Sunday, June 26, 2016

Krampusnacht Two

Enchanted Conversation, the fairy tale magazine, and World Weaver Press are soliciting stories for a second Krampus-themed publication.  The submission period is open until August 15th, so if you missed your chance for the last collection or are having some midsummer cravings for writing about winter, dive in.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Sirens from World Weaver Press

Hi, readers!  Look what showed up in my inbox the other day.  A new release, check it out!

Sirens are beautiful, dangerous, and musical, whether they come from the sea or the sky. Greek sirens were described as part-bird, part-woman, and Roman sirens more like mermaids, but both had a voice that could captivate and destroy the strongest man. The pages of this book contain the stories of the Sirens of old, but also allow for modern re-imaginings, plucking the sirens out of their natural elements and placing them at a high school football game, or in wartime London, or even into outer space.
Featuring stories by Kelly Sandoval, Amanda Kespohl, L.S. Johnson, Pat Flewwelling, Gabriel F. Cuellar, Randall G. Arnold, Micheal Leonberger, V. F. LeSann, Tamsin Showbrook, Simon Kewin, Cat McDonald, Sandra Wickham, K.T. Ivanrest, Adam L. Bealby, Eliza Chan, and Tabitha Lord, these siren songs will both exemplify and defy your expectations.  
Sirens will be available in trade paperback and ebook via,, Books-a-Million, KoboWorld Weaver Press, iBookstore, IndieBound and OmniLit, and for wholesale through Ingram.  


Friday, April 8, 2016

Snow Queen and the Huntsman?

I'm both intrigued by and worried about the upcoming Huntsman: Winter's War.  I have a soft spot in my thorny heart for Snow White and the Huntsman.  Besides being a gorgeous film, there were some vivid fairy tale archetypes and themes that hit my sweet spot: the waste land, the white stag, Ravenna as a crow queen and beauty as a weapon, etc.  It looks like this film is going to continue in that direction of powerful imagery, but I'm still hesitant to get my hopes too high.  At this point it's more of a general, nondescript feeling than a handful of solid reasons.

It's strange that the huntsman-part of the first film was made the series anchor.  At the end of SWATH, it felt like it was setting up for a sequel that would follow Snow, with a Snow White and the ____ title.  Ravenna was dead.  Okay, so they resurrected her.  I'll suspend disbelief.  But this is both a before and after with the supposedly defeated queen.  (Though I adored Charlize Theron's performance--that alone is worth watching!)

The adoption and expansion of the role of Hemsworth's huntsman will forever change our perception of the first film, and I don't like movies that do that.  I think it's sloppy story-telling, it changes the already-powerful and satisfyingly vague backstory of Ravenna in the first film.  I understand that they couldn't get Kristen Stewart back for a sequel, but they're creatives . . . they could have figured something out.  (For that matter, how about Emily Blunt in the role of Snow White?  She's a much better actress than Stewart.)

We've already had one Snow Queen disaster with Disney's Frozen.  Andersen's tale is my favorite, and I don't take kindly to loose or artless interpretations.  Emily Blunt's character could be done very well or not.   Though there is a symmetry in making the villain from Snow White and the Snow Queen related.  Come to think of it, wouldn't a better title have been Snow Queen and the Huntsman?

There's lots more that I'm wondering at; some of which make sense, I suppose, for entertainment purposes, but which doesn't please my demanding since of aesthetic!  I'm all over the map on this one, so enough from me.  What do you think?


Friday, February 12, 2016

Spindle as Sleight-of-Hand: A Book Review

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

This is my second attempt at reading Neil Gaiman's work.  I started, got half-way through, and then sort of trickled off from reading Stardust.  I got a bit further with the movie version but with ultimately the same fate.

I mention this in full disclosure, in case my first impression unfairly colored the second.

I'm fascinated with spinning, so one look at the title of this book and I had to read it.  I was also drawn by the atmospheric black, white, and gold illustrations, drawing tangents with alchemy.  Though Chris Riddell's style is less "pretty" than I (personally) like, its quiet irreverence goes well with the sardonic narration, and its intricacy reflects the tangles of thorns, thickets, and themes of the source fairy tales.

In brief summary, a sort of Snow White, now queen, is reported to by three of her dwarfs.  A sleeping sickness is spreading throughout the next door kingdom.  She decides she must go, leaving on the eve of her marriage donning armor and sword rather than a wedding gown.  The dwarfs lead her under the mountain ranges that no one can climb over, to the cursed kingdom, where they are advanced upon by zombie-like sleepers, until they reach the thorn-covered castle.  The queen burns the roses and thorns, they ascend the highest tower, find a cranky old woman and a beautiful sleeper.  The queen (Snow White) knows what to do . . . but when the kissed sleeper wakes, it turns out she was the witch, who used the spindle (no spinning wheel in this version) to steal the life and sleep from the princess, now aged and senile, and from the surrounding kingdom.  The queen refuses the offer to work for the beautiful witch, gives the spindle back to the old princess; the old princess stabs the youthful witch, undoing the sleeping spell on all the land, but not restoring the lost youth of herself.  Rather than returning home to the inevitable wedding, the queen and her dwarfs turn away toward unknown lands and further adventures.

I was intrigued by several elements in the story, such as the nature of the spell over the sleeping civilians, who appeared to speak out loud the slumbering princess's dreams; the impassibility of the mountain range; the fact that only the spiders were un-sleeping (later rendered less mysterious by the mention of moths and maggots); that the spindle alone was the culprit of enchantment; the Snow White and the Huntsman type heroine, who makes me curious to know the version of her own tale.

Despite its potential--namely, its expert selection of fairy tale archetypes--The Sleeper and the Spindle lacks impact.  The telling is bland and slow; the narrator's asides feel forced; motivations were obscure, yet somehow it lacked mystery.  

Then there is this irksome plot hole: why is the old princess able to kill the youthful witch at the end but not before then?  We are told that the witch's spell prevented her from harm, but how has it suddenly stopped working?  Even the witch seems confused by this, muttering, "It was only a scratch," as she crumbles to ashes.

Another plot hole: why wasn't the princess's youth returned along with her people's wakefulness?  These things are not explained, and not in the what-did-Bluebeard's-first-wife-do-to-get-killed kind of way.

I knew the sleeping beauty and the old woman were reversed roles, probably because I expected this sort of plot twist from the outset.  The woman-rescuing-woman element has grown trite, becoming the kind of thing one expects from a post-modernist fairy story.  At the end, I felt cheated: what interested in this story was mere sleight-of-hand, distracting from the fact that there really wasn't much happening.

There was a moment of fairy tale maturity, like a strong, high note in the story, when the queen withstands "temptation" to serve the young and beautiful witch because she has "learned to feel her own feelings."  When did that happen?  And how?  Wouldn't it have been so much more powerful to express that tangibly, rather than in narration, in some visible sign, some outward rejection manifesting itself physically in reality?  What experience in the original story caused this revelation?

I want to read that story.

The Sleeper and the Spindle gives the impression of trying a bit too hard; and in the end, though it is entertaining, it is neither very new nor captivating.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Good Things Come in Sevens: A Book Review

Seven Tales by G.C. McRae

My days are pretty much spoken for, what with an autistic four-year-old and an eight-month-old baby.  So it couldn't be a better time for a collection of short and enjoyable reads, to snatch up whenever I am able to collect a handful of minutes; thankfully, G.C. McRae kindly delivered!

You may have already read one or two of his tales, such as "The Sneaking Girl and the Other Queen," "The Dollmaker's Daughter," or "The Wishing Oak."  Now these original fairy tales are published with others in a collection titled Seven Tales.  (A simple title yet significant, like a pair of shoes or a ball of thread in a folk tale!)

Just when we'd imagined all possible fairy tales discovered, a brand new bunch proves their timelessness and immortality.  First, a discovery of tales a hundred years old, only recently released to the public; and now the charming collection by G.C. McRae, which remain true to fairy tale form but from the mind of a single author.

The most noteworthy impression left on reading Seven Tales is that I didn't notice they were making an impression!  It was all too easy to sink into them, following the intricate threads and the arrivals of characters old as time and common as rocks, but who spring out unexpected and un-called for, as true fairy tale people tend to do.

My favorite tale is "The Seven Sisters," in which seven princesses each pretend to be the same person in order to placate a queen who hates children, which keeps you guessing 'til the end and is pure entertainment.

These tales are also refreshingly devoid of deconstruction and schools of criticism.  And while I know we fairy tale scholars like to go on about our theories and models, all our chatter would be for naught if the normal people hadn't (blessedly!) ignored us and just told their good tales, as McRae has done.

I read these stories out loud to my children.  It seemed only appropriate.

Seven Tales is published by Ingram and will be available from all major booksellers on October 7th.