distance the little click it made.  “Yours is not the first House to be managed under abysmal spirits.  Yours is not the first to be redeemed—as redeemed it must be, from your black alliances and your necromancy.  You have been a long time in the dark.  It is time you were won back.”
For a moment the Devil watched her as a tiger watches from the edge of the night.  Akilina could see his teeth shining.  Then he began to laugh, very softly and deeply in his chest; his body shook with his sudden humour, and when he could speak, he broke out, “I never thought I would wish it, but la! how I long to throw my brother at you and listen to the speech you might have had with him.  I think you would have got much satisfaction out of the encounter.”  Then, in a single fluid motion he was on his feet, standing over her with one foot on the low table and the smoke of the olibanum thick around his figure.  With an unprecedented sense of rage she found him thrusting out his hand to her, drawing up her chin with two fingers to look him in the eye.  A similar rage beat back at her from him and the life-thing in her chest began to hammer like the call to arms.
“A prince does not lightly give up his principality,” the Devil murmured, “neither will I lightly give up mine.  I have already fought one war: I am not squeamish to do it again.  So come for me, Queen, if you must.  It will be ugly, and it will be bloody, and you will die happy in the bloodshed you have made.”
She allowed him to hold her gaze for the rightness of the thing, for it was like two blades in the hands of duelsmen sliding over each other, then she put up her own two fingers and gently pushed his from her chin.  She was done with him.  Tomorrow he would taste heaven’s punitive steel, but for tonight she would let him live to walk out of her presence.  Now was not the time.  The time would come.
“You are dismissed,” she said, as if he were one of her own servants. 
The Devil’s mouth jarred awry in angry, noiseless laughter.  Was he? his face demanded with scorn.  All in a moment Akilina Loriermayne saw what he thought of her, felt the fiery rage of the worm coupled with the crushing heel.  His fingers still touched hers: in a movement so dexterous she barely had time to see it he had wrapped her left hand up and flung it wide; with his free hand against her cheek he pushed her face to the side.  Her heart exploded with panic and the Devil was crouched beside her, his breath against her neck.
God help you,” he whispered in her native tongue: “You are greatly deluded.
Then he was propelling himself onto his feet and backward, releasing her, whirling and plunging soundlessly into the entryway.  Akilina knelt, panting, staring at the candlelit emptiness of the chamber, listening to the whisper of the bells as the curtain fell back into the place behind the Devil.
It was several moments before she could move.  The closeness of the thing ran alternately hot and cold in her veins, but time wore the edge off the shock—though not off the knowledge that the brute could have done her damage had he chose to—and she was able to recollect her wits, calming the thudding thing in her chest, quieting her breathing, cradled in her dark chamber and her crocus-coloured lights. 
Her eye fell on the disk of silver and the Devil’s calling card.  She had not touched it and it had not moved.  Now, having sat across from him and looked into his colourless eyes, so small a thing could not compare.  But it was a piece of him, a taboo article shed like the wing-feathers of a great spirit, and it lay within her grasp.  With one hand upon her knee again she reached for it, steady, aware of no real sense of curiosity now but a general’s quieted sense of determination.  She turned the thing over on its back, laying it with a little click on the plate, showing it up in the light.
It was the ace of spades.
The Ace of Death.

Like Trees in November

Get Oan
Wae It
I finished editing Ethandune.  I believe I mentioned that on Facebook, but I don't believe I said it here on The Penslayer.  That is to say, the first draft is edited and is now being proof-read.  I assume.

When I'm not working on writing Talldogs (or scribbling pieces for the other novels as they come to me), my husband has been helping me do my research - which is awesome because I have a hard time reading articles online and comprehending what is passing in front of me.  Books I can manage; online articles are impregnable.  So he reads them aloud to me, and having long ago become accustomed to responding to the sound of his voice, my subconscious can process the information.  It works quite well.

I'm also a little over halfway through Anne Elisabeth Stengl's newest release Goddess Tithe (which is available in retour de papier on Amazon!) in order to review it, so keep your eyes open for my opinion on this novella from The Tales of Goldstone Wood!  Not that my opinion counts for much, but you might like to know what I think.

the fruitiness of my labour

The lane was heavy with the shadows cast by beech and oak, the grass between the aisles of trees a rich, biting green. The air was swimmingly hot, the insects were lazily skirling in the brake, and once, when he chanced to pass a fox under the fern-scrub, the brute did little more than raise its head, panting, lean flanks heaving with the heat. Its beady black eyes followed Raymond until, too hot to mind, the little thing laid its head back down on its forepaws and lost interest. 

And you,” said his friend with equally brutal honesty, “have got iron ribs and a high-cinched halter.”

[She] was a great favourite of her sons: they both adored her and played with her, and Raymond had many happy pictures caught as though in amber in his memory of her surrounded by the group of them, flung into a passion by some sharp wit of her eldest’s, and looking for all the houses of heaven like the hearth-fire of a house-place to which a weary soul longs to go home.

His foot nearly caught on something and he looked down to find a runt, little more than a pup still, sprawling along at his feet. With a wry smile he scooped it up and followed the bigger dogs, the little creature in his hands bloating with youthful energy, stubby, fat legs churning fruitlessly in the air. 

He said simply, “St. Jermaines are not fat.” And he rolled over, pulling the blankets up over his shoulders, fought the old night terror, and finally fell asleep with no more interruptions from his brother.

Everything in this place was worn and wooden and smelled of horses. By now his own temper had calmed down considerably and he waited placidly, like Redlocke’s four-footed patients, for the physic to come patch him up. Still a little water-blind, Raymond glanced from article to article, from the beaten chair by the old corn-crib that operated as a catch-all these days, to the filthy windowsill clustered with blue- and yellow-glass bottles, to the pegs full of half-furbished tack and the odds and ends of a farrier’s life. Everything, Raymond noted, much the way it had been last Christmas, and last summer, and the Christmas before that…

Light of the sun!” Raymond felt his temper go. His chest contracted, his lungs gave his words up with great effort. “Don’t—you—dare—speak to me—of a—gentleman.”

In a gesture of acknowledgement he had never witnessed in the steward, Ajax put out his hand and touched Goosechase’s brow. “I am sorry, sir,” he said again. “I have—I have done what I can.”

He set the vial down, much as one might set down a chess-piece, and began twisting off the cap. It came with little resistance. Odd—odd how these things never offered a fight when everything ought to be warning him to turn back.

For her efforts she got a cuff across the side of her face, dragging off skin, and was flung haphazard through the dark in a turmoil of fear and anger until she came up against a tree and every bone which was not already gouged by pain was shocked senseless by the blow. She lay on her side, sobbing softly into a root, her body wrapped around the tree-trunk. The snow began to drench her clothing. Flakes gathered on her lashes.

"Can you hear the mockingbird?"

Wake me up—Richard, wake me up!”