Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy


'I am the Fairy Mab: to me 'tis given
The wonders of the human world to keep;
The secrets of the immeasurable past,
In the unfailing consciences of men,
Those stern, unflattering chroniclers . . .'

Excerpt from Queen Mab
By Percy Shelley

Queen Mab is, according to some, the wife of Oberon, king of the faeries. Those of you who have read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream will know, of course, that the more-famous Titania has that distinction. However, Mab, the queen of dreams, actually made her literary debut before Titania in Shakespeare's other masterpiece, Romeo and Juliette.

"O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you.
She is the fairies’ midwife, and she comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the fore-finger of an alderman,
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men's noses as they lie asleep;
Her wagon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs,
The cover of the wings of grasshoppers,
The traces of the smallest spider's web,
The collars of the moonshine's wat'ry beams,
Her whip of cricket's bone; the lash of film;
Her waggoner a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid:
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut
Made by the joiner squirrel or old grub,
Time out o’ mind the fairies’ coachmakers.

— Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene IV

Mab is, we learn through the course of Mercutio's speech,  a giver of dreams, specifically, dream-fulfillment. She drives her tiny chariot right into the noses of sleeping mortals and grants them visions of their dreams come true.

She is called the "fairy midwife" because it is she who "gives birth to dreams." But she is also a terrible creature, a fearful spirit of the night, who plagues lady's lips with blisters as they watch their dreams unfold. Is she good? Is she bad? Or does she simply give mortals what they desire?

After her literary debut in Romeo and Juliette, Mab went on to feature in several prominent works, mostly poetry. One of the most famous is Percy Shelly's epic poem Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem; With Notes. In this story, Mab detaches the spirit of the sleeping maid, Ianthe, from her body.

On a fabulous (and, according to the title, philosophical) journey, Mab gives Ianthe a tour of her palace on the edge of the universe.

Mab gives Ianthe visions of the past, the present, and the future, telling her that Death is not to be feared, and the perfectibility is possible.

Meanwhile, while Ianthe sleeps, Henry waits to kiss her, and never does.

Mab is a fascinating and terrifying character to me. Not to mention inspiring! Readers of my stories will recognize many familiar themes carrying over from the legends of Mab--the fulfillment of dreams, the pleading of Death's cause, the seductive lure of promised perfections.

Mab has found her way into pop culture. I first encountered in the 1998 TV movie Merlin (not my favorite), where she is portrayed as a sociopathic nature goddess.

Complete with heavy eyeliner.

She has found a more glorified reference in Charles Gounod's opera, Romeo and Juliette, in this charming little number.

She is quite a busy little fairy, despite her diminutive size! It would take me far too long to recount all her appearances through fiction. Instead, let me leave you now with this:

Hence Oberon him sport to make,
Their rest when weary mortals take,
And none but only fairies wake,
Descendeth for his pleasure ;
And Mab, his merry Queen, by night
Bestrides young folks that lie upright
(In elder times, the mare that hight),
Which plagues them out of measure.
Michael Drayton's "Nymphidia" (1627)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Advice on Manuscript Editing

I know that many of my readers out there are aspiring authors (and some of you are even published!), so I thought perhaps I would bestow upon you some of my sage wisdom and vast exerience with the difficult business of Manuscript Editing.

First of all, I highly recommend kittens.

The more the better, actually.

Slightly crazed with claws out is good. Keeps you awake.

It's okay if half of them snooze while the other half
writhe in cuteness. Means they can work in shifts.

Don't worry if a couple of them squash the others.
They'll wriggle around until everyone has been
evenly squashed.

And always, always listen to their advice.

There you go, my writer friends! Kittens. You can never have too many when it comes to creative endeavors.

Oh, one more thing: Polk-a-dot pajamas . . . they are a must.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Last Reminder!

I hate to sound like a broken record, but thought I'd give you one last reminder that the deadline for the fan art contest is this Tuesday, April 24th. Be sure you have all your submissions to me by that evening!

I sure am enjoying the opportunity to get glimpses of your imaginations at work. Looking forward to sharing all the lovely pieces of art!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy


What would a series on fairies be without this most beloved of all children's book fairies? The brave, the jealous, the beautiful, the strange, the wild and marvelous Tinkerbell of James Barrie's PeterPan.

And yet, would you believe that (through the mouth of Peter Pan) James Barrie described this brilliant creation of his as "a common fairy"?

We know better, however, don't we? We have only to read James Barrie's beautiful words to know that he himself was quite mistaken about her. See here:

"There was another light in the room now, a thousand times brighter than the night-lights, and in the time we have taken to say this, it had been in all the drawers in the nursery, looking for Peter's shadow, rummaged the wardrobe and turned every pocket inside out. It was not really a light; it made this light by flashing about so quickly, but when it came to rest for a second you saw it was a fairy, no longer than your hand, but still growing. It was a girl called Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to embonpoint [hourglass figure]."

Perhaps to a mind as full of magic and mystery as was Mr. Barrie's, Tinkerbell might seem "common." But to my not-quite-so enchanted mind, I find her utterly delightful.

And perfectly petulant.

Her voice is a bell, thus earning her half of her name, and is understandable only to those who are gifted with the knowledge of fairy language. According to her creator, she is an actual tinker, a mender of pots and kettles . . . an odd occupation for a fairy, perhaps, but who are we to say what a fairy may or may not do?

Although very tiny (so tiny that, represented on stage she was no more than a flickering mirror light), Tinkerbell can be a bit of a frightening character. She is, according to Barrie, so small that she can only support one emotion at a time . . . therefore, when she is angry, she is ALL angry. Did she not convince the Lost Boys to shoot at Wendy with arrows?

But she is also very brave and very loyal. Did she not knowingly drink poison intended for Peter Pan?

She is, I think, a fabulous portrait of what fairies are supposed to be. They are other. They are different. They are not necessarily comprehensible to us because they aren't us. And this is what Tinkerbell embodies.

She is, of course, best known in her classic Disney representation:

She was, according to my reading, based off the Bathing Beauty ideal of the day, and is a lot more girly and humanized than, for instance, the 1924 silent film vision of her:

A little 1920's modish, here, but perhaps a bit more otherworldly than Disney.

As an icon, she has surpassed even Peter Pan himself with her Disney spin-off show . . . which I have not seen. It doesn't look particularly other, so much as mass-market, so not so much my taste, you understand.

 I might have loved it when I was littler, though!

And in live action movies, we have seen her in the 1991 film, Hook, played with elfin (if a little Hollywood-ized) impishness by Julia Roberts:

And we saw her again in the 2003 Peter Pan movie:

Very much reflecting the Disney bathing beauty interpretation of Tinkerbell here. Must admit, I would have liked to have seen her a little more otherworldly here. But modern audiences have the Disney vision pretty much ingrained in their heads by now. And, while I do love Disney (I'm not a Princess Movie Basher, by any means!), I can't help but wish people would realize there are other options for fairy tale interpretation sometimes . . .

Speaking of Tinkerbell in movies, did you know they are making a live-action film called Tinkerbell?

A far cry from the figure of strange, childlike mystery James Barrie conjured up for us from his imagination. But Tinkerbell remains, nevertheless, one of the most beloved literary fairies of all time!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Somewhere Between Shock and Dancing . . .

So guess what.

Veiled Rose is a finalist for the 2012 Christy Award!

"All right," you say, "the dancing then we get. But why the shock, Anne Elisabeth?"

Because this, my friends, was the book that should never have been written.

See what wonders God has done for this self-conscious/ snobby/insecure/foolish/thrilled little writer-person. It truly is amazing!

Congratulations to all the fabulous writers also nominated for this award. And love to all of you, my supportive readers and friends!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Art Contest Reminder

My dear friends, one more reminder that the deadline for the fan art contest is coming up, April 24th! Winner to be announced May 1st. Details here if you're interested in submitting work! I keep on receiving beautiful pieces from talented artists of all ages. Here's the most recent one:

Ameri - Age 15

Looking forward to sharing all of these beautiful pieces with you after the winner and second place winner are announced!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Your Weekly Fairy

And here, gentle readers, is the first of my newest series, in the spirit of the Tuesday's Dragon series that went over rather well last year. I write what I consider to be "new fairy tales" myself with the Goldstone Wood series, and my research for these stories often brings me in contact classic fairies of yore, creatures far more wonderful and more terrible than we can quite fathom.

And the first of these fairies I want to discuss is the most wonderful and most terrible of them all. Sprung from the imagination of William Shakespeare, I give you:


 The Tempest

This magical spirit was discovered by the magician Prospero imprisoned in a tree, a "cloven pine," where the dreadful witch, Sycorax (who is dead already at the time of this story), left him. Prospero, being a magician of great power, liberated Ariel, but bound the fairy to his service ever after, tantalizing him with half-promises of future freedom . . .

Ariel is a mysterious creature, an otherworldly sprite, but imbued with human characteristics that contrast with his fairy-nature, making him altogether more bizarre and more beautiful than the various sprites and spirits that had been hitherto depicted on stage in Elizabethan England. Ariel possesses extreme elemental powers, for it he who causes the "tempest" for which the play named, wracking a sailing vessel to the point of despair for all the mariners on board . . . and yet not harming a single one of them! He puts the sailors into a deep slumber, and separates the lords who travel aboard, leading one here, another there. He moves invisible to all save Prospero's eye, serving as his master's eyes and ears.

Faithful, loyal, true, and exact is the fairy-slave Ariel. But can he ever earn the liberty he so craves?

Well, I wouldn't want to give that part away!

Ariel is set up in stark contrast to Prospero's other magical slave, Caliban, the ill-formed son of the Sycorax. Both are Prospero's slaves, but while Ariel is a creature of air and light, Caliban is a creature of dust, not a fairy, though he was born in magic. Ariel is a true servant, and while he does not love his master, he is loyal to him. Caliban, by contrast, spends his days coming up with new curses to lay upon Prospero's head!

Fairies and sprites in Shakespeare's day were seen, from a religious perspective, to be either agents of the devil or argents of God, as portrayed in the dual roles of Caliban and Ariel. The name "Ariel" may even have stemmed from the Bible passage, Isaiah 29, where the name means "Lion of the Lord," though it might also be simply a variation on the word "aerial."

Traditionally, Ariel was considered male . . . if airy sprites have a gender! Shakespeare refers to him with the male pronoun twice in the play, but come the 1600s, women took over and played the role. This would cause an interesting gender-confusion that makes sense in the context of a genderless aerial being. Come more recent history, Ariel has been played by either men or women . . . or children for that matter! 

It would seem that Ariel is rather often blue . . .

Love those stilts! And all these fascinating ways of presenting Otherness on stage. Creating a sense of an entirely spiritual being such as Prospero's servant can's be easy!

In recent history, we have seen Ariel depicted in the Julie Taymore film adaptation of The Tempest.

The trailer includes some very fine images of Ariel . . . a little too much reliance on the CGI for my taste, but pretty enough. (You can't replace stage magic with computer magic, though. Sad fact, but true.)

So there you have the first of our otherworldly beings! Read The Tempest for yourselves, I do urge you. I just reread it last week and was dazzled by the magic and the mystery once more.

I boarded the king's ship; now on the beak,
Now in the waist, the deck, in every cabin,
I flamed amazement: sometime I'd divide,
And burn in many places; on the topmast,
The yards and bowsprit, would I flame distinctly,
Then meet and join. Jove's lightnings, the precursors
O' the dreadful thunder-claps, more momentary
And sight-outrunning were not; the fire and cracks
Of sulphurous roaring the most mighty Neptune
Seem to besiege and make his bold waves tremble,
Yea, his dread trident shake.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Z is for . . . Zebra?

Yeah. There's no Z in Veiled Rose either. So, feeling both Zany and Zealous about finishing off this A-Z with a Zam, I am going to tell you five things I learned about the noble Zebra! Just because.

1. Did you know there are three different species of zebra?

I didn't! But there are. First, there is the Plains Zebra. This cute little horse-like fellow can be found from southern Ethiopia to Angola! He is smaller than his two cousin zebra, is a little thicker, with short, stubby legs.

/The next is Grévy's Zebra. He's the biggest of the bunch, and also the largest living wild equid (horse-like animal). He's a little more donkey-like in appearance than his two cousins. His is dark-brown and white rather than black and white. 

The third is the Mountain Zebra. These fellows differ from their cousins in that they have un-striped bellies!

2. Did you know that, for all they look so similar, no two zebras are striped exactly alike? Look at these fellows, all Plains Zebra! They're like snowflakes. Except more horsey. And striped. Supposedly an individual zebra can recognize another zebra pal by his/her striping patterns.

3. Did you know that a zebra's base color is the black and it's the white that is the addition? I always assumed they were white with black stripes, but it turns out, they're black with white stripes! Who knew?

4. Did you know that a zebra herd is called a harem? These include a dominant zebra stallion and all his ladies. The mares have a hierarchy as well, with an alpha female who is the Boss Lady and who gets to breed with the stallion first. There can also be herds of "bachelor" zebras, between 2-15 in a group, led by one dominant young stallion before he's collected a harem. Grévy's Zebra is the only type not to keep a harem.

5. Did you know that many attempts have been made to tame zebras for riding?

They would be especially handy as riding animals since they are resistant to African diseases that regular horses suffer from. But zebras are not naturally inclined toward domestication, so most of these attempts have been failures (though the Romans used to use Grévy's Zebra for circuses!).

Zebroids have been bred, crosses between zebras and horses or donkeys. Isn't this one cute?

And, for all zebras aren't easily domesticated, Lord Rothschild was famous for driving a zebra-drawn carriage through London!

Now THAT'S some style.

So there you have it. Zebras, people. They're cool.

And I have now finished my A-Z blog serious (mostly) about Veiled Rose. It's been fun! Stay tuned for my upcoming Famous Fairies in Fiction series, coming soon to the Tales of Goldstone Wood blog!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Y is for YA Favorites

Wow, the very end of the alphabet is a tough one for things Goldstone Wood-related! Last time I had the Yellow-eyed Dragon to fall back on . . . but for Veiled Rose, there really isn't anything! So instead, allow me to take a moment to feature some of my all-time favorite YA novels. These are the novels that inspired me--both when I was a kid and, more recently, in college--to pursue writing YA fiction myself.

When I first started getting into reading fantasy (C.S. Lewis and Tolkien . . . no big surprise) I was under the mistaken belief that fantasy novels needed to either be written for children (like Lewis) or for adults (like Tolkien). Neither of these voices particularly fit my style or story-telling interests. I pushed a little bit more toward adult fantasy for a while there (an interesting attempt considering I was only in my teens) and did not find it satisfactory.

Then I reread this little gem. It was a book my mother had read out loud to me when I was little (we were still living in England, at the time, so I was younger than 10 at least), but I had mostly forgotten about it. I picked it up again in my mid-teens and found myself totally entranced.

Robin McKinley paints a vivid world for her heroine, the titular Beauty, to explore. I was thrilled both by the magic of the Beast's hidden realm and the grounded sense of reality found in Beauty's everyday life. Both the city in which she enjoyed luxury (and access to all the books she could want) and the humble cottage where she learned to plow and plant and keep animals were so real, so earthy, that when we finally come (rather late in the story) to the magical elements revolving around the Beast, they are so starkly contrasted to the everyday that they become ENORMOUSLY magical.

I learned an important lesson from reading Beauty. If you want your Faerie world to have impact, you have to ground the story in your real world. Tolkien did it . . . look at his Hobbiton compared to his Lothlórien. Lewis did it . . . look at his WWII England compared to Narnia. But it wasn't until I saw Robin McKinley do it in the context of her YA debut that I understood the importance of this trick.

I also just love the story!

Not long after that I encountered Diana Wynne Jones's Howl's Moving Castle for the first time. Now I have to say, I did not appreciate it then the way I should. In fact, Diana Wynne Jones (who is now one of my all-time favorites) failed to impress me at all in high school. Again, despite the enjoyment I found in Beauty, I was still stuck with the mistaken notion that all fantasy should be like Tolkien's. I started Howl, did not get it, and put it aside for a few years.

Then I found it again in college and devoured it in a day (studies be dragon-eaten!).

What I love most about this story is the completely unexpected quality of its heroes. The main character spends the bulk of the story trapped in the body of a ninety-year-old woman. The hero is a total coward who does everything he can to shirk his responsibilities and has to trick himself into acting even remotely heroic (when he's not too preoccupied before his mirror, making himself beautiful). Absolutely not your typical dashing hero and daring heroine! Absolutely nothing predictable about either of them!

So I learned the important lesson of the unexpected protagonists. Thank you, Diana Wynne Jones! I love you and your work more than I can say.

In contrast to Howl, when I first read Gail Carson Levine's The Two Princesses of Bamarre, I was totally and inescapably entranced. In more recent readings I haven't found myself quite as captivated as I was then . . . but I don't mean that as I slight on the story itself. When I first found that book, I was exactly the target audience Ms. Levine was aiming and I adored it. I'm no longer the target audience so, while I still appreciate the story, I'm simply not so in love with it as I once was.

But I have to say, at the time, I totally bonded with the character of Princess Addie. She was just about exactly my age, and just about exactly . . . well, me! She looked like me, she thought like me, she was shy like me with a desire to hide like me. She was convinced that her much bolder and more adventurous sister would always overshadow her and, though she loved that sister very dearly, also felt a little insecure about it.

And when Addie was suddenly thrust into the heroic and adventurous role, I felt as though it was me suddenly made to stand forth and take my place as the active and contributing heroine of my own story!

Yeah, I loved it. Totally lived it. And I learned then the importance of writing characters that were each of them a piece of me . . . because if they're a piece of me, that means they'll likely be a piece of my readers as well. And when you can feel that bond with a character, how could you even think about putting a book down?

The last one on my list is a book I did not encounter until the summer after my freshman year of college. Now, my freshman year had been spent in some pretty intense English literature studies, and I had read novels such as Moby Dick, The Marble Faun, Wuthering Heights, and six or seven Shakespeare plays in very short periods of time. While I truly loved (almost) every minute of my literature degree, by the time summer rolled around, I was ready for some fun YA reading once more.

So, at my friend Elizabeth's suggestion, I picked up The Thief, by Megan Whalen Turner. I liked it. I even liked it a lot. Not a favorite right off the bat, but definitely a good read. So I decided to pick up the second book in the series, The Queen of Attolia.

And my world changed!

Okay, maybe it wasn't that drastic. But I have to tell you, once you've read Turner's Attolia, you'll be at a loss to find any books to which you might compare it. It is so beautifully unique and yet so completely full of everything a reader could want in a YA fantasy adventure. Set during a raging war among the brilliantly depicted kingdoms of Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia, it details the adventures of Gen, the Queen's Thief, and another unexpected hero if there ever was one.

The world comes even more vividly alive with an entire pantheon of gods . . . which, yes, may seem very "pagan" at first glance. But Turner uses her gods to deal with interesting and profound questions of the Divine and its relationship with humanity. Pantheon aside, so much of her theology I found more profound and more true than many "Christian" fantasies that spend so much time beating overt "Christian-ese" ideas over readers' heads that the truth of the Divine is lost.

The Queen of Attolia is a gut-wrenching story with characters beautifully well-drawn. And much of that drawing depends on her willingness to deal with spiritual themes that many writers of fantasy skirt around or ignore entirely, leaving their invented worlds two-dimensional at best.

Yes, this series, The Queen's Thief Series, which I have mentioned many times on this blog, might just be my favorite YA fiction ever.

So there you have my primary reasons for pursuing and writing YA fantasies!

What about you? Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite YA stories? Any recommendations for me?