Category Archives: Fairy Tales

My Top YA Reads of 2013

Nothing says late December like “of the Year” lists.  I thought I’d join in with my top 5 YA reads this year.  These weren’t necessarily published this year (some were, some weren’t), but they were read by me this year.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

5.  Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George.  This is an adaptation of East of the Sun and West of the Moon and is a sweet retelling.

Mind Games

4.  Mind Games by Kiersten White.   This is an “edgy” psychological thriller.  Honestly, I’d read so much about how edgy/psychological it was that I was expecting it to be quite a bit darker than it is.  Maybe I’ve just got too dark of an imagination already 😉  It is definitely a solidly written and compelling story.

Of Beast and Beauty

3.  Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay.  A dystopian/futuristic/fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast that’s imaginative and well written.  This has made it onto my list of favorite Beauty and the Beast retellings.

Scarlet

2.  Scarlet by Marissa Meyer.  I really liked Cinder by Meyer, but I enjoyed Scarlet even more.  Meyer has a way of creating a well-constructed world that only uses snippets of the fairy tale she’s retelling (in this case Little Red Riding) that still manages to satisfy the fair tale craving.

The False Prince

1.  The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen is far and away the best book I read this year (it’s sequel is almost as good and should probably share the top spot).  The narration in this book is fantastic.  Nielsen writes a believable teen boy in first person and manages to keep the reader on the edge of their seat through the entire book. I devoured this novel.  Thanks to Nancy Kelley for recommending it!

Views from the Depths Is Here!

I’m excited to announce that Views from the Depths is now available!  And look at the gorgeous new cover my designer Tori created for it!

 ViewsFromDepths-1600x2400

Views from the Depths is a collection of four short story fairy tale retellings.  It can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

You can also add it on Goodreads!

I don’t include an acknowledgement section in my short story collections, but I’d like to take a minute to thank everyone who encouraged me while I was writing Views from the Depths.  First and foremost, Nancy Kelley, who encouraged me to keep writing these stories when I was unsure how the character voices in my head were going to resolve themselves.  To my early readers Rebecca Nyenhuis, Melissa Buell, and Rebecca Fleming I owe a huge debt of gratitude.  Thanks to my editor Mark House who always gives me the very best.  And of course thank you to my fabulous cover designer Victoria Austen-Young because without her talent and friendship I would be lost.  Thank you all so very much!

 

Introducing…Views from the Depths

I have some very exciting news!  The next fairy tale short story collection will be released the first week of December!  And it has a shiny new name that fits its personality.

Introducing…

Views from the Depths

A mermaid willing to trade her life for love…

A young girl whose beauty can drive people mad…

Twelve sisters with a mysterious addiction…

A beast that can only be transformed by love…

Views from the Depths is a collection of four short stories told from perspectives of multiple characters.  Each of these stories takes an in-depth and sometimes melancholy look at some of your favorite fairy tales.

Includes adaptations of The Little Mermaid, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and Beauty and the Beast.

Are you excited? I certainly am!

 

(There’s a sneak peak of the first point of view in The Little Mermaid story over on Teatime Romance, go check it out!)

Need Your Recommendations

We are getting close to the end of the year and I’ve got like 7 books left on my Goodreads goal for the year.  No big deal meeting the goal, really (and several of those will get sucked up by the last Narnia books).  My problem is always picking what book to read next.  I always think I know what I want to read, and I do actually use the “to be read” shelf (occasionally), but when push comes to shove and I’m cruising around Amazon with credit card in hand I tend to panic and remain indecisive.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow

However, I’ve had some really great luck with reader recommendations recently! I finally read Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George based on Rebecca Fleming’s recommendation, and recently The Scarecrow King by Jill Myles based on Nicole’s suggestion.  Both were super fun reads.

The Scarecrow King

So here is where you come in! I really want to hear what your best fairy tale related reads have been.  I have at least five slots to fill before the end of the year.  It doesn’t have to be something super recent because there’s always a chance I’ve missed something good!

 

 

Sun, Moon, Stars

I’ve wanted to write a version of Allerleirauh (All-Kinds-of-Fur or Thousand Furs) ever since I was a teenager.  If you’ve never read it, I suggest you check out it out here (there’s also an annotated version of the variant Donkeyskin at Sur la Lune)  It’s a complex tale; it starts off incredibly dark and deals with some pretty heavy topics (like threatened incest) and yet as far as fairy tale heroines goes, Allerleirauh is one of the most self-determining.  I love that she doesn’t just wait around for bad things to happen to her but makes a plan and escapes.

 All Kinds of Fur

When people ask me what the fairy tale is about I tend to compare it to Cinderella, because of the dresses and balls,  but I think Allerleirauh is definitely a more kick ass heroine.  But the original definitely leaves some room for interpretation.  Why does she choose dresses like the sun, the moon, and the stars?  What’s up with the charms?  Did the king in the new kingdom really not realize the mysterious princess was Allerleirauh?  It’s so fun to get into the details and figure out why the characters act the way they do?

Also, I’ve full on fallen in love with the hero of this novel.  I won’t tell you much other than that his name is Frederick and he’s flat out awesome.

Princess Furball

What say you?  Have you ever read a version of Allerleirauh?  I highly recommend the picture book Princess Furball by Charlotte Huck as it got me hooked on this tale (and cause it’s for kids there’s no “marriage to her father,” it’s marriage to an ogre instead).  If you’ve read it, why do you think she picked those dresses?  Why do you think she slipped charms into the soup, and what on earth was their purpose?  (Note: I do have answers for these, but I don’t want to spoil you yet!)

And if you’ve got time on your hands check out my pinterest inspiration board for Sun, Moon, Stars.  It’s still a work in progress.

Fairy Tale 2.0 – Modernizing Your Favorite Fairy Tales

I originally wrote this as part of the Fairy Tale Fortnight event on The Book Rat.  I thought I would share it with you as we gear up for the release of Atone this summer!

I love fairy tales. I love reading them. I love reading and watching adaptations of them.  I love writing adaptations of them.  As a reader/movie & television watcher I have yet to come across a fairy tale adaptation concept that I was completely unwilling to try.   Of course there are ones that end up working better than others and some that could have worked and didn’t for various reasons. But I’ve never heard a fairy tale adaptation idea and thought “Nope, no way.”  My usual response is more along the lines of “Say what now? Veeerrry interrrreeesting…tell me more.”

Why? Because fairy tales are infinitely adaptable.  The themes and characters are often a part of our broader culture consciousness—and not just because we all watched Disney movies as kids, but because these stories have been told over and over in so many ways for centuries and they tap into how humans think and feel.

Because Awake-aFairytale-eBookCoverI love fairy tales so much and was fed a steady diet of them as a kid, my writing naturally tends toward fairy tale adaptations.  In my first novel Awake: A Fairytale, I set Sleeping Beauty in modern day Los Angeles. My next book, Atone: A Fairytale centers around characters from Awake and is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast.  I’ve also written a collection of short stories that are different takes on popular tales.

As I’ve spent times with these stories, looking to adapt and/or “modernize” (or really, “post-modernize”) them, the first question is always: what is the essence of the story?  In the case of Sleeping Beauty is it just the idea of a “long sleep” that makes it recognizable?  Sometimes what we culturally accept as the most important parts of the story might not even be in the oldest versions of the tale—like a kiss of true love breaking the curse.  These elements act as sign posts for the audience and I’ve found that as an audience member I’m more than willing to travel down new paths as long as I’m given these guides.  In Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, for example, we are given a lot of the traditional elements of Cinderella: step-sisters and a step-mother, a fancy dress ball, even a more *wink wink* element like an orange car to serve as a pumpkin. Even though the setting is new we feel like we are oriented within a story we know.

I cannot stress enough how important I think these sign posts are.  Of course, every author and every reader will place a different value on elements of the story.  In my case, it wasn’t just the long sleep that was important to me in retelling Sleeping Beauty.  I wanted the sleep to be magical in nature and I wanted the curse to have originated from jealousy.  I also thought the true love and kiss elements, though not really a part of the oldest versions of the story, have become a part of the audience’s understanding of the tale and could be played with in fun ways.

So once you’ve got your basic elements, what are some fun ways to modernize / re-imagine fairy tales? Here are my top three!

Cinder*Disclaimer* Obviously there are more than three ways, and all of these can be used in conjunction with each other in new and creative retellings.  This is not necessarily a “create a kick butt fairy tale adaptation in three easy steps” list, but it’s a good place to start!

The setting.  I honestly do not believe there is a setting that you couldn’t use.  Of course it depends on the tale and what you want to highlight in it.  I mentioned earlier Marissa Meyer’s Cinder which is set in a dystopian almost Firefly-esque world.  I’ve set The Frog Prince in Regency England, Sleeping Beauty in modern day L.A., Snow White and Rose Red in the mountains of Montana during the gold rush…what’s important is that the setting works for your retelling and that whatever your setting you stick with the elements you believe embody that tale.

Role or plot reversals.
Maybe the bad guy is the good guy. The children’s picture book, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf is still one of my favorite examples of this.

Maybe it’s the princess riding in on a white horse and saving the day.  I’m a huge fan of gender role reversal.  Fan doesn’t even cover it, I’m a total sucker for it.

Maybe a main point in the traditional plot is turned on its head or exploited for fun. In Awake I chose to focus on the spell being broken by true love—when Sleeping Beauty was kissed by a guy that wasn’t her true love she woke up—but the curse transferred to him.  (Two-for-one special on gender role and plot reversal!)

OUATMash-ups or mixing of character roles/plots.  Once Upon a Time is, of course, a great example of this. Even within a show that is one big mash-up the Rumplestiltskin and Belle relationship is a frankly genius example of two tales being mixed in a way that changes how you look at both stories.

While all of these are fun ways to play on the audience’s conception of a traditional fairy tale, with any story the most important aspect is the characters and their story.  It doesn’t matter if the setting is interesting and the concept is clever if we don’t care about the characters.  While writing Awake I realized the fairy tale elements had to support the modern love story between Alexandra and Luke.  The same is true for the second in the series, Atone.  Yes, it’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but more importantly it’s about the relationship between Becca and Nicholas.  Even the most interesting re-imagining can fall flat if we can’t connect with the characters.

While there’s no magic formula for re-writing a fairy tale, both readers and authors have devices we like best.  I’ve already admitted to being a huge fan of gender role reversal.  What do you like to see in your fairy tale re-imaginings?

Celebrate Easter with Down the Rabbit Hole

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 10.57.14 PMDown the Rabbit Hole is an Alice in Wonderland & fairy tale mash up from my short story collection Views from the Tower.  The original inspiration for Down the Rabbit Hole came when I imagined how frightening it would be to meet one of those oversized Easter bunnies  – the kind you get your picture with at the mall – in a dark alley.  I’ve never quite understood the appeal of the mall Easter bunny – it’s like I pay $24.95 to scar my children for life and all I get in return is an 8×10 of them screaming their brains out on the lap of a dude in a creeptastic suit.  There have to be better ways to celebrate the holiday, right?

One way to make it all better is to put a really handsome guy in the suit and throw in a female lead with a gun.  In fact, the hot guy meets female lead with a weapon makes everything better #writingtipsbyme.  So here for your Easter reading pleasure…

Down the Rabbit Hole

I knew better than to go following a white rabbit down a rabbit hole. I mean, first rule of Fairy Tale Investigations, right?

And yet here I was trailing a large white rabbit through a maze of winding, dark alleyways.

In my defense, it wasn’t a real white rabbit.  It was a guy in a bunny costume, complete with floppy ears and silly grin.  The kind of bunny that overzealous parents stuck frightened children on the laps of for pictures once a year.  In other words, creepy as hell. Cause what isn’t creepy about a six-foot-three-inch bunny with a bow tie?  Nothing, that’s what.
The bunny picked up his pace, so I increased mine. He hadn’t given any indication he’d noticed he was being followed and I’d thought I’d been pretty discreet. There were a lot less people here than there had been in the alleys right off the main street though, so it was getting harder and harder to remain inconspicuous.

The oversized rabbit ducked around a corner and after pausing a moment to pull my gun out of its holster, I followed.
I came face to face with a giant, toothy grin. So much for remaining inconspicuous.

“Why are you following me, lady?” The voice was gruff; I’m pretty sure he was disguising it.

I leveled my gun at one of the costume’s buck teeth. “Special Agent Harrison. I need you to take off the bunny head. Slowly. Keep your hands where I can see them.”

The bunny slowly reached up and removed its head. The man inside the suit was stunningly attractive. Black hair, sea-colored eyes, ridiculously square jaw. But then, I’d expected that.

“Can I see some identification?” he asked, tucking the bunny head under his arm. I was right, the voice had been a fake. His real voice could have melted butter on a subzero day.

I kept my gun trained on him with one hand and reached into my back pocket with the other. Flipping open the little black wallet, I flashed him my badge and i.d. He glanced at it. I didn’t appreciate how unimpressed he looked.
“Your name is Alice?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Special Agent Harrison,” I corrected as I stuck the badge wallet back into my pocket.

“Special Agent Alice Harrison. And here you are following a white rabbit. Alice, I’m not going to lie to you: I’m concerned for your career advancement. Irony aside, it’s just not the best general life choice. You never know where you’ll end up.”

“Technically, I wasn’t following a rabbit. I was following you. And you’re just a Charming in a rabbit suit.”
“Oh, I’m never ‘just’ anything.” He gave me a lazy grin and a wink. Was this guy flirting with me? While I had a gun pointed at him? I felt my blood pressure notch up in irritation.

“Yeah, actually, you’re ‘just’ under arrest.”

He didn’t even look flustered as he leaned against the nearest wall, casually crossing his ankles. “What for?”

“You are Erick Phillips, current Charming of the “100 Years Sleep” tale?”

“Yup, that’s me. Though really, Alice, “Charming” is such a politically incorrect term. As if all that matters about me are my good looks and wonderful personality.”

“Special Agent Harrison,” I reminded him. From where I was standing, and honestly, my gun arm was getting tired so this could have just been the annoyance talking, his personality didn’t look so wonderful. My bias could have also been due to the arrest warrant burning a hole in my pocket. “Erick Phillips you are under arrest for world jumping without a permit, purposeful tale deviation, and failure to pay all fees and tariffs associated with said world jumping.”

Phillips smirked at me. “How like the Office of Narrative Order to be so concerned with money.”

“The last charge actually carries the longest minimum sentence.” I shrugged as I unhooked the handcuffs from my belt. “Don’t do the crime if you can’t pay the fine.”

“Oh, that’s cute. Do they hand out mugs with that clever little saying on them at the O.N.O?”

“I’m pretty sure they’d prefer you didn’t do the crime in the first place. Turn around and place your hands on your head.”

“How would they pay your salary then, Alice, if everyone followed all of the rules all of the time?” The dimples almost made his smile look sincere. Almost.

“Mr. Phillips, please turn around and place your hands on your head,” I repeated. He continued to lean against the alley wall, nonchalantly, as if I was discussing the weather rather than putting him under arrest.

“You can’t seriously think you’re going to actually be arresting me today?” He raised that same eyebrow at me again. I gritted my teeth. That was the problem with Charmings, they always expected to get their own way. They never followed orders.

“Mr. Phillips, your arrest isn’t up for discussion. Seeing as I have you at the end of a gun, it would behoove you to comply.”

“You’re not going to shoot me.”

“Turn around and put your hands on your head.”

“Can you just imagine all of the time and expense of having to replace a Charming? In one of the main fifteen too. It’s a pretty important tale. I’m not bragging or anything; it’s not like I asked for the job, but I can’t imagine the O.N.O. wants a dead Charming on their hands. The paperwork alone could take years. What if my L.L. wakes up before my replacement is ready? What happens to my tale then?”

I felt the beginnings of a stress headache starting behind my eyes. He wasn’t wrong, just the thought of the paperwork made me queasy. I would be on desk duty filling out those forms for the next eight months at least.

“Don’t you even use your Leading Lady’s name? What kind of a Charming are you?” I’m not sure why the question popped out; maybe I was just so surprised at his casual mention of the woman who was supposed to be his true love. I really should just shoot him, preferably somewhere non-vital. A leg wound wouldn’t put him out of his tale that long, and more importantly, would require a lot less paperwork on my end. I let my gun drift in the direction of his leg.

“She’s been asleep for almost a hundred years. I’ve never even met her. Sure, we’re scheduled to meet and fall in love, but meanwhile real life is happening.” He shrugged his shoulders casually. Even though they were covered by the dreadful bunny costume, I could tell they were broader than regulation for Charmings. I’m sure this guy had no problems with women. The thought of it made me strangely angry. It’s not like his poor Leading Lady was taking an extended nap because she wanted to. If he was going to complain about not having asked to be a Charming, then surely his L.L. had just as much right to complain.

“And ‘real life’ just happens to include breaking several very important laws?” I asked sarcastically. I was now aiming my gun directly at his knee. A blown out knee cap would be satisfyingly painful, but it wouldn’t kill him. It might even serve the double purpose of making him stay put in his own story for awhile.

“When you’re fighting a battle for freedom against a corrupt and oppressive regime sometimes laws get broken. And don’t think I haven’t noticed where you’re aiming.”

I was so surprised by his statement that I almost dropped the gun. “The O.N.O. aren’t oppressors!”

Phillips took advantage of my momentary lapse. He darted forward, dropping the bunny head, and wrested my gun from my hand. Fear flooded through me. I was wearing a vest, but he was smart enough to know that and shoot me somewhere else.

“Don’t look so scared,” he laughed quietly as he opened the chamber. The bullets clinked together as they fell into the costume’s large paw. “You say they’re not oppressive because you work for them. You are them. Maybe if you spent a little time in a tale or two you’d have a different opinion.” He handed my now empty gun back with a flourish. “And now, my lady, I must away.” He took a few steps down the alley before turning back and piercing me with a sharp stare. “I could show you. Right now. You’ve got a look about you, like you don’t quite belong to them yet.”

I shook my head, mutely. Something flashed across his face, and I had the oddest sense that I’d disappointed him.
“Don’t follow the white rabbit, Alice.” He shot me a grin before placing the costume head firmly back on and running away.

I holstered my gun with shaking hands. I wasn’t sure how I was going to explain my missing bullets. But that was the least of my worries. I was more concerned with my sudden, inexplicable desire to go running after a criminal Charming in a bunny suit.

I turned and made my way slowly back out of the maze of alleyways. My vehicle was parked on the main road and it took a good ten minutes of walking to make my way back.

There was a small white box sitting on the hood of my vehicle. It had a tag attached to it, like a gift. I glared at it suspiciously for a moment before flipping the tag over.

– Special Agent Alice Harrison –

I glanced up and down the street, a chill running through me. I had the sudden, horrifying thought that I hadn’t been tailing Erick Phillips so much as he’d been letting me follow him.

I cautiously opened up the white box. Inside was a small glass bottle filled with a red liquid. It looked a bit like wine, but I knew better. There was a tag attached to the bottle as well; heavy cream colored paper tied to the bottle with a piece of twine.

For when you finally are ready to face the truth. I’m sure you know what to do.
-E.P.

My fist closed around the bottle, clutching it so hard that the ridges bit into my hand. I felt faint and a bit dizzy, like I’d stepped onto a carousel that was moving way too fast. I looked up and down the street again. No one.

I should have broken the bottle. Should have smashed it against the pavement and let it splinter into a million pieces; let that blood red liquid leak out all over the concrete and run away.

Instead I put it in my pocket, got into my vehicle and put the key in the ignition. I was tired and I wanted to go home, take a hot shower, and go to bed. There was no reason for me to go into the office again tonight. I had nothing to report.