Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Favorite Fairy Tale encounters from 2013

The Prince Who Fell from the Sky The Scarecrow and His Servant Fly Trap The Ocean at the End of the Lane Ico: Castle in the Mist Reckless The Brides of Rollrock Island

My Favorite Fairy Tale Encounters from 2013

I'm not always reading the most current books or watching the most recent movies or tv shows. I'm always a little behind, especially when it comes to fairy tales. But even so, I like to share my favorite fairy tale encounters from the past year. I've had plenty. I met magicians, witches, vampires, ghosts, ghost killers, gods, dream scientists and several different people who did not stay dead. I encountered secret smells, the color of death, selkies, aliens in disguise, factions I also did not fit into and districts where I did not want to live. I visited a city that transformed between the night and day. I read a story with parallel plotlines. I got lost in two different wild forests and survived to fight another day.

The following awards are entirely made up, basically just so I can talk about these particular books. However, two awards repeat every year, because I always can find a resourceful orphan and a horrible, terrible, and by far the worst kind of parent.

The most dangerous book I read this year: Reckless by Cornelia Funke

This was more of a personal problem. There's nothing dangerous about the book's content. It's your ordinary fairy tale based adventure. However, I read it while I was in the middle of drafting a story, which happened to be a fairy tale based adventure. Uh oh. Was I giving myself a little challenge not to be overly influenced?

 Luckily, Reckless features modern day characters, Jacob Reckless and his brother Will, who find a way through a magic mirror into a world where fairy tales like Hansel and Gretel and Sleeping Beauty are real. And much more dangerous than the stories told you. Its nothing like my story. Mostly.

Winner of the Most Talking Animals: The Prince Who Fell from the Sky by John Claude Bemis

In this book there are talking bears, coyotes, wolves, rats, dogs and cats. Human speech is no where to be found, so if you are unable to understand grunts, growls, squeaks or other subtle body language don't bother picking up this book. .... just kidding. (I didn't want to spoil anything.)

Runner up: Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Winner of the Most Surprising Heart Award: The Scarecrow from The Scarecrow and his Servant by Philip Pullman

A turnip-head scarecrow comes magically to life and the story follows his misadventures with robbers, a theatre trope, a broom, an army, and a kingdom of birds. He is accompanied by his faithful servant, a young capable human boy. The scarecrow keeps a very important document inside himself. I love the language in Pullman's stories. The descriptions and actions are simple, but they have just the right turn of phrase. This was my favorite of the three I read this year.

Winner of the most terrifyingly injury award:
Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Chapter 5 begins with the main character examining his foot, which has a small pink scar and a hole. That's right a tiny little hole in the bottom of his foot. Inside he finds a worm, which he proceeds to pull out of the hole with tweezers. That's when everything starts to go wrong. And this is how we know something is not right, because of that tiny little hole.

Winner of the transformation Award: The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan

This was the first book I read in 2013, so I know I started the year off right. To call this book just a story based on selkie mythology doesn't do it justice. Margo Lanagan does a stunning portrayal of a small seaside village and its inhabitants. The men of the island can get themselves a perfect seawife if they're willing to pay the witch's price. And how do the real women react? Well, its impossible to compete with someone who has supernatural beauty, who is obedience, and simply lovely beyond reason, the perfect wife and mother. Most of the real women leave. The seawives can't. They might long to return to the sea, they might be miserable, but they can't without their 'skins'.

There are several view points portrayed in this book, one of the sons who decides to help find his mother's skin, a young man who returns to the island and is not looking for a perfect seawife, but ends up with one anyway and a woman who decides to leave the island after her husband gets himself another 'wife', but the most heartbreaking is the witch's story.

Runner up: The Magician King by Lev Grossman

Resourceful Orphan Award: Mosca from Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge

Poor Mosca as if the story didn't start off bad enough: her companion Eponymous Clent is in jail, her goose has run off and she's broke. Then she gets kidnapped just because she can read! Whether escaping from farmhouse cellars, sneaking around a strange city with a split personality, facing down thieves, mayors, or the infamous, treacherous locksmiths, Mosca's your girl for adventure and getting into and out of trouble. The story weaves in strange ways, but it all comes together and Mosca not going to stand by while people suffer or let the impostors get away. She'll give them what's coming to them, even if that means revolution or burning and tearing down an entire city. You go girl!

Also, Hardinge's books remind me ever so slightly of Diana Wynne Jones, beautiful language, curious situations and strange characters to encounter throughout.

Fourth Annual Worst Parent award: the Mother from Ico:Castle in the Mist by Miyuki Miyabe

There were other terrible parents I read about this year, neglectful ones, absent ones, a father in prison with unreasonable expectations, another father who does something horrible to his little boy, but the worse parent I encounter has to be the Queen from Ico: Castle in the Mist.

There's something epically horrible about a woman who claims her birthright as the child of a Dark God, tries to destroy the world and decides to drag her daughter along with her. For some reason being trapped together for several timeless centuries doesn't help them get over their differences. Huh.

First Runner up: the Father from Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Second Runner up: the Dowager Governess in Wildwood by Colin Meloy

Other favorite fairy tale books »
2012's Tales
2011's Noteworthy
2010's Notables

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Not just poetry. Here is a play for you too! (ooh, I'm impressed Roe!)

Act 1, scene 1

setting: Entrance and dining hall at the Tambre Inn


William: My love, I -
William: Sorry, wrong sister.


Mari, aside: Stay calm. He hasn't seen me yet.
Ann: Oh Mari dear, there you are! Have you only just woken up?
William: Mari!
Mari: Oh, perhaps. Have you finished all the washing up then?
Ann: Nearly I-
Mari: Good, then you don't need my help. William, release my hand at once.
William: of course, I only . . .
Mari: Yes?
William: Ah, um, just going out? Are you? Here, let the door for you. Might I escort you this morning, somewhere.
Mari: No thank you. I shall be fine.


Ann: Don't forget Auntie Wren will be here to- day.
William: Now, she's gone. Why can't I say something to her? Why do I stutter, my words fail me. A fine speech maker I'm not, but a simple 'hello Mari, how are you? Good Morning. You look lovely as day, today.
Ann: Thank you.
William: Oh, I don't mean you Ann. You're a nice girl. You're alright, but your sister. Mari is . . .
Ann: oh brother.
William: An Angel. Truly descendant upon this earth. Glorious to behold. None can - dare compare to the splendor that is ...
Ann, reciting along with him and finishes for him: Glorious to behold.  None can - dare compare to the splendor that is Mari Tambre.

(Ah, but sadly, its unfinished. . . )
(What a shame. I really liked where it was going too.)
(Thank you Lackscroft.)
(Perhaps I should finish it for you?)
(IF you think you can. . . )

image credit goes to...

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Curses, another poem (someone must have taken over this blog) (Wasn't me, how about you Roe?)

The Cursemaker Returns

The cursemaker is coming.
The cursemaker is coming.
It's not enough to say it once.
Three times and you know it to be true.
The cursemaker is coming.

She'll be there giving birth to salamandar toads.
She withers birds with her eyes, and keeps them in a cage.
Her nettle-wine and fish-eye stew smell like sour sweat.
Don't let her touch you.
Don't get too close.
She'd try to snatch you and catch you and eat you.

The cursemaker is coming. 
Quickly, hold your breath.
The air stinks like ink. 
You know it to be true.
The cursemaker is coming.

Stones crumble at her feet, the water boils, the fishes bleed,
she has a grip to hold you down like a spider's web of iron.
She doesn't burn. She doesn't drown. She must be quite the -
Don't say it.
Don't even whisper it.
She'll know you did. She'll pin you down to stitch your lips.

The cursemaker is coming.

Saturday, April 13, 2013



I must confess something
get this off my chest.
I'd like to say I wrote this story,
but it really wrote itself.
It demanded to go one way
when I wanted to go the other.
It was stubborn,
If I didn't follow the story
then we never got anywhere.
It said things unexpected.
It did things I never thought of
and went in entirely different directions.
Maps were useless,
schedules ignored,
the story was in charge, not me.
Sometimes I couldn't figure out what
the story wanted,
nothing I tried worked.
But I kept trying.
I kept at it.
Early mornings, while eating lunch, after dinner, late into the night.
The story couldn't be left unfinished,
it needed an ending, of some sort.
Conversations needed to be spoken,
actions taken,
the end written at the end.
Now, it wants to be shown off,
copied, reproduced, distributed and read
It is very bossy, I know.
Would you like to see it?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fairy Tale Favorites from 2012

Flora's Fury The Night Circus Absolute Midnight Foundling Kalpa Imperial: The Greatest Empire That Never Was Chime 

It's a little late in coming, but I felt like sharing a few of my favorites from last year. 

I didn't read as many fairy tale books last year. I'll have to do better next year. 

However, I did meet plenty of interesting characters. There were 8 different orphans, an amnesiac hero, a girl without a hand, and a boy without a hand, a girl with wolf ears, and another girl with cat whiskers. I read books with giant monsters, witches, vampires, werewolves, pirates, cyborgs, ghosts, evil stepmothers, and puppets. I attended a circus in the middle of the night, traveled to several parallel worlds, and saved the world several times over. 

Phew. Onto the awards:

Winnner of the Longest Title: 
Flora's Fury: How a Girl of Spirit and a Red Dog confounds her friends, astounds her enemies and learns the importance of Packing Light by Ysabeau Wilce
runner up: Kalpa Imperial: the Greatest Empire that Never Was by Angelica Gorodischer, translated by Ursula Le Guin

Somehow I always read a book with a long title, that I particularly enjoy. I never plan for it, I don't go out looking for books with long titles, it just happens. 

Best Monster/Giant Hunter
Barbara from I kill Giants by Joe Kelly and J.M. Ken Niimura
Runner up: Rossamond from Lamplighter (Book 2 of the Monster Blood Tattoo Series) by D. M. Cornish

Killing monsters is rather fairy-taleish. The graphic novel 'I kill Giants' has a classic, familiar fairy-tale feel to it, but still manages to be its own story too. This one also caught me off guard. A powerful tale of a fifth-grade girl who fights giants, from the bully Taylor, to the one living upstairs in her house. She's preparing for the "giant" coming any day now. She makes traps for it, she studies ancient texts about giants and the Titans so she will be ready to fight. Don't we all fight giants in some way? 

Winner of the FlipFlop Award
Kylie Galen from the 'Shadow Falls Series' by C.C. Hunter
Seriously, girl pick one guy or the other. Either the hot werewolf or the gorgeous fey, you can't keep flipping back and forth between them. It's making me crazy. I am so over love-triangles. Give me a good solid romance between two people. That is hard enough.

Runner Up: Beatrice Shakespeare Smith from Eyes like Stars by Lisa Mantchev. Check her out at the Theatre Illuminate.

Favorite Twist in a Story . . . goes to Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker
Runner Up: Chime by Franny Billingsley

I try not to give away secrets here, at least not the really good ones. I hate to spoil good secrets. That's why I can't explain the reason for these winners. All I can tell you is these two stories have twists in them that really surprised me. Sometimes I can guess where a story is going, I can see a twist coming, but sometimes I'm wrong. Sometimes the story or a character does something completely unexpected.

Best Story within a Story: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
runner up: The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

Most Memorable Opening Line: Railsea by China Meville

"This is a tale of a bloodstained boy."

Winner of the most resourceful Orphan 
Rossamund from The Foundling: Book 1 of the Monster Blood Tattoo Series by D. M. Cornish
Runner up: Sham from Railsea by China Meville

Orphans are everywhere, I realize it's convenient  but even so there are always surrogate parents popping up somewhere in the story. We can't ever escape them. Some orphans manage better than others, some are more interesting than others. A lot happens to Rossumond, to start it off he was given a girl's name and to make it worse he lives in a world filled with monsters. 

The world D.M. Cornish creates is fascinating, with its vinegar sea, fortified cities and towns, the people all dress in fancy tri-cone hats and wigs and frock coats. It's like a Charles Dicksen story set in a RPG fantasy world. The monsters are real and scary, yet it so much more complex than that. While Rossumond's journey takes him from the orphanage to the home of the Lamplighters, he learns how some humans can be cruel and mean, and that not all monsters are evil. Don't be too intimidated by the size of these books, because half of it is a dictionary/encyclopedia about the world Cornish has created. You don't need to study it, Cornish weaves in the details effortlessly, think of them as extras.

Third annual Worse Parents Award
Winner of the Worst Father of the year goes to . . . Hector Brown, also known as Prospero the Magician, from The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
runner up Bill Quakenbush from Absolute Midnight by Clive Barker

Just as orphans abound, so are parents that shouldn't be allowed to be parents. They're neglectful, abusive, cruel, and inescapable. The orphans have it easy, if you ask me. The ones who really have to struggle are the ones like Celia and Candy, with parents like Hector Brown and Bill Quakenbush. Having parents like these  - that force you to learn magic so you can play a mysterious game, in Celia's case, or try to steal your magic with some weird soul-sucking machine, in Candy's instance - they make you wish you were an orphan. 

Well, there you have it. I could probably assign an award or prize to every book I read last year, but I won't. 

Here's my sorta review of Night Circus.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

I'm Not afraid of Love. (#39 of Iana's story)

The end of Chapter 5 is upon us. I wanted to finish a chapter by the end of the year, and here it is. Iana has finally discovered a means to save her kingdom and to back fight against her enemies. Can you blame her for letting down her guard a little? 

39#   I'm Not afraid of Love

"Are you ready Princess?" Olwen asked as evening came on the last day. 

"As long as it stays windy out," I said listening to the shutters rattle on the windows nearby.

The last ten days had flown by so quickly. Olwen and I sat together in the dining hall, not alone, of course. Aunt Luna was near the fire, her eyes resting. Joli had gone up to bed earlier, and Mother had taken some dinner up to her. I should have gone up to bed too, but I found myself wanting to stay in Olwen's company a little bit longer.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Look no further, Iana's Story #38 has arrived

So much to do. So little time. Ah, but it only feels like that because there is so much to do. If there wasn't, then it would feel as if you had all the time in world. Time slows down when you count each second, trying to hurry it along, but when you are having too much fun, when you are busy preparing for Christmas, why then it runs off and suddenly the month of December is half over.

A simple solution presents itself, has Iana found her answer at last? 

#38 Look no further

"Can I help you Princess?" Olwen asked, pushing at the door with me. "What are you doing?"

"Wait, you'll see, or you'll hear it. Listen!" I told him, pointing upward.