As I mentioned in my last post, there were two fantasy authors who utilized Maine Author’s Publishing – the same place I chose to edit my enovel (and would probably be my first choice for printing too considering all the services they offer the fledgling author!). I introduced Rachel O’Laughlin last time, now it is my honor to introduce Cady Elizabeth Arnold, more commonly known as Betsy!
From chatting with Betsy, I found out her children are involved in her writing. Her oldest son, WTArnold, created the amazing cover art to her novel. Her youngest son, Nick, helped with the title. Her daughter, Meg, actually interviewed Betsy using my questions. Their interaction is charming as well as informative. I’d hoped to post the interview here, but technical difficulties (and lack of time!) held that up.
1. Introduce yourself and tell me how you started writing. What led you to write your first novel Tapestry, Book 1: Strands of Yellow and Blue?
I’m Cady Elizabeth Arnold but have always been called ‘Betsy’, except by telemarketers or my parents when I was in trouble. I love to write and can’t remember a time when I didn’t. In my basement are boxes of folders and journals with writings that date back to second grade…poetry mostly, but also stories and prose. I call myself a ‘closet scribbler’ because I haven’t shared much of my work with others. Publishing is a challenge and I waited until I had a novel I really believed in before I felt ready to jump that hurdle. Another reason I have been slow to publish is that I’m a recovering perfectionist. Part of me still wants to make edits and changes to Tapestry: Strands of Yellow and Blue even though I am well into the writing of the sequel.
I am a Social Worker and have counseled people in a variety of settings, including Universities and public schools. People have honored me with the stories of their lives, and many of them disclosed various types of abuse to me. Tapestry grew out of a desire to explore the healing process in a safe context. I figured if I set the scenario in a foreign land in the distant past, people could suspend ‘disbelief’ about abuse and enjoy a story. If the story happens to be about a healing journey and someone is helped by it, great! If it is just a good read, that is also wonderful. Like most books, Tapestry can be read on different levels. The hard part was avoiding all modern day language and clinical jargon while writing about the pitfalls and possibilities of the journey.
2. Tell me a little about your novel. How did you come up with the plot line and the characters?
The two main characters, Grace and Tristam simply appeared as I began writing. Grace’s voice came first and she captivated me. Tristam came along and found her and I found myself writing in two distinct voices. These characters seem very real to me with personalities, quirks, wounds and gifts. As the story unfolded, I realized just how much these two people needed each other. In the first chapters it seems Tristam is the one giving to Grace. However, when Tristam’s past unfolds it becomes clear he is also hurting and the story becomes much more intriguing.
At first I thought I would basically be writing about the two main characters, but then other characters appeared and they changed and directed the story. I will never forget the day I was writing and suddenly Lady Geneva started telling Tristam about a rebellion. I thought, ‘rebellion…what rebellion? I don’t know anything about a rebellion in Blinth.’ I remember pausing for a moment and looking around. ‘Just keep writing,’ I told myself and ‘let Geneva have her say.’ She definitely knew what she was talking about; I think she adds a great deal to the story.
The plot line came more slowly than the characters. For me, writing is like reading a good book, only slower… much s.l.o.w.e.r. I have some idea where the story is going, but the details unfold and surprise me. I find myself driven to write because I want to know what’s going to happen next.
3. You have Strands of Yellow and Blue listed as Book 1. How many novels do you think you’ll write as part of the series?
Right now, I’m writing Book II of the Tapestry Series. The working title is Tapestry: Threads of Green with Black. I can’t tell you too much about this second book without ruining the ending of Book I. I can tell you I enjoy these characters and want to learn more about them. Lady Geneva, Thomas, Becca, and Peter each have a story to tell. I’d like to delve into the past and understand how Tobias got so wise. I guess I can’t say how many Tapestry Books there will be… at least two and probably several more. I’ll just keep writing and learning as long as these characters have stories to tell.
4. Why a fantasy novel? Do you have plans for other genres? What is your favorite genre?
I didn’t set out to write a fantasy book. In the beginning I did a great deal of research on twelfth century Europe, but decided I wanted to play with social mores and differing religions. I really didn’t think about my book’s genre until it was time for publication. In the sequel I am much clearer about the fact that I’m writing a fantasy and that allows me to be more inventive. Wait until you meet some of the animals prowling the forests in Lolgothe.
I love to write poetry and actually think I’m a better poet than prose writer. Some people are creative enough to write a novel using poetry. I would like to challenge myself to do that. I have at least one poem I would love to see as a children’s picture book. I have also written a memoir, but it needs a lot of work and I’m NOT ready to publish it. I’m surprised at how “out there” I feel after publishing a novel. When people I know say, “Oh, I see so much of you in the
book you wrote,” I feel exposed. I guess I kept my writing in the closet for so many years for a reason.
5. Some of your reviews and comments mention the journey of your main characters as a path to healing. How does this internal journey fit into your novel? Why did you include it?
For me the internal journey was THE story and the purpose for writing the book, not something I added. It’s gratifying that the reviewers have commented on it. I especially like this quote from my first Amazon review, “…this is a book that stays with you. It is not a typical fantasy nor is it a shallow teen novel. It really is a character study that seeks to understand what heals us.” The story was an outgrowth of the internal struggle of a young girl to learn to accept love and a brittle adult to once again open his heart. The story grew and they grew and I grew with them, learning from them along the way.
6. Could you share with us a favorite line or scene that you think really illustrates what the book is about or your writing?
One of my favorite scenes is the last one between Tobias the gardener and Grace. Grace is in agony from her past and from more recent horrors. She has locked herself away from everyone, but she decides to go see Tobias because he is ill and asking for her. Tobias doesn’t judge her or lecture her…he simply loves her. He also reminds her she has choices; she believes the past is dictating her future, but Tobias challenges her belief. The scene is very tender and I wept when I wrote it. Tobias is a man of few words but he says a great deal.
7. What are your hopes as a writer?
I hope my book makes a difference. I want it to help someone who is on a journey and feels alone, perhaps a young person who has never found anyone they can really talk to. Many people carry heavy burdens in this world and it’s nice when I can help ease someone’s load.
Honestly, I would also like to develop as a writer and produce more books. I made a conscious choice to publish through a small local publisher. So much of what gets published is controlled by a few large corporations for the purpose of profit. The Internet and computers are changing the publishing world. Ten years ago, Indie books were not taken seriously. That is changing, although it is still difficult for an Indie author to break through to the best seller list. We don’t have publicists and marketers working for us. We don’t have countless dollars to spend on advertising. In the end, however, I think we have something much more powerful; we have the grass roots ability to impact the world and be creative in our own unique ways. More and more people are blogging, tweeting and writing. It’s a creative explosion. So, what are my hopes as a writer? Dreaming big I want to be on the New York Times Best Sellers List. It’s going to be a tough hurdle, but I love a challenge.
8. Anything else you want to share?
I love chocolate…no really…honestly…it’s more like I’m addicted. I would be thoroughly embarrassed if you could see my pantry right now. You see, here in New Hampshire we have the Lindt Swiss Chocolate Factory and lots of Lindt outlet stores. Fortunately, I’m also addicted to exercise. I race kayaks competing in flat water marathon races; my longest race so far has been 70 miles. It sounds crazy, I know, but it was a blast. I love kids, especially my own, but all kinds of kids. I love sunshine. My husband claims I’m solar powered. I love him, too. I love animals, snow, wildflowers, the beach and falling leaves. I love rocks and collect them everywhere. When my family complains, I remind them rocks are free. I want to be a nature photographer in my next life and spend all my time outdoors. I love ice cream, cookies and laughing until it hurts. I do whip cream shots straight out of the can, but that’s a secret. I love my friends, especially the ones who read my early manuscripts. I have a friend who says, “Life is Good. Life is Hard. These two things are not related.” I couldn’t agree more.
Below is the description from Tapestry Book 1: Strands of Yellow and Blue. Check out Betsy’s website for more information!
Their journey begins when Tristam, a huntsman with the scars of a warrior, stumbles across a young girl in the forest. This mute child, whom he names Grace, is dressed in tattered white and cannot recall any memories from her past. As she and Tristam grow closer, both begin to heal in ways neither thought possible. Together, they try to put the fragments of Grace’s memory back in place, prompting Tristam to wonder if the barbaric rumors about the country to the north might possibly be true.
Grace starts her new life at the castle as a foreigner amidst gossip about her unknown past. Meanwhile, Tristam is secretly trying to both stop a rebellion against the king and avoid war with a neighboring country. Tristam and Grace must each navigate the social nuances and intrigues of palace life.
Enter the kingdom of Blinth with an excerpt below, where Tristam’s and Grace’s stories are interwoven as together they explore a time of yellow and blue.
Book 1: Strands of Yellow & Blue
Chapter 1 GRACE
These are the words I cannot speak. These are the words no one knows. These are the words I carry alone.
I run through a black forest. Branches tear at my face, grabbing my hair like hands. I am breathing fierce and hard, making rasping sounds in the back of my throat, which burns with each inhalation. I focus upon one thing: speed. All other considerations are but tiny specks at the back of my mind. “Faster, faster,” I chant. “Faster, faster still!” I lose myself in the motion of legs and arms and lungs. Me disappears, pulling away from I. Me is floating above, watching a child dressed in white running through the night.
From above, she can see the obstacles I cannot. I dodge trees and leap ravines, using her vision. She sees the gap widening. My pursuers are slowly losing me. I am running until…suddenly, I am not.
She is guiding me. How else could I stop in this ring of pines, with soft needles to cushion my falling and underbrush in which to hide? She is watching my body collapsing to the ground. Our eyes close. We see nothing.
Awakening in the grey light of early morning, I am aware of a strange warmth along one side of my body. A harsh chill numbs my other side. I am afraid of moving as the terror of the night floods my mind. Yet, strangely, I feel at peace. A rough tongue licks my forehead. A voice fills my head without flowing through my ears.
Awaken, my Child; the huntsmen come.
My eyes fly open. I clutch at the body of the stag with whom I am lying in the pine bed, seeking comfort. I do not wonder all the things I will wonder later: Why is he protecting me? How can I hear him speaking? I cling to him in terror. I barely notice when he stands, pulling me upright as well.
Suddenly, six bows are strung. Six arrows point at my stag. He does not move. I am splitting myself again. My body freezes while my mind spins upward, seating itself in the high bough of a pine.
An order is given in a language I do not understand. The men lower their bows. I wince at the leader’s commanding voice, closing my eyes. When I open them, my mind and body are together on the ground with my stag. The man with the commanding voice hands me his cloak; my stag is still between us. The stag seems to be speaking to the captain of the huntsmen, but words are not filling my head or my ears. The stag turns to look full into my eyes.
They mean you no harm, Small One. The leader wants to take you to their women. I cling still more closely to the stag.
Look into his eyes, the stag commands me.
I cannot disobey. Turning slightly, I face a man who is tall, at least eighteen hands high. His shoulders are broad; his hands are large. His nose is prominent and straight. His chin is firm beneath sensitive lips. His eyes are somewhere between blue and grey. Concern and a strange kind of pain live in the blueness. He is speaking words I cannot understand and indicating the cloak, which he is still holding out in front of him.
Do you trust him, Small One? The stag’s question fills my head. I nod. Before I can thank him, the stag bounds away through the pines. Bows are raised. The captain barks an order. I flinch. No arrows fly after my stag. My heart is grateful.
I find I cannot stand alone. My knees buckle and strong arms catch me before I hit the ground. I am swaddled in a huge cloak. I like the way it smells, of smoke and of something clean and deep that I cannot describe. Water is held to my lips. I gulp until his voice speaks and the flask is moved away. Some kind of bread is offered. I bite ravenously, and the man holding me smiles; he seems pleased by my fierce appetite. The flask returns and the water flows down my throat. I am lifted upon his horse; his arms encircle me. He smells comforting, like his cloak. I try to sit upright, but I cannot. I sag against him, drifting as we ride south. No part of me is floating above watching. Meand I have come back together in the arms of this stranger who feels like home. The rocking motion of the horse is comforting and I slip into sleep.
Chapter 2 GRACE
Looming castle walls flood me with fear, and I can feel my eyes growing wide, my muscles tensing. He murmurs soothing words in my ear, his breath stirring my hair. I feel frozen, my hand unable to touch him, though I find myself longing for the feel of the curly, golden-brown hair covering the muscles of his forearm. Keeping my focus upon the markings on his arm keeps my fear at bay. A scar as wide as my hand runs crosswise, parallel to the crease of his elbow. A sword wound? I wonder.
Another scar looks angry. Purplish in color, it is raised and puffy. Though short in length, the wound must have been deep, caused perhaps by a dagger. Curiously, the man has no markings from animals’ hooves or teeth. Pondering the arms of this huntsman, who is scarred like a warrior, keeps me still as we approach the walls of the great structure. Never have I seen such uniformly grey stones built into such an enormous edifice. How can men lift such stones?
After we pass through an archway in the outer walls, I notice solid hardwood gates. These gates are in position to be lowered, covering the opening completely. I have never seen gates so thick, with black metal latches and hinges.
Strangely, I find I cannot remember any buildings farther to the north, in the land from which I come. Too many unfamiliar sights are meeting my eyes for me to wonder about my lack of memories.
I am lifted down when we enter a dirt courtyard. Orders are given, and the horses are led away by stable boys. Curious glances are cast my way and I fall again to studying the arms that hold me. He is carrying me down a long passage paved with stones. The heels of his boots make a ringing sound that bounces off the stone walls and beamed ceiling. He seems to be hurrying; I worry that I am a heavy burden.
Presently, a maidservant leads us. A door is flung open, and I am set gently upon a richly carved chair with a velvet cushion. The room seems large, with a fireplace and mullioned windows. A canopied bed is hung with purple curtains that match the seat cushion. I become aware that he is speaking with a woman of ample girth and merry eye. I study the few faint freckles visible under the tan upon his forearms. I wish those arms were still wrapping themselves around me. The woman seems kindly, but the Stag had entrusted me to him.
She calls him “Sir Tristam,” which seems to anger him. He repeats merely “Tristam,” but she repeats both words. He shakes his head at her before turning to me. Speaking foreign words, he indicates the large woman. “Addie,” he says repeatedly, “Addie.”
When he places his hand upon the door latch, I feel panic rising up in me. Glancing back, he sees my widened eyes. He stops, comes back and lifts me. Addie is hovering, making soothing noises. He sends her away and lays me upon the bed. My hand brushes against his as he moves to a chair by the bed. He clasps my hand. The pressure of his fingers is reassuring, though I cannot return it; instead my hand lies limp in his. Somehow that simple act is more intimate than anything we have yet shared and I can make no sense of it. I lie on the bed, eyes wide, not moving.
We are in the same positions when Addie returns with another woman who is carrying a large tapestry bag. She places the bag on the floor and I can see the intricate needlework and the rich colors of the pattern. I lose myself in the minute stitches of blue, green, amber, and yellow. Conversation floats above my head.
The newcomer, whom Tristam calls Geneva, is pointing at my feet. He leaves my side and begins unwinding the bandages covering them. The pain of the cloth tearing away from the scabs is sharp enough to take my breath away, but I will not cry out. Tristam comes to my head again, stroking my brow. I steal a glance at his face. His eyes hold a glowing light I cannot look upon. Returning my eyes to the tapestry bag, I lose myself again in the colors. A particular shade of blue, clear as the summer sky, draws my eye. I focus on the blue. I hold my tears at bay, tears caused by kindness in the eyes of the foreigner, Tristam.
Geneva mixes herbs while Addie boils water over the fire. Tristam urges me to eat, but I do so only to please him. Fear is knotting my stomach; swallowing is difficult. I sip the herbal tea Tristam holds to my lips, and I suddenly feel incredibly tired. Sleep yawns like a beast and swallows me whole. Tristam still holds my hand.
I awake in utter darkness, my feet throbbing. A sharp intake of breath is the only concession I make to fear, though my limbs shake. I push the pain away. Tristam comes to me. He offers food and herbal tea. My arms and legs stop shaking. For a long time, I drift in sleep with brief periods of wakefulness. He is always there, keeping my fear at bay.
Chapter 3 TRISTAM
I will never forget the day we found Grace. The feast of the spring equinox had depleted the palace stores of meat. Game near the castle is scarce at this season. During the harsh winter, we over-hunt near our home. We were traveling far to the north for wild stag, and although the creatures are lean after the long winter, they are large. Even a lean stag will fill the king’s board.
Farther to the north, the forest is mostly pine, though here and there a broadleaf seedling struggles for light. On this day, our horses’ hooves crush the needles of the forest floor and send the fragrance of pine upwards, masking the scent of game. We leave our horses behind after picking up the scent of a stag. I lead a party of five men.
Daniel-the-Younger is my best marksman. Torquil is my most seasoned hunter. Wee Thom does not require dogs to track a scent. The other two are new; I watch them closely to determine their level of skill.
It is early morning, three days after the night of the equinox. Snow is still lying in patches on the moist ground, and mist rises from the snow and shows our breath as we track in utter silence. My men are ready for the kill that will allow them to return home to warm beds.
A dozen or more tall pines of equal height form a tight circle. In the clearing, a stag faces us and our bows. Though six arrows point at it, the stag stands motionless. One of the new men, Mark, draws back his arrow without waiting for my signal. Quickly and silently, I raise my right arm, giving the command to wait. Mark’s breath comes out in an angry hiss as he relaxes his grip.
For a moment I hold my breath, not believing what I see. Two small white arms cling to the stag’s neck. One hand is slightly bluish in color; the other is extremely pale. The golden head of a young girl is just visible behind the creature, her eyes wide with terror. Dropping my bow, I remove my cloak in one motion and hold it out in front of me; I face the stag. The creature seems to be assessing me, trying to read my intentions.
We mean her no harm. She will be taken to the women. The words form themselves in my head and the stag relaxes as if he hears and understands. The creature then looks deep into the eyes of the child. A silent conversation takes place between them, I know it. The small one looks deep into my eyes, as if she is reading my soul. She is older than I realized, almost a young lady, not a child. The stag suddenly bounds into the forest. I hear movement behind me and repeat my order, “Hold your arrow!”
“That is meat you are letting get away,” Mark mutters as I step forward to catch the child. Her legs cannot support her without the stag to lean upon. I lift her gently; she weighs almost nothing. I wrap her in my cloak and cradle her.
“Daniel and Torquil, fetch water, food, and blankets. We need herbs and bandages,” I call after them. I see lacerations upon the child’s arms, legs, and feet.
“I will get them, Sir,” Wee Thom says.
I nod at him. “You others, get the horses.”
Daniel returns quickly and hands me a flask. I support the girl with my left arm and I offer her the flask with my right. She drinks with relish.
“Slowly, child. Your body needs time; too much at once will cause vomiting,” I caution. Daniel offers her flatbread. She snatches at it greedily when he pulls it away to prevent her from eating it too quickly. Her ferocity makes me smile. Though frail, she has some fight in her.
“Captain, her feet are bad; those cuts are deep. The green poison’s setting in,” Torquil informs me. “It will hurt her greatly if we touch them.”
“Can you bind them gently, with the herbs that will draw out the poison?” I ask.
“Yes, Sir. I have bandaged my little sisters,” Wee Thom informs me.
I look up into the face of this young man who, ironically, stands several hands taller than me. “You are poorly named. Thank you, Thomas.”
His face flushes.
“Aye, that might help until we can get her to Lady Geneva,” Torquil says. “She is the one to do the cleansing of the deeper wounds. If we try now, we will frighten her more—”
“Captain, how did she get here? We are leagues from anywhere,” Daniel interrupts.
“And why…why is she here alone, freezing, injured, and terrified?” Thomas’s voice joins in.
The men have all come closer. The child’s eyes have widened so that white can be seen all around the amber irises. Her tension is palpable.
“Back up, men; give the girl some room,” I order. “Torquil, I will need your help to hold her while I mount.”
“Yes, Sir,” he replies.
“Sir, could it be that those rumors we have heard are true?” Mark asks.
“Hold your tongue, Mark,” I command.
Torquil raises his eyelids and widens his eyes. “You can silence Mark, Sir, but people will wonder…and talk.”
“That is not silence, Torquil. For now, let us simply get her to safety.”
Torquil, wisely, responds with a nod. I heave a sigh as I lift the waif onto my horse. We have a long journey ahead of us.