Sunday, 21 October 2012

Cover Reveal - Mesmer, Book #3: The Amarinth Heir

Yes, it's finally time for me to reveal the cover for the final book in the Mesmer Trilogy! And here it is, my lovely cover for Mesmer, Book #3: The Amarinth Heir! I hope you guys love it as much as I do:)

Coming soon in Spring 2013*, Mesmer, Book #3: The Amarinth Heir

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage. But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

When Lea's presence in Verlaine leads to the unexpected discovery of a secret hidden long ago by an ancient enemy, a secret that has the power to alter the fabric of Lea's and Gabriel's very different worlds forever, the Lorien spy must make a choice between protecting the kingdom she never believed she could betray, and saving the world – and mage – she never imagined she could come to love.
*updated from initial scheduled release date of November/December 2012 - Apologies, folks, but the initial date proved a bit too ambitious for me. As a further update to those who are waiting, all I can say is, when Book 3 does come out, you'll absolutely love it! Cheers to everyone, and may the year come to a close with much joy and happiness to us all (Mayan prophecies regardless)!:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Funny Guest Post on Mira's Corner!

Hi folks,

First off, apologies for my silence as of late. I've been bogged down with lots of unexpected stuff. Fortunately, at least one of the things I've been occupied with has been my first guest blog post!:) If you're in the mood for some dry humour, do drop by the delightful Mira's Corner to check out my guest post, An Interview With Humour:) It was a pleasure to write, and I am so excited to see it up! What a good way to end September and ring in October:) I love any piece of writing that tickles the old funny bone; all fingers are crossed that An Interview With Humour will tickle yours:) Cheers, folks, and have a great week ahead!:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Saturday, 11 August 2012

'Little Talks' by folk indie band Of Monsters and Men

Sigh.... I've officially fallen in love with a music video:)

Now, I'll admit I'm a bit fickle when it comes to music videos, easily falling in and out of love with them as it were—but this one is a keeper! I came to 'Little Talks' a bit late in time. From what I understand, the video actually debuted on Youtube in February 2012. Yes, it's August. Yes, I've missed out on this gorgeous creature for *counting* five months now! Bloody hell, where have I been?? Well, thank goodness I finally got to see it:)

Beautiful, creative, artistic and full of rich imagery and mythological references, the video for 'Little Talks' features a fey/witch/otherworldly personage who helps five humans as they trek through a harsh landscape, coming upon fearsome creatures along the way... The video is animated for the most part, stylistically gothic I thought, and definitely fantastical throughout. The song's beat/rhythm is infectious (folk music, I think);  somehow the dark tone to the video and lyrics does not in any way reduce its infectiousness. It's a smart blend of elements that creates just the right mix of hope and tragedy in a listener/viewer. Let's just say that I was left with a feeling of completeness at the end of this poignant tale:)

Right, I'll refrain from analysing it any further, simply because I think this kind of a visual delicacy should not be theorised to death, hmmm?:) Oooh, I love this video so much. And I love the song too, of course!:D

Do check out 'Little Talks' below, and get the single/album ('My Head Is An Animal') if you haven't already! By the Icelandic band, Of Monsters and Men, here is *drumroll*... 'Little Talks'!

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

'Mesmer, Book 2: Favoured' is out now on Kindle and Smashwords!:)

Yay, Book 2 in the Mesmer Trilogy is finally out on Kindle and Smashwords! For those who've been waiting, my apologies for taking a bit longer than I'd expected to get 'Favoured' out there. I hope you enjoy reading the continuation to Lea's adventures in the magical realm of Verlaine!:)


(A Three Towers Fantasy)

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest.
A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage.
But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out...

As Lea races to outsmart Gabriel Amarinth and escape his magical kingdom, her stubborn loyalty to her home realm begins to waver. To her dismay, she finds herself turning fascinated by her charmed sanctuary – and its magi master. But when strange accidents and deadly disasters stalk Lea through the halls of Gabriel's castle, it’s obvious that someone in Verlaine isn't happy with her change of heart.

Get Mesmer, Book 2: Favoured on Kindle US, Kindle UK, Kobo or Smashwords now!

Note: The ebook should get onto other online retailers very soon. I'll keep you guys posted. Cheers:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

A reading of the music video for 'Princess of China' (by Coldplay feat Rihanna)

'Princess of China' by Coldplay (feat Rihanna) . . . is a really beautifully constructed song! The lyrics are pretty straightforward I thought (seem to be about a couple's break-up) and the vocals are pretty sublime. The music video, however, did raise some questions, made the song way more fascinating than it was initially . . . so I thought I'd do a short reading of it for you guys. Be warned, I'll be deploying some poetic license and perhaps cherry-picking symbology along the way:)

First off, the title 'Princess of China'. Obviously, a strange reference to the Orient—strange because, well . . . this reference doesn't appear in the song at all afterwards. Also, what on earth would either the Orient or a princess of China (whose monarchy has long left us) have to do with a couple's break-up? Hmmmm *crickets*... exactly.

So, moving beyond couples, the next point is: 'china' as in 'fragile', 'delicate' etc. This makes more sense. Princesses in narrative/myth have historically been rather fragile souls who need to be rescued by princes/kings all the time. All right, so gender issues are brought right into the middle of things; and that's going to be my first reading.

First reading

Gender roles

Male and female voices in the song obviously portray a split between the two. Previously 'on the same side', the male later overpowers the female, as represented through the sword fight, and renders her powerless save for sexual attributes; Rihanna goes from being a white-garbed (read: sexually pure) warrior to a somewhat red-garbed (read: sexually active) dancer who is left performing for him while he sits on a throne.

Summary: the video/song is about the fragile princess (woman) becoming fragile due to being overpowered by the king (man), thus limiting her to a sensual role in the king's court, instead of them both being able to co-exist as equal partners physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Second reading

My second reading is perhaps in fact reading too much into the video/song, but hey, it got me thinking, all right:) Now, remember when I mentioned 'China' in the title as referring to the Orient, and wondering what on earth a reference to Asia has got to do with a couple breaking up? Well, maybe it's not about a couple as we think of it:

When East Meets West

One thing which made me a bit perplexed in the video was that, yes, the song is titled "Princess of China", but the symbology isn't really about China per se. You get some Japanese ninja action, some Chinese flying-wire kung fu scenes, and what looks either like the many-handed Indian goddess Durga (who of course manifests as among others, Kali) or traditional Thai dancers (in dances such as 'Manohra').

In other words, perhaps 'China' here signifies Eastern tradition.

In this context, the 'princess' of China could represent the nature of that tradition as feminised (the ninja Chris Martin's character defeats is a woman, and of course so are Rihanna's various characters) as opposed to a 'masculine' West (symbolised by Martin's character).

Further, the video seems to portray this feminine Eastern tradition as having been 'subjugated' by a masculine West (see the way Martin's clothes change from Western to Eastern throughout the video, but only once he enters 'China' from 'outside'; he enters without being stopped/questioned by its male guard; he knocks out the defensive component of the place (as represented by the female ninja), and apparently defeats its 'many-handed' feminine spiritual component (represented by Rihanna's character), while gaining the support of the city's men (represented by the drummers) by the end of the clip.

As a result of the above, the spiritually pure (white-garbed) Rihanna and her many-handed (divine/religious) counterpart are reduced to dancing before the new King—minus her many hands and warrior-like power . . .  Not to mention, all the other women in the video pointedly fall down in a group under the King's rule while the male drummers surround them/Rihanna's character, and support the King.

Summary: the video/song is about the meeting of East and West, resulting in the subjugation by the (masculine) West of Eastern tradition and ideals (which are, methinks, overwhelmingly feminine).

The End

Well, this has been fun, but that's it for me. I'm exhausted:) lol anyway, do let me know what you guys think. Do these two readings come through for you too? I really wonder what else one could read into the song/video:) Ciaos, folks:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1)'s final free run on Kindle!

Hi folks,

The exclusive term on Kindle Select for Mesmer, Book 1: Sanctuary (A Three Towers Fantasy) is finally coming to an end - scary how quickly 3 months zipped by like that.

Enrolling the book in Kindle Select was an interesting experience. It gave me an opportunity to organise free promotions on Amazon that would have been tricky to do otherwise. The trade off to get 5 free days on Select however was to keep my book exclusive to Kindle for 90 days. Exclusivity has never been my cup of tea ... which was why I'd always intended to launch the book under Select and then branch out to multiple retailers; I see no reason to change my plans:)

My three months on Select ends on July 25, so I'll be putting Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1) out on multiple online retailers (ie Smashwords, Kobo, B&N, Apple etc) by the end of the month/August. If you're someone like me who enjoys access to a variety of online retailers, do keep a look out for the book's second launch:) Better yet, simply sign up for free email updates from this blog or my website, and you'll know as soon as it's out:)

On that note, a heads up that I'm setting the ebook free for a final 3 days on Kindle this weekend, from Friday 20 July to Sunday 22 July. Have fun, and have a great weekend reading some good books!:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Writer's Thank You To Friends And Family

The second book in my Mesmer series (Favoured) is going through its last round of edits. They've been surprisingly slow this month (for a variety of reasons out of anyone's control really). I'd hoped to have the book out by the end of June (and still might make it!) but early July is more plausible methinks. Anyway, as edits come to a close, I can't help but notice that I've become increasingly irritable, driven and missing from social life! lol It's quite bad, really, but I can't help it:) At least, that's what I keep telling my friends and family:)

What amazes me—in a good way—is how patient everyone is being with me.

A friend told me once that he was in the "perfect place in the imperfect world we live in". The words struck a chord. Most of my friends have found little spots of perfection in this ever-changing world, but a few of us are still searching; I'm definitely one of those few.

But what hit me today was that "perfection" is often very close to us; we just don't see it. It's in our passions, our work ... and those who let us be who we are; those who support us and stand behind our strange ways and, simply, do not judge.

It's a mad, mad world out there; maybe that's why I consider such folk to be my personal pockets of sanity. They're the ones who're just there when I need them to be; sometimes on the periphery of my life, sometimes right next to me, but always keeping me centered, focused on what I need to do, when I need to do it.

Writing is a consuming passion. It's easy to overlook relationships, and sleep, and even meals! Keeping in touch or taking the time to show that I appreciate a kind word or engaging blog post can become difficult when I want to get the scenes whirling in my head down on paper as soon as I can. More often than not, I find myself locking those I care for out of my world, confident that they'd always be there—available for me to admire or draw inspiration from or simply hang out with—whenever I surface from my work.

Which means I'm guilty of something pretty awful: neglect!

It's for this reason that I decided to pen down my thoughts today:

I'd like friends and family to know how much I miss my time with them whenever I'm stuck in the middle of revisions/writing.

I'd like them to know how much I appreciate them being so patient with me whenever I turn from a sweet and patient creature into a right bear with a sore tooth at the least provocation ... a shapeshift that has been happening more often than I thought possible lately!:)

Above all, I'd like to send all my loved ones out there a very big Thank You:)

The fact is, I really don't know what I'd do without you:) You are my pockets of sanity in an often chaotic world. I truly hope you will overlook my many moody days, remember more strongly my sunny ones, and not forget me whenever I fly high in worlds more appropriately seen only in the imagination.

I'll be back very soon, no doubt all the better from having visited Wonderland and surviving the trip yet again ... but only thanks to you:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Friday, 15 June 2012

Indie Book Giveaways!!

Just a heads up that there's a pretty cool indie giveaway hop going on right now at I Am A Reader, Not A Writer; as part of the giveaway, five copies of my lovely ebook Of Magic and Mayhem (*shameless plug*) are up for grabs at the Disincentive Reviews blog! Do pop by and have a look at what's on offer - there're some gorgeous reads out there I hadn't come across before!

And book bloggers—you guys are awesome!:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Sunday, 27 May 2012

(Re-post) Book Review: 'Fortune and Fate' by Sharon Shinn

Just a note that this is a re-post of a review that I took down previously; at the time, I was debating the appropriateness of a writer reviewing work written by her peers (especially in similar genres)—I've since decided that I shouldn't stop myself from doing so, especially when it comes to books I adore until today, and which continue to be an inspiration.

And with that out of the way, here's my old review of Sharon Shinn's Fortune and Fate (Twelve Houses). I hope you like it:)

It's been a while since I've had the pleasure of reading a book from Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses series. And when I recently remembered my still plastic-wrapped copy of Fortune and Fate bundled in an out of the way corner of my room, I felt a familiar thrill of excitement at the thought of venturing into Shinn's fantasy world of Gillengaria once more.

I'd read the first four books of the series some time back and loved all of them. The stories of Gillengaria's mix of defenders, first introduced in Shinn's Mystic and Rider, were continued in The Thirteenth House, Dark Moon Defender, and Reader and Raelynx. Though those first books in Shinn's series are perhaps stronger than her latest, I did find in Fortune and Fate a kind of warm coming home that I didn't even know I'd been missing.

(Warning: Spoilers ahead)

In Fortune and Fate, one finds the story of Wen, a King's Rider (one of the personal guard of Gillengaria's royalty), who is dealing with guilt over surviving an attack in which her King Baryn fell to the enemy. Searching for a way to atone for her failure to protect her King, she leaves the Riders and wanders a Gillengaria newly surfacing from war.

Honour and loyalty are the backdrop to Wen's struggle to find redemption; she couldn't save her King, but she'll damn well save everyone else who needs saving, whether or not she dies in the process. In fact, maybe she wants to die because—to Wen's thinking—no honourable Rider should survive her King's death.

As Wen travels bandit-ridden Fortunalt, her gradual acceptance of her right to experience happiness, love and a new purpose in life is kickstarted once she saves a kidnapped girl (Karryn Fortunalt). It is Karryn who leads Wen to take on a position in the estate of Fortune, which soon becomes a rich backdrop to her search for redemption.

Belonging to the House of Fortunalt (and from which, ironically, stemmed the rebellion which resulted in the death of Gillengaria's King to begin with), Fortune is the home of Fortunalt's heiress (Karryn) and Regent (Karryn's uncle, Jasper Palader). It's Jasper who—impressed by Wen's skill in protecting his niece—persuades a reluctant Wen to form and train the House's personal guard. And thus does her new journey begin.

Along with themes of honour and guilt, Shinn's story explores the importance of family (and finding a home) to help a person heal and find themselves again.  Does Fortune and its inhabitants bring Wen solace, renew her confidence in her worth as a soldier? I have to salute Shinn for keeping the focus on Wen's journey with relative ease, so that we actually want to find out the answer to the question above.

I must say that the beauty of Shinn's writing in this particular story didn't lie in the open conflicts and action-packed sequences that have been strongly present in the previous books. Not that Fortune and Fate doesn't have its share of conflict and action. It does . . . but in a quieter way perhaps; an internal way—a softer way that aptly portrays Wen's internal turmoil with sensitivity and grace. The focus of the story is one of personal redemption, and Shinn wisely allows new characters to reach out to Wen and assist her to move forward while enriching Shinn's already stellar cast of characters.

The character of Fortunalt's Regent, Jasper Paladar, was one that I found well drawn out. His courteous but clever methods to help Wen come to terms with whom she is and what she truly wants out of life made for insightful (and at times humorous) reading. Jasper's attempt to rebuild Fortunalt after the war while caring for his rebellious niece, Karryn, was also given a three dimensional rendering that added depth to the story.

The contrasting views of soldier and philosopher on protecting Fortune and its heiress were perhaps painted rather too stereoptypically for my taste, but provided a rich context from which to understand Wen and Jasper's psychological make-up. The potential to find middle-ground between their very different personalities and positions in society was handled plausibly by Shinn and led smoothly into a relationship that was a pleasure to read.

Karryn Fortunalt was perhaps not drawn out as fully as I'd have liked, but she was an innocent, mutinous counterpoint to Wen's stern and experienced/cynical view of the world—it was often a relief to experience her youthful view of life in comparison to, say, Wen's or Jasper's.

One of the more delightful characters in the book was of course Karryn's love interest, the mischievous and wistfully aimless Ryne, whose careless behaviour might just prove to be Karryn's destruction. The two orphaned siblings Wen saves, and whose names sadly escape me at the moment, are two more characters that I couldn't help thinking could be fleshed out to greater purpose in later stories.

Ultimately, I can't say that Fortune and Fate is the best amongst the Twelve Houses series, but it's definitely a good read. Perhaps my slight feeling of dissatisfaction stems from the fact that I was expecting a story with familiar characters and was disappointed not to find them. But if Shinn's intention was to move her world beyond the familiar medley of players into other stories, other characters, this newer view of Gillengaria and its dangerous politics does, I think, succeed admirably. Certainly, Fortune and Fate is for me a welcome addition to an intriguing fantasy world.

For readers of high fantasy who are looking for something with an emphasis on characterisation and relationships, do give Shinn's Twelve Houses series a try. For the sake of continuity, I'd recommend Mystic and Rider to start with (my personal favourites are Mystic and Rider and Reader and Raelynx), but each of the books do stand on their own.

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Friday, 25 May 2012

Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1) free for a day on Saturday, May 26th!

Don't you just love freebies?:) For some fantasy, adventure and romance, pick up Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1) this Saturday May 26th, free on Kindle for a day! Have fun:)

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage. But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

When Lea escapes ruthless pursuers within the shadows of a dark forest, she unwittingly stumbles upon an enchanted kingdom. But Verlaine is not the sanctuary it appears to be. And when its magi sovereign refuses to let her leave, her encounters with strange sorcery and malicious fey become the least of Lea's problems. Soon, Lea must find a way to outwit Gabriel Amarinth’s web of enchantment without betraying who – and what – she really is; and before a traitor can destroy all she’s fought to protect in her beloved home kingdom of Lorien.

Kindle US    Kindle UK

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Writing For Your 'One Reader'

I was re-reading a post recently on the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog, a post by Mary Hershey on Elizabeth Gilbert's approach when writing her book Eat, Pray, Love. It seems that Gilbert's audience—in her mind—was simply her friend, Darcy. She'd targeted her book to only one reader... and that made all the difference.

I remember how much of a 'wow' moment that post was for me when I first stumbled upon it. I've always had this habit of juggling multiple audiences in my head while catering my story to all of them. I try to make my work funny, witty, romantic, adventurous, fantastical... I want so much to provide a feast for a rich banquet hall that sometimes I forget to focus on creating a single meal for that someone who really needs it.

The merits behind this philosophy are remarkably straightforward. Such focus would, more likely than not, create an authentic voice in the story, as Mary Hershey notes in her post. That Gilbert sold a million copies of her book makes perfect sense because the voice of her writing was true, real. It was, ultimately, honest. And Gilbert's honesty resonated with a waiting audience who could recognise something true when they saw it.

These past few weeks, I've been working hard on revisions for Mesmer, Book #2: Favoured. It's been really tough sometimes. Life has a way of throwing you curve balls when you least expect it, and it seems (as usual, for me) that it's gonna be a race to the finish line with this one:) But re-reading Mary Hershey's post has been quite timely; it's reminded me to focus on telling the story that needs to be told, to render the magical realm of the Three Towers as authentically and truthfully as I can for my readers to enjoy just like my 'one reader' would. 

I think Elizabeth Gilbert got it right: eat, pray, love... and let the honesty of your voice carry your story to its rightful end. Only then can your story find its destined audience out there, all waiting to lose themselves in a moment of authenticity...

Right now, I can't wait for Mesmer, Book #2 to be out and in the hands of those whom it is meant to inspire, if only because the 'one reader' I've always had in my mind—my sister—would, I know, be inspired by it:)

Ciaos, and happy reading—and writing—to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Poetry ebook "As the Moon and the Sun" free for a weekend on Kindle!

If you enjoy love poems or spiritual/inspirational poems, do grab a copy of my poetry ebook As The Moon And The Sun: Poems Of Love, Faith and Dreaming (Rhyme Whisperer Series),free on Kindle US and Kindle UK for the weekend (May 19-20)!

Have fun:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Reflecting on the atozchallenge

When I signed up for the AtoZ challenge this April, I remember feeling really excited. I hadn't done a blog hop before, let alone updated my blog daily. The thought of completing 26 posts in a month was intimidating... but also a welcome challenge:) There was a sense that I would learn lots of new things, find out about blogs that hadn't popped across my radar yet, and maybe even find new blogging buddies who'd enjoy my posts:)

All this did happen (well, except my 26 posts) and more, so here are some reflections - some lessons learnt - from my experience in 2012's AtoZ Challenge:

1. Finish the ride if you can, but if you can't, at least make sure you enjoyed it. I guess I knew by the second week of the challenge that I just couldn't produce the kind of posts a day that my theme (and writing style) demanded. And I have to say it was a downer to think I'd 'failed' at the challenge.

But the enthusiasm of the other participants was infectious, and I soon found myself visiting more and more of the participating blogs each day, cheering everyone on and enjoying myself hugely, regardless of not completing my own 26 posts by the end of April.

Along the way, I discovered just how much my theme (fairy tales) for the AtoZ challenge resonated with the writer and blogger that I am, so that it is now a subject I intend to blog on actively:)

Lesson learnt: don't push yourself too hard and plan ahead if you can; but if all else fails, remember to enjoy what you can - even of an 'incomplete' experience - because each cog in a wheel can be as valuable as the wheel itself if you give it the chance to be.

2. Make a house into a home. Given my adventures as an indie author self-publishing her first full length fantasy novel this year, it occurred to me that perhaps success would storm its way into my little indie heart... and up the book charts. Hasn't happened yet:)

But what gives me hope is: making a house into a home doesn't happen overnight. And this is something I learned a lot about during the AtoZ Challenge.

It's all the little things - usually over a long period of time - that create the perfect mix of happiness and warmth in what can otherwise be a cold, sterile structure. And like the daily posts that are the building blocks of the AtoZ Challenge, putting in the time to create an intriguing theme, having fun in executing your theme even if you know you may not complete what you set out to do, and visiting the blogs of other participants... these were all elements that couldn't be thrown by the wayside in the pursuit of a perfect 26 posts in April, not without sacrificing a great part of the fun that was AtoZ.

Lesson learnt: there are no shortcuts in creating a home, whether online or off; but as long as you give your heart the time it needs to find its most genuine form of expression without sacrificing all those little things that it holds dear, you've already succeeded:)

3. If you don't try, you'll never know. As I mentioned above, this was my first experience blog-hopping. Spending lost of time blazing a trail through random blogs never quite appealed to me. I've always been a bit of an introvert (yes, really!), and engaging with others on quite such a constant, daily basis was something I've always shied away from.

But this challenge was a pleasant surprise. A blog hop wasn't tiring at all; it was illuminating without being intrusive. I found kindred spirits. I dare to think some found in me a kindred spirit:)

It turns out that engaging on a daily basis with thoughts and comments online was not the chore I thought it would be; it was a pretty neat form of friendship, unobstrusive and fun. I gained followers for my blog who actually think I'm saying something worth listening to (always a plus), and I found so many others whose words touched my heart.

Lesson learnt: sometimes, it is the unknown that holds within it the most important piece of a puzzle; though the world can be your oyster, perhaps it is only so if you decide to explore it - and maybe let it explore you a teeny bit... a delicious little sample at a time...

And with that, my reflections on the A to Z Challenge are at an end:) I'll conclude by saying that I enjoyed the experience hugely, and I do hope to take part next year as well, maybe even complete the 26 posts required next time! Until then, I hope you enjoyed my reflections on the challenge this year:) Happy blogging to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

A Summer in Xanadu: Revisiting Coleridge's "Kubla Khan"

This would have been a post in the A to Z Challenge if I'd gotten closer to the end (X is for Xanadu, after all)... but that ship has sailed, and as *shameless plug* my poetry ebook As The Moon And The Sun is free for the weekend (May 12-13) on Kindle,* what better time could there be to revisit the world of dreams and fantasy that Samuel Taylor Coleridge crafted so well in his poem "Kubla Khan"?:)

Kubla Khan is a poem that intrigued me, fascinated me, from the first moment I read it. Said to have been written under the influence of an opium-induced dream, the gradual descent into the supernatural takes place very quickly within Coleridge's imagined pleasure dome. He is after all the creator of the now famous 'suspension of disbelief', so I suppose this was to be expected:)

We are first given a depiction of Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan (grandson of Genghis Khan), which is imagined as an utopian realm with a sacred river, measureless caverns, fertile ground, gardens and ancient forests... But Coleridge doesn't stop there. A reader enters utopia only to succumb to an otherworldly, savage version of Nature shortly after. There is, you see, a certain dark chasm neighbouring the pleasure dome, from which bursts a powerful fountain that travels through the sacred plains of nature, leaving chaos in its wake, only to sink ‘in tumult to a lifeless ocean’.

The chaotic tug of war between Nature and Man - Man and Nature - in Kubla Khan seems reasonable enough when seen against Coleridge’s views of reality impinging on man’s ability to transcend it; I believe his own creative imagination was frequently at war with the demands of a non-creative reality in his lifetime.

But of course, the intrusion of reality into the creation of Kubla Khan was more marked than usual if Coleridge is to be believed; it seems that Kubla was an unfinished poem, a ‘fragment’ as Coleridge called it, due to the interruption of an unexpected visitor while Coleridge was in the midst of writing his opiate-induced dream down. Once the infamous Person from Porlock left, Coleridge was sadly unable to recollect his entire vision of Xanadu. And so, instead of the apparent 200-300 plus lines that should supposedly have made up Kubla Khan, we are left with a measly 54...

Suffice to say, 'the Man from Porlock'  (or 'Person from Porlock') has since became symbolic of unwanted disruptions of creativity. No doubt many of us will always wonder just who the notorious - and unnamed - visitor really was, and what his visit to Coleridge deprived us of. Certainly, I believe the poem's final stanza expressed Coleridge's own wistful yearning for inspiration to revisit him just one more time with visions of his fantastical Xanadu...

Well, at least we still have those 54 lines, lines which are full of imaginative power and strange allusions to creativity, imagination, Man, inspiration, prophets and Nature...

I could go on; there is a lot to be read into - and out of - Kubla Khan... But I should let the poem speak for itself. So here it is in all its glory, the famous poem Kubla Khan for your reading pleasure; I hope it captures your imagination and curiosity as it did me the first time I read it:

Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

*The free promotion for my poetry ebook has been cancelled/postponed due to a glitch in the Kindle US system this weekend. Apologies!

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Cover Reveal - "Mesmer, Book #2: Favoured"

Apologies for the constant posts on my newly/soon to be released books, but it's just that time of the year for me:) And now, let the curtains rise to reveal the cover for Book 2 in the Mesmer Trilogy, "Favoured"!

Coming soon in June/July 2012, Mesmer, Book #2: Favoured

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage. But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

As Lea races to outsmart Gabriel Amarinth and escape his magical kingdom, her stubborn loyalty to her home realm begins to waver. To her dismay, she finds herself turning fascinated by her charmed sanctuary – and its magi master. But when strange accidents and deadly disasters begin to stalk her through the halls of Gabriel's castle, it’s obvious that someone in Verlaine isn't happy with Lea's change of heart.

Ooh, can't wait for this one to be out!:) Ciaos to all, and it's back to work on Book #2 for me:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1) will be on a '99 cents' sale this weekend:)

As a result of the great fun I had with free giveaways last weekend for the launch of Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) (A Three Towers Fantasy) - and maybe because I do feel that an indie author like me must perhaps prove herself more than most (especially when it comes to a first novel) - I'm going to run a 99 cents ebook promotion for Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) (A Three Towers Fantasy) this weekend (Friday, May 4th - Sunday, May 6th).

I hope that those who didn't catch the one day free promotion last week will have a chance to bag the book this weekend instead!:) Happy reading to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Fairy Tale Review: 'Puss in Boots'

In the spirit of all things cats, partly inspired by Ursula Le Guin's very nice post Chosen by a Cat, I'm going to feature today that seminal classic, Puss in Boots (also known as Master Cat).

Right, I'm an animal lover through and through, and this is probably attributable in part to all the fairy tales I read growing up that portrayed animals as helpers to our poor heroes and heroines. Very few animal helpers made the impression that the cat in Puss in Boots did though; simply because the cat in this tale was everything that was mischievous and trickstery (yes, I made the word up:D) and charming, and somehow symbolised exactly that brand of lazy, mysterious elegance that cats big and small possess.

All right, I'll stop waxing lyrical about felines and get to the story. Puss in Boots tells the tale of three brothers who are left three very different inheritances by their miller father; the eldest son gets the mill, the second his father's donkey, and the third *lucky chap in my mind* - gets a cat!

The cat soon proves the best inheritance a poor miller's son could ever get. Right after he's passed down to our hero, the small feline requests a pair of boots and pouch and - armed with such - proceeds to trap game which he hands over as gifts to a very appreciative King, always stating that the gifts were from his master, the 'Marquis of Carabas'. One day, when the cat hears that the King would be driving by a riverbank with his beautiful daughter, he 'arranges' for his master to be bathing naked nearby, and proceeds to call for help when the King's carriage draws near, asserting that a certain Marquis of Carabas was drowning in the river after being robbed.

Suffice to say, the King stops to help the Marquis, the princess falls in love with him during their carriage ride, and Puss's machinations later on result in his master not only owning a castle (taken from a shape-shifting ogre whom Puss tricks into becoming a mouse and who is subsequently eaten) but also in marrying the princess.

There is a charming, playful tenor to the story. Puss's efforts to ensure his master succeeds in life are remarkably endearing and can't help but make one root for him to succeed. I did squirm a bit at the manner in which he trapped game (other animals) as part of his plan to curry the King's favour, but at the same time, this was perfectly in character for a cat - not to mention inventive; he actually plays dead to catch a rabbit...

In case you're wondering if cats do such things in real life, I can say unreservedly that they do. Such intricate (and hilarious) manouvering is nothing to a cat - heck, I once knew a cat who imitated the chirping of birds to get them near to him... Didn't work though... Poor little feller was so disappointed... *ahem* To return to what I was saying...

Yes, I suppose what impressed me most about this tale was that the characteristics of Puss were honestly portrayed - he is mischievous AND cunning, resourceful AND ruthless, loyal AND manipulative...

But ultimately, Puss is unapologetically himself, and that kind of truth in a tale can do no less than inspire devotion in this reader:) I just had to cheer inside when the cat finally "became a great lord and never again had to run after mice, except when he wanted to amuse himself". Go, Puss!:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sanctuary (Mesmer, #1) is FREE for a day!

Just a quick update that my newly released ebook is FREE for a day (on Sunday 29th April)!

If you're in the mood for some fantasy, adventure and romance, do grab a copy of Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) (A Three Towers Fantasy) and chill out with a great read!:)

Have a great weekend, everyone:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Friday, 27 April 2012

Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) is now available on Kindle!

After much blood, sweat and tears - well, no blood, I'll admit:) - it's time to announce the unexpectedly early release of the first book in my Three Towers Fantasy Series!:)

This story has been buzzing around in my head for far too long; full of sword and sorcery, romance and adventure. I never thought I'd complete it, much less complete it well. But this year has been a good one for the writer in me. I've spruced up my craft and begun to learn what the business of publishing is all about. And what with the advent of indie publishing (in the self-publishing sense), what better time could there be to release my 'Beauty and the Beast'-esque fantasy adventure in a tidy little trilogy?:)

All fingers are crossed that readers find my lovely book and enjoy it!

Without further ado, please welcome the first book in the Mesmer Trilogy - Sanctuary!

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage.

But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

When Lea escapes ruthless pursuers within the shadows of a dark forest, she unwittingly stumbles upon an enchanted kingdom. But Verlaine is not the sanctuary it appears to be. And when its magi sovereign refuses to let her leave, her encounters with strange sorcery and malicious fey become the least of Lea’s problems.

Soon, Lea must find a way to outwit Gabriel Amarinth’s web of enchantment without betraying who – and what – she really is; and before a traitor can destroy all she’s fought to protect in her beloved home kingdom of Lorien.

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: H is for 'Hansel and Grettel'

I chose to feature the Grimm brothers' tale Hansel and Grettel in today's post partly because of the story's survival-of-the-fittest angle, but also because the story's emphasis on sibling love instead of rivalry fascinated me.

I'm certain most of us have read Hansel and Grettel or come across it in some form or another from a very early age. Hansel and Grettel are, of course, a brother and sister living on the outskirts of what proves to be a rather fateful forest. Their family is quite impoverished, and when hard times become harder than usual, their father - a woodcutter - and their stepmother decide to take them deep into the forest and leave them there (leaving the family with two less mouths to feed).

The children overhear their parents' conversation however, and initially thwart them by leaving stones to mark the path taken from the woodcutter's hut to the middle of the forest, by which they find their way back that night. The second time their parents leave them in the woods, however, Hansel has no stones to mark the way back, and so he instead leaves bread crumbs to be followed back home. Unfortunately, the crumbs are eaten by birds before the children can get home, and they are stranded all alone just as their parents had planned.

But before Hansel and Grettel can give up on finding their home again - or die of hunger - they come across a house made of sweets and bread. The eatable house is not what it seems, of course. The place was cleverly designed by a witch with the specific purpose of luring wandering children to her, after which she intends to fatten them up and eat them. Hansel and Grettel are captured, but before the witch can carry out her foul plans and roast the brother and sister, she gets her just desserts *grin*, the children escape with an array of her jewels, and promptly find their way back to their their family (sans stepmother, who it seems is to take practically all the blame for sending the kids away).

Their is a certain dark - perhaps gothic - feel to this story. It's always spooked me a little, maybe because I've always been tempted by sweets myself:), but more likely because it's one of those tales that cuts a little too close to reality sometimes. I've certainly heard stories from my grandparents' generation of children being left with family friends or extended family without a word of warning, usually to combat the threat of starvation or scarcity if they'd stayed with their own parents during difficult times. It might be the shadow of those tales that casts a touch of darkness over Hansel and Grettel's plight. Or maybe it's simply the sinister overtones present in the thought of them being abandoned by their own parents to fend for themselves in a dark forest, one which holds only deception and death for the unwary.

But, as I mentioned above, what always brings me back to this story isn't its gothic atmosphere or concern for the children's safety, or even the appreciation for the children's intelligence in the face of adversity; instead, it's the strong sense of love between the siblings that has always charmed this reader. Somehow, despite everything - and everyone - that conspires against them, one knows that Hansel and Grettel will see each other through all obstacles and survive to tell the tale, simply because the brother and sister truly love each other and will stick together no matter what life throws at them. In the end, the bond between the siblings is too great to bend under the pressures of ordinary - and, well, extraordinary - life.

Now that's something heartening to take away from a tale such as this - and surely what makes Hansel and Grettel the classic it is. I've no doubt this fairy tale will live through the ages to be read again and again by wide-eyed children all over the world, reminding them always of the power and strength that can come from loving your family, especially your siblings, through the good days and the bad, wherever life's paths might take you:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: G is for 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears'

Hmmm, one never knows what can crop up when reviewing a fairy tale. Imagine my surprise when I opened my version of Andrew Lang's Green Fairy Book only to discover a tale called The Story of the Three Bears which made no mention of a little girl named Goldilocks. Not to be deterred, I next visited Maria Tartar's famous collection; she noted that The Story of the Three Bears by Robert Southey (1837) in fact had no little girl in it at all; an unnamed old woman is the intruder in his version. The little girl first makes an appearance only later in the 1850 version by Jospeh Cundall, and Goldilocks was subsequently named as such by Flora Annie Steel in her 1918 collection of English fairy tales.

Luckily for me, the version with Goldilocks in it was included in Maria Tartar's book *huge sigh of relief*, so I'm gonna go ahead and review that one as planned!:)

Ah, this has to be the cutest fairy tale of them all:) The story takes place in a forest, in which is placed a cosy little home belonging to three bears: the Little, Small, Wee Bear; the Middle-sized Bear; and the Great, Huge Bear. These were neat and tidy creatures, polite and well-mannered and generally good-hearted. And they never locked their doors. *ahem: lesson to be learned here, people*:)

Well, what happens to bears who do not lock their doors? They get visited by intruders when they're away from home, of course. And what a rude intruder visits the Three Bears... In strolls Goldilocks, easy as you please, after making sure no one's at home (hmmm, obviously she's practised at this kind of thing). She proceeds to sample the bears' breakfasts and try out their chairs and beds. Being a bit bigger than the Wee Bear - and apparently liking his porridge the best - she eats it all up, proceeds to break his chair after sitting on it, and then takes refuge in his bed (because it fits her the best).

When the Bears return home, they're amazed to see their food and furniture so misused. Goldilocks is soon discovered sleeping in Wee Bear's bed, and once awoken by the little fellow's "shrill" voice, she beats a hasty retreat from the house, never to be seen by the Bears again.

I have to tell you, this was the strangest story to revisit out of everything so far. I mean, it's a short tale, and a pretty straightforward one, but I was really surprised to discover just how much of a - of a delinquent - Goldilocks was!:) The poor Wee Bear, with all his stuff wrecked in such a cavalier manner...:)

A pleasant thought however was that the story really turns stereotypes of people vs animals/monsters on its head. Here, it is the human who is pretty uncivilised, whilst the Bears are polite and courteous and everything one would think bears are not. It was nice to see a story told so cleverly without being preachy; its effortless execution left me thinking about how well we often misjudge the nature of little girls and large bears alike, metaphorically speaking:)

Goldilocks and the Three Bears also left me wondering if I should review next a similar tale - Snow White and the Seven Dwarves - as it features also an intruder waltzing into the beds of strangers with very little consideration; I suppose we'll never know if Goldilocks had as much cause for her behaviour as Snow White did. Or perhaps *gasp* they were one and the same? Hmmmm:)

Well, that's it for now. It's been a long three weeks this April; don't know how I would have made it this far without the generous support of those who've stopped by the blog and commented on my entries; couldn't keep going without the wonderful interaction with you guys, so thank you for all your encouragement! And I hope to have a few more posts up soon before the challenge is over. Ciaos to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Announcement and Cover Reveal - Mesmer, Book 1: Sanctuary

Well, folks, it's time to announce that my Three Towers Fantasy series will be out very, very soon... beginning with the Mesmer trilogy!

And here it is - behold my gorgeous new cover for Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary):

Mesmer (Book #1: Sanctuary) is slated for release in the beginning of May 2012. Here's a brief synopsis:

A hidden kingdom in a forbidden forest. A realm she can’t escape without the trust of a mage. But trust and magic make complicated allies – when time is running out.

When Lea escapes ruthless pursuers within the shadows of a dark forest, she unwittingly stumbles upon an enchanted kingdom. But Verlaine is not the sanctuary it appears to be. And when its magi sovereign refuses to let her leave, her encounters with strange sorcery and malicious fey become the least of Lea's problems. Soon, Lea must find a way to outwit Gabriel Amarinth’s web of enchantment without betraying who – and what – she really is; and before a traitor can destroy all she’s fought to protect in her beloved home kingdom of Lorien.

Oh, I adore the cover for Book #1. It depicts so beautifully the atmosphere of the book. I've been dreaming of seeing it out there for so long that I can't believe it's actually completed! May I say, I'm over the moon:)

The cover reveals for Books #2 and #3 should be out very soon (in preparation for releases in June and July 2012). Do follow me via the blog, twitter or facebook, or my brand new website, for latest news on the trilogy. Happy reading to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: 'Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful'

The Italian fairy tale Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful was one of the few fairy tales I came across on the small screen prior to the written page. I was instantly fascinated by the fantasy film Fantaghiro (also known as The Cave of the Golden Rose) when it first aired on local TV, and I caught reruns of the show ever since with that kind of avid fanaticism reserved only for true fans of fairy tales and fantasy:)

The Cave of the Golden Rose is one movie I hope to blog about very soon. The reason I mention it today however is because it did more than spark my imagination on quiet evenings; it also made me seek out the original tale which inspired Lamberto Bava's enchanting adaptation:) Sometime last year, I was delighted to finally hold in my hands a copy of Italo Calvino's Italian Folktales. His version of Fanta-Ghiro the Beautiful (Montale Pistoiese) was one I'd been searching for forever. The story turned out to be pretty short, but was surprisingly effective nonetheless.

Fanta-Ghiro opens with the heroine's father-King receiving a declaration of war from an enemy kingdom. The King has no sons, only three daughters, and he's very old himself, so each of his daughters decide to try lead his army into battle in his place; the twist is, they must relinquish control of the army if they mention "women's work" at any point along the way to battle.

The first two daughters immediately fail this test. Fanta-Ghiro on the other hand, the youngest of the three, disproves all gender conventions very easily by not only passing her father's test but also that of the enemy King's mother. Hmmm, all right, I'm getting a bit ahead of myself there. You see, the  handsome enemy King guesses that Fanta-Ghiro is a woman - perhaps falling in love with her was a powerful clue?:) But he does not know how to prove she's a woman, which means he can't call off the battle and ask her to marry him.

What does our confused and frustrated hero do? He asks his mother for help:) Don't you just love these stories?:)

So, the King's mother promptly helps him by trying to trick Fanta-Ghiro into revealing her gender. But Fanta-Ghiro isn't your typical princess, and by the time the story is through, she has successfully hung on to her position as General of her father's armies, gained a truce between the kingdoms and finally revealed who she is on her own terms before agreeing to marry the besotted enemy King.

Despite the remarkably short length of this tale, let me tell you that I was pleasantly surprised by its tenor. The misogyny apparent in that bit about "women's work" was soon swept aside by the portrayal of Fanta-Ghiro as intelligent, feisty and resourceful; and her actions throughout the tale certainly allowed the reader to see her as an individual rather than merely a gender. The enemy King's obvious quandary provided some delightful moments of amusement, especially the bit where he was left cold and alone and quite naked in a fishpond while his nemesis, beautiful Fanta-Ghiro, made her mischievous escape.

And of course, how could I forget my favourite part of this story: the proposal:) I have to say, this was the first time I'd read a proposal quite like this... From the enemy King to a very pleased Fanta-Ghiro: "General, will you marry me?"

Ha, what's not to like!:) I only wish the story had been longer:)

I do hope you enjoyed this review. I should be back soon with more wonderful features for your reading pleasure. Ciaos and happy reading to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: 'East of the Sun and West of the Moon'

I'm so far behind in the atozchallenge, that I'm this close to giving up! But whether I make it through to the 26 posts or not, I've decided to complete my review of the 26 fairy tales I'd initially chosen, so here I go with alphabet 'E' for the Norwegian classic East of the Sun and West of the Moon.

A variant of the Beauty and the Beast tale, East of the Sun and West of the Moon is rather more intricate in many ways. Here, the youngest beautiful daughter of a peasant family brings them out of poverty by agreeing to wed a white bear (ie a 'Beast'), who takes the form of a human prince at night. The girl stays up one night to see his face by candlelight, but inadvertently spills three drops of tallow on the Prince's shirt. This incident unexpectedly brings into effect a curse by the Prince's stepmother, a troll - the Prince is now compelled to leave the heroine and return to the troll Queen's castle, a castle that lies east of the sun and west of the moon, where he is to marry a troll princess as arranged by said stepmum. The tragedy is that the stepmother's curse would actually have been lifted after a year of marriage to our heroine if only she hadn't been so impatient to take that midnight peek at her beautiful prince.

What follows is rather different from what we get in Beauty and the Beast. In the Norwegian version, the heroine must travel far and wide to seek the troll Queen's castle, getting there only with the help of three old women and the winds from the four corners of the Earth (East, West, South and North winds). Once she gets there, she rescues her Prince from the trolls and they live happily ever after (hmmmm, that comes up a lot, doesn't it?).

The bits about this fairy tale that I really adored included the powerful imagery relating to the girl's sorrow at having to leave her family to marry the white bear, the depiction of the heroine's courage and determination to seek a castle that no road led to, and the way in which Nature's elements conspired to help her find her love again. Also, it was pretty cool to see the heroine rescue the hero for once, instead of the other way around:)

If you're thinking of getting hold of this particular tale, I would recommend getting the copy that's featured in Maria Tartar's Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, simply because it contains lots of juicy commentary about the historical and cultural contexts of a very richly layered story. I hope you enjoyed this post, and happy reading!:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: D is for 'Donkeyskin' (atozchallenge)

A Charles Perrault fairy tale has never failed to disappoint, and Donkeyskin is no exception. This particular tale, however, is also surprisingly provocative... Well, I shouldn't say 'surprisingly' - most fairy tales were provocative to begin with, and were merely sanitised over time. But anyway, a story that features incestuous desire, where a father's unnatural passion for his own daughter pushes her to disguise herself under a donkeyskin to escape him, is surely one of the more dark tales out there.

In Donkeyskin, the heroine's mother dies with explicit instructions to the father-King that he is not to remarry unless it is to a woman more beautiful, wise and accomplished than the dying Queen herself. Now, I don't see why it had to follow that the King would then set his sights on his own daughter, but hey, fairy tales have never shied away from controversial subjects, have they?

The princess - smart girl - does not take her father's sudden strange fancies lying down... :) I'm sorry, I couldn't resist that:) She's advised by her fairy godmother - apparently there are quite a few of them traipsing about in fairytale-land - to request an expensive trousseau as a gift from her father before she can agree to his request to marry him. Both princess and fairy godmother soon realise however that the wealth brought by an enchanted donkey the King owns will enable him to supply her with any remarkable dress she asks for (and she asks for some beauties, including a dress the colour of the moon and one more splendid than stars).

In desperation, the princess finally requests for the hide of that poor animal, thinking that her father would not be able to part with such a wondrous possession.

The donkeyskin is however delivered to the horrified princess.

The bright side is - it turns out to make wonderful camouflage.

Wearing it - hence the princess's new title 'Donkeyskin' - our heroine quickly escapes the castle, her jewels and lavish trousseau towed along in her trunk. She works at a farm on which there lies an aviary frequented by a prince (come on, you knew a prince would appear sooner of later:D). The Prince, by a bizarre turn of events that truly paints him as the worst sort of Peeping Tom, discovers the beautiful woman lying beneath that horrendous donkeyskin and tricks her into marrying him. Well, the fairy tale actually suggests that Donkeyskin tricks the Prince into tricking her into marrying him, but  I suppose there's no need to keep score here:) They marry, her father "purges himself of all lawless desires", and everyone lives happily ever after...

Except of course for one thing: I can't quite get over the senseless murder of that poor donkey!

Donkeyskin seems to be becoming forgotten despite its beautiful language, no doubt because of its controversial subject matter. It's a shame really, especially when the heroine in this piece is a breath of fresh air, taking her destiny courageously into her own hands for much of the tale. The piece has also been written in a beautifully lyrical style, so much so that I found it to be one of the more well-crafted (stylistically) fairytales that I've devoured so far:)

All right, I would normally write more on any fairy tale I'm featuring, but I've come to realise I'll never get through this challenge if I keep doing that, so I'll revisit this - and the rest of the tales - once the challenge is over:) May this review have persuaded you to pick up the much ignored Donkeyskin for a fascinating read. Till alphabet 'E' then:) Ciao:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: C is for 'Cinderella' (atozchallenge)

A young girl whose mother dies and whose father marries another; a stepmother who mistreats the girl and makes her work as a servant in the family's wealthy household while her two stepsisters are lavished with gifts and other luxuries; and a fairy godmother who steps in to save the day when all seems lost: welcome to Cinderella, otherwise known as The Little Glass Slipper:)

What to say about Charles Perrault's famous tale? It reads as wonderfully as it always did, for one. The language is lovely, descriptive and clever (I'm reading Andrew Lang's version in his Blue Fairy Book btw), and the characterisation of Cinderella's plight is drawn as wretchedly as one could hope:) Who couldn't feel moved by her story? Or cheer when her fairy godmother uses her powers to ensure Cinderella attends the ball, charms her Prince and - despite having to endure that awful nightmare that teenagers everywhere must curse: a curfew of, in her case, midnight - wins the Prince's hand in marriage. Hey, it's not my fault these fairy tales are so obsessed with marriage...:)

It is definitely a romantic tale though, this one:) Sighhh...:) And that scene right at the end - you know, the one where Cinderella slides her foot into the glass slipper left behind at the ball - has surely become iconic.

It's not as easy as I'd thought it would be to review a story I enjoy reading so much. I just love, love, love this tale. The imagery in Cinderella is one of the best things about it. Perrault has written his story in such a way that every magical moment becomes one which aids a reader's imagination to grow: a scooped-out pumpkin becomes a carriage, grey mice become six dappled horses and a rat with a large beard becomes a whiskered, jolly coachman. Lizards are surely liveried coachmen the moment one's back is turned (or once wand is waved), and what befits a jewelled gown more than a certain pair of little glass slippers!

I would have liked to be a bystander in this fictional story, watching Cinderella's godmother work her magic with such (it seemed to me anyway) tasteful elegance. Sure'd beat making imaginary shapes out of fat clouds during free minutes in the day anyway:)

Things that surprised me about Cinderella.... Not the magic obviously. I was surprised to be reminded that Cinderella's real father was alive and well while her stepmother was mistreating her, just strangely ignorant of what was happening right under his very nose (how he could not notice a cinder-covered daughter hanging around by the fireplace every odd moment is what I want to know!). Oh, and I'd forgotten that her illustrious nickname was given to her by her younger, kinder stepsister: she was originally called 'Cinderwench' by the elder.

That the King's son was more enamoured by Cinderella's beauty than anything else was a foregone conclusion, but it did make me feel a little disappointed; I blame my disappointment on Drew Barrymore's wonderful big screen adaptation Ever After, a movie which turns the traditional tale on its head in just the right way, and which I recommend without reservation to anyone who's yet to watch it.

Last but not least, that glass slipper... The benefits of being able to fit into dainty glass slippers were never made more obvious to me than they were today. It was quite lowering. Yes, in case you're wondering, my feet are not exactly 'dainty' lol...:)

Okay, I'm waffling on now, aren't I? This is the result of me staying up well past my usual bedtime:) I guess I'd better turn in now. Writing about Cinderella's been a pleasure and I've no doubt I'll be sleeping very well tonight - pumpkins and glass slippers continue to play about in my mind's eye as I type this:) Can't wait to write the post for alphabet 'D'. Can you guess what fairy tale I intend to feature tomorrow? I'm already excited thinking about it, and I'm sure you'll enjoy the coming post!:)

Cheers, folks, and goodnight:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Monday, 2 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: B is for 'Beauty and the Beast' (atozchallenge)

Yikes, I'm already falling behind in the challenge, so this is gonna have to be a quick one! The alphabet B immediately brought to mind (of course) the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast.

It's one of the fairy tales that most of us would recognise at once, a staple of popular culture worldwide - no doubt due in part to the many adaptations on screen. Who can forget Belle or Gaston in the Disney version? But I'm trying to go old-school for these posts, so over I pop to my cherished copy of Maria Tartar's The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales.

Beauty and the Beast was written by Madame de Beaumont in 1756. It tells the story of a girl who must ransom her father from a powerful beast by agreeing to stay with the beast in his castle (well, actually, to die in place of her father, if one is being particular about it). But the Beast is not all that he seems, as Beauty soon discovers. She gradually falls in love with the creature, who - if ugly and a little dull -is nevertheless quite kind-hearted and clearly quite smitten with her.

Beauty's good qualities are of course her compassion, virtue and wisdom, not her beauty, something which Beaumont takes pains to point out throughout the story. But I can't quite ignore the fact that the Beast was ugly and dumb, not blind. Hmmm.

Anyway,when Beauty finally declares her feelings for him, an old curse is broken, one which had imprisoned a handsome Prince within the body of the Beast. They live - did you have any doubt? - happily ever after:)

This particular fairy tale was always a problematic one for me. There is a clear romantic subtext to the entire tale; Beauty and the Beast fall in love despite appearances, and triumph over all challenges because of that love. But is that really what the story is saying? I'm never been sure.

It has occured to me (and Tartar points this out as well) that Beauty does not fall in love with the Beast at all, so much as accept his hand in marriage because she respects him and is grateful for his help. Her gratitude binds her to him, as does her very open preference for kindness in her partner as opposed to physical beauty or intelligence or even falling in love.

Don't believe me? Well, Beauty actually spells it out very clearly: "I may not be in love with him, but I feel respect, friendship and gratitude towards him".

Ha that startled you, didn't it?:) I'll admit it startled me too; what can I say, Disney's version has been more on the brain lately than Beaumont's:) Don't fret though, the ending to the tale does imply Beauty feels something warmer than friendship for the Beast, albeit with ambiguous wording.

There was something else that made me go 'hmmmmm' when re-reading the tale. Beauty's sisters ask their father to get them expensive gifts on his way home from port. Beauty asks him only for a rose. It was of course Beauty's humble but unusual request that causes her father to end up in the Beast's castle. I couldn't help thinking at this point: was Beaumont purposefully contrasting the modern, material world of Beauty's sisters with Beast's magical world by use of that innocent rose? A rose to lead to forgotten, natural truths where furs and jewellery would only take one further away from them? Very possible, I think, especially when the Beast declares that his roses are what he loves most in the world ... while he stands very comfortably on the grounds of his lavish castle:)

The other thing that struck me was how issues of privilege and position are littered throughout the tale. As Tartar points out in her commentary, Beauty and the Beast is unusual in that it is a fairy tale that directly features the rise of the bourgeoisie in pre-revolutionary France. We are allowed a glimpse of the choices faced by families where new money creates merely a new brand of snobbery (her sisters) instead of intellectual power and virtue (Beauty), where fortunes of the newly rich could fall or rise with heady unpredictability (as happens when Beauty's merchant father loses his wealth), and where the children of the rich but not noble are becoming increasingly literate despite their lack of high rank.

Beauty is merely the daughter of a merchant, but she reads books. Good books, according to Beaumont:) Not to forget, her father spares no expense in employing tutors for his six children because he is a man of "intelligence and good sense".

Hmmm, doth there be a preachy quality in this piece, Madame Beaumont?

I must confess, Beauty's virtuous nature became a tad annoying after a while, though her practical qualities did make up for it by providing moments of perhaps unintended humour, such as when she wisely quips to the Beast, "You can't be a beast if you know that you lack intelligence. A fool never believes himself to be stupid."  Ha truer words were never spoken:)

All right, my intended-to-be-quick post is becoming very long. I apologise for that and will stop right here. I have my teeth sunk firmly into this tale, but there is simply no way that I can do justice to it in a single blog post:) But Beauty and the Beast has fascinated millions for decades, and I am not immune to its charms, so I've no doubt I'll be revisiting aspects of this tale with more detail some time in the future.

In the meanwhile, I hope you've enjoyed reading this post. May it have inspired those who haven't read the original tale to give Beauty and the Beast a try:) It's definitely a beautifully written, romantic fairy tale -with a difference:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Fairy Tale Review: A is for 'Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp'

Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp was one of the first fairy tales that filled my mind with the power of jewels and genies, magic and beauty, as well as that singular brand of imagining contained in the tales of the Arabian Nights. Under the auspices of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I had decided to feature a fairy tale for each day of the month, and Aladdin's story seemed the perfect fit for letter A. So, today, I picked up my edition of Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book with great excitement.

Re-reading Aladdin turned out to be a greater pleasure than I'd expected. Hard to believe, I know, but I'd forgotten how the magician Mustapha came to meet young and lazy Aladdin for the first time, how he got the boy to enter bejewelled caves to steal a glowing lamp, and how he left the boy to die there when he refused to hand the lamp to Mustapha at the cave-mouth. Aladdin, of course, did not die. Instead, he uses a ring Mustapha lent him to summon a genie to get him out of the mess he got himself into and later discovers another - more powerful - genie when his mother rubs that wonderful lamp so desired by Mustapha to get it to shine. Through the powers of the genie of the lamp and the genie of the ring, Aladdin acquires wealth and the love of a beautiful princess, defeating evil Mustapha along the way.

What really surprised me on reading the unabridged version of Aladdin in The Blue Fairy Book was how - for lack of a better word - global it was. The tale is of a Persian Aladdin, an African Mustapha, and though the Princess appears Persian as well, she and Aladdin apparently settle down in a palace in China. How had such details escaped me in the past? Possibly, issues of ethnicity/nationality were not at the forefront of my mind. Nor gender apparently; I was struck this time by how little choice the princess had in her choice of groom, though of course she and Aladdin are deemed to be in love by the end of the tale.

But the most interesting underlying theme that I discovered was one which allowed the tale to end with Aladdin succeeding to the Sultan's reign, leaving behind a line of kings of his own when he dies. I was forcibly reminded at this point that fairy tales often provided relief (metaphorically of course) from those stuck in cycles of poverty by allowing magic to equalise power between the poor and the rich. Aladdin's lamp (or it's genie, to be precise) made up quite cleverly for his lack of a royal lineage by substituting it with great wealth, allowing him to buy his way into the position of Sultan.

I don't think the issues I've noted above would have come across to me quite so clearly when I was a child. I think I was (understandably enough) fascinated more with puffs of smoke and magic, huge hideous genies and shining golden lamps than I was with issues of gender or power; well, to be honest, I think those earlier facets of the story still fascinate me rather more than they perhaps should:)

But I suppose that's not entirely unexpected. I reckon there is no facet of Aladdin that is more important than the other, more worthy of being in the tale than any other, more capable of drawing an emotional response from a reader than any other; all bits and pieces of the tale work in perfect harmony to paint us a richly coloured picture, one that I feel would touch a chord even today with modern audiences.

I guess, the power of fairy tales like Aladdin never really die because they are textured so clearly with the truth of what it can mean to be human in our very complicated human societies that they enchant and educate all at the same time, whatever age a person might be, whatever background they hail from. I doubt I will ever not learn something new when re-reading a fairy tale such as Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp.

And that, my friends, really is magic:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe

Joining the A to Z Blogging Challenge, April 2012

As you may have guessed, I've been on an unexpected hiatus from this blog:) But what better way to get back in the groove than by joining a fascinating blog hop?:) The Blogging From A to Z Challenge is back!

It sounds pretty cool: write 26 posts in April that start with each letter of the alphabet, themed if possible. I've enjoyed reading entries from the challenge in the past, including those in a book of flash fiction by fellow blogger, D. Biswas (do check out Damyanti's delightful A to Z Stories of Life and Death if you can btw), and participating in a challenge like this is something that's been on my mind lately. So, in my usual last-minute fashion, I finally decided to sign up:)

My theme's gonna be straightforward enough. Fairy tales have given me so much joy and pleasure throughout my life, it was a no-brainer to think of featuring one fairy tale a day for this month, all alphabetically arranged, of course! I hope that those hopping over to my blog enjoy the posts, and read the fairy tales if you haven't already:) Otherwise, happy blogging to all:)

Share/Bookmark Subscribe