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It’s the 26th of February, and the time is 7.00pm, the usual time for all my telephone interviews with Alan Moore, since the first one we did, back in March 2008. This is something like the eighth time I’ve interviewed him 1, but I still get nervous. There’s the usual fumbling around with a voice recorder, and making sure I know how to put the phone on speaker – I’m totally technically incompetent, so Deirdre, my wife, has to come and oversee all this, to make sure I don’t do something stupid.
Pádraig Ó Méalóid: I’m going to get stuck into this thing because I’ve a long list of questions, at least some of which we’ll get to. OK, I was going to ask you about Steve. Obviously Steve Moore’s death must have been an enormous blow to you. 2
Alan Moore: Well, yeah, obviously, and it – it was a period of massive shock, and of course a few marvels in there. There was an ethereal period. We managed to follow Steve’s instructions, and scattered his ashes on the burial mound in Shrewsbury Lane by the light of, not only a full moon, but of a Supermoon, which is when the Moon is full at its perigee, which is apparently its closest approach to Earth, and it was just at the tail end of Hurricane Bertha so we didn’t think that we were going to be able to really do it successfully, but as it happened, the hurricane had blown all the clouds out of the sky by the time we got down to Shooters Hill, and it was a – a rather magical night in its way, even though I managed to end up wearing at least a small portion of Steve, when we had a difficulty transferring him to the scattering tube. Funnily enough, I’d said on the way down there that I hope this doesn’t end up like The Big Lebowski, with me kind of going on inappropriately about Steve’s service in Vietnam, while getting ashes all over me, but apart from me going on inappropriately about Steve’s service in Vietnam, that was pretty much what happened. But otherwise it was a great night and, yeah, I suppose that after Steve’s death I kind of hurled myself into a great deal of creative work – it’s just my way of dealing with things, you know? Or perhaps my way of not dealing with things, I don’t know. But, yeah, it still goes on, like at the moment I’m, I just went down last weekend to Steve’s place to talk with Bob Rickard3.
I went to the burial mound – it’s been padlocked since we did the scattering there, which – I don’t think it was in response to our scattering, probably more in response to some of the empty cider bottles that I’d noticed around the site, but I suppose in its way it’s fortuitous – if Steve had died a year later it probably wouldn’t have been anywhere near as – convenient? – to honour his final wishes, but – no, he’s still an immense presence in my life. I’m still, I’m wrapping up dealing with his estate – and I shall be dealing with that for a number of years, I’m sure. But, yeah, we’ve still got the Book of Magic to come out, which is very very much a joint venture, even if – even if one of the members of The Moon and Serpent is now only active upon the Inner Plane, it’s still going to be both of us on the cover, there. It’s going OK, Pádraig.
PÓM: Good, I’m glad. As you mentioned the book, The Moon and Serpent Bumper Book of Magic, is there any kind of a timescale for that?
AM: Well, at the moment I have just finished the final article, the big concluding essay that me and Steve had been working on for about six months before last March and that leaves me one episode of The Soul4 to do, and then I’ve got to go back and tinker with the Tarot Card, and the Kabala Boardgame, and some of the other, more art-centred things, and less text-centred – most of the text-centred stuff is completed. As to when that will come out – we would like to get it out in 2016, but that is not a promise, that is an aspiration5.
AM: I’m sure that – yeah, you know what that means – we’ve been living under a coalition for some several years now, so we will know what we mean by promises and aspirations.
PÓM: Somebody was suggesting – are you likely to do a performance related to that when it’s finally finished?
AM: Don’t know. Don’t know – I hadn’t been thinking of a performance related to it. Eh, don’t know, is the answer to that, it is nothing that I’d actually considered. These things tend to come in seasons. There was a period when I was closer to TimPerkins – Tim moved to Oxford – me and Tim still communicate, and we still talk about possible projects together, but it doesn’t feel like the time at the moment when performance stuff is probably at the forefront. I had a very very nice offer from Paul Smith of Blast First records, talking about the possibility of getting some satellite time for something live, but, quite honestly, it would be filling three hours of live – no. It’s not like I – my urges at the moment are not really towards live performance. That said, tomorrow night I shall be going down to the local café, and me and Robin Ince and Grace Petrie will be doing another one of our, just impromptu little events6 which Robin is – we’re recording them all, Joe Brown is doing all of the mixing and everything, and they will eventually be released as podcasts. But that’s pretty much the extent of my public appearances at the moment.
PÓM: I met Tim Perkins for the first time in August. Worldcon – that’s the World Science Fiction Convention – was on in London, and myself and himself and Gary Lloyd ended up doing a panel about your musical output.7
AM: Aw, brilliant! And how is Tim? I haven’t spoken to him for ages.
PÓM: Tim was good! I was delighted to meet him, because I have a lot of his work, but I’ve one question I was asking him that I had always been interested in, which was, in all the musical work that you did, did you play a musical instrument at all?
AM: Oh, no. No, I never played a musical instrument. I am – yeah, I know I’m a fairly multi-competent kind of individual, but no, no. Playing a musical instrument has always been beyond me, and I have nothing but the greatest of respect for those that can, and I tend to – even if I could play a musical instrument, I’ve known such brilliant musicians that it would have been foolish not to leave that side of things to them, and to play to my strengths.
PÓM: Yeah, I know. He did say something about your playing – was it with one hand, was it Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, something like that, on a piano?
AM: Oh, I can actually – because when I was a child, I had a Sooty Xylophone, with numbered keys, and the actual score to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, with numbered keys on xylophone, is 1155665 – it’s been a long time since I played it, but I could remember it all the way through, on my Sooty Xylophone. So, yes, I suppose technically, if there is ever any need for a kind of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star refrain on xylophone, then you’ve got my number.8
PÓM: Fair enough. I always wanted to clear that one up.
AM: Well, it’s an important point, Pádraig. No, I’m surprised that Tim remembered that.
PÓM: Yes. Well, it obviously made an impression.
AM: Yeah, obviously, obviously.
PÓM: Tell me about The Show. What’s happening?
AM: The Show. Well, The Show is the name of the project that follows on from the Jimmy’s End films – which, surely to Christ, should be out soon. It should be very very soon – I’ve been kicking up a fuss, Mitch [Jenkins] has been kicking up a fuss…9
PÓM: This is the stuff from Lex Records?
AM: Apparently there’s been unavoidable delays on the packaging side. I don’t know!
PÓM: Yeah, I know, I know. It’s bad enough having to always wait for your comics to come out, but really…!
AM: It’s this film business, it’s – and I am kind of limited in what I can actually do. And it’s the same with the comics business, I suppose. Anyway, that should be out soon, and I have written a screenplay for a feature film, called The Show, which is designed to follow on from that. We have been talking with various parties about maybe making that screenplay into the first two episodes of a serial, which – we could probably have done it, but that doesn’t seem to be – that’s not technically gonna happen. At the moment we’re talking about maybe doing what we had originally intended to do, which is to bring out The Show as a feature film, and then to launch The Show as a television series, so at the moment, that’s all up in the air, and in my experience of these things, some things just remain up in the air forever, in defiance of gravity. So, who knows? But there are talks going on, it’s looking quite promising, and I’m sure that one way or another there’ll be – we’re asking for so little, to do this film, at least in terms of money. We’re asking for complete control, and complete ownership. But financially we’re asking for very little. It would be a very good film – it’d need me writing a few more songs, and it would be very differently paced to the five short films, because short films, they can be as long as you want them to be, and you can linger, whereas a feature film, that’s got to have – I’m not saying that it’s gonna be kind of action/thriller paced, but certainly a lot more conventionally paced for a feature film, put it like that.
PÓM: Yeah, of course.
AM: Yeah, that’s all going on as we speak – there might be more news – I’m sure if there is any more news, that’ll be in a couple of – in a couple of months we might know more.
PÓM: OK, fair enough. Emmm, what was I gonna ask? The League. The next – the third part of the Janni Nemo trilogy is coming out soon…?10
AM: River of Ghosts. I’ve just looked in the box that I got from Knockabout the other day, and I’ve got – yes, very soon, I’ve got my copies already. We are very pleased with it. It’s funny – when me and Kevin O’Neill first got our complimentary copies, we both looked through it, skimmed through it, independently, and when we were talking on the phone later I was – he was saying that he’d been – he’d felt that his art really, it was a bit tired-looking, and I was saying, ‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘I thought your art was great,’ I said, ‘but I don’t know with my script – I’m not sure that the ending’s not rushed, or something.’ Like, all these little things. And then, after that, I was still a bit despondent, but I sat down, and picked up the copy again, and started reading it. And I got to the end, and I went and phoned Kevin and left an answer phone message saying, ‘Actually, Kevin, I should go back and having another look at River of Ghosts, I think that it might be about the best run of the League since the first couple of volumes.’ And I got a phone call back from Kevin about ten minutes later, saying ‘Actually, I was going to call you and say the same thing! ’ It’s just that, when your expectations are up, and you first see the thing in print – I should know by now that very often my first reaction is disappointment. But then, you read it again and, yes, this is – it’s a bit of a corker. I think, beautifully rounds off the Nemo trilogy, and I hope will put the other two books into perspective, ‘cause I did hear a couple of comments saying, ‘Oh well, we’ve read Heart of Ice, good story and all that, but it does seem a bit – a bit slender, a bit thin, a bit inconsequential, compared to other graphic novels.’ It’s forty-eight pages, it’s like two issues of a comic and, really, it’s not until the River of Ghosts that we get to the end of the story – yes, they are all self-contained episodes, but there is an over-all story that’s going on, which I think we tie up quite nicely in River of Ghosts.
The story opens upon Lincoln Island in 1975, so this is six years after we saw Janni in League volume three in 1969. She’s now – what? – around eighty, and it’s been very interesting – I’ve always wanted, since I started writing Halo Jones, I always intended to have that conclude with Halo Jones as a very old woman, and I – I don’t know, I think that there is something magnificent about old women, and I’ve always wanted to do one with a very old woman in the main role. So, with River of Ghosts I think I’ve accomplished that.
There’s – we see a couple of old characters. There’s a couple of interesting new characters, one of whom might be of interest to you. Kevin found an American newspaper strip from, I think, 1902, that was entitled Hugo Hercules, and this is a very very big, very very strong man. I think it lasted for six or seven episodes – it wasn’t very long-lived. But, yeah, the first American superhero, I think, pretty much. I can’t imagine any earlier than that. Certainly earlier than Hugo Danner in Gladiator, a long while earlier than Superman.
So, yeah, I had a look at some of these early strips, which generally don’t have much in the way of dialogue balloons, but put most of the dialogue into captions under the panels, and from that, in the transcriptions of whatever the accent was supposed to be that Hugo Hercules was speaking in, I finally figured out that it was probably a racist and ill-informed transliteration of an Irish accent. It could just as easily have been Polish, or possibly Trinidadian, but I think probably it was meant to be Irish. So, we’ve kind of worked out, yeah, all right, if this Hugo Hercules, so-called, was Irish, what might be his backstory. Me and Kevin are very pleased with him as a character, and he plays quite a major part in River of Ghosts – which deals with, as you might expect from the first two volumes, it deals with a conclusion to the Ayesha question. Just kind of tying it all up in a neat and somewhat blood-stained bow.
The River of Ghosts in question is the Amazon, which means that we get to – as we did with Heart of Ice, less so, perhaps, with Roses of Berlin – but with Heart of Ice we were very much depending upon the New Travellers’ Almanac, and its gazetteer of fictional sights, and we’ve fallen back upon that quite a bit for this exploration of the Amazon. So, if that gives you any hints as to what sort of things we might be running into…
PÓM: It does! I actually find, I go back and I reread the New Travellers’ Almanac and the Black Dossier quite a bit, because I think that there’s a huge amount more information, a huge amount more stuff, about various adventures that’s coded into those than you’re probably ever going to put down on the comics page.
AM: Well, that’s true. And also, because we were very specific – I think back in the New Travellers’ Almanac there’s already bits talking about Jenny Diver…?
PÓM: Yes, yes.
AM: And we did have this fairly fully planned out, right from the start. One of the things that I’ve thought about is the possibility at some point in the future, of an actual integrated volume of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, in chronological order, to see how that reads? I don’t know. This is nothing I’ve discussed with anybody else, so I’m going off the menu here, a little bit. But…
PÓM: I know – from all the stuff, there’s all sorts of bits and pieces, and there’s dates, and it is possible to build up quite a detailed chronology of – particularly from the beginning of the Victorian League, and Mina Murray and all of that, upwards. It’s remarkable how much little bits and pieces fit in. Like the current volumes, the Janni Diver stuff, is filling in more little odds – and you go back and look at something and say, ‘Ah, that was there all along.’
AM: This is it, this is what we’re trying to do. And, actually, having said that it would be nice to put it all in chronological order, there is a lot to be said for the way that we’re doing it, where we’re jumping back and forth a little bit. Jack Nemo, whom we glimpse at the end of volume three, and in River of Ghosts, it’s almost like an origin story. Jack Nemo features in it – he’s a very small boy, a couple of years older than when we saw him as a five- or six-year-old running around on the Nautilus in 1969. We’re stitching all of this together, and we’re doing it all for a reason. One thing that might be of note is that this will be the last piece of work that me and Kevin will be doing on the League for a little while. We – this is largely because – me and Kevin have both been doing the League for fifteen years now. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it actually is.
PÓM: I know. It’s 1999, wasn’t it?
AM: Something like that. Fifteen or sixteen years? And during that time I’ve been doing quite a bit of other work, but Kevin, the League has been pretty much the only thing that he’s been doing, so it’s more like – it’s a long-term sentence. And although me and Kevin are both in love with what we’re doing on the League, I could see that, it was a bit of an unfair strain upon Kevin, because the League might not be the only thing he wanted to do with the rest of his life. So, anyway, I can’t tell you very much about what we’re doing – in fact, I can barely tell you anything at all, except that me and Kevin are going to be doing something new for about eighteen months, summat like that.
PÓM: OK. In a comic form, I presume, is it?
AM: In a comic form. It’ll be an episodic thing. It will be a million miles away from the League. And we’re both very excited about it, we think we’re actually breaking new ground in term of the effects that comics can achieve. Which is, again, ‘cause I know that Kevin’s always had a hankering to experiment, and we’ve done as much as we can of that in the League – the League is limitless in some ways, but in other ways there are certain stories that perhaps wouldn’t fit quite so easily into it, and with this, yeah, we’re a long way away from the League. What we’re thinking is, we’re going to do this, as a break for Kevin, for the next eighteen months, or something, and then we will probably be going back to do book four of the League, but this is a long way in the future, but we have got a lot of good ideas that would – in some ways I’d like to do a book four that wouldn’t be the last book of the League, but could be. And if it was the last book of the League, then everything would be tied up. All of the strands and insinuations and implications in the Black Dossier, all of the tiny little threads, going right the way back to issue one of the first volume, I can see a way that all of this could be tied up splendidly into a fantastic story – but that will have to wait until me and Kevin have had our little vacation. We’re about four months into this eighteen months sabbatical anyway, so hopefully it won’t seem as long as that in the outside world.
PÓM: Before we leave it, can you tell us anything about what’s going to be in volume four?
AM: Other than, like I say, a tying up of ends, it would probably be set not long after 2009 and it would be tying up threads from all three volumes of the League, from the Black Dossier, and from the Nemo trilogy. It would be a – it’s a kind of story that I’ve been thinking of for a few years, but, yeah, after we’ve taken this sabbatical, both me and Kevin thing that, when we do go back to the League, we’ll go back refreshed, and capable of giving – not that we aren’t incredibly pleased with River of Ghosts. Like I say, that seems to have some of the energy – I wouldn’t want to deny the energy of any of the volumes of the League, but it’s undeniable that, say, the first two volumes are paced and structured very very differently to Century. And there were some people who thought that Century was a bit slow, or a bit over-complex, but that was just what we wanted to do with the characters. We wanted to show that it didn’t always have to be a fast-paced Victorian romp, that there was plenty of interesting stuff in this world that could do with lingering over. But, when we finished Century we thought, all right, let’s take a break from that stuff, and do the Nemo trilogy, something very fast paced, where we’re paying a lot of attention to spectacle, where that is a big part of the story development, and that gives Kevin an opportunity to really show what he can do on some nice spreads, and things like that, of which there are a couple of – some of the best pages of art by Kevin I’ve ever seen, in this upcoming issue. Some very memorable little images there.
2In case you all think I was being hideously impolite by launching directly into talking about Steve Moore, I should point out that there was a certain amount of small-talk in there beforehand, which none of you need to know anything more about. However, if you wish to read my interview with Steve, called The Hermit of Shooters Hill, you’ll find them all (six parts so far) here on The Beat, under the tag HERMIT.
3Bob Rickard is the founder of the Fortean Times: The Journal of Strange Phenomena (Originally called The News, which both Alan Moore and Steve Moore contributed to over the years. He is also one of the two people Steve described to me as being his best friends. The identity of the other one should not be hard to grasp…
4The Soul is a strip, written by AM and drawn by John Coulthart, that was to appear in America’s Best Comics’ Tomorrow Stories, but is now going to be in The Moon & Serpent Bumper Book of Magic.
5A favourite saying of British politicians.
6 Another of these events, Alan, Grace and Robin’s Blooming Confusion is in the NN Café in Northampton on the 31st of March 2015, and there are still tickets available, here. Robin Ince is a comedian, and Grace Petrie is a singer.
7Tim Perkins is AM’s main musical collaborator, with five CD releases thus far between them. He has a hopelessly out-of-date website, here. Gary Lloyd is another of AM’s musical collaborators, having worked with him on the audio version of Brought to Light. The interview with Tim and Gary is slowly being transcribed, and will doubtless turn up on the ‘net eventully.
8Before anyone writes into to point out that the Sooty Xylophone isn’t actually a xylophone, not being made of wood, we’ve already got that covered. All I can do is report what is said!
9This is in reference to Lex Projects’ Kickstarter for Alan Moore and Mitch Jenkins’s His Heavy Heart short film, which those of us who backed it are still waiting to see make its way into our hands. It’s by no means the only Kickstarter project I’ve backed that I’m still waiting for, mind you.
10There was some confusion about the actual publication date of this book. It first made landfall on the shelves of GOSH! Comics in London on Tuesday the 3rd of March, and should have been available elsewhere – not just in the UK, but also in the US – that same week. However a labour dispute at American west coast ports meant that containers remained in the docks, rather than being shipped onward, with the result that copies weren’t available until about a week and a half later on the 12th of March.
11Why all the footnotes? I’ve been reading through the works of Flann O’Brien, and bits of it have rubbed off on me. It’s even slightly relevant to the subject of this interview, as it was largely his fault that I went back to them in the first place. Further enlightenment, at least of a sort, here.
This story may or may not be a fairy tale, though there are certainly fairies in it. However, unlike any of his Victorian forebears or most of his contemporaries, Machen manages to achieve, only a few years before the comfortably kitsch flower fairies of Cicely Mary Barker, the singular feat of rendering fairies terrifying. With James Hogg’s 'Confessions of a Justified Sinner', Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Thrawn Janet’ and several of M. R. James’s marvellous ghost stories, ‘The White People’ is one of only a handful of literary texts that have genuinely unnerved me.
In a gorgeously remastered classic tale, just in time for Easter, is a story about the magic of love; The Velveteen Rabbit. With the original story (first published in 1922) by Margery Williams Bianco being untouched, this current version has an exquisite sense of charm about it thanks to its’ talented illustrator, Helene Magisson. […]
Talia Aikens-Nuñez, author Alicja Ignaczak, illustrator Central Avenue Publishing/Pinwheel Books 8/06/2014 978-1-77168-025-7 148 pages Age 7+ x x
“April Appleton is s annoyed at her older brother that she searches the Internet for a spell to turn him into a dog. When it works, April realizes she has more power than she ever dreamed of! Now she has to figure out how to turn him back to normal before her parents find out.”
About the Story
April turns her older brother Austin into a little soft, poofy dog when he harasses her on the school bus. Yep, she is wearing huge red glasses and braces, but that does not give Austin the right to tease her. Now realizing she cannot keep Austin cute and cuddly forever—lest mom and dad will be unhappy—April tries in vain to turn Austin back into an annoying brother.
Things do not go well for April, who is getting better at opening and closing doors at will, but could not get the reversing spell to work. With the help of help best friend Grace and new friend Eve (her grand-mere is a witch doctor), April must perform some nasty tasks before the undo-spell might work. The Old Magic Book’s paper-thin pages are so dusty, reading might be difficult—and it is in French!
First, I am not a fan of texting “terms” used in a story, and most definitely not in the title. I also do not like the double sign (?!), and because of this, think the title needs polished. The back cover preview (above), contains a sentence ending in a proposition. A few more are in the story. The expertly drawn black and white line drawings, at the onset of each chapter, help mark each new beginning, but do not add anything to the story.
With that out of the way, OMG . . . Am I a Witch is a cute story with energized dialogue. Read in one sitting, I found the story entertaining and it held my attention throughout. Most of April’s magic occurs as she thinks of what she would like, such as thinking her doggy-brother looks white and billowy as the clouds above, then he begins floating upward. April does a lot of thinking and worrying. The humor is light, which suits the urgency of the story.
“Austin is fluffy like those clouds. Ha ha. I could just imagine him floating off like a cloud . . . I just made him float. He floated like a cloud in my daydream. I am a witch. Wow. I am . . . a . . . witch.”
Girls will especially love the main character and her female sidekicks. OMG . . . Am I a Witch is a short 148 pages that can be read one chapter at a time or entirely in one sitting, making this a good story for younger middle grade kids. I believe this is Ms. Aikens-Nuñez’s first MG book. She has written a fine first foray into writing for the late elementary and middle grades. I would love to find out how April uses her newfound magic and how her friends will influence her choices. I loved all the characters. I think OMG . . . Am I a Witch would make a fine series, especially if April ages along the way.
I’d been meaning to get to this series all of 2014. After being totally amazed by both The Girl With All The Gifts and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August I asked the person the Australian publisher who had recommended them both what I could checkout next. And this was the series they said. […]
And finally it's time for our happy little line to get dressed. What? Dressing the line? How can that be - is it undressed? Heavens!
Yes, the raw line right out of the scanner is woefully under-dressed. It's just a plain Jane... it needs that little extra bit of pizzaz. So once again, it's Mr. Potatoshop to the rescue.
With a few artful clicks of the keyboard the line is enhanced first of all with brightness - contrast. There, it's looking a better already. Next we do a little quick touchup on the actual lines themselves - with a matching textured photoshop black pencil. Finally, our line is ready to go out and meet it's book page!
But first, let's add a touch of color - a little blush! And then, naturally once it's all dressed up we add the color and texture and all the other nice things to make it a real finished line, and proudly part of the artful page.
If you scroll through the images you can see all these steps in like magic.
You know how I’ve been writing contemporary all these years?
I’ve secretly always been a medieval warrior girl in my heart.
Time to see what that’s all about.
One rash act: anything to finally protect herself from her mother’s abuse.
One rash act: and young Bradamante unlocks a future where she’s destined to become a warrior.
With the help of a mystical teacher, Bradamante and her brother Rinaldo learn the skills they’ll need to survive in a brutal kingdom. They’ll also learn that destiny can demand giving up the one that you love.
Loyalty and betrayal, danger and triumph, the magic of mystics—
The Bradamante saga begins.
BOOK OF EARTH, coming February 14, 2015. It’s my Valentine’s Day present to you.
You can pre-order it for the special price of $2.99 from: Kindle iBooks Kobo
Barnes & Noble (link to come)
Scribd (link to come)
Page Foundry (link to come)
Can I tell you how much I like this book? I reviewed it several months ago for AudioFile Magazine and could hardly wait until they published my review so that I could freely blog about my affinity for it! Although "swashbuckling" is the term I've seen most often in reviews of The Accidental Highwayman, I would characterize it as a mix of daring deeds and derring-do, of historical fiction and magical conviction. You can read my official review here, I listened to the audio version, but would guess that the printed copy is equally enjoyable.
Amidst a grim 18th century English setting arises the accidental highwayman, Whistling Jack. Teenager Kit Bristol makes the unlikely yet unavoidable transformation from circus performer to manservant to famous highwayman tasked with the rescue of a mysterious princess from an enchanted coach. Narrator Steve West employs the English "standard accent" for his presentation of the gallant robber. He delivers non-stop action and suspense while maintaining an air of wise contemplation suited to this retrospective narrative of daring deeds from a magical past.
This is the first in an expected series. Judging from the effort expended on the series' official website, http://kitbristol.com , they knew right out of the gate that this one would be popular! Enjoy the goofy trailer (there are two more on the site).
Note: As a fledgling ukulele player myself, I love that Ben Tripp plays the ukulele in this trailer.
Macmillan is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. They posed the same question for 40 bloggers: “What if you could live forever?” Here’s my answer -
I am new to Tuck Everlasting, and after reading the book, it did make me think. What if I could drink from the spring, knowing that I would live forever? Would I do it? If I had answered the question when I was 20, I probably would have jumped at the chance. Think of the things I could accomplish! I could devote myself to a cause, like finding the cure for cancer, and know that time wasn’t concern – I had all the time in the world, after all. But that decision relies on the wisdom of being old enough and mature enough to realize that the gift of time comes with an obligation to do something good for the rest of humanity. If I had found that spring when I was twenty, I would have taken a drink, and probably lived a life like Jesse. The youngest Tuck, Jesse thinks that their unnatural life should be lived to the fullest. Go off and do your own thing, without any concerns about societal obligations. His life view makes sense – they have to keep the spring a secret, they can’t put down any roots for fear of causing suspicions because they don’t age, so why should he go out of his way to do anything for anyone else?
At my present point in time, though, if I stumbled on that spring, no, I would not take a sip. Why not? Having had to say goodbye to people I loved, the thought of doing it repeatedly, and often, is a huge deterrent. Think about it – if you lived forever, but nobody else did, you’d be saying goodbye an awful lot. You’d be alone a lot. With each death, it feels like sliver of my soul dies, too. How long before there wasn’t anything left of me that really mattered? At least the Tucks had each other to while away the endless years of their life. But what if it was just you, and you were alone? Sure, you could make connections with others, fleeting friendships that to you lasted the blink of an eye. What would that be like? Maybe that’s why Tuck considered that drink from the spring a curse instead of a blessing.
What do you think? Would you drink from the spring?
Doomed to – or blessed with – eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing than it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune . . .
One of my favorite reads of 2014, Burn for Me is an action packed race to save Houston from a psychopathic mage who uses fire to level anything in his path. Set in an alternate world where a serum gave some people incredible magic powers, Nevada is a private investigator struggling to make ends meet for her family. When she’s given the mission to bring in Adam Pierce before he kills anyone else, she knows that she’s a sacrificial scapegoat for the powerful families that own her firm and rule Houston. Nevada can tell if someone is lying to her, and she knows that everything she’s been told so far is a lie.
Mad Rogan is after Adam Pierce for reasons of his own. He’s another human with unmatched destructive powers and even fewer ethics. He can kill with the flick of his wrist, arouse with a thought, and reduce a city to rubble. I loved this guy! He does what he wants, with little regard for the consequences, because for Mad Rogan, there are no consequences. Wealthy beyond belief, powerful beyond measure, Mad Rogan is godlike with his powers. He is an indifferent, brutally decisive god who doesn’t hesitate to act, and it’s a good thing for Nevada, because without his help, however reluctantly she’s accepted it, she would be toast. Literally.
Nevada is a very strong heroine who doesn’t realize the extent of her magic. She knows that she can tell if someone is telling the truth, but she doesn’t know that she can compel another to speak the truth. Mad Rogan discovers this, rather unpleasantly, when someone tries to kill Nevada’s grandmother. I thought he deserved it. He’s a guy you can’t entirely trust, and after their initial introduction (he kidnaps she), I didn’t think he would ever come across as a convincing romantic lead. He did. That’s part of the magic of this book. Nevada’s influence on him changes him. Mad Rogan has willingly done terrible, terrible things, things he doesn’t regret or even feel the slightest twinge of remorse over, but Nevada tempers his impulses to just let loose with his magic, at least when someone isn’t trying to kill them.
I loved this book! I wasn’t going to read it at first because of the cover, which I don’t think represents the book well at all. I thought it would be a PNR with lots of sexy times – it’s not. It’s more of an urban fantasy with a strong heroine, a badass hero who finally meets his match, and a whole lot of sexual chemistry. And a ton of adrenaline-laced action scenes. I LOVED it! I want MOAR!! And I want it NOW!!
Review copy proved by my local library
#1 New York Times bestselling author Ilona Andrews launches a brand-new Hidden Legacy series, in which one woman must place her trust in a seductive, dangerous man who sets off an even more dangerous desire . . .
Nevada Baylor is faced with the most challenging case of her detective career—a suicide mission to bring in a suspect in a volatile situation. Nevada isn’t sure she has the chops. Her quarry is a Prime, the highest rank of magic user, who can set anyone and anything on fire.
Then she’s kidnapped by Connor “Mad” Rogan—a darkly tempting billionaire with equally devastating powers. Torn between wanting to run and wanting to surrender to their overwhelming attraction, Nevada must join forces with Rogan to stay alive.
Rogan’s after the same target, so he needs Nevada. But she’s getting under his skin, making him care about someone other than himself for a change. And, as Rogan has learned, love can be as perilous as death, especially in the magic world.
I'm back from vacation and have some catching up to do! If you're a frequent reader, you'll know that I review books for AudioFile Magazine. Once submitted, I cannot reprint my reviews here, but I can offer a quick rundown, and link to the reviews as they appeared for AudioFile.
I love Cornelia Funke's dark fantasy titles. The Inkheart trilogy is a favorite series, and I thoroughly enjoyed Reckless, the first in the Mirrorworld series. I was thrilled when offered an opportunity to review her new early chapter book fantasy, Emma and the Blue Genie, especially when I discovered that she is the narrator. My review of Emma and the Blue Genie is here.Suggested for ages 7-10.
(I only reviewed the audio copy, but the print copy is lovely - small and special and delightfully illustrated)
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.
There is a quarrel inside me about fairies, and the form of literature their presence helps to define. I have never tried to see a fairy, or at least not since I was five years old. The interest of Casimiro Piccolo reveals how attitudes to folklore belong to their time: he was affected by the scientific inquiry into the paranormal which flourished – in highly intellectual circles – from the late nineteenth century and into the twentieth. But he also presents a test case, I feel, for the questions that hang around fairies and fairy tales in the twenty-first century. What is the point of them? What are the uses of such enchantments today? The absurdity of this form of magical belief (religious miracles are felt to be different, and not only by believers) creates a quarrel inside me, about the worth of this form of literature and entertainment I enjoy so much. In what way am I ‘away with the fairies’, too?
Suspicion now hangs around fairy tales because the kind of supernatural creatures and events they include belong to a belief system nobody subscribes to anymore. Even children, unless very small, are in on the secret that fairyland is a fantasy. In the past, however, allusions to fairies could be dangerous not because belief in them was scorned, but because they were feared: Kirk collected the beliefs of his flock in order to defend them against charges of heterodoxy or witchcraft, and, the same time as Kirk’s ethnographical activities, Charles Perrault published his crucially influential collection (l697), in which he pokes fun, with suave courtly wit, at the dangerousness of witches and witchcraft, ogres and talking animals. Perrault is slippery and ambiguous. His Cinderella is a tale of marvellously efficacious magic, but he ends with a moral: recommending his readers to find themselves well-placed godmothers. Not long before he was writing his fairy tales, France and other places in Europe had seen many people condemned to death on suspicion of using magic. The fairy tale emerges as entertainment in a proto-enlightenment move to show that there is nothing to fear.
The current state of fairy tale – whether metastasized in huge blockbuster films or refreshed and re-invigorated in the fiction of Robert Coover, Donald Barthelme, Margaret Atwood or, most recently, Helen Oyeyemi (Mr Fox, and, this year, Boy Snow Bird) does not invite, let alone compel, belief in its magic elements as from an audience of adepts or faithful. Contemporary readers and audiences, including children over the age of 6, are too savvy about special effects and plot lines and the science/magic overlap to accept supernatural causes behind Angelina Jolie’s soaring in Maleficent or the transmogrifications of the characters. Nor do they, nor do we need to suspend disbelief in the willed way Coleridge described.
Rather the ways of approaching the old material – Blue Beard, The Robber Bridegroom, Hansel & Gretel, Snow White and so on – opens up the stories to new meanings. The familiar narrative becomes the arena for raising questions; the story’s well known features provide a common language for thinking about families and love, childhood and marriage. Fairies and their realm allow thought experiments about alternative arrangements in this world. We are no longer looking for fairies at the bottom of the garden, but seeing through them to glimpse other things. As the little girl realises in The Servant’s Tale by Paula Fox, her grandmother through her stories ‘saw what others couldn’t see, that for her the meaning of one thing could also be the meaning of a greater thing.’ In the past, these other, greater things were most often promises – escape, revenge, recognition, glory – but the trend of fairy tales is turning darker, and many retellings no longer hold out such bright eyed hope.
Featured image credit: Sleeping Beauty, by Viktor M. Vasnetsov. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Woozy is a terribly well-meaning wizard who’s keen to help his friends, but more often than not he gets somewhat mixed up and his spells don’t quite do what they’re meant to. With the help of his pet pig Woozy flies around trying to sort things out, and in the process it becomes clear that whilst it may not be magic, it is certainly something quite magical that helps put the world to rights.
Lots of humour, great rhythm and rhyme (enormous aids when practising reading because they help with scanning a line, and predicting how words should be pronounced), and clear, bright and colourful illustrations all add up to a lovely book perfect to give to your emerging reader.
To celebrate the publication of I interviewed the author of Woozy the Wizard: A Spell to Get Well, Elli Woollard, about her work. Given Elli is a poet, I challenged her to answer me in rhyme….
Zoe:Rhyming seems to be in your blood. Where did this passion come from?
Elli Woollard: The thing about me is I sing quite a lot
(I rather enjoy it; the neighbours might not),
And I guess if you’re singing for much of the time
Your mind sort of slips into thinking in rhyme.
Zoe:How does your blog, where you regularly publish poems/works in progress, help you with your writing?
Elli Woollard: My blog’s like a sketchbook for scribbles and scrawls
And all of my mind’s muddly mess.
I write them all down, and sometimes I frown,
But some make me want to go ‘YES!’
Elli on the Dr Seuss book bench that was recently on view in London.
Zoe:What would your ideal writing location/environment be like and why?
Elli Woollard: A hot cup of coffee, a warm purring cat;
There’s not much more that I need than that.
Working at home is really quite nice
(Except when the cat thinks my fingers are mice).
Zoe:What was the most magical part for you in the process of seeing Woozy the Wizard come to life as a printed book?
Elli Woollard: Writing, writing, is ever so exciting,
Especially when you’ve finished and say ‘Look!
All of my creations now come with illustrations!
Bloomin’ heck, I think I wrote a book!’
Zoe:What tips do you have for kids who love to write poetry?
Elli Woollard: Use your ears, use your eyes, use your heads, use your feet,
Stand up proud, read aloud, and just listen to that beat.
Feel the rhythm, feel the vibes of the poetry you’ve heard,
And think about the magic that’s in every single word.
Zoe:Which poets for children do you like to read?
Elli Woollard: Donaldson (Julia), Rosen (Mike),
Lear (Edward) and Milligan (Spike),
I could go on, and write a long list,
But so many good ones I know would get missed.
Zoe:Thanks Elli! I’m already looking forward to the next outing for Woozy, in spring 2015!
Hold on to your broomsticks because today we have someone special visiting. She’s a bit of a drafter and doodler, a fellow resident of the magical Gold Coast and a wickedly wonderful conjurer of stories. Snap Magic is her latest light-hearted, fairy tale inspired fantasy novel about friendship and young girls approaching the precipitous edge […]
A majestic unicorn for today. Created with graphite pencil on Strathmore drawing paper and inked with Micron Pigma Brush Pen in black.
I have been really enjoying the inktober event. Not only seeing everyone else’s contributions, but also for my own creativity. I am not one to usually like to ink, but lately I have found it quite zen. I remember telling my fellow comrades on #Zero2Illo that I really hated inking. When asked to clarify why, I found that I really could not answer except that I just wasn’t experienced enough with it. Now that I have been dabbling ever since, I find inking more and more relaxing than frustrating. Thanks to Inktober, I am able to improve my skills even more.
My family often wonders about my propensity to jump from one seemingly unrelated topic to another, often within seconds. What they usually don't realize is that in my mind, the topics are connected; I've merely forgotten to fill them in on the links.
With that in mind, I offer you three new books on Russia that in my mind, are dramatically different and yet completely complementary. A young adult nonfiction book, a young adult fantasy, and a children's picture book —a microcosm of Russia in history, magic and dance.
You can read my review or any number of stellar reviews, but I will sum up by saying that whether you listen to the audio book or read the print copy, The Family Romanov is a fully immersive experience into the final years of tsarist Russia - the time, the place, and the tragically doomed family.
I was happily mulling over this excellent book when I immediately received an opportunity to review Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire (Brilliance Audio, 2014). I had received a galley copy of Egg & Spoon in the spring. I thought it looked intriguing, but hadn't had time to read it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a folklore fantasy that takes place - of all places - in tsarist Russia. I couldn't believe my good fortune. The book was enhanced by my recent reading of The Family Romanov. With the history of modern tsarist Russia fresh in my mind, the location and historical setting was vivid, leaving me more time to ponder the story's underpinning of Russian folklore, of which I was mostly ignorant. I knew little of the witch, Baba Yaga and her peculiar house that walks on chicken legs, and I knew nothing of the magical Russian firebird.
My reviews are linked here and here. Again, you can read my review or any other, but I will sum up by saying that Egg & Spoon is grand and magical - a metaphoric epic for readers from twelve to adult.
So there you have it, my serendipitous encounter with Russian history, folklore and culture. As our two countries struggle with our relationship, may we always remember that there is more to a country than its leaders and politicians. There is always us, the common people. And as Egg & Spoon and Firebird will show you, there is always hope.
Though the Greek and Roman crewmembers of the Argo II have made progress in their many quests, they still seem no closer to defeating the earth mother, Gaea. Her giants have risen-all of them-and they’re stronger than ever. They must be stopped before the Feast of Spes, when Gaea plans to have two demigods sacrificed in Athens. She needs their blood-the blood of Olympus-in order to wake.
The demigods are having more frequent visions of a terrible battle at Camp Half-Blood. The Roman legion from Camp Jupiter, led by Octavian, is almost within striking distance. Though it is tempting to take the Athena Parthenos to Athens to use as a secret weapon, the friends know that the huge statue belongs back on Long Island, where it might be able to stop a war between the two camps.
The Athena Parthenos will go west; the Argo II will go east. The gods, still suffering from multiple personality disorder, are useless. How can a handful of young demigods hope to persevere against Gaea’s army of powerful giants? As dangerous as it is to head to Athens, they have no other option. They have sacrificed too much already. And if Gaea wakes, it is game over.
Age Range: 10 – 14 years
Grade Level: 5 – 9
Series: The Heroes of Olympus (Book 5)
Hardcover: 528 pages
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (October 7, 2014)
All the training in Heaven couldn’t prepare me for the war on earth, nor for the love, loss, or loneliness humans feel. There are things worse than death, and every last one of them is hunting people like us. Even though we all feel human at times, we must remember, we are not them, we are their watchers.
In England, 1270 A.D., Auriella (pronounced yurr-ee-ella) flees her village after being accused of witchcraft. Pursued by nightmarish creatures, she struggles to accept the truth about her humanity. Filled with fairies, dwarves, pixies, dragons, demons, and monsters, Knight of Light is an enthralling tale that will capture the imaginations of readers young and old.
The Watchers Series has been described as Braveheart meets Supernatural. The mythology for the series is based on many theological texts from dozens of sects with correlating themes. Ancient writings include the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Traditional Apocrypha, the Pearl of Great Price and the Kabbalah. The Watchers are supernatural beings in human form whose duty it is to protect and guard mankind from the armies of darkness. Unfortunately, as the Book of Enoch mentions, some of these Watchers go bad.
Although the mythology is based on these texts, Deirdra Eden’s, The Watcher’s Series, is written in a traditional fairytale style with a young girl’s discovery of incredible, but dangerous powers within herself, a cast of humorous side-kicks, a quest for greater self-discovery and purpose, and villains of epic proportions.
Please welcome Anton Strout back to the virtual offices! Anton has a guest post to share, so check it out.
Name 5 things Lexi WOULD have in her purse
In THE SPELLMASON CHRONICLES Alexandra “Lexi” Belarus isn’t the sort of woman who finds herself with a purse in hand often. Instead she prefers the fashionable roominess of a designer backpack as the life of Manhattan’s only practicing Spellmason is a hectic one where carrying capacity wins out over handbag cuteness every time. Let’s peek inside, shall we?
1. A 40 lb. book made of solid stone
Spellmasonry—the art of wielding power and imbuing stonework with life—is a lost art, known only to Manhattan’s Belarus family with 24 year old Alexandra relearning it. That means she is reliant on the secrets her great-great grandfather wrote centuries ago in a book that’s natural state is solid stone. Only a Spellmason can open this tome, transforming it to paper, but it means it’s the number one thing Lexi has on her at all times. While some arcana can be memorized and cast at will, there is much for Lexi to learn and practice in this voluminous and heavy tome.
2. One standard composition notebook (covered in various stains)
Lexi hasn’t quite achieved the prowess of her great-great grandfather at Spellmasonry, but she’s making do in this modern world. Much of what isn’t spelled out in the stone book is scattered throughout two secret libraries, the content coded throughout multiple volumes, forcing Lexi to compile a spell book of her own. The stains come from working with much of the alchemy that is involved in the trial and error of imbuing stone with the properties of the living.
3. 3 and 1/2 cell phones (broken screened)
The woman carries around a large stone book in her backpack, is on the run from witches and warlocks, and is fighting winged creatures made of stone. There’s a lot of smashy smashy going on in all that, and technology does not react well to thinks that go bump in the night.
Carrying on with the theme of #3, the human body also does not always play well with the resulting spells cast from the abovementioned witches and warlocks or the flick of a gargoyle’s wing that sends her and her friends flying into an alley wall. As a fleshy, fleshy species, we don’t take to the smashy smashy too good. Hence? BANDAGES!
As if her backpack wasn’t heavy enough, let’s just throw one more brick in it, shall we? But not just any brick, no! We’re talking about Lexi’s first experimental attempt at imbuing stone with life, her humble, painted on smiling Bricksley. Usually he can be found in one of the Spellmason libraries shelving books or returning alchemical supplies to their cabinets, but ever so often our happy little brick golem stows away for a little field work. Sneaky little Bricksley!
Ace Mass Market
$7.99 | 320 pages
September 30, 2014
When Alexandra Belarus discovered her family’s secret ability to breathe life into stone, she uncovered an entire world of magic hidden within New York City—a world she has accidentally thrown into chaos. A spell gone awry has set thousands of gargoyles loose upon Manhattan, and it’s up to Lexi and her faithful protector, Stanis, to put things right.
But the stress of saving the city is casting a pall over Lexi and Stanis’s relationship, driving them to work separately to solve the problem. As Stanis struggles to unite the gargoyle population, Lexi forges unlikely alliances with witches, alchemists and New York’s Finest to quell an unsettling uprising led by an ancient and deadly foe long thought vanquished.
To save her city, Lexi must wield more power than ever before with the added hope of recovering a mysterious artifact that could change her world—and bring her closer to Stanis than she ever thought possible…
PRAISE FOR THE SPELLMASON CHRONICLES
“Excellent character development. The ending leaves this whole world open in a great way…My favorite part of this is the use of magic…It feels organic and interesting.”
“Thrilling…Skillful characterization enriches a story that is filled with peril, loss, treachery and sacrifice. Great stuff!”
—RT Book Reviews
“High stakes, high tension, stark contrasts, well-rounded cast and dialogue complete with quips and banter.”
—Urban Fantasy Land
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Anton Strout is the author of the Spellmason Chronicles, including Stonecast and Alchemystic, and the Simon Canderous series including Dead Waters, Dead Matter, Deader Still, and Dead to Me. He was born in the Berkshire Hills mere miles from writing heavyweights Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. He currently lives in historic Jackson Heights, New York (where noting paranormal ever really happens, he assures you!). In his scant spare time, he is an always writer, a sometimes actor, sometimes musician, occasional RPGer, and the world’s most casual and controller-smashing video gamer. He currently works in the exciting world of publishing and yes, it is as glamorous as it sounds. Visit him online at www.antonstrout.com.