Charcoal Cats and Dragonflies

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Extract from “The Charcoal Cat”, in Of Legends and Lore

This month I bring you an author interview, a chance for my readers to meet Julian Elliot, pen name J E Klimov, author of the Aeonians trilogy. It’s morning here, and Julian, you’re on the other side of the Atlantic and might still be asleep! It’s thanks to the wonders of modern technology that we can have this conversation. Julian, it’s lovely to have you on my blog. How long have you been writing, and what made you start?

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J E Klimov, author of The Aeonians

Julian: I’ve been writing since the seventh grade. It was a huge year for creativity. I always loved spinning stories, although most were made in the form of hand-drawn graphic novels. Then, I played Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I just had to write a fan-fic of that! Once I started writing, I couldn’t stop!

Lynden: It’s a common theme – so many writers get the bug as children. I know you’re going to tell us later what you did with that fan-fic, so I’ll move on to my next question.  We ‘met’ when we both worked on the first JL Anthology. These are a series, all fantasy, put together by the Just-Us League, a group of writers who met online. I believe you have stories in several of these. Tell us more about them.

Julian: Joining the Just-Us-League was one of the most monumental experiences of my writing life! Everyone I met has been incredibly supportive and helpful. I can’t recall exactly how we came into starting anthologies, but I was 100% in from the start. Currently, I have four short stories published in these JL anthologies:

The Guardian’s Secret in “From the Stories of Old” (JL Volume 1): For my first fairy tale retelling, I wanted to dive deep into a Japanese folk lore. It challenged me because I was terrified of not serving the original story justice; however, I learned a lot through the editing process and am very proud of it.

The Fate of Patient Zero in “Between Heroes and Villains” (JL Volume 2): This is hands down my favorite. Keeping in the theme of superheroes (or villains), I wanted to create an origin story for a science fiction series that I will be working on soon. The characters are near and dear to me, and it was interesting to explore what would happen if humans played around with their genetics too much…

The Charcoal Cat in “Of Legend and Lore” (JL Volume 4): I decided to enter the ring once more with another fairy tale retelling. I wanted to steer from the main stream and found yet another endearing Japanese tale. It also had cats in them!!! The story follows a young misfit whose artwork literally saves his life.

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Soul of Mercy in “Secrets in Our Cities” (JL Volume 6): Ah, paranormal/urban fantasy. I haven’t dabbled in this sector of the fantasy genre; however, I had a storyline tucked away in my to-write list that was worth trying out. It wasn’t novel-length, so a short story fit perfectly. This story follows a teenager named Gabby who flips out when she discovers she already has white hair. An angel with an unusual name pops into her life and bestows upon her the title “Soul of Mercy”. Gabby needs to put spirits to rest before they wreak havoc on the human world. I took a light-hearted approach when writing this, and I also channelled my inner Ghost Busters. It was a lot of fun.

Lynden: Wow, you really flexed your genre muscles there. I have a story in the first anthology too, and saw that several reviewers particularly loved your story.  Meanwhile, you published your debut novel, The Aeonians, which won the Purple Dragonfly award. You have two books out in this trilogy now, don’t you? What are they about?

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Julian: Yes, I have the first two novels out, and fingers crossed that the final instalment will be released late 2019. Remember when I mentioned that fan-fic back in 7thgrade? Surprise! During my first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I chose to recycle that fan-fic and transform it into my own unique story. Silver Leaf Books picked me up and helped me work on expanding it into a trilogy.

In short, The Aeonians is a story of a tomboy princess, Isabel, who inherits an armlet containing four precious stones that possess the powers of wind, water, earth, and fire. As she struggles with her new responsibility that she never wanted, an ancient enemy labelled as the Aeonians breaks from their cursed prison to reclaim the country that they believed was theirs. Isabel runs into Bence, the captain of the Aeonian Army, whose questionable allegiance leads her into a cat-and-mouse game up until the very end.

The second book, The Shadow Warrior, came seamlessly as it follows Bence and the consequences that followed his actions from the war. He tries to run away from his problems while Isabel faces a new threat to her country.

Lynden: Congratulations on those publications – that’s a massive achievement. And best wishes with the launch of the final instalment.   I gather you’re branching out now into romance, is that right?

Julian: That’s correct. It seems like a far stretch from fantasy to romance, and it probably isn’t the best idea when trying to “build a brand”; however, the romance isn’t being written for my brand-sake. In my endless list of fantasy and science fiction ideas, there was always a desire to write one damn good romance. I’ve been through a lot the last few years, and this side project is a way to channel my new energy.

Lynden: I’m sorry to hear you’ve had a bad few years. I do hope the project really inspires you.

I remember you said another source of inspiration is your career – as a pharmacist. Can you give us an example?

Julian: I really couldn’t have gotten into a more boring career… or so I thought. I’ve spent many years working at a pharmacy before becoming licensed (about 12 years total?!?), and I’ve seen and dealt with a lot of things – things that make you say that cliché phrase: “Truth is stranger than fiction”. While I can’t give exact examples at the moment, it’s the unique interactions with customers and co-workers that really inspire my range of characters. Think of a pharmacy version of the famous television series, The Office.

Lynden: You’d better add that to your ‘to-write’ list!   Now, I understand you love travel and other cultures. What country or culture have you found most intriguing, and why?

Julian: I’ve found Chinese and Japanese culture the most intriguing. As a disclaimer, I am half Chinese and considered a first-generation Asian American, so I already was brought up with knowledge of Chinese culture. Growing up, I embraced it. I learned the language and looked forward to the Lunar New Year even more than the regular New Year!

In 2008, I was lucky enough to fulfil my dreams and travel to China. Since then, I’ve visited the Great Wall, Beijing, Hong Kong, my nana’s hometown, most of Taiwan, and finally Japan.

I appreciate the deep cultural history and fantastic architecture. Everything is so colorful and meaningful. I remember bringing a sketch pad to the Forbidden City in Beijing. The statues, palaces, and stories behind them were inspiring. I found this to be the same when I visited Kyoto. I rented a bicycle and must’ve visited at least a dozen temples, large and small. There’s just something so mysterious and noble about the East, from their perspective on life (including family and medicine), clothing, mannerisms, to music. Finally, I appreciate their love and attention to food. Real, authentic Chinese and Japanese food are prepared with love and packed with intense flavor.

Lynden: That sounds like a fantastic trip. I expect we could trace all sorts of details in your writing that were inspired by your travels. It’s been great to talk, Julian. All the best with the launch of your last Aeonians book, and with your new venture into romance!

You can find out more about Julian by following her on Amazon or her blog. If you sign up for her newsletter you’ll get regular updates and writer tips. You can find out more about The Aeonians here.

You can find out more about the JL Anthologies here.

 

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.

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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:

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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.

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