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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: fantasy, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 26 - 50 of 2,688
26. Otherbound: Review

Otherbound is super interesting, you all. If you like incredibly original fantasy, detailed world-building, and diversity to the max in your reading, you should go pick up Otherbound. Here’s the premise: whenever Nolan blinks (or sleeps, or closes his eyes for any period of time whatsoever), he becomes trapped in Amara’s mind. He’s been diagnosed with epilepsy, but no medication seems to have much of an effect on his blackouts. These blackouts have been pervasive since he was a little kid, and have had real physical, emotional, and social consequences for him: he was hit by a car during one blackout and now wears a prosthetic leg; he feels helpless at his lack of control over his blackouts; he also can’t spend time with family and friends without worrying about whether he’s going to get pulled into Amara’s mind. Amara lives in a totally different world – the Dunelands – and has no... Read more »

The post Otherbound: Review appeared first on The Midnight Garden.

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27. In My TBR Pile: My Friend Merlin by Joanne Lécuyer

merlin

There is a great legend that has been passed down through generations about two young boys who would change history. One was destined to become a great king. The other was a druid, and his guide, mentor and friend. This is the tale of the meeting of Arthur and Merlin and how they changed the fate of magic.

Paperback: 121 pages
Publisher: Topsy Books; 1ST edition (2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1927353440
ISBN-13: 978-1927353448

Joanne Lécuyer is a Canadian indie author who loves writing positive fantasy/ fiction books for kids – chapter books for ages 7-10. Her catalogue of books includes: The Witch, the Cat and the Egg (2010), Kaptain Vamp (2011), The Tales of Anex and Bit (2012), La sorcière, le chat et l’oeuf (2012), Kapitaine Vampire (2014), The Witch, the Cat and the Water Dragon (2014) and My Friend Merlin (2014).

Joanne Lécuyer is lives in a small rural community near Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She has a BA in Communications and Visual Arts from the University of Ottawa, a Diploma in Public Administration from the University of Quebec, and a Professional and Personal Coach Certification from Concordia University. She is also a Reiki Master.

 

Purchase here!


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28. MORTAL HEART (His Fair Assassin #3) by Robin LaFevers

Review by Andye MORTAL HEART His Fair Assassin #3 by Robin LaFevers Hardcover: 464 pages Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (November 4, 2014) Goodreads | Amazon In the powerful conclusion to Robin LaFever's New York Times bestselling His Fair Assassins trilogy, Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain,

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29. Book Review: The Name of the Blade by Zoe Marriott



The Name of the Blade
by Zoë Marriott

Mio Yamato has a secret sword hidden in the attic. Her grandfather, Ojiichan, showed it to her when she was nine years old, He told her that the sword would be hers when she turns 16, but he made her promise not to touch it before then. Ojiichan planned to teach her about the katana, but he never got a chance, because the next day he died from a massive stroke.

All these years, Mio has avoided the sword as she promised her ojiichan, and kept it hidden away, even from the rest of her family. But when she needs a katana to complete her costume for a costume party a few days before her sixteenth birthday, she figures that she's close enough to 16 to take it. As soon as she touches the sword, though, strange things start happening. She feels an immediate connection to the sword; it's almost as if the sword is alive and speaking to her. Then a giant, catlike, many-tailed monster called the Nekomata appears. The Nekomata claims the katana, and threatens to kill everyone that Mio cares about to get it.

With a distinctive teen voice and an action-packed plot full of Japanese monsters, sword battles, Kitsune, and a super-hot 500 year old Japanese dude, The Name of the Blade is loaded with teen appeal. It should especially appeal to anyone who likes anime, Japanese folklore or culture, but there's so much Japanese influence in pop culture today that its appeal should be much broader than that.

The characters are interesting, well-rounded, and authentic teens. Mio is ethnically Japanese, but culturally she's a Londoner. Her ojiichan taught her Kendo and some Japanese folklore when he was still alive, but her father eschews his Japanese heritage, and Mio knows very little about Japan except for Kendo and anime. Mio's impulsiveness in taking the sword and her other early behavior show an immaturity that she starts to grow out of throughout the book, as she begins to take responsibility for the consequences.

Her best friend Jack (Jacqueline) is a bit of a rebel, with pink and purple streaked hair and black fingernails. Both girls get along with their families, although Mio's relationship with her father is somewhat strained. Shinobu, the 500-year-old Japanese boy, is mostly a one-note character, but his hotness more than makes up for that. He looks out for Mio, and yet I found it refreshing that he doesn't try to take the sword from her, even though they both have a claim to it, and he lets her take the lead in battle. (Although he does teach her a few things about combat).

There is also a young Kitsune (fox spirit) named Hikaru. The Kitsune are one of my favorite parts of this book. Apparently, there's a London court of Kitsune; how cool is that? Mio, Jack, and Shinobu get caught up in Kitsune politics when they visit the court to ask for assistance.

The plot is exciting but well-paced. The story alternates the big battle scenes with quieter moments and other challenges. It's quite an enjoyable read.

There are a few things that weren't explained, but since this is the first book in a trilogy, I hope that everything will be explained fully before the end.

Diversity?

The Name of the Blade does well on diversity. Besides Mio's Japanese heritage, Jack and her sister Rachel had a grandmother who came from Barbados, and they have brown skin. Jack is also a lesbian, which comes up a few times, but doesn't really play a role in the story, except when Jack has to tell a Kitsune who is sweet on her that he isn't her type. The girls are multifaceted personalities that are not defined by their ethnicity or sexuality.

Who would like this book:

Anyone with an interest in Japanese folklore, culture, martial arts, or anime. Anyone who likes stories where the contemporary world intersects with the fantastic.

FTC required disclosure: Review copy sent by the publisher to enable me to write this review. The bookstore links above are affiliate links, and I earn a very small percentage of any sales made through the links. Neither of these things influenced my review.

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30. Review: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

 

May Contain Spoilers

Review:

I didn’t have to think too hard when a review request for Juliet Marillier’s latest release hit my inbox.  I didn’t even have to read the blurb; I was in the mood for something different, and lo-and-behold Dreamer’s Pool magically appeared.  I haven’t read Juliet Marillier in a long, long time, so I was eager to see if I still enjoyed her writing.  I do!  This is an engrossing book, with only a few niggles to distract me from the story.

Blackthorn has been waiting to take her case before the midsummer council, suffering in jail to have a chance at her revenge.  She’s been horribly abused by her jailors, but that bright, shining promise of her hearing has kept her going.  When she discovers that Mathuin, the chieftain responsible for her imprisonment, has no intention of letting her live to face the council, she’s given a strange proposition. Conmael, one of the fey, promises to release her from her cell and save her from her cruel fate, if she will put her quest for revenge aside for seven years, and serve as the healer in Dalriada, far to the north.  In addition, she must help anyone who asks for her assistance.  If she doesn’t keep her word, she’ll be punished with another year of servitude added to her initial term of seven years.

The first person to ask for help is fellow prisoner Grim.  His sun sets and rises on Blackthorn’s existence.  Her presence in prison gave him a reason to survive, and now that they are free, he’s going to follow her wherever she leads him.  He’s like a giant puppy, loyally trailing in her wake.  Blackthorn is less than happy  about her hulking traveling companion, but she’s afraid of the consequences if she sends him away.  Seven years of waiting to go after Mathuin is a long time for her rage to simmer, and she doesn’t want to add anymore time to her period of service. 

When the two arrive in Dalriada, they are both wary of the Dreamer’s Wood, which stands ominously next to the old wise woman’s hut.  Something about the woods unsettles both of them.  When Prince Oran’s fiancée has trouble in the woods, Blackthorn must rush to her aid.  Lady Flidais’ maid, Ciar,  tragically drowns in the Dreamer’s Pool, and Blackthorn is too late to save her.  Giving the young woman what comfort she can, Blackthorn resigns herself to a houseful of loud, chattering women until Oran can fetch his intended. 

Prince Oran is a dreamer and a romantic, and he’s fallen in love with Flidais after exchanging a series of letters with her.  After she arrives, however, her behavior is nothing like he had expected.  The things that she claimed to love mean nothing to her now, and her beloved dog, Bramble, becomes agitated and snappy whenever his mistress is near.  As Oran’s misgivings mount, he desperately asks Blackthorn for help.  Help that she can’t refuse to give.  Can she solve the mystery of Flidais’ strange behavior before Oran is bonded to her in marriage?

I loved Blackthorn.  She’s cranky, tough, and a survivor.  After experiencing terrible, terrible things, she still finds the strength to keep going.  Her time in prison would have destroyed someone with lesser resolve, but her fury helps her to survive from one day to the next.  Her rage is a double-edged sword, though.  While it ensured her survival in prison, it blinds her to the truth and makes her gullible once she’s serving as the wise woman in Dalriada.  This drove me nuts at one point in the story; for such a clever woman, Blackthorn is taken for a ride by a few artfully told lies.  I wanted to scream when it sent her for a tailspin, making her set aside her promises  and act like a brash fool.

I wasn’t overly fond of Oran.  He’s the opposite of Blackthorn.  While he’s noble and kind, he’s also blinded by love.  He’s fallen in love with the Flidais from the letters, and he’s so confused when the real Flidais fails to live up to the Flidais of his imagination.  His uncertainty completely unbalances him, turning him into someone he’s not.  He can’t figure out what to do, and he allows himself to be manipulated time and time again by Flidais.  I was starting to fear for the future of his kingdom because he could be so dense!

Grim is a compelling character, too.  He’s a man of few words, and he likes it that way.  Not one for small talk, he and Blackthorn make a great team.   He lives to serve Blackthorn, something that she’s not entirely comfortable with.  She just wants to be left alone, but his blind devotion slowly begins to break through the shield she’s built around her heart.  I enjoyed how their friendship grew, and how both of them learned to trust because of it.

There was one point in the story that I just wanted to knock Blackthorn and Oran’s heads together.  They were being so stubborn and so naïve and all I wanted to do was beat some sense into them.  Grim, on the other hand, steadfastly performed his duty to listen and observe those around him.  He didn’t allow his emotions to color his thinking, he patiently pursued the truth for Blackthorn.

Dreamer’s Pool kept me entertained from the first page.  Blackthorn and Grim took me on a long journey, and along the way, I got to know them, as well as like them.  I’m looking forward to their next adventure, but in the meantime, Marillier has an extensive backlist that I need to explore.

Grade:  B

Review copy provided by publisher

From Amazon:

Award-winning author Juliet Marillier “weaves magic, mythology, and folklore into every sentence on the page” (The Book Smugglers). Now she begins an all-new and enchanting series that will transport readers to a magical vision of ancient Ireland….

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

The post Review: Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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31. World Building

Do you have to have your story's world completely figured out (and described) before you write the rest of your book? 

http://rateyourstory.blogspot.com/2014/09/worldingbuilding-as-you-go.html

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32. Why Halloween Doesn't Matter Anymore

Happy Halloween! 


It used to be my favorite holiday. Seriously, over Christmas. Who needs gifts when you can dress up into your wildest fantasy? That's what I used to think. 

The question I ask myself this morning, on Halloween, is:

The image on the left was painted in 1996. I was in 8th grade, obsessed with the movie "The Crow", listening to heavy metal,  and addicted to Gen 13 and Witchblade comic books. I believe it was around that time I dressed like the Catwoman from Batman Returns for Halloween. Whip and all. Yep, I thought I was quite the bad girl. I hid behind a made up character I named "Raven", who I drew all the time, made stories for, and just simmered there. Angry and lost.



She followed me all through high school and into my freshman year of college.

1997
1998
1999

In college she began to morph, just a little. And although I invented other stories to hide myself behind, she was always there. I tried so hard to hold on and not forget who I thought I was.

2003 - Heavily into Manga and still learning watercolor

2004 - Style used for my senior project in college.

When I left college the real soul searching started. I continued to practice witchcraft, but grew in my watercolor and figure drawing skills. I entered into some really difficult relationships, did my years of exploring the night life, and hit rock bottom.

Enter the church. Now wait, don't jump the gun yet. There was LIGHT. I lived in the shadows so long, it was refreshing and very unexpected. I was skeptical but continued to find faith in it. I always had faith I would find LOVE. Find TRUTH. Find WHO I WAS. Who I AM. 

I can't paint the darkness like what's above anymore. I try, and this is what happens:



This image (just below), after many years of searching, is the truth of who I am. I hide behind masks to protect my heart, but it's golden because I am a child of light, the daughter of He who is LIGHT. I wander through the night, not because I am lost, because I'm hunting evil and snuffing it out to make the night safe and beautiful. I have wings so that I can fly, because I am free. These are the truths I have learned through the years, and it is because of these truths I can not go back. I am glad that Raven is now a face who smiles, who comforts, who flies in to bring LIGHT. Not death, pain, or sadness. 


So Halloween you say? Sure, I'll dress up, I'll laugh and find the joy in it, but the holiday used to have such meaning to me - freedom to hide. I think today as we celebrate dressing up and scaring away ghosts and goblins, I see myself as a warrior who doesn't need to hide anymore behind costumes, it doesn't matter anymore. So, I'll happily eat some zombie finger pretzels and begin to look forward to Christmas, when family, love, light, and joy are all dancing about. 


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33. Interview and Giveaway: Erin Lindsey, Author of The Bloodbound

I enjoyed The Bloodbound, so I was thrilled when Erin Lindsey dropped by the virtual offices to answer a few questions.  Be sure to enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of her book!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Good morning, Erin!  Describe yourself in five words or less.

[Erin Lindsey] Constantly daydreaming lover of words.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Bloodbound?

[Erin Lindsey] I wanted to write a classic fantasy adventure that was genuinely fun to read. A lot of the stuff out there in SF/F right now is pretty grim. That’s not a criticism – I’m including my own work in that category. The Nicolas Lenoir novels, which I write as EL Tettensor, are about as dark as it gets. But sometimes you’re looking for something lighter, something you can take to the beach on your summer vacation and enjoy every page. A cast of flawed, likable characters caught up in a heroic struggle, with enough romance and humour to keep the mood balanced. That’s what I was going for in this book.

[Manga Maniac Cafe]  Can you share your favorite scene?

[Erin Lindsey] This is tough, because I don’t want to give anything away, but there’s a scene about halfway through the book where the heroine, Alix, has just been reunited with someone important in her life, and she ends up really pouring her heart out. Up to that point, she’s been struggling with a lot – her new role as the king’s bodyguard, her first taste of real battle, some pretty tough personal decisions – and to have this person back in her life to share that with comes as a tremendous relief. The scene feels a little like sitting on the foot of your best friend’s bed, chewing over the things that are most important to you. It’s comfortable and intimate and peppered with laughter, and it leaves the reader feeling almost as relieved as Alix. It really came out well.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

[Erin Lindsey] Everything! Okay, I know that’s not an answer, but really – it was a joy to write. I’ve never written anything so fast, so flowing, in my entire life. I think I had the whole thing done in about three and a half months, which for a novel of 120K+ is pretty crazy. Part of that, I think, is that I was finally getting to tap into some themes that I’ve wanted to play with for a long time. Some of my favourite moments in literature, films, and even comic books inspired certain scenes in The Bloodbound. A relationship, say, or a particular type of dilemma, trying to capture the feel of that moment in a different way. There’s a lot of real-life history in there too. It felt like finally getting to play with a bunch of toys you’ve coveted for a long time.

I think, I hope, that the fun I had writing it comes through on the page, and will infect the reader as well.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s one thing you won’t leave home without?

[Erin Lindsey] Chapstick. I know, I know! I’m trying to cut down, but it’s just so addictive!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name three things on your desk right now.

[Erin Lindsey] A stuffed gorilla, a chunk of black crystal from the Congo, and an extremely smug feline called Charlie Richard Parker.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What’s your favorite snack when you’re working on a deadline?

[Erin Lindsey] Biltong. It’s a South African type of beef jerky. If you haven’t tried it, DON’T; it’s even more addictive than Chapstick.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you could trade places with anyone for just one day, who would you be?

[Erin Lindsey] Sherlock Holmes. Oh, wait – does this have to be a real person? In that case, Benedict Cumberbatch. Or his coat.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] You have been granted the use of one superpower for one week.  Which power would you choose, and what would you do with it?

[Erin Lindsey] I already have a superpower. I am Logic Woman, able to jump to a conclusion in a single bound. One day, I would like to do an appearance on Fox News. We’ll see if they’re as impervious to logic as they appear to be.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are some books that you enjoyed recently?

[Erin Lindsey] My editor at Ace/Roc, the lovely Danielle Stockley, recently turned me on to Guy Gavriel Kay. I’ve read several of his books now, and enjoyed them all, but I particularly recommend A Song For Arbonne.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Erin Lindsey] Through my website, www.erin-lindsey.com, where you’ll find ways to reach me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and email. Stop by and say hi!

Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Erin Lindsey likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited fifty countries on four continents, and brought a little something back from each of them to press inside the pages of her books. Erin Lindsey is also the pseudonym for E.L. Tettensor, whose Darkwalker series is published by Roc.

US addresses only please

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The post Interview and Giveaway: Erin Lindsey, Author of The Bloodbound appeared first on Manga Maniac Cafe.

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34. The Kiss of Deception, by Mary E. Pearson | Book Review

THE KISS OF DECEPTION, by Mary E. Pearson, is an exciting, quest-filled story that will please more traditional magical fantasy fans.

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35. Ten Children's Books for Halloween - by Emma Barnes

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night...

It's Halloween, and the perfect time to choose some spooky stories.  Witches, wizards and ghosties...read on for some mainly funny, occasionally frightening, books featuring witches, wizards and other Halloween happenings.  I've organized them roughly by age of reader and slipped in a book of my own.

Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Schlieffer

Julia Donaldson is the queen of the rhyming picture book, and this one is features a wonderfully traditional (if benevolent) warty-nosed witch, complete with cat and a very over-crowded broomstick...


Winnie the Witch by Valerie Bierman and Korky Paul

It's Wilbur the cat and the wonderful illustrations - veering from all dark, to a world of colour - that absolutely make this book for me.

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The classic adventures of the accident-prone Mildred Hubble at Miss Cackle's Academy are ever-fresh and delightful.

The Best Halloween Ever - by Barbara Robinson

I have to admit I haven't actually read this yet - in fact I only just discovered it existed.  But it's by one of the funniest childrens' writers ever, Barbara Robinson, about one of the funniest families ever, the Herdmans.  They produced a hilarious Christmas Pageant so I'm looking forward to what they'll do with Halloween...

Bella Donna by Ruth Symes

An ordinary girl, who just happens to be a witch...or rather a witchling.  A contemporary take on witches.

Witch Baby by Debi Gliori

I think this would be a book my own Wild Thing character would enjoy - because, like her story, it concerns a little sister whose behaviour is driving her older sister crazy.  Only this little sister is a witch.  Sibling rivalry with a big dose of magic thrown in.

Jessica Haggerthwaite: Witch Dispatcher by Emma Barnes

Yes, this one's by me!  Jessica Haggerthwaite wants to be a famous scientist and is determined to foil her mother, Mrs Haggerthwaite's, witchcraft business.  Her plans come to a head at a disastrous Halloween Party for her mother's magical pals and their familiars.


Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones

DWJ is my favourite fantasy author and I could have chosen several of her books: Witch Week or The Time of the Ghost or Howl's Moving Castle.  Charmed Life is one of the Chrestmanci series, and is perfect for Halloween as it is during a grand dinner party at Chrestomanci Castle ("because they always do lots of entertaining around Halloween") that the magic really goes awry, with the help of a pinch of dragon's blood.  A truly wonderful book.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling


The most famous boy wizard of all, and Azkaban is my favourite of his adventures, because that time changing plot is just so fiendishly clever.

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield

Older and darker in tone, this classic novel is one of my all-time favourites.  The witches, including the terrifying Mrs Pouncer and her friends, are genuinely scary, as is Abner Brown.  There is a wildness to time and setting.  And Nibbins the cat is probably my favourite Witch's cat of all.


Coraline by Neil Gaiman

A bit of a change of subject matter here, as most of my list is funny rather than terrifying, but if you want something truly spinechilling then Coraline fits the bill.  Just why is that mother with the button eyes so disturbing?  But don't blame me if you (or they) get nightmares.


What have I forgotten?  Please nominate your favourite Halloween reads.



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Emma's new series for 8+ Wild Thing about the naughtiest little sister ever (and her bottom-biting ways) is out now from Scholastic. 
"Hilarious and heart-warming" The Scotsman

 Wolfie is published by Strident.   Sometimes a Girl’s Best Friend is…a Wolf. 
"A real cracker of a book" Armadillo 
"Funny, clever and satisfying...thoroughly recommended" Books for Keeps


Emma's Website
Emma’s Facebook Fanpage
Emma on Twitter - @EmmaBarnesWrite

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36. Escape from Netherworld—Piper

Here she is: Piper the elf from jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, Twiggy and Borhai, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers
Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

As usual, here are the rough sketches, tight sketches, color study and final painting.

an early sketch tight sketch color study final art

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37. My Writing Process

I am participating in a themed blog hop with my publisher Helping Hands Press (myhelpinghandspress.com). The theme this month is, as the title suggests, my writing process. That is a very open-ended topic on which I probably have too much to say.
I am thinking where to start, doing the usual – stare out the window until the right word pops into my scattered brain. That’s it. That’s my writing process. I randomly wait until some thought stumbles through the blank slate of my mind and I hurriedly write it before it escapes.


Oh wait. That’s only a fraction of how I write. Sometimes, I actually have solid ideas, well-plotted with themes and even a little style. Maybe that’s my writing process? I compose a sturdy outline. There are plot points along the way, like the map of a family road trip with all the tourist traps circled in red. I know where the story starts and know where it ends. Along the journey, I make sure to visit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine or the live mermaids of Weeki Wachee. I do, of course, allow extra drive time for any serendipitous side trips.


The thing that occurs to me is that we writers all have our own process. We each have things that work best, our own traditions and superstitions even. We all have our own style. That is a good thing because every reader has their own style too. We will never run out of stories as long as we never run out of readers.
Now, if I can only add something of substance to this post. Some of the best advice I ever received on writing was to develop my Point of View. That doesn’t mean readers want to know my opinion on anything (probably more the opposite). What it means is that I had to decide who is telling the story and make that connection with the reader.  It does not mean to write in the first person tense. Even in third person, you have to have POV. You have to choose one character to tell the story. Show the world through that character’s eyes and reveal that character’s inner thoughts and desires. Then the reader only knows what the character knows, which can help build tension or create surprises. The reader can rise and fall with a character that way.


I could go on for a while about this, list countless examples of good and bad. I could cite specifics in my own books. I don’t want to bore anybody, so I’ll bring it to a close.
In summary, writing, for me, is a passion. We each live out that passion in our own way. I happen to love every minute of it.



Mark currently resides in Florida with his wife and four children. He has achieved some success as a Kindle Best Seller and having one of his short stories selected as a winner in the Florida Writer’s Association Short Story Collection.
Growing up in Kansas, Mark graduated from Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences and received his Bachelor’s in Film from the University of Kansas.
Mark has written numerous novels, screenplays, short stories and digital series. He has geared his young adult fantasy series, The Empyrical Tales, for the classroom and explored his spirituality, writing both with his father and daughter. Inspirational stories with positive messages are his goal with everything he writes.

Find me on Facebook and Twitter

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38. Escape from Netherworld—Borhai

More jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—it’s about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld. Yesterday I showed you Twiggy the dwarf. Here’s Borhai the warrior who starts out as a regular gaming guy named Dave.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers
Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

As usual, here are the rough sketch, tight sketch, color study and final painting.

sketch sketch color study final art

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39. Review of The Cabinet of Curiosities

bachmann cabinet of curiosities Review of The Cabinet of CuriositiesThe Cabinet of Curiosities:
36 Tales Brief & Sinister

by Stefan Bachmann, Katherine Catmull, Claire Legrand, 
and Emma Trevayne;
illus. by Alexander Jansson
Middle School    Greenwillow    488 pp.
6/14    978-0-06-233105-2    $16.99

Four “curators” — Bachmann, Catmull, Legrand, and Trevayne — travel to lands peregrine and outré to fill their Cabinet of Curiosities museum, sending back grotesqueries and objects of wonder as well as the tales behind them — tales that often bend to the tenebrous and unearthly. The table of contents lists the Cabinet’s “rooms” and “drawers,” each with a theme (cake, luck, tricks, flowers) and four or five tales to explore. In “The Cake Made Out of Teeth” (“collected by” Legrand) a spoiled-rotten boy must finish an entire cake made in his image, despite the sensation of teeth chewing him up with every bite. “Lucky, Lucky Girl” (Catmull) stars a young woman whose good luck seems to depend on the very bad luck of the people around her. In “Plum Boy and the Dead Man” (Bachmann), a rich and opinionated lad has a conversation with a corpse hanging from a tree…and ends up unwillingly changing places with the victim. “The Book of Bones” (Trevayne) features Eleanor Entwhistle, a plucky girl whose courage halts the work of a grave-robbing sorcerer. The stories are remarkable both for their uniformly high quality and for their distinctness from one another; the abundant atmospherics, including occasional stark black-and-white illustrations, provide a unifying sense of dread. The framing device — the curators send letters from the field introducing their latest discoveries — adds depths of mystery, danger, and idiosyncrasy to a book already swimming in each.

From the September/October 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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40. Escape from Netherworld—Twiggy the dwarf

Escape From Netherworld jacket

Escape From Netherworld jacket

Hey, gang! Sorry for the interruption in posts—I spent most of last week in New York City visiting art directors, editors and creative directors. Now I’m back and I want to show you something I worked on this summer.

Here is jacket art for Escape from Netherworld—it’s about a group of role-playing gamers who are somehow transformed into their characters and transported into an alternate realm: Netherworld.

My pal, the extraordinarily talented Gina Datres, is the book’s designer and she called me in to illustrate the jacket. After some discussion and rough sketches back & forth we hit on the idea of 3 individual images of the gamers going through their transformation. For the 2 guys, I drew the gamers in pencil but fully rendered their characters in paint. I work with watercolor (gouache), so I traced some of the drawing with a wax candle. Since watercolor won’t stick to wax, you can see the drawing of the gamer ‘through’ the painting of the character. Piper, the elf-girl, doesn’t change in size enough to make that idea work so I made her hair a magical element that swirls around her as it grows.

If you’d like to buy a copy of Escape from Netherworld just click here.

Author: David Kuklis
Designer: Gina Datres
Illustrator: John Manders
Editor: Nan Newell
Published and Printed by:
Word Association Publishers, Tarentum, PA 15084
ISBN: 978 1 59571 994 2
Available for purchase:
wordassociation.com   —   1 800 827 7903
barnesandnoble.com
amazon.com

Let’s start with Twiggy the dwarf. As usual, here are the rough sketches, tight sketches, color studies and final paintings.

rough sketch of group tight group sketch—rejected Twiggy alone Vince transforms into Twiggy color study final image

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41. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire, 479 pp, RL 5

Many of you probably know Gregory Maguire as the author of Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I discovered it a year or so after it was published in 1995 in the bargain section of the bookstore where I worked and remember how thrilling it was to read back then. Long a fan of fairy tales, I was amazed to learn that a meal could be made of a behind the scenes, adult

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42. The Monsterator, by Keith Graves -- and other fiendish delights (ages 5-9)

Do your children want to be something goulishly great on Halloween? Do monsters delight them? There's no doubt that The Monsterator, with its bold promise of 625 monsters inside, will captivate many young readers who dream of something "screamingly scary."
The Monsteratorby Keith GravesRoaring Brook, 2014
Your local libraryAmazonages 5-9
*best new book*
Young Master Edgar Dreadbury finds your standard Halloween costumes a terrible bore. "I wish I could be something screamingly scary. / Something fanged and foul and horribly hairy!" Graves draws readers in with rhyming text that is a delight to read aloud, but he really grabs readers when Edgar steps into The Monsterator. All of a sudden, Edgar is completely transformed "from his teeth to his toes."
The Monsterator, by Keith Graves
"When the machine finally quit,
Edgar crashed through the door.
He banged on his chests with his fists
and roared."
The Monsterator, by Keith Graves
I love how Graves strikes just the right balance between frightening and fun for first and second graders. But what they will love most of all is the surprise at the end, when they can "monsterate" young Edgar, by turning a series of flaps to create hundreds of different creatures.

If you like this, you might like some of these other monsterish favorite picture books:
The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Macmillan Books. Illustrations of The Monsterator are copyright ©2014 Keith Graves, used with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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43. Spotlight and Giveaway: Court by Cat Patrick

I have enjoyed everything that I’ve read by Cat Patrick, so I was super excited to see that she has a new book coming out. I wanted to share with all of you because I think her writing is awesome…and well, there’s a giveaway you can enter!  So have at it!  Read about Court and then enter away!

 

court_96

Title: Court

Author: Cat Patrick

Date of Publication: October 23rd 2014

  goodreads-badge-add-plus-d700d4d3e3c0b346066731ac07b7fe47   About Court: For more than 400 years, a secret monarchy has survived and thrived within the borders of the US, hiding in plain sight as the state known as Wyoming. But when the king is shot and his seventeen-year-old son, Haakon McHale, is told he will take the throne, becoming the eleventh ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, the community that’s survived for centuries is pushed to the limit. Told through four perspectives, Court transplants us to a world that looks like ours, but isn’t. Gwendolyn Rose, daughter of the Duke of Coal, is grudgingly betrothed to Haakon — and just wants a way out. Alexander Oxendine, son of the Duke of Wind and Haakon’s lifelong best friend, already grapples with external struggles when he’s assigned to guard Haakon after the king dies. And commoner Mary Doyle finds whispers in the woods that may solve — or destroy — everything, depending on your bloodline.

Money. Love. Power. Community. What’s your motivation?  

Amazon

  Q&A with Cat:

-Where did the idea came from?

After writing The Originals, I wanted to write something from multiple character perspectives. Around that time, I was thinking of my home state of Wyoming. A friend had recently driven through, and I thought about how people who aren’t from there don’t really know that much about Wyoming—it could be its own world, hiding secrets. It could be its own kingdom.

-Out of all the 4 perspectives, which is the hardest to write?

Surprisingly, the boys’ voices came easiest. (And there used to be two more!) As for one POV being more difficult than the others, I think the real challenge was developing each voice individually with only a heaping handful of chapters per character.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

Any craft grows with practice, and I hope that I’ve become a more controlled writer as I’ve published more books. I’m definitely more of a risk-taker than I was in the beginning, as well.

What 5 things would you like readers to know about you?

That I’m the greatest mommy in the world. (Say my children.) I love, and am inspired by, wind. I can kill it at Dance Central on Xbox. I share a birthday with one of my siblings. I once met Muhammad Ali.  

Excerpt: HAAKON

Before he was the enemy, James Haakon McHale III was just a seventeen-year-old in what most people knew as the state of Wyoming, wishing he was somewhere other than the predawn forest with a rifle in his grip.

“It’s colder than moonlight on a tombstone,” Haakon muttered, blowing on his fist. His thick-soled boots swish-thumped on the hard earth as he skillfully avoided twigs, rocks, and low branches.

Alexander Oxendine—youngest son of the Duke of Wind, wide receiver, video game button masher, and Haakon’s best friend—laughed into his collar. It could’ve been mistaken for a cough.

“It’s colder than a whore’s heart,” Alexander said, his tone cautiously low. They were the youngest members of the hunting party, and were only allowed to take part because of their rank. Haakon could think of a thousand superior privileges.

He glanced around to make sure none of the other men were paying attention—especially his father. Smirking, he said, “Colder than a polar bear’s balls.”

The pair stifled laughter.

“Than a witch’s—”

“Too easy.”

“Colder than a dead woman’s touch,” Alexander said.

Haakon checked again, dialed down his voice even more, and said, “It’s colder than Gwendolyn Rose’s kiss.”

“Quiet!”

It was Haakon’s father: dictator, fun-spoiler, and—regrettably for his son—the tenth ruler of the Kingdom of Eurus, also known as the Realm, the monarchy hiding in plain sight in the depths of the Democracy known as the United States of America.

Every schoolchild knew the story. In 1670, after Joseph Dyer’s wife died in the Great Plague in London, he brought his five daughters to what would become the United States one hundred years later, seeking a better life. But it soon became apparent that his family would never thrive under strict Puritan rule in New England–which banned higher education for girls and taught submissiveness above all else, and which centered around extreme religious beliefs that were counter to Dyer’s own.

A friend, John Seymour, who was—controversially—married to a Native woman, suggested that they set out together in search of a new home deep within America’s treacherous unknown. Seymour’s wife had been attacked; her family persecuted. Seymour believed that rather than fighting the Natives, they should live in harmony with them.

Dyer, Seymour, and several other men and their families snuck away. After a long and dangerous journey, together they created their version of paradise: a kingdom that blended the best of England with Native cultures. Dyer was thought of as the Father of the Realm, and Seymour’s Native wife, who ensured their survival through tribal relations, the Mother.

Rather than cause a revolution, the founders decided to keep the kingdom secret. Inside the borders of what they’d eventually stake claim as Wyoming, they’d follow their own rules. Outsiders wouldn’t know they were different because they wouldn’t understand.

Outsiders weren’t to be trusted.

Dyer’s youngest daughter, captivated by the ancient Greek she wouldn’t have been allowed to learn in Puritan society, named the new kingdom Eurus, meaning <em>east wind</em>. She pronounced it “air-us.”

“But the winds here blow from the west,” Haakon had asked his father once—before Dad was King James. That was when it was okay to ask questions. When curiosity wasn’t an imposition.

“That’s right, Haakon,” his father had replied, straw between his teeth. They’d gone on a walk together. The sun was setting on an easy day. His dad had pointed toward the eastern horizon. “The wind here does primarily blow from the west, but our founders blew in from the east. That day, the wind changed directions.”

Haakon frowned away the memory of days never to return, and refocused on the trees. He walked as soundlessly as he could in his camo fleece jacket and vintage Levi’s, his rifle nestled in the crook of his left arm, a round in the chamber. He was on the left edge of the group, three rows behind his father. Evenly spaced gaps between them, the men were like migrating geese, locked in formation.

Geese hunting deer.

“Were you drinking last night?” Haakon’s father had demanded on the way to the meeting point that morning. “Is that why you’re so tired?”

“I’m tired because it’s so early that the birds aren’t even awake yet.”

“Good. Because you know what the consequences will be if you start drinking again.” They’d shared the backseat of the armored SUV; Haakon had done his best to preoccupy himself with his cell phone.

“Yes, sir, I know.”

“You need to turn that thing off before we arrive. And when’s your next haircut? You look slovenly.”

Will you just get off my back. Haakon had thought at the top of his lungs. What he’d said, though, was simply, “Yes, sir.”

There, in the forest, Haakon toyed with the idea of raising his gun and shooting King James square in the back of the head. Right there under his hat, just above the rise of his custom down hunting vest. He could do it. Even with the others present, he knew there’d be no trial, no trip to Corby. But offing his father wouldn’t solve anything. In fact, it would make life a lot worse. Because with his father gone, Haakon would be in charge.

Haakon would become the King of Eurus.

The thought made him want to puke.

 court_teaser1  

 

  About Cat Patrick:

Cat PatrickCat Patrick is an author of books for teens. Her debut novel, FORGOTTEN (available now), is about a girl who can remember the future instead of the past, and was praised by NYT bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher, as a “mindbending,” one-sitting read. The book is being translated into 21 languages and Paramount bought the movie rights, with True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld attached to star as the main character, London Lane.

Patrick’s second (unrelated) novel, REVIVED, is about a girl who’s part of a secret government program to test a drug that brings people back from the dead. REVIVED will be available in the US May 2012, and in the UK and Australia Summer 2012.

Patrick lives near Seattle with her husband and twin 3-year-olds, and is afraid of zombies, planes, and zombies on planes.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads 

 

 a Rafflecopter giveaway      

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44. BOOK REVIEW: Touch of Steel (Clockwork Agents #2) by Kate Cross

The Wardens of the Realm are a group with extraordinary abilities, dedicated to protecting England from any threat. But in this steam-powered world, there’s a fine line between enemy and ally… Reeling from her brother’s death, beautiful American spy Claire Brooks has vowed revenge on the member of The Company who she believes to be responsible: Stanton Howard. But when she chases the man to London, Claire is captured by the Wardens of the Realm and placed in the custody of the Earl of...

[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]



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45. Zac’s Destiny entered for an award!

Zac’s Destiny, my Sword & Sorcery fantasy, has been entered into an award for Kindle books! I would be eternally grateful if any of you could offer your votes? Thanks so much if you can.

No need to sign in or give any details. Just click on the number of stars you think my book deserves to vote!

Click here to vote.

Cover with quote

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46. Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, 89 pp, RL: 2

I did not want to like The Princess in Black by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I am tired of princesses and equally tired of princess backlash. I am weary from trying to excavate and explain the potential of a princess in a plot (see my review of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett) and I am wary of mash-ups that have the air of a Disney enterprise. However, I

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47. Creepy short stories: mysteries & thrillers for ages 10-13

I have never liked horror movies. Never. Ever. But I know that scary, frightening stories have a real appeal for many people. So how do I recommend them for my students? It's a challenge -- especially gauging that right balance between spine-tingling-fright and oh-no-way-too-frightening-for-10-year-olds.

Here are four short-story collections I am recommending to students. Please be warned: if they are too scary, stop reading. That's what I've done in many cases.

Cabinet of Curiosities
36 Tales Brief and Sinister
by Stefan Bachmann, Claire Legrand, Katherine Catmull and Emma Trevayne
HarperCollins, 2014
Podcast + Website
Your local library
Amazon
ages 10-13
Four "curators"--Bachmann, Legrand, Catmull and Trevayne--have gathered together ominous tales, organizing them into different themes ranging from tricks to cake, luck to travel. There are ghost stories, monster stories and bizarre stories. Some have direct villains, while others set a creepy tone without letting you exactly see what's menacing the main character.

The curators have a terrific website Enter the Cabinet with many tales, both ones from the cabinet and others freshly added. My current favorite is The Door Downstairs, with a courageous heroine, eerie setting, and psychological themes. For extra creepy fun, check out the podcasts the curators recorded. Katherine Catmull's recording of "Dark Valentine" is enough to haunt my dreams tonight.

Here are some other favorite collections of frightening stories:
Guys Read: Thriller
edited by Jon Scieszka
Walden Pond / Harper Collins, 2011
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Jon Scieszka's collection has great kid appeal, with contributions from 10 different superb authors. I loved Matt de la Peña's story "Believing in Brooklyn" about a wish-making-machine, with its creepy coincidences and touching ending. What would you wish for if you could have anything you wanted? If you like this, check out all the Guys Reads collections.
On the Day I Died
Stories from the grave
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2012
Your local library
Amazon
ages 11-14
Fleming begins this collection with a version of "The Vanishing Hitchhiker." In her version, the young teen who picks up the hitchhiker is told to take her shoes to the graveyard where she's buried--and he discovers a crowd of ghosts, all wanting to tell him how they died. Fleming sets her story in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago, and each story takes place during a different time period. She deftly weaves in many pieces of historical details, but these never overwhelm the stories.

I found these stories more frightening--certainly too frightening for 4th graders, and probably more suitable for 6th graders. All of the stories center on how a teenager died, and that aspect really got to me. I haven't shared this collection with students yet, so I can't gauge kids' reactions.
Haunted Houses:
Are You Scared Yet?
by Robert San Souci
Henry Holt, 2010
Your local library
Amazon
ages 10-13
The spider story in this collection, "Webs," scared me so much that I couldn't finish reading this collection. As soon as I say that, kids start clamoring for this collection. Here's what I wrote when I originally read this collection:
In one story, a boy’s family is vacationing in a house that is taken over by spiders. Now, these aren’t your typical garden spiders. They are spiders who want revenge for the damages done to their forest and homes. Danny starts to get worried when he finds the rabbit cage filled with spider webs, and then realizes that the bundles in the corner are the dead rabbits encased in spider webs. The story proceeds to even creepier, as Danny discovers more ways the spiders have wrecked damage on previous owners of the house. Needless to say, every time I walk into a spider’s web now, I jump even higher.
The stories in these collections are NOT for everyone, but I know that many of my students clamor for frightening stories. Do you have any favorite short story collections that you hand your 4th, 5th and 6th graders? How do you judge what's too scary?

The review copy of The Cabinet of Curiosities was kindly sent by the publishers, Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. The review copy of the other collections came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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48. It’s not on any chart / You must find it with your heart

345px PP MaryMartin Its not on any chart / You must find it with your heartPlease join me on Saturday the 25th at the Boston Book Festival for “Masters of Fantasy,” a panel discussion with Soman Chainani (A World Without Princes), Holly Black and Cassandra Clare (The Iron Trial), and Gregory Maguire (Egg & Spoon). We’ll be talking about–well, I guess I should get on that right quick, as I’m the moderator–but FANTASY. 1:00-2:00 PM, Emmanuel Church sanctuary, 15 Newbury Street, Boston. FREE.

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49. Exquisite Captive: Review

Finally, a paranormal romance where the focus is on the paranormal and not a human who unwittingly stumbles upon it. Exquisite Captive is a breath of fresh air. It has jinni in it. Jinni! This book is full of unique, immersive mythology, swooning romance, and the importance of free will. Although we briefly go into the heads of a few different characters, at the heart of it this story is about Nalia. Nalia is a jinni, and not just that. She is the last surviving member of the ruling class of jinni, called the Ghan Aisouri, meaning she is one of the most powerful jinni alive. After escaping the slaughter of her people by the fire-wielding Ifrit she is sold into the jinni slave trade, called the Dark Caravan, and enslaved to Malek, a man who never seems to age and refuses to use his third wish, which is the... Read more »

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50. Once upon a time, part 1

I’m writing from Palermo where I’ve been teaching a course on the legacy of Troy. Myths and fairy tales lie on all sides in this old island. It’s a landscape of stories and the past here runs a live wire into the present day. Within the same hour, I saw an amulet from Egypt from nearly 3000 years ago, and passed a young, passionate balladeer giving full voice in the street to a ballad about a young woman – la baronessa Laura di Carini – who was killed by her father in 1538. He and her husband had come upon her alone with a man whom they suspected to be her lover. As she fell under her father’s stabbing, she clung to the wall, and her hand made a bloody print that can still be seen in the castle at Carini – or so I was told. The cantastorie – the ballad singer – was giving the song his all. He was sincere and funny at the same time as he knelt and frowned, mimed and lamented.

The eye of Horus, or Wadjet, was found in a Carthaginian’s grave in the city and it is still painted on the prows of fishing boats, and worn as a charm all over the Mediterranean and the Middle East, in order to ward off dangers. This function is, I believe, one of the deepest reasons for telling stories in general, and fairy tales in particular: the fantasy of hope conjures an antidote to the pain the plots remember. The street singer was young, curly haired, and had spent some time in Liverpool, he told me later, but he was back home now, and his song was raising money for a street theatre called Ditirammu (dialect for Dithryamb), that performs on a tiny stage in the stables of an ]old palazzo in the district called the Kalsa. Using a mixture of puppetry, song, dance, and mime, the troupe give local saints’ legends, traditional tales of crusader paladins versus dastardly Moors, and pastiches of Pinocchio, Snow White, and Alice in Wonderland.

marina2
A balladeer in Palermo. Photograph taken by Marina Warner. Do not use without permission.

Their work captures the way fairy tales spread through different media and can be played, danced or painted and still remain recognisable: there are individual stories which keep shape-shifting across time, and there is also a fairytale quality which suffuses different forms of expression (even recent fashion designs have drawn on fairytale imagery and motifs). The Palermo theatre’s repertoire also reveals the kinship between some history and fairy tale: the hard facts enclosed and memorialised in the stories. Although the happy ending is a distinguishing feature of fairy tales, many of them remember the way things were – Bluebeard testifies to the kinds of marriages that killed Laura di Carini.

A few days after coming across the cantastorie in the street, I was taken to see the country villa on the crest of Capo d’Orlando overlooking the sea, where Casimiro Piccolo lived with his brother and sister. The Piccolo siblings were rich Sicilian landowners, peculiar survivals of a mixture of luxurious feudalism and austere monasticism. A dilettante and dabbler in the occult, Casimiro believed in fairies. He went out to see them at twilight, the hour recommended by experts such as William Blake, who reported he had seen a fairy funeral, and the Revd. Robert Kirk, who had the information on good authority from his parishioners in the Highlands, where fairy abductions, second sight, and changelings were a regular occurrence in the seventeenth century.

The Eye of Horus, By Marie-Lan Nguyen, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Casimiro’s elder brother, Lucio, a poet who had a brief flash of fame in the Fifties, was as solitary, odd-looking, and idiosyncratic as himself, and the siblings lived alone with their twenty servants, in the midst of a park with rare shrubs and cacti from all over the world, their beautiful summer villa filled with a vast library of science, art, and literature, and marvellous things. They slept in beds as narrow as a discalced Carmelite’s, and never married. They loved their dogs, and gave them names that are mostly monosyllables, often sort of orientalised in a troubling way. They range from ‘Aladdin’ to ‘Mameluk’ to ‘Book’ and the brothers built them a cemetery of their own in the garden.

Casimiro was a follower of Paracelsus, who had distinguished the elemental beings as animating matter: gnomes, undines, sylphs and salamanders. Salamanders, in the form of darting, wriggling lizards, are plentiful on the baked stones of the south, but the others are the cousins of imps and elves, sprites and sirens, and they’re not so common. The journal Psychic News, to which Casimiro subscribed, inspired him to try to take photographs of the apparitions he saw in the park of exotic plants around the house. He also ordered various publications of the Society of Psychical Research and other bodies who tried to tap immaterial presences and energies. He was hoping for images like the famous Cottingley images of fairies sunbathing or dancing which Conan Doyle so admired. But he had no success. Instead, he painted: a fairy punt poled by a hobgoblin through the lily pads, a fairy doctor with a bag full of shining golden instruments taking the pulse of a turkey, four old gnomes consulting a huge grimoire held up by imps, etiolated genies, turbaned potentates, and eastern sages. He rarely left Sicily, or indeed, his family home, and he went on painting his sightings in soft, rich watercolour from 1943 to 1970 when he died.

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Photograph by Marina Warner. Do not use without permission.

His work looks like Victorian or Edwardian fairy paintings. Had this reclusive Sicilian seen the crazed visions of Richard Dadd, or illustrations by Arthur Rackham or John Anster Fitzgerald? Or even Disney? Disney was looking very carefully at picture books when he formed the famous characters and stamped them with his own jokiness. Casimiro doesn’t seem to be in earnest, and the long-nosed dwarfs look a little bit like self-mockery. It is impossible to know what he meant, if he meant what he said, or what he believed. But the fact remains, for a grown man to believe in fairies strikes us now as pretty silly.

The Piccolo family’s cousin, close friend and regular visitor was Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the author of The Leopard, and he wrote a mysterious and memorable short story about a classics professor who once spent a passionate summer with a mermaid. But tales of fairies, goblins, and gnomes seem to belong to an altogether different degree of absurdity from a classics professor meeting a siren.

And yet, the Piccolo brothers communicated with Yeats, who held all kinds of beliefs. He smelted his wonderful poems from a chaotic rubble of fairy lore, psychic theories, dream interpretation, divinatory methods, and Christian symbolism: “Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”

Featured image credit: Capo d’Orlando, by Chtamina. CC-BY-SA-2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

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