Wit and Wild Imagination – Joan Aiken’s Fairy Tales (and a Fairy Tale blog hop)

Fairytale blog hop FacebookHello, and welcome to my blog! I’m Lynden Wade, author of “Reed Girl, Fire Girl, Cloud Girl,” which is published in the fairy-tale anthology A Bit of Magic – the book at the top of the circle of books in the graphic above.

You have found your way to the 2018 Fairy-tale Blog Hop – a hunt through thirteen posts by fairy-tale authors for our favourite numbers. Follow the links at the bottom of each blog post to hop to the next author’s website. Collect our favourite numbers to total up at the end and enter to win a print collection of our books! (There are several anthologies, debuts, and even an ARC for a BLINK YA book you can’t buy in stores yet!) So, for fairy-tale fun and a chance to get 13 shiny books mailed to you, read on!

My Favourite Fairy-Tale(s)

Some of the stories we read as children lose their lustre when we revisit them as adults. Others get better and better. The fantasy stories of Joan Aiken belong the latter group. Some are set in a magical, long-ago world and others in ‘current’ times (she was writing in the 50s and 60s), as she weaves together history, myth, fairy tale and nonsense. Her wit and her wild imagination leave me in awe – so much so, that it’s hard to choose one of her stories for this blog post.

Should I choose “Lullay Lulla” (from Past Eight o’ Clock)?  It’s sweet story about a baby put to sleep by a lullaby over the phone, and its happy ending tinged with longing.

Or should I choose “All You’ve Ever Wanted” (from the collection with the same name) for its gentle send-up of the idea of wishes from fairy godmothers?

Perhaps “A Jar of Cobblestones” (from A Harp of Fishbones) because it’s a tall story set in the gorgeous town of Rye.

Or there’s “The People in the Castle” (from All But a Few) for its up-to-date take on the fairy bride motif.

And there’s “A Small Pinch of Weather” (from the collection with the same name) for its matter-of-fact tone:

The town of Strathcloud, where the Ross family lived, still employed an official Weather Witch. The post was hereditary. So at twenty-one Sophy had automatically become Weather Operator for the Strathcloud Urban District Council at a salary of four pounds a year, a bushel of sunflower seeds, and free upkeep of her bicycle.

How about “Broomsticks and Sardines” for this wonderful exchange between parents?

 ‘ I say, Shepherd, I’m terribly sorry – my children have changed yours into sheep. And now they say they don’t know how to change them back.’

‘Oh, don’t apologize, old chap. As a matter of fact I think it’s a pretty good show. Some peace and quiet will be a wonderful change, and I shan’t have to mow the lawn.’ He shouted indoors with the liveliest pleasure,

‘I say, Minnie! Our kids have been turned into sheep, so you won’t have to put them to bed. Dig out a long frock and we’ll go to the Harvest Ball.’

A shriek of delight greeted his words.

In the end, however, I’ve chosen “The Serial Garden,” from A Small Pinch of Weather.

people in the park
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

It’s one of many featuring the Armitage family (the ones who turn the Shepherd children into sheep.)  Magic slips, or gallops, into their lives regularly, Mrs Armitage accepting it gracefully, Mr Armitage with gloom, the children with a sense of adventure. I like the way the Armitage stories are interspersed in Aiken collections with stories about faraway lands. The events of this particular story are set off by Mr Armitage locking himself in the larder. The rest of the family carry on with breakfast arrangements as they wait for the blacksmith to come and release him. Mark is unhappy with cold rice pudding.

 ‘If you don’t like it,” said Mrs Armitage, ‘unless you want Daddy to pass you cornflakes through the larder ventilator, flake by flake, you’d better run down to Miss Pride and get a small packet of cereal.’

Miss Pride’s corner shop, dusty and little-used, is just like the unattractive convenience shops I remember from my own childhood. It’s not the sort of place you’d expect to find an enchanted cereal packet. But I also remember cut-out models and cereal packet gifts, though the ones I came across were never this exiting! There is a toy garden to make on the back of the packet, and here are 7 parts to make the full model. As Mark gradually assembles all the parts, he finds himself magically transported into the garden. There, he meets a princess who has hidden within to wait for the lover her father didn’t approve of.

There are no spoilers here, but you can rest assured the ending is beautifully plotted and the clues dropped like breadcrumbs on the path. It’s a story that will stay with you long after you close the book.


Do look around my blog while you’re here, and maybe follow me for updates. Do have a look, too, at the anthology my friends and I put together, A Bit of Magic – you can read all about it here.

But don’t forget that your next stop on the fairy-tale blog hop is: https://teralynnchilds.com/fairy-tale-blog-hop/

If you’ve already been to all 13 stops and collected everyone’s favourite number, then go enter to win the grand prize: http://shonnaslayton.com/fairy-tale-blog-hop/


A Bit of Magic
Available on Amazon

Footnote 1:

I’d love to have Ms Aiken’s gift. I’m paying homage to her influence on me with a series of stories about Helen Rowland, who can hear fairies. She is captured by the Elf King, sees a unicorn breaking into her car, and discovers a Greek god in her garden. Unlike the Armitage children, however, her family, plugged into social media and gaming, are oblivious to the world of magic. The stories are quite off-the-wall, and I’m not sure where to send them, but I’d like to develop them as a series before I make that decision. You can read the opening here.

Footnote 2:


I’m also proud to have my story “Sins of the Fathers” published in the anthology The Forgotten and the Fantastical 4. This collection draws not only from fairy-tales but also legends, myths and history, and is aimed at a slightly older audience. Read more about it here.

Ms Rowland to the Dark Tower Came

Over on my blog Wit and Wild Imagination, I mentioned in the footnote that Joan Aiken’s Armitage stories inspired a series of my own. In my stories, though, it’s only the mother who sees the magical things going on around her. Everyone else is watching TV or plugged into social media. (Yes, a bit of autobiography there.) I haven’t submitted the first to any publishers yet because I want to develop them a bit with an overall arc – plus, I think they might be a bit of a niche market. But as I was writing about Joan Aiken, I thought I’d post the opening of the first Helen Rowland story here.

Then Helen to the Dark Tower Came

By Just zarr - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62319556
Image by Just Zarr, Wikimedia Commons


Almost overnight the household went from noisy to silent.  Silent, that is, except for Helen talking to, as it transpired, herself.  She would tell Lucy, her daughter, everything she needed to know about preparations for school the next day, only to find Lucy was wrapped in the world of Snapchat, sending photos of stupid faces to her friend.  She would call and call to Aston, her son, to go for his bath, to find he was oblivious, noise-cancelling headphones in, battling dragons in a Cyberworld.  When she turned to her partner Pete she found he had made the most of the children’s silence and was watching his old Star Treks that sent her to sleep.  If he was out the silence was eerie.  It wasn’t really silence at all; it sang with tiny, shrill noises that she had never heard before.

          “I almost wish we’d go back to having Tweenies songs blaring away again,” she said to Boy, their spaniel, fondling his ears. 

          “I don’t,” said Boy.

Helen, who had been crouched down to reach him, lost her balance and fell on her backside.  “You can talk!”

          “You must admit,” he said, “I haven’t had much chance to be heard until now.”

          “Dogs don’t talk,” Helen insisted.

          “Ordinary dogs don’t,” said Boy.  “I’m no ordinary dog.  I am the reincarnation of Prince Rupert’s devil dog, terror of the Puritans.”  He said this with great pride and dignity, but he still did not look evil or frightening.        

So Boy was the first Faerie Helen heard in the house.  Many have claimed to see faeries, but faeries are everywhere.  Hearing them is special. 

The second faerie Helen heard was the house brownie.  Apparently he had been there for years, waiting to be noticed.  At first she thought the clanging and banging was a problem with the washing machine, but then she detected the muttering that overlaid the noise.  Now that he had her attention, he told her in detail what he did and didn’t do.  Washing up, yes, but could she please make sure the plates were rinsed first, clothes washing yes, but he would appreciate it if the children could unroll their socks before putting them in the laundry basket, livestock definitely not (and that included feeding the dog).  Then he went back to the washing up, which involved a lot of soap suds and a lot of banging of pans.

Then there was the nixie in the bath, singing.  Helen really resented this.  For some years now she had been banned from singing in the house and her shower was the only chance she had to imagine herself as Elaine Page.  Now she could hear the nixie, who not only demanded she stop, but also sang so breathtakingly that Helen lost her last shred of nerve.   The nixie had lips as red as danger and a flow of honey-coloured hair that ran down her back.   Helen finally understood why the plug filled up with hair so quickly. 

Thirdly, there was the raven foretelling. The black bird had been a regular visitor in the garden with his glossy feathers and his harsh voice, but now Helen could hear what he was saying.  Every day he had a death or a disaster to predict.  It was even worse than when they had had a delivery of the Daily Post.


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. 

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


AlliePromo5 smaller
‘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

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



night building forest trees
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.


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.

DSCF4040 (2)

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