Cover Reveal: Of Legend and Lore

Today I’m excited to be revealing the cover for the Just-Us League’s latest anthology, Of Legend and Lore. The cover has been beautifully designed by Louis Rakovich, cover designer at Indigo Forest Designs. This reveal is particularly exciting because this anthology of fairy tale retellings will include one of my short stories!

So without further ado, here it is…

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New life is given to eleven old stories in this second collection of irresistible fairy tale retellings.

Royalty faces magical challenges: a prince uses his powers on a rescue mission and reveals a terrible secret about his people; a king takes drastic measures to save his daughters from a troublesome curse; and a princess befriends an unusual frog.

Mythical creatures can be friend or foe: three brothers face a depressed dragon with a legendary treasure; an ancient crow brings a child’s wishes to life; and one young girl discovers dragons aren’t always the enemy.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes: a miser is in danger of losing everything one cold night; a struggling mirrorsmith meets an invisible recluse; a boy must relive the fairytale based on his ancestor’s life; a child is rejected because of his love of drawing cats; and an evil witch is sealed in a glass coffin.

Be transported to new worlds and enjoy fresh twists on old favorites.

My short story, Cursed Glass, retells a lesser known Grimm tale and explores inner conflict and redemption.

Each story is accompanied by an image drawn by our illustrator, Heidi Hayden. Of Legend and Lore will be released by Rowanwood Publishing on 26th February 2018 – Tell a Fairy Tale Day!

Find out more about the Just-Us League here. We’re an international group of writers with a shared love of storytelling. This is the fourth anthology published by the group.

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Book Review: The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier

36562225The Princess Companion by Melanie Cellier

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Fairy Tale Retelling

Publishing Info: 2016 by Luminant Publications (ebook)

Pages: 334

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

One dark and stormy night, lost and alone, Alyssa finds herself knocking on the door of a castle.

After a lifetime spent in the deep forest, Alyssa has no idea what to expect on the other side.

What she finds is two unruly young princesses and one very handsome prince. When Alyssa accepts the job of Princess Companion she knows her life will change. What she doesn’t know is that the royal family is about to be swept up in unexpected danger and intrigue and that she just might be the only thing standing between her kingdom and destruction.

This retelling of the classic fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, reimagines the risks and rewards that come when one royal family goes searching for a true princess.

Danger and romance await a woodcutter’s daughter in a royal palace.

I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to like this book. I thought it was probably just the sort of thing I’d be drawn to but inevitably be disappointed by. Therefore, I was very pleased that I enjoyed this read. The book is a retelling of The Princess and the Pea, and I liked that it drew elements of inspiration from that story but didn’t rely heavily on it. Cellier took the concept of the fairy tale and made her own story with it.

At first I wasn’t sure about the story, it did take me a few chapters to get into it. Alyssa’s character was one of the best parts. I found her very likeable and enjoyed reading her narrative. The royal family were all great characters too. Though I found the prince’s strange turns of mood towards Alyssa a little confusing. I guess he was perhaps going through some internal conflict over his feelings towards her since she is only a woodcutter’s daughter, but that didn’t come through as well as it could have. There were a lot of side characters, who were mostly well crafted and likeable. I felt Alyssa’s aunt and cousin, Harrison, were a bit neglected in the last third of the novel.

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Author Interview: Kelsie Engen

Today I bring you an interview with author Kelsie Engen, whose story The Bear in the Forest will be published in From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairy Tale Retellings by members of the Just-Us League writing group.

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Kelsie Engen grew up in North Pole, Alaska, where the winters are harsh but beautiful. Those winters may or may not have inspired those in Canens and “The Bear in the Woods.” She can be found at kelsieengen.com, and Instagram @kelsiengen, or hunched over her laptop working on her current fairy tale inspired by the other “Snow White.”

 

What can you tell us about your retelling and what inspired it?

You know, funny story about that. A group of us writers had agreed to rewrite some fairy tales for an anthology, and I had narrowed my choices down to two stories. I’d been on a fairy tale kick anyway, recently having polished off Grimm’s fairy tales, a few of Andersen’s, and then some others as well. In late 2015, I had started writing a series inspired by a trio of some of the most popular fairy tales, a series I’m still polishing up. But for this anthology, I wanted something a little lesser known.

So I’d narrowed it down to two stories: The Psyche, and Snow White & Rose Red. I had seen someone already mentioned Snow White & Rose Red, so I swear when I put in my choice, I had chosen The Psyche, which I was getting really excited about writing. As I was gearing up to rewrite that, I decided to double check the list and found I had written down Snow White & Rose Red!

I kind of had to change tracks after that, and as the two stories are vastly different, one with a happy ending, the other without, I actually had a tough time getting started. But overall, this story perhaps stretched me more and I’m happy I stuck with the “surprise”!

Well that worked out well! What aspects of writing it did you find challenging?

I think the biggest complaint about Snow White & Rose Red–and one of the problems I’ve always had with it–is how convenient the ending is. I mean, endings are difficult enough, but fairy tales tend to either really nail it or really flop. And SW&RR is frustrating on a few levels, which I think is why it’s been a less popular version of Snow White. So I felt challenged in making the ending work while also being true to the original tale. All too often fairy tales seem to offer limited types of cardboard cutout characters in order to expound upon the moral that the authors wanted to teach, and to make matters worse, they just add a last minute ending that hasn’t been properly developed or foreshadowed. So for me with this particular tale, the ending always felt way too convenient, and I had to really work to figure one out that made more sense and kept the story true to itself.

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So do you like happily ever after endings? Or do you think more complex or bitter sweet endings are more interesting? Even though that might not please all readers.

I don’t know that an ending will ever please all readers. Readers are such a diverse group, it’s impossible to make everyone happy at once, no matter how good a writer you are or how happy your ending. But very rarely do I write a plain, old fashioned, happily ever after ending. While I do sometimes read them, and they have a place in every reader’s life at some point, I much prefer the complexity of a more realistic resolution. In life we don’t get happily every after endings, which I’m sure is why some people love them, as they are a sort of ideal that we all wish for at some point in our lives. But mostly, I find them too simplistic and unsatisfying when I read–or write–them. I like endings that turn expectations on their heads a little bit, and so I try to write stories that may be dark at times, but offer hope out of that darkness. I fully believe that a good ending to a story is more complex than good winning over evil, or the guy getting the girl. We always have to sacrifice and compromise, and we either find happiness in that compromise, or else we start off on a new journey to find that happiness again.

The Bear in the Woods, however (my version of Snow White & Rose Red), is quite traditional and true to the story, so it was a fun challenge to write a different sort of ending, where nearly everyone got what they wanted! I can’t say it will start a new trend with me, but it was actually a challenge for me to write an ending that resonated with the story and within me. In the end, while I rewrote my ending several times, it was a fun process to figure out how this version of “happiness” worked out.

What is your writing process and do you have any writing habits or quirks?

These days, my process is to wake around 4:30 a.m., feed the cats and dog, make myself a pot of coffee, and start writing until my son gets up at 6:30. I can usually push out a thousand or so words that way–more if I’m focused–or get a significant amount of editing done without distraction. Other than that, I’m working nap times and after my husband comes home, or while the two-year-old plays. I’m lucky that I don’t work outside the home, so I get to spend my day with my son and fit in writing where I can. I like to set goals and keep lists of tasks so I know where I’m at in a project. I try to be quite organized, setting personal deadlines and whatnot for myself. I feel quite guilty if I’m not writing or editing on something every day. Writer’s guilt, I guess.

As for writing quirks, I don’t think of myself as particularly quirky. But I do like to try out different writing software. I currently own Ulysses, Scrivener, and Storyist, and some weeks I’m working in all three programs! I find that different projects work best in different programs. But my go-to program is definitely Scrivener. It’s most versatile and can do everything. Other than that, just give me coffee and my computer, and you’ll find me typing away on one project or another.

When did you first start writing?        

I started writing in 5th grade. I remember because we were given a short story assignment for class and of course mine turned into some epic piece. But ever since then, I was always scribbling stories underneath my notes during class. I was one of those students!
Vox audita perit, litera scripta manet.

How have you found the collaborative process of creating an anthology as a group?

Overall it’s been a great process. Being able to get feedback from a group of writers all working on similar projects, all with the mindset of improving each other’s work as well as their own is a special place to be. Writing is challenging no matter how you go about it, but sometimes it’s really nice to have that encouragement from a group of writers when you’re feeling discouraged by your work or when you don’t know how else to improve it. And the writers in this anthology are all talented and creative individuals that went out of their way to help one another make this project amazing. Even though it was a challenge, and there were times I contemplated backing out for some personal reasons, working in a group like this was extra special.

What are you working on outside of the anthology?

I’m currently working on a fairy tale series inspired by the other Snow White. In my story, she is sold into slavery by her evil stepmother the Queen, and brought to a Manor where she is trained alongside other slaves in many jobs. After several failed attempts at escape, her master decides to teach her a lesson she won’t forget.

Quick fire questions!

Favourite genre to read: Ugh… too many to pick from! Lately I’ve really gotten into YA fantasy and fairy tale retellings (understandably). But my personal, go-to favorite is literary fiction.

Favourite genre to write: is fairy tale–is that a genre? No? Okay, fairy tales for adults! Fantasy?

Favourite writing spot: is the living room chair by the fire. Preferably with the fire lit! With a cup of coffee.

Favourite reading spot: Same chair, fire lit.

Favourite book: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Favourite film: The Odd Couple.

Favourite character: I actually LOVE Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series. Kindred spirit.

Writing or editing: Can I say both? I spend more time editing, and I’ve learned to love it, but I also love putting new words to the page… It’s a tie. Can’t choose. I love it all.

Thank you, Kelsie for answering my questions!

And here is the georgous cover!

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Check out The Bear in the Forest and all the other retellings in From the Stories of Old, due out on 7th December.

 

Cover Reveal! From the Stories of Old

Today I’m revealing the cover for From the Stories of Old: A Collection of Fairytale Retellings. The book is an anthology of stories by members of the Just Us League writing group.

In this international collection, new life is given to fairy tales, both classic and obscure.

Mythical creatures put the fairy in Fairy Tale. Mermaids, selkies, and ocean guardians experience the best and worst of humanity; sisters encounter an unusually friendly bear; a brave bride meets a silly goose; and a spinner of gold sets the record straight.

Urban fantasies modernize classics: a Frenchman learns the truth about magic, his past, and his girlfriend; a girl sets out to find love but receives a curse; and today’s naughty list makes Old Saint Nick not-so-jolly.

New worlds bring a fresh sense of wonder! In the future, a young woman fights for her people and herself; a bastard son finds acceptance in a world ruled by women; and a farmer’s wits win the heart of a frosty king.

Discover unexpected twists on old favorites, and fall in love with new tales and worlds to explore!

The beautiful cover is designed by Louis Rakovich of Indigo Forest Designs.

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On Sunday I’ll be posting an interview with one of the authors – Kelsie Engen.

The book is available on 7th December 2016 in paperback and on Kindle!