I have been asked by the author’s publicist to post this blog about her. All materials below have been provided by the author and publicist.
Please help celebrate the anniversary book blast of author Amber Skye Forbes’ popular book, When Stars Die. Amber is offering a $20 Amazon voucher giveaway for a lucky winner who signs up for Amber’s newsletter in the month of October. Here are the links for the Rafflecopter. <a id=”rc-08ec20d85″ class=”rafl” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/08ec20d85/” rel=”nofollow”>a Rafflecopter giveaway</a>
About the Author
Amber Skye Forbes is a dancing writer who prefers pointe shoes over street shoes, leotards over skirts, and ballet buns over hairstyles. She loves striped tights and bows and will edit your face with a Sharpie if she doesn’t like your attitude. She lives in Augusta, Georgia where she writes dark fiction that will one day put her in a psychiatric ward…again. But she doesn’t care because her cat is a super hero who will break her out.
About the Book
“Yet, even when stars die, they leave a lasting impact through their light, their diamond brilliance as they scatter their material to form new stars. When people die, they leave the same impact with the footprints they leave on people’s hearts. Even the ones who feel insignificant go out, leaving behind dust that can nourish the world anew.”
Amelia Gareth’s brother is a witch and the only way to save her family from the taint in his blood is to become a professed nun at Cathedral Reims in the snowy city of Malva. However, in order to become professed, she must endure trials that all nuns must face.
Surviving these trials is not easy, especially for Amelia, who is being stalked by shadowy beings only she can see. They’re searching for people they can physically touch, because only those they can touch can see them. Amelia soon learns why she is being stalked when she accidentally harms her best friend with fire during the third trial. Fire is a witch’s signature. The shadows are after witches.
Now Amelia must decide what to do: should she continue on her path to profession knowing there is no redemption, or should she give up on her dream and turn away from Cathedral Reims in order to stop the shadows who plan to destroy everything she loves?
Here is an interview provided by the author.
Interview with Amelia, MC of When Stars Die:
- Why did you decide to go to Cathedral Reims?
I desperately wanted to protect my younger brother. When I found out he was a witch, I knew I needed to get the both of us out of there. If our parents found out, they would reveal my younger brother for what he truly was, and they would kill them. This is how everyone is in Warbele. They’re taught from a young age to hate witches. I was no different, but I questioned why these people deserved to be hated. I suppose I was ambivalent about them at the time; however, when I discovered by brother to be one because he set fire to a curtain, I knew it was time for me to start caring, to start feeling differently from how everyone else did. As for Cathedral Reims, I brought both of us there in the hopes that if we repented, and both of us became part of the Professed Order, my little brother would be forgiven, and we could go to Paradise when we died.
- Why do you have feelings for Oliver Cromwell?
He helped me with latrine duty one day when I was admonished during class by one of the nuns. I knew our contact was forbidden. We took vows of chastity. The sexes were not to have contact with one another. Yet, it was this risk that he took that formed our secret friendship. I stifled my feelings. I wouldn’t even allow myself to know I had feelings for him. Even if we acted upon them, nothing would come of it. We lived in separate worlds, wanted separated things as far as our positions in the chuch, had to lead separate lives. But he’s beautiful, an artistic sculpture without the exaggerated muscles. He’s pale, he has a blood disorder that makes him cold all the time, and I loved that I could bring warmth into his being. He made Cathedral Reims less stressful. In order to become a nun, we endure horrific trials to test our mettle. Sometimes you’re given lashes. Sometimes you’re beaten with boards. Sometimes you must kneel on wood chips for an indiscernible amount of time. Sometimes you’re locked in small spaces. There is no symbolic reason behind these trials. They are to prepare us for the hardships of being a nun. He was there throughout my training, even after the first trial I went through that I thought I had failed.
- You see shadows around Cathedral Reims. Why do you think this is?
I don’t know why I see these shadows. They haunt me. I feel like the only one who can see them. Even my best friend Colette can’t see them, but I know they are there. They say they are looking for people just like them, but I don’t even know what that means. So maybe I am like them, but I don’t know how. Before my first trial, they came into the room I shared with Colette, and I had to pretend I didn’t see them. They said that only those who could see them were like them. It was horrifying, nauseating. When I did go to my first trial, one of them looked at me, dead in the face, and I knew I was done for.
- What was your life like before Cathedral Reims?
It wasn’t anything extraordinary. Mother was barely around, though she took my younger brother to many places. Father adored us, so he was very affectionate. He was a banker. My brother and I had a personal tutor, so everything we learned was from him. We learned that our country Warbele was isolated from the rest of the world because they disapproved of how witches were being treated. We learned a language called French whose origins are unknown. I spent a great deal of time in that mansion. Sometimes we would go to Norbury, a town for the wealthy, where we would eat and shop. But I primarily spent time with my younger brother. Honestly, with everything going on right now, I feel like my former life was unremarkable, so I don’t talk about it too much.
- How do you feel about Cathedral Reims?
I honestly hate it, but I feel it is my only purpose in life, and that purpose is to become a nun part of the Professed Order. At least I have Oliver and Colette to provide moral support, but sometimes it is so hard to keep going. Studies can be brutal. While I have never been punished, I have seen girls beaten with boards for even yawning during a lesson. Sometimes they were tied to chairs for fidgeting. So I learned what not to do from the girls that got in trouble. I never wanted to face what they did. Those girls would come down with melancholia. Some were forced to leave Cathedral Reims. Some girls had bruises and scars they were forced to hide. There are girls who go to finishing schools who think those schools are difficult, yet they can be considered mere preparation for life at a convent.
- Tell us about who YOU are.
There is nothing remarkable about me, nothing that I can think of. My entire life revolves around protecting my younger brother. My entire life has always revolved around him. When I wasn’t involved in my own life, I was involved in spending all of my free time with him. Before Cathedral Reims, my parents had expectations that I would marry into a wealthy family. My parents expected my younger brother to pursue a higher education. So everything I did was a means to an end for me to be a mere wife. I hated it all, of course. I wanted more, and maybe that’s what Cathedral Reims is for me, that more I can seek out that is my choice and mine alone. I didn’t have too many hobbies, besides being expected to attend social calls with my mother and gossip with the daughters of those ladies’. The entire life I lived was empty, not really allowing me to develop my own personality, except an aspect of myself that knew I didn’t want that life but had no choice to pursue. Oftentimes I feel empty because of it. Yet, all aristocratic daughters are raised to be vapid and empty and pretty and expected to be unintelligent.
- When you first got to Cathedral Reims, how did you feel?
Mother Aurelia, our Mother Superior, didn’t sugarcoat what life would be like. She mentioned that things were going to be hard because being a nun is hard. I could expect severe punishments, hard assignments, bland food, and an overall cold atmosphere. Even so, she did mention the nuns cared, but they couldn’t get too close to us in case many of us weren’t cut out for being part of the Professed Order. I had to sleep in a dormitory with other girls. We had rankings we had to move up. I had to take a vow of silence for a little bit, but then when I gradually moved through each ranking, more was expected from me. This is when I began to feel I couldn’t survive. I had Colette to keep me going though. I only had Colette and Oliver. The other girls…they were too competitive. They could be mean. Some of them wanted to see us fail. Why, I do not know. It isn’t as if Cathedral Reims only accepts a certain number into its Professed Order. I suppose they wanted to move through ranks faster, so they tried to destroy other girls to keep those girls where they were at so they could move up and brag. As for me, I just wanted to do my best. I didn’t want to harm anyone along the way.
- Anything else you would like to say?
I want everyone to know that in my own little way, I want to change the world I live in. I don’t want witches to be hated anymore. Even Oliver shares this dream with me. If I make the Professed Order and only keep going up, he says we can change that. Even though The Vulgate, our bible, tells us to hate witches, we can revise that text to a better one to stop the violence and the hatred. I know that even if we accomplish this, people will be slow to accept this. Yet, we will have laws to punish people who even try to harm a witch. That is my goal, one I share with Oliver. That is our goal.
Three interesting things about writing WSD:
1. Amelia’s name was originally going to be Dervla, because in Latin it means daughter of bile. She was going to be a murderer, a ruthless one who killed anyone not like her.
2. Nathaniel wasn’t going to play a big role in When Stars Die. He was going to be major in The Stars Are Infinite, but I gave him a bigger role so readers could care about him by the time they got to the sequel. He was simply going to be a little brother she left at home, rather than a little brother she took to Cathedral Reims with her to ensure he wouldn’t be killed because of his witchcraft.
3. The original name for When Stars Die was going to be Croix Infernal, which roughly means hellish cross in French. I made the characters French, adding in French every so often. Amelia was going to be a ruthless murderer because of a cross Oliver Cromwell, her lover in When Stars Die, foisted upon her. It was a cursed cross. He wanted to deceive her into killing people not like them.
Here is Chapter One of Amber’s book.
The sound is a dagger scraping crosshatches on a frosted windowpane, its echoes loud in this insensible room I’ve been locked in for the past few days. I want to remedy my fears over the sound, but I’m more terrified of the impending trials that will determine my readiness to be professed in the Order of Cathedral Reims. The trials are the reason I have been locked in here.
Colette sits beside me, lost in knitting a scarf she has been working on for a week—the amount of time we’ve been trapped in here with minimal food, water, and sanity. Her ability to shut out the world with a click of the needles is something I have always envied. For her, the world is nonexistent.
But not for me.
The sound strips my nerves raw, so I tighten my shawl and rise from the creaking mattress. My boot-clad feet meet the floor, and in spite of my stockings, cold still shoots through the soles, hibernating in my bones. Pulling in a deep breath of biting air, I tiptoe over to the door and press my eye to the keyhole that overlooks a bright hallway. The air freezes in my chest. I knew I heard those blasted shadows, the eerie, almost impossible sounds they make whenever their black cloaks trail along the cobbled floors of Cathedral Reims. Sometimes I wonder if AMBER SKYE FORBES
they’re witches, people born of the Seven Deadly Sins and considered worse than murderers in the eyes of the law. Then I remember my little brother is nothing like them. They are mere shadows. Mere shadows.
Two of them stand outside the room. I recognize them. The tall one is Asch, and the little one is Sash. I don’t know where I heard their names. Here, in my dreams, in nightmares, or somewhere else.
I wish they would go away. I wish, I wish, I wish. I close my eyes. Open them. They are still there. Why must they be here? Theosodore, our Mother Superior’s lackey, could gather us any moment for the first trial, a trial that will test everything we are made of, and here are Asch and Sash teasing my nerves with their cold, white fingers. But I don’t know what it is about them. They haven’t done anything in the two months since I’ve started seeing them, but their presence makes sharp fear burrow into my muscles and knot them. I believe I’m the only one who can see them. This frightens me. Perhaps waiting for these trials has made me mad.
Colette’s voice rises behind me, a quiet thing in the tremors of my mind. “Are you searching for those shadows again?”
I look over my shoulder and into eyes that reflect a blue sky. I have no reason to tell her that I am. She puts down her knitting and tightens the standard gray shawl given to all girls being tested for the Professed Order. Winters are bitter in the city of Malva, especially in this winter of 1880, though the unpleasant chill is a mere prologue to the upcoming trials.
“Amelia, it’s stress. We’ve all been stressed about these trials.” She shows me her bloodied fingers. “See? I’ve bitten them to the nub! Now why don’t you come over and let me braid your hair?”
I shake my head. I will admit nothing. And yet, I don’t know why I WHEN STARS DIE
can see them and Colette can’t, or why they’re even here. I keep opening my eyes and closing them, hoping they will disappear. But they don’t. For whatever cryptic reasons they have, they are here and have been watching us all for the past two months.
Colette puts a hand on my shoulder that I shrug off. “Stop this nonsense, Amelia. You know how fretful you make me when you act like this. It’s stress. I promise you. Just stress.”
Stress. Yes, just stress. But does stress truly conjure shadows of the darkest thoughts in one’s mind? I thought of tearing my hair out in clumps to reduce the stress of these trials. While I have awaited this period in my time as a sister, knowing that my performance hinges on whether or not I stay and continue on as a nun is trying. I don’t want to go home. I can’t go home. Home is where I’d spend days in my room, sometimes comforted by prolonged sleep, other times tortured by an unquiet mind. Cathedral Reims was the only thing able to give me some purpose, and here I am, and here is where I need to stay.
I turn back toward the door and curl my fingers against it, tapping my nails on the wood. I will not argue with Colette. Even trying to convince myself they are not real is like trying to convince one of our priests to remain celibate.
“Don’t bother with me, Colette. I’ll be–” Wailing erupts far down the corridor. The sound is loud enough to break the icicles clinging to our window. I’d join, but I already ache from stress. That crying has been intermittent since we were shoved and locked in these rooms. The trials are that dreadful, though we have no idea what they consist of. The screams of those being tested assure us they are far from pleasant. I look at Colette and gesture in the direction of the crying. “At least I’m not at that point.” AMBER SKYE FORBES
She sighs again. “All right, then. Once this is all over, I’m certain you’ll stop seeing things.”
I hear the skirts of her gray dress rustle across the floor and the creaking of the mattress as she settles back on it.
I first saw the shadows on the roof of the south transept while Colette and I were in the orchard, picking plums for jam. My little brother Nathaniel was with us, but he was too busy climbing trees to take notice of anything. There were five of them, I remember. I turned away from them and whispered to Colette, “Do you see those things on the roof?”
“There are five of them, all in black cloaks.”
She dragged me deeper into the orchard so that foliage and plums obscured my view. “You’re starting to lose your mind, just like Sister Marie did. Remember what happened to her? She was so stressed about the trials last year she slit her wrists, miraculously survived, but had to be put in an asylum. Don’t end up like her! Don’t bring them up again. Ever. If you do see them again, just keep telling yourself they’re not real.”
But it’s hard to believe they’re not real when I see them every day, amassed in different numbers, engaged in indiscernible chatter. If they were just illusions, wouldn’t I have gone truly mad by now? Wouldn’t I have started seeing other things too? Wouldn’t I–wouldn’t I have ended up like Marie by now? Because I haven’t frightens me even more, for what could this mean? Marie’s sanity fell apart in just a month, and even then we sisters could see it unwinding when she started hallucinating. She saw things, like the suffering witches on the stained-glass windows, or the statues of witches nailed to stakes talking to her. WHEN STARS DIE
We have such harrowing propaganda around Cathedral Reims.
Colette’s knitting needles start clicking away. I press my eye back to the keyhole. Asch and Sash now speak in hushed tones.
Asch balls his white fists. These shadows have skin the color of clear-day clouds and eyes an endless black. The eyes alone tell me they are far from human. I hold my breath in anticipation of what he’ll say. Sash, however, throws a hand over Asch’s bluish, scarred lips. Thick, disfiguring scars cover Asch’s entire face as though someone took a serrated knife to him. Sash narrows his eyes and opens his mouth. What comes out is loud enough for me to hear.
“You do realize there might be some people here who can see us?”
A painful cramp overtakes my stomach. He has a boyish voice. A boyish voice. He is a child. They cannot be real. They are illogical. They are demons spawned from a stressed mind whose darkest thoughts contemplate all the ways I can hurt myself to feel something other than this impending feeling that I may be inadequate for the Professed Order. But there they are, those shadows, acting, living, breathing, speaking, doing human things.
Asch grips Sash’s thin wrist. Sash is such a tiny thing. He has the face of a fourteen-year-old—soft, sloped jaw, a cocky smile that emphasizes the deep cut on his upper lip. Asch brings himself down to Sash’s stature, mocking the boy for what he lacks.
“You keep your tone down then. I have no doubt there are ones here who can hear and see us, but they’re a minority. No one would believe them, even if they ran all over the cathedral heralding our presence.”
Sash raises himself to Asch’s chin. “Then you–” He looks in my AMBER SKYE FORBES
direction and narrows his eyes.
I pull away from the door, realizing I’ve started tapping my nails against the wood again. I dig them into the grain to stop them, then pin myself against the doorframe while straining my hearing. Curse my nervous habits!
Sash speaks up. “I think someone is watching us.”
I pull away from the door, final in my decision to cut them from my mind so I can cling on to the last strands of my sanity. I will need to cling to those bits if I am to survive these trials. The swishing of their cloaks meets my ears as I stride over to Colette, keeping my face passive so she suspects nothing is amiss. My sanity cannot spiral in the direction dearly departed Sister Marie’s did. I sit down and start braiding Colette’s tangled, blonde locks. My fingers fumble as they try to remember how to braid.
“Are your imaginary friends gone?” Colette asks, needles clicking away.
I ignore her, sweat beading down my temple. The swishing of their cloaks grows louder. They are not real. Nothing will come in here. The sound will disappear, and I can safely blame stress for their existence. I open my mouth to speak. My voice comes out dry. “I’m just–”
The door creaks open. Colette snaps her head in the direction of the door, while I keep my eyes on the frayed braid in my hand. She pulls away from me like someone screamed her name and sweeps over to the door. Out of my peripheral, the shadows casually glide into our room. They look around like they don’t see us.
She reaches for the knob. “T-there must be some awful draft or something blowing down the hall to push open a locked door.” WHEN STARS DIE
This is too much of a coincidence that their presence would push the door open and leave poor Colette believing it to be a draft. There is nothing illusory about their presence.
Colette pulls her shawl around her. “I-it’s quite chilly.” I don’t feel a draft at all, but I’m not willowy like her. She puts her hand on the knob, then stops. “That’s peculiar. The lock has come undone. Faulty lock, I suppose. Well, we’re good little sisters. We won’t go running from our trials.” She slides the bolt back in place.
I’m antsy for the feel of her braid in my hands so the shadows don’t know I can see them. She sits back down. I grab the undone braid, forcing my eyes to be lost in the tangled hair as my fingers get snarled in the straw texture. The shadows walk around our room. Their eyes burn holes in our backs.
“I know one of them can see us,” Sash says, stopping in front of us. “One of them knows something. Isn’t that right? One of you can see us.”
My breath hitches. Now I can’t be insane. The faulty lock, the blown open door–I can’t continue believing they’re not real, especially when Sash implied not everyone can see them. Do illusions often justify their existences to the mentally insane? I wouldn’t think so.
Just don’t look up, don’t look up, don’t look up.
Conversation. That’s what I need, a conversation with Colette. Swallowing the lump in my throat and wetting my lips with my tongue, I say, “What do you think the first trial will be?” The ease with which the question tumbles off my tongue surprises me. My calm tone does not match the way my nerves feel, like they’re being drawn taut through a loom.
Asch’s voice comes out in a lilt. “You’re imagining things, Sash. I AMBER SKYE FORBES
don’t think we’re any closer to finding one than we were two months ago.”
They are looking for people like me then, ones who can see them.
Colette looks over her shoulder, forcing me to adjust my arms so I can keep braiding her hair. “I’ve tried not to think about the trials. I can’t even speculate. I had nightmares when I first heard the screams from the last group Mother Aurelia put through. I dreamt these trials manifested our greatest fears,” she says.
I have to tense my hands to keep them from shaking. Fear cannot be present on my face, not with these shadows around. “What is your greatest fear?”
I look up briefly to find Asch nudging Sash closer to us. “Just touch one of them, Sash, if you’re so certain one of these girls is what we’re looking for. After all, we can touch them. We just can’t touch those who can’t see us.”
Colette lets out a small laugh, drawing my eyes to the blueness of her eyes as she turns around and looks at me, her braid falling softly against her back. “If I talk about my greatest fear, I think I might go insane. Let’s try not to think about the present. Let’s think about the future, about what great nuns we’ll make.”
Sash reaches out a pale hand. Part of me wants to run, scream, cry, while another part of me desperately prays Sash changes his mind and realizes he isn’t looking for me. I know nothing of what these shadows intend to do with the people they’re looking for, but instinct says what they want to do can’t be good. I have to bite my tongue to keep my voice from wavering. “I suppose you’re right. Talking about fears won’t do us any good. Let’s just remind ourselves why we’re here in the first place.” WHEN STARS DIE
Colette nods, breaking into a smile. “I’m here because the physical world isn’t enough for me.”
I grab for Colette’s braid as Sash draws near. “I’m here because–” I can’t say why I’m really here. I promised Nathaniel I’d tell no one. He would never forgive me if I did. “I’m here because I was dissatisfied with my home life and I wanted something more.”
Sash’s fingers are a centimeter from my cheek. He’s going to–
They whip their heads away from us.
“Shit,” Sash says. “He’s coming. I can hear him. We have to leave, Asch. He can’t catch us in here. He can’t catch us at all.”
Asch bolts for the door. “We’ll keep a closer eye on these girls, if that’ll satiate your curiosity.”
They throw open the door and vanish into the brightness of the hallway. Whoever this ‘he’ is has frightened them away. At the same time, I do not want to meet this ‘he,’ not in the least. This person might be more frightening than the shadows.
Colette approaches the open door. For a brief moment I swear I see panic in her eyes. Shivering overtakes that panic, however. Her voice wavers as she says, “B-blasted lock. It’s cold, so cold. I feel like the temperature has dropped tenfold.” An undertone of fear edges her voice–or that could be from the cold. “Let’s be good sisters and let Mother Aurelia know our lock is broken, all right, Amelia?”
I nod, sighing as my nerves release my muscles. I thank our god, Deus. Thank Deus they’re gone. Thank Deus they are gone.
Colette lets out a gasp.
Theosodore, the Mother Superior’s assistant, has a firm grasp of AMBER SKYE FORBES
Colette’s wrist. Her wrist looks like a willow branch in his meaty hand the size of my skull. He looks at her with his infamous jagged smile and strokes the thorny whiskers jutting from his chin. “Are we trying to escape, Sister Colette?”
Did the shadows run from this man, this man who must stand seven feet tall, who looks imposing in stark gray robes lined with black threads? He could kill us in silence, and no one would ever know. This is the man who beats us when we step out of line, though he has neither touched Colette nor I. He must be the one the shadows ran from, but why?
Theosodore’s smile turns vicious, shoving all thoughts of the shadows from my mind. His presence means the first trial is here. His presence means our fate has begun. His presence means our futures will be determined over the next month, if we can survive.
Colette looks Theosodore full in the face, fear nonexistent in her eyes. “I wasn’t trying to escape. The lock is broken. The door has been blowing open all day.”
Theosodore narrows his dark brown eyes, forming menacing creases on his forehead. He grabs Colette’s other wrist and pins her against the doorframe, drawing his face to hers so that there is barely a space between them. I’ll bet he smells like wine that has fermented for only a week. “Don’t lie to me. You’re not the first to attempt escape.”
She draws her eyebrows together. “Call me a liar if you please, but you will have to let Mother Aurelia judge that.”
Theosodore lets go of Colette’s wrists. He keeps his face close to hers. “I’m not here to start a fight or punish you. I’m here to gather you girls for the first trial. That will take care of whatever misgivings you may harbor about being professed.” His jagged smile returns wider than WHEN STARS DIE
before. “That will be a punishment in itself.”
He gestures us out into the hall, where we find other sisters in gray dresses and tattered shawls huddling for each other’s scarce warmth. The stained-glass windows make outside bleary, but they don’t disguise the snowfall that curtains the world in white. Theosodore starts to lead us down the hall. Colette latches her icy hand on my own. Despite being couched in a group of bodies, the cold slices through me even more than it did in that room, shivers disguising any nervousness I feel for the impending test. As we make our way to the first trial, I spy Sash peering out from behind a statue of a witch tangled in a noose. He’s looking at no one in particular, until I pass.
Then he locks his eyes on mine, and I find myself pulling on Colette to press us farther in the crowd of bodies. Though I no longer look at him, in that one gaze alone I could see the words on his mind: I know you can see us, and I’m going to prove that you can.
He will be at the trial. He will watch me at the trial. I already know. Deus, if you can hear my prayer, you will steer him away from me. If he is there, if he is present at every trial, then I just know I will never be professed. I will have to go home to parents who haven’t seen my brother and I in three years. I will have to go home to a future far more uncertain than this one.
I can’t bear that. I’d rather die.
Here is a blurb from Book 2, The Stars Are Infinite:
Alice Sheraton is slated to be executed for being a witch; however, her father spares her. He sends her to Finight Hill, a safe house for witches. Here a Shadowman begins to pursue her, and from this Shadowman she learns she has been bound since birth with a terrible fate: either be a martyr to free witches from their misery, or choose to live knowing her existence will bring on more chaos.
It was a pleasure to host Amber Skye Forbes and her lovely book, When Stars Die. Please check out the wonderful reviews on Amazon and pick up your copy today.
Thank you for your continued support.
Remember: READING GIVES YOU WINGS TO FLY!
Blessings to all.