A Bit of Magic – author interview

Greetings, all lovers of myth and magic. Today I’m pleased to welcome fellow-writer Allie May to Quills, Quotes, Queens and Quests for interview. Here she is, pausing before flying off in pursuit of more enchantment. 

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Allie May

Allie May is a dog lover, mom, and Dr. Pepper addict who turns her caffeine-fueled dreams into believable fiction. She fell in love with the impossible at a young age and has been telling stories (some fiction, some mostly non-fiction) ever since.

In high school she won two poetry contests, and in college she started the blog, Hypergraphia to combat her uncontrollable impulse to write. She has been published in three fairy tale retelling anthologies, From the Stories of Old, Of Legend and Lore and A Bit of Magic.

She married her high school sweetheart because he takes her to Disneyland (oh, and because she loves him). Together they have a dog child and a human child. On the weekends, you might catch a glimpse of her in the shadows as a lightsaber-wielding superhero.

Allie May has been in all three fairy tale anthologies.
Allie May has been in all three fairy tale anthologies.

Lynden: Hi Allie May, welcome to Quills, Quotes, Queens and Quests! We both have stories in the latest fairy tale retelling anthology A Bit of Magic. Yours is called ‘Cursed Winds.’ Tell us more about it. What inspired your retelling?

Allie May: When I was watching Disney’s new live-action Beauty and the Beast, I kept wondering why his servants cared so much for him, and I realized it must be because there was some sort of love there. But that wasn’t enough to break the curse? So I played with a bunch of ideas about different types of love that would break the curse, and after my son was born, I decided to go in the direction of parental love.

Lynden: Interesting idea. What was the hardest part of writing it?

Allie May: My story idea was almost too long for the word count! The first draft was around 11,000 words, and I had to cut around 2,000 words to get everything to fit in the anthology. It was really hard to get in all the backstory from five years earlier into my shortened story.

Lynden: I can imagine! What short stories have you participated thus far in the JL anthologies, if any?

Allie May: I wrote Rose & Thorn, a Sleeping Beauty retelling for From the Stories of Old, and Swapped, a Prince and the Pauper retelling for Of Legend and Lore.

Lynden: You’ve had a story in every one of the JL fairy tale anthologies, then. That’s impressive. How did this experience differ from your previous JLA stories?

Allie May: This experience was very different from before. Swapped was always a shorter idea, and I had no trouble making the word count fit. This time, I had to meticulously choose each word I kept and deleted so that the story would still make sense while not dragging on too long. I also had an extended supporting cast, which I usually try to avoid. It was hard for me to keep track of everyone for such a short story.

Lynden: So what made you choose Beauty and the Beast this time?

Allie May: I’m not sure. I decided that there were too many little details of Beauty and the Beast retellings that I didn’t like, so I wanted to fix them. I also wanted to rework a romantic tale into something slightly different because so many well known fairy tales have been overly romanticized and I don’t like love-at-first-sight type stories. I want stories with deeper relationships and meaning.

Lynden: And did you stick closely to the fairy tale you rewrote?

Allie May: Hahahahahaha….no. Not really. At all. Definitely not. I stripped the story down to its most easily recognizable element–the curse–and changed just about everything else. Though, I did pay homage to Villeneuve’s curse in the backstory, but that’s about it.

Lynden: So you really have made a lot of changes. I wonder what your ending is like? Do you prefer a happy ending, and did that affect how you wrote your story?

Allie May: I prefer my stories to have a cost to the happiness, but this time it ended more cleanly than normal. I tried to keep the ending close to the original tale, though.

Lynden: Oh, I hope that means it’s a happy ending. I do like a happy ending. How long have you been writing, then, Allie May?

Allie May: Since I could hold a pen. I love telling stories. I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 12, and I’ve been actively writing stories for publication since then as well. Of course, most of those stories will never see the light of day because they are…weird. I started writing Rose & Thorn, my first publication, about 3 years before it was published.

Lynden: I like weird. Don’t hide those stories just for that reason! What projects are you working on now?

Allie May: I’m currently working on the third draft of Powerful. It’s kind of an “Avatar the Last Airbender at Hogwarts” type world that challenges segregation.

Her parents are in prison, her brother is on the run, and her powers are out of control. Now Crown Princess Kylanore has to restore balance to the government her parents corrupted.

Under the watchful eyes of the Council of Four, Kylanore is sent to Floures Academy to control her water powers and study government and economics in preparation for her ascension to the throne of Tykra. While struggling to fit in there, she accidentally reveals her extra powers, powers that were an unfortunate side effect of her parents’ alchemical meddling.

When her brother reappears, he unveils secrets about the Council of Four that could destroy the Four Kingdoms. Will she keep quiet to protect herself, or will she join her brother on his renegade attempts at justice?

I’m also working on a novella series of fairy tale retellings in a Greek-inspired world.

Lynden: Fairy tale retellings in a Greek-inspired world? That’s an interesting idea. And your novel Powerful sounds very dramatic! All the best in your writing journey, Allie May, and thanks for dropping by!

Want to know more about Allie May? She can be found on:

Blog- http://alliemayauthor.blogspot.com

Facebook- https://www.facebook.com/alliemayauthor/

Twitter- https://twitter.com/alliemayauthor

Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16166167.Allie_May

 

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‘Cursed Winds’ by Allie May, which can be found in the fairy tale anthology     A Bit of Magic

 

A Bit of Magic was released on 31st May. You can find it on Amazon here. 

Follow the rest of the blog tour:

Melion Traverse hosts Mae Baum — 18th May

Heather Hayden hosts B.C. Marine — 21st May

Allie May hosts Rebecca Mikkelson — 24th May

M.T. Wilson hosts Lynden Wade — 27th May

Louise Ross hosts Heather Hayden — 1st June

Authors4Authors hosts Katelyn Barbee — 6th June

Elise Edmonds hosts Louise Ross — 12th June

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How dark is my fairy tale? – a double book launch

 

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Fairy tales continue to delight and intrigue adults as well as children. We rejoice in the triumphs of the characters and wonder at the unexplained in them. (Why was the princess of ‘The Princess and the Pea’ standing outside in the rain? How old is Snow White, exactly, when she chokes on the apple? Why does Rapunzel’s hair grow so long?) But they cause us a lot of problems too. The older versions are violent, the modern retellings, aimed at young children, are often toothless and anaemic. Many seem to celebrate and reward passivity in women. The characters are two-dimensional and may not even have names, let alone characters. So we retell them, reimagine them, or take them apart and reassemble them to suit our modern tastes.

We might retell them with a twist that surprises us, makes us laugh or brings the story up to date. Snow White might become the villain of the story (‘Redder than Blood,’ Tanith Lee). The princess’s long rope of hair might cause her untold mishaps (‘Melisande,’ E. Nesbit). The princess might become the rescuer and the prince the victim (‘Petronella,’ Jay Williams.) The twist works particularly well if the writer is addressing an aspect of the story that he or she is upset by, for instance the princess always being the rescued one. It’s curious that the trend for darker fairy tales, as a reaction to the anodyne ones, means they’ve come full circle, returning to the levels of horror you’ll find in Perrault’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ or the Grimm’s version of ‘Cinderella.’

Another trend is to put flesh on the bare bones and retell the tales in a modern style. The pasteboard heroine becomes a feisty, passionate young woman and the marriage that brings the original protagonist security and vindication becomes a heart-warming romance. These stories are often novel-length and usually brought out as YA. What this means in reality is that it features young adults in the main roles, as active protagonists, and that some aspects might not be suitable for younger children. 

I started writing fairy tale re-imaginings many years ago, and am gradually finding publishers for them. I’ve ended up with stories in two anthology series, both with stunning covers and gorgeous black and white illustrations, but very different in tone and approach.

A Bit of Magic: a JL Anthology
A Bit of Magic: a JL Anthology

A Bit of Magic is a JL Anthology. That means all the stories are written and edited by a group of writers who met online (including me.) Technically, we have self-published through Kindle. But don’t let that lead you to believe that the content hasn’t been rigorously vetted. We all got our stories critiqued by each other and by independent readers, and we had to work in pairs to ensure we corrected any weaknesses pointed out. The intended audience is YA, which doesn’t mean so much that we expect teenagers to read it, as that it’s for lovers of YA fiction and features young people as protagonists, with fleshed out characters. From what I have seen so far (I am waiting for a print copy to enjoy a paper page and the full splendour of the illustrations) there will be a fair share of romance too.

LyndenPromo5 (1)My own contribution to A Bit of Magic is called ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Nut Girl.’ My starting point was ‘The Reed Girl,’ a Hungarian folktale I discovered through Joan Aiken’s book The Kingdom under the Sea and other Stories, illustrated with gorgeous silhouettes by Jan Pienkowski. The notion of a girl being found in a reed – three girls in the original, in succession – sparked my imagination, but I deplored the reed girls’ delicacy. Fancy dying as soon as you came out of a reed! A poor sort of girl, really. So this was my jumping point – to write the story I wanted to read. My first draft maintained the notion of the protagonist accidentally killing the first two girls. As other eyes saw the story they recognised elements that could be developed, especially the relationship between man and nature. At the same time, when I stepped away from the story I didn’t like the amount of killing Yanek had done. That might work for an old-time hero, but this was for a modern audience. Yanek had to learn how to repair the damage he was doing, and then to take a new approach to the last bride. He was a fool but he’d learn to address his weaknesses. Readers of my second draft felt the characters were too one-dimensional, so I worked on back stories for the main characters. I hope my next readers will understand why Yanek is a fool and root for him as he works out what he really wants in life.

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The Forgotten and the Fantastical #4 is an anthology of fairy tales edited by Teika Bellamy and published by Mothers’ Milk Books, a firm that celebrates empathy and motherhood. Each story opens with a beautiful black and white illustration by Emma Howitt. The editor put out a call for submissions then chose a selection out of these to publish in the collection. I’d read an earlier collection in the series, and they really resonated with me – fairy tales for adults, sometimes bittersweet, dealing with grown-up issues like the yearning to be creative, but never vindictive or violent. I’ve been lucky enough to have stories in the third as well as the fourth collection. Again, I can’t tell you what else is in this collection as I’m waiting for my author copy, but the other tales in previous anthologies have been of a very high standard. Both my contributions are grown from legends but they are variants on the fairy bride theme.

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The latest one is called ‘Sins of the Fathers.’ Its root story is the legend of Wayland Smith. Wayland’s Smithy stands off the ancient Ridgeway and a short walk from the Uffington White Horse. It’s a wonderful area full of atmosphere. My fascination with it was sparked by the children’s TV series ‘The Moon Stallion,’ a messy mix of Arthurian, Greek and Teutonic mythology with an Edwardian heroine, but perfect entertainment for a romantic young girl. Originally my story had the moon stallion (the Uffington White Horse) in it as well: I love the fluid lines of the chalk carving, and Wayland traditionally shod the stallion – but an early beta reader pointed out that its part in the story was a distraction. Another reason the legend appeals to me is that Wayland’s grandfather was Wade, my married name.

My husband visits his ancenstral pile - Wayland's Smithy
My husband visits his ancestral pile – Wayland’s Smithy

I’m also interested in stories that are English rather than Celtic. Celtic traditions have good press, and rightly so, but I want to know about the stories of my own ancestors as well – don’t I? Unfortunately, a search into English fairy tales and legends digs up some very nasty stuff, and Wayland is no different. A gifted smith, he is attacked by a greedy king who cuts his hamstrings to keep him in captivity. In revenge Wayland kills the king’s sons and rapes the princess, then flies away with wings he crafted himself.

The account of how I wove a story I’m proud of out of this very unpleasant tradition is printed at the back of the anthology, so I won’t repeat it here. I’ll just tell you that it Is the story of Hama, his son. Instead, I leave you with the opening lines.

Today I am going to make an iron wife.

A wife of iron will not charm the heart out of my body, like my great-grand dam did to her man. A wife of iron will not fly away at the first chance like my grandmother. A wife of my making is better than a spirit wife like my mother, bound to her husband by trickery. I will not repeat the mistakes of the men in my family – mistakes born of envy, jealousy and mistrust.  But neither do I want a mortal wife, who will want me to make her pretty speeches and give her a child.  My father’s line must end with me. There has been enough evil done by those before me.

 

A Bit of Magic is available on Amazon. The hyperlink takes you to the UK site but you can visit the American site here.

The Forgotten and the Fantastical 4 is available through Mother’s Milk Books.


A Bit of Magic: a JL Anthology

Author Interview: Lynden Wade

The Last Book On The Left

JLA5BlogTourBannerA Bit of Magic is an upcoming fairy tale retelling anthology, and will be the fifth collection of stories published by the Just-Us League. One of the authors, Lynden Wade, joins me today for an interview about her contribution to the anthology – ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl’.

LYNDEN WADE AUTHOR PHOTOLynden Wade was home schooled in a village in West Africa, giving her lots of time to read. The bright colours of illustrations to fairy tales, legends and medieval history – worlds away from the dry grasslands and termite hills around her – inspired her to write her own stories. Her muses include Joan Aiken, Diana Wynne Jones and Rosemary Sutcliff. She has had stories published in The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3 and in the JL Anthology From The Stories of Old. Two more stories are due to be published in 2018 in addition to ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud…

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Nondula: Ana Salote – a book review

 

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Nondula picks up the story of the waifs of Duldred started in Oy Yew. The children who have escaped from the dreaded halls of Jeopardine are literally thrown by a storm into a haystack in Nondula, a land very different from Affland, where they have travelled from.

 

The people of Nondula are gentle and welcoming, encouraging the children to rest, recover and find their jenies – their inner strengths and gifts. Gertie delights in the library she starts to work in. Linnet finds an affinity with weaving. Oy explores the art of healing. But before long, trouble returns. Linnet gets weaker and the Felluns, a thuggish race that threatens the Nonduls and their children, swoop in and take away Clair, Nondula’s healer, in their ongoing hunt for a remedy for their sick queen. Oy decides he will give himself up to the Felluns as the last healer, in the hope he can save Nondula from an invasion, but finds himself captured and locked in the foul underground cages of the Felluns’ animals.

In Oy Yew we met all the waifs and got to know a few of them well. Here, the group is pared down to a small number and, as they learn more about their strengths, we get to know them better. Alas turns his frustration at the Nonduls’ ineffective defence system into activity, and learns he has a skill for deflecting attackers. Gertie joins the library and throws herself into cataloguing the untidy collection. The character who takes the limelight, though, is Gritty, who comes into her own here. She pulls away from her beloved sister who wants to keep her safe, and infiltrates a troupe of dancers to search out Oy.

I often find I lose interest in a series. Maybe the overall arc makes too little progress or the arc of the individual book doesn’t grab me enough. Once, a book seemed to wrap up the story well then set the quester make another journey that was the reverse of the one he had just done, making the whole story so far invalid. Ana Salote, however, has avoided each of those pitfalls. The overall arc is the quieter one – who exactly is Oy? Where did he come from? All he remembers is living on the streets from a very young age. The arc of Nondula is the more urgent one – will Oy be able to save Nondula and his friend Linnet? And will Gertie and Alas be able to save Oy? I kept reading Nondula partly to find out the answers to these last two questions, but one reason I’m looking forward to the final instalment is to find out who Oy is.

The other reason to keep reading both book and series is to continue to savour the world Salote builds up subtly, as she introduces new countries and races over the course of the series. In Nondula, we meet the gentle but rather ineffectual Nonduls, the chattering Chee, the irredeemably disgusting Felluns and the misunderstood Dresh. Who knows what we will encounter in Nigma, the final instalment?

 

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Nondula, by Ana Salote, published by Mother’s Milk Books

 

 

Wanted – book bloggers who love fairy tales

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I know you’re out there – hiding in tree hollows, under mossy stones or just under the bubbles of that stream. I haven’t got an incantation to lure you out, so a blog post will have to do – scattered with fairy dust.

At the end of the month my story ‘Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,’ inspired by a Hungarian folktale I found in Joan Aiken’s gorgeous Kingdom Under the Sea and Other Stories, will be published in a collection of fairy tale reimaginings, A Bit of Magic, on 31st May. All eleven of us in the anthology are emerging writers and we’re using it to showcase our skills.  We are looking for folks who are willing to review an advanced reading copy (e-book format) for Amazon and/or Goodreads, on or by the publication date. I will quote our editor’s exact words, as we have to keep to Amazon’s strict rules about reviewing.

Although advanced reading copies are provided to readers with the expectation that readers will then review the book, you are under no obligation to do so.

If you would like to review the book, here’s the link to the form to fill out.
https://docs.google.com/…/1FAIpQLSdLRLKssJj1n5KDEC…/viewform

And here’s the official blurb:

The oldest story can be made new again, changed and altered until it is reimagined and restored.

Pride interferes with happily-ever-afters: a proud princess is tested and tests the prince in return; a young thief is caught red-handed and must make amends; and a vain queen struggles to save her stepdaughter.

Finding love is not a simple task: a hero searches for the ideal magical bride; an innocent librarian is charmed by a man with a menacing secret; a queen takes a spoiled prince as her sole deckhand; and a well-intentioned princess seeks to make things right with her father.

Change causes chaos, for better or worse: a scheming cat seeks to better the lot of his daydreaming master; a cursed pirate captain is given a second chance when he finds a young stowaway; a spoiled teenager suffers the consequences of turning her best friend into a toad; and a thief and a rebel hiding secrets meet at a ball.

Follow these characters on their journeys as eleven magical tales are turned on their heads and seen from new perspectives.

 

If you do fill in the form and review our book, you will be blessed by all eleven authors and the editor!

 

Book Review: Oy Yew

Oy Yew, by Ana Salote
Oy Yew, by Ana Salote

After a few years of being in critiquing groups, I now know the ‘rules’ of writing. Stick to one point of view in a scene, ideally of one or two characters in the whole book, describe new people so we can picture them, use a character entering a new situation to cause the catalyst that kick-starts your story, and place your characters in peril. Oy Yew, the first book in Ana Salote’s trilogy The Waifs of Duldred, breaks all these rules, and gets away with it.

I was expecting the story to stick with the point of view of Oy, the boy who thought the calls of ‘Oy, you!’ meant that was his name. After all, the book gets its title from him. In fact, the story ranges from one set of eyes to another quite freely, giving us scenes from the viewpoint of other waifs and scenes none of the waifs could witness. This is particularly effective in that it shows us a range of responses from the waifs to their plight. Washed ashore in a foreign land and set to work in factories, these children might be chosen after a while to work for the bone collector Jeremiah Jeopardine – up teetering ladders and tight chimneys or down drains. All these nasty jobs require small bodies, so the ambition of every child is to grow tall enough to be released. By standard conventions, it should be Oy, the newcomer, who questions the status quo. In fact, Oy is not an agitator but a thinker. Alas, another waif, is more of a conventional boy, frustrated at the injustice of it all, keen to act. He and Oy contrast well, because Oy is gentle and empathic, traits that are traditionally feminine and, moreover, traits that can be ignored in a world that wants protagonists to be active go-getters.

The world of Oy Yew is made of elements of Victorian Gothic, but it also had details unique to the pen of Ana Salote. Descriptions are minimal, and as I read I’d wonder who a character was or what this or that custom involved. The effect, though, was to immerse me in this alternative world in that this was how the waifs would see it, familiar with much of its workings already and in no need of explanation. I particularly liked the system of religion used at Duldred Hall, and the unique species of animals were fun too.

The air of menace hung over the book all through the story; the waifs are thrown from one perilous situation to another. Eventually it becomes clear that their release is not at all the happy ending they were hoping it would be, and in fact a terrible fate is in store for some of them, Oy included. The details are kept quite vague, perhaps so as not to distress younger readers. The characters of the waifs, however – brave, resourceful and supportive to each other – made me root for them. The resolution at the end was superb, as it moved seamlessly from wrapping up the arc of Book 1, where Jeopardine exploits the waifs, to introducing a new danger that will throw the children, literally, into a new land and new dangers.

The book is published by independent press Mother’s Milk Books, and as is usual for that press, is a pleasing book to look at and hold as well as to read. I love the way the tunnels used by the waifs travel over front, back and spine of the book.

Book 2 of The Waifs of Duldred, Nondula, is out now, and the final, Nigma, is due this year.

Oy Yew cover and spine
Oy Yew cover and spine

Quiet London Part 1

Why on earth would you go to London for quiet?

Some years ago my husband gave me a lovely little book called ‘Quiet London.’ Each page features a museum, gallery, coffee house, pub or shop that is quirky and quiet. Stressed-out Londoners will doubtless find this book invaluable, but what on earth am I doing with this book, living as I do in a quiet town 30 miles away? Surely I go to London for a bit of life?

London is vibrant, full of people who are still bursting with energy at ten at night, people of all languages and origins. Walking along its streets you are delighted with amazing architecture and assaulted by gutter smells. It is wonderful to sample its offerings and wonderful to pause in its oases. The calm is all the more precious for the way it envelops you seconds after you step off the street.

Many of the quiet places featured in the book date back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Neither were peaceful eras themselves – the streets would then have rung with horse hooves and the sound of carriage wheels, and cab drivers shouting at pedestrians, but it is fun to escape into another world and leave behind our everyday concerns, secure in the knowledge that we can soon return to our world of central heating and free health care.

In that short but precious break between the frenzy of Christmas and the socialising of New Year, I stopped off in London on my way home from visiting my dad and visited two of these quiet places.

Benjamin Franklin’s House

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Benjamin Franklin’s house

 

The only surviving home of this famous American patriot is, paradoxically, in London, tucked behind Charing Cross Station in a row of elegant Georgian houses. He rented four rooms from his landlady. He only meant to come for 6 months, to negotiate the Stamp Tax, but stayed 6 years instead, befriending many, from Polly, the landlady’s daughter, to John Stanley, the blind organist of the Foundling Hospital. He was parted from his wife Deborah by the Atlantic, but shared his rooms with Peter, his black servant.

The house continued as a lodging house until the late nineteenth century, when it was extended and became a hotel. After a period of dereliction it was restored to its Georgian simplicity – a work which meant the discovery of a pit of human and animal bones under the extension. Some sensational headlines later, they were shown to be part of the anatomy school run by Polly’s husband.

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Benjamin Franklin’s fireplace
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I adore Georgian staircases!

To visit the house you need to book on one of their tours. A mixture of video and talk by a costumed guide/actor might not sound very exciting, but it tells a lively story of a sympathetic man of many interests. There is no surviving furniture left, but the floors and banisters are of pleasing wood and the panelling painted again in a shade the patriot would have been familiar with. The curators have named the shade Franklin Green.

 

Notre Dame, Leicester Square

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Jean Cocteau’s mural

This French church in the busy West End, sandwiched between Theatreland and Chinatown, is a wonderful oasis of peace. The mural by Jean Cocteau is a big draw, its lines simple yet speaking, but I also liked the shape-studded walls, the decorated font and the altarpiece, which had an almost fairy-tale look about it.

The altar piece, Notre Dame Catholic Church, Leicester Square
The altar piece, Notre Dame Catholic Church, Leicester Square