When a stowaway is discovered aboard the merchant ship Kulap Kanya, Munny, a cabin boy on his first voyage, knows what must be done. All stowaways are sacrificed to Risafeth, the evil
goddess of the sea. Such is her right, and the Kulap Kanya's only hope to return safely home.
Yet, to the horror of his crew, Captain Sunan vows to protect the stowaway, a foreigner in clown's garb. A curse falls upon the ship and all who sail with her, for Risafeth will stop at nothing to claim her tithe.
Will Munny find the courage to trust his captain and to protect the strange clown who has become his friend?
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her
husband, Rohan, a kindle of kitties, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she
enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and practices piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied
illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of
the Tales of Goldstone Wood, including Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, Starflower, and
Dragonwitch. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award, and
Starflower was voted winner of the 2013 Clive Staples Award.
Anne's story behind the cover: I had the fun of designing this cover—finding reference photos, inventing the composition, applying the text, etc.—but the actual artistic work was done by talented cover artist Phatpuppy (www.phatpuppyart.com), whose work I have admired for many years. It was such a thrill for me to contact and commission this artist to create a look for Goddess Tithe that is reminiscent of the original novels but has a style and drama all its own.
The boy on the front was quite a find. I hunted high and low for an image of a boy the right age, the right look, with the right expression on his face. Phatpuppy and I worked with a different model through most of the cover development stage. But then I happened upon this image, and both she and I were delighted with his blend of youth, stubbornness, and strength of character! It wasn’t difficult to switch the original boy for this young man. He simply is Munny,
and this cover is a perfect window into the world of my story.
You can’t see it here, but the wrap-around back cover for the print copy contains some of the prettiest work . . . including quite a scary sea monster! Possibly my favorite detail is the inclusion of the ghostly white flowers framing the outer edge. These are an important symbol in the story itself, and when Phatpuppy sent me the first mock-up cover with these included, I
nearly jumped out of my skin with excitement!
Illustrations: There are eight full-page illustrations in Goddess Tithe featuring various characters and events from the story. This is the first one in the book. I decided to share it with all of you since it depicts my young hero, Munny the cabin boy, under the watchful eye of his mentor, the old sailor Tu Pich. Munny is on his first voyage, and he is determined to learn all there is to know about a life at sea as quickly as possible. Thus we see him utterly intent upon the knot he is learning to tie. Tu Pich is old enough to know that no sailor will ever learn all there is to know about the sea. Thus he looks on, grave, caring, and perhaps a little sad. He might be looking upon his own younger self of many years ago, fumbling through the hundreds of difficult knots his fingers must learn to tie with unconscious ease.
I enjoyed creating all the illustrations for Goddess Tithe, but this one was my favorite. I
love the contrasts of light and dark, the contrasts of young and old . . . youthful intensity versus
the perspective of age.
And now an exclusive excerpt from the book!
Here is an excerpt from the middle of the story. In this scene, Munny has been ordered
to Captain Sunan’s cabin to clear away his breakfast . . . an unexpected task, for a lowly cabin
boy would not ordinarily dare enter his captain’s private quarters! Munny hopes to slip in and out
quietly without attracting the captain’s notice. But his hopes are dashed when Sunan addresses
him, asking how their strange, foreign stowaway is faring:
“And what do you make of him yourself?”
Munny dared glance his captain’s way and was relieved when his eyes met only a
stern and rigid back. “I’m not sure, Captain,” he said. “I think he’s afraid. But not of . . .”
“Not of the goddess?” the Captain finished for him. And with these words he turned
upon Munny, his eyes so full of secrets it was nearly overwhelming. Munny froze, his
fingers just touching but not daring to take up a small teapot of fragile work.
The Captain looked at him, studying his small frame up and down. “No,” he said, “I
believe you are right. Leonard the Clown does not fear Risafeth. I believe he is unaware
of his near peril at her will, suffering as he does under a peril nearer still.”
Munny made neither answer nor any move.
“We will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly, won’t we, Munny?” the Captain said. But
he did not speak as though he expected an answer, so again Munny offered none. “We
will bring him safely to Lunthea Maly and there let him choose his own dark future.”
“I hope—” Munny began.
But he was interrupted by a sudden commotion on deck. First a rising murmur of
voices, then many shouts, inarticulate in cacophony. But a pounding at the cabin door
accompanied Sur Agung’s voice bellowing, “Captain, you’d best come see this!”
The Captain’s eyes widened a moment and still did not break gaze with Munny’s.
“We’ll keep him safe,” he repeated. Then he turned and was gone, leaving the door
Munny put down the pot he held and scurried after. The deck was alive with hands,
even those who were off watch, crawling up from the hatches and crowding the rails on
the port side. They parted way for the Captain to pass through, but when Munny tried to
follow, they closed in again, blocking him as solidly as a brick wall.
“Look! Look!” Munny heard voices crying.
“It’s a sign!”
“She’s warning us!”
“It’s a sign, I tell you!”
Fearing he knew not what, Munny ran for the center mast and climbed partway up,
using the handholds and footholds with unconscious confidence. Soon he was high
enough to see over the heads of the gathered crew, out into the blue waters of the
ocean. And he saw them.
They were water birds. Big white albatrosses, smaller seagulls, heavy cormorants,
even deep-throated pelicans and sleek, black-faced terns. These and many more,
hundreds of them, none of which should be seen this far out to sea.
They were all dead. Floating in a great mass.
Munny clung to the mast, pressing his cheek against its wood. The shouts of the
frightened sailors below faded away, drowned out by the desolation of that sight. Death,
reeking death, a sad flotilla upon the waves.
“I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Munny looked down to where Leonard clung to the mast just beneath him, staring
wide-eyed out at the waves. “How could this have happened? Were they sick? Caught
in a sudden gale? Are they tangled in fishing nets?”
There was no fear in his voice. Not like in the voices of the sailors. He did not
understand. He did not realize. It wasn’t his fault, Munny told himself.
But it was.
I (Anne) am offering two proof copies of Goddess Tithe as prizes! U.S. and Canada only, please.