Wonder Mountain Christmas Published!

Wonder Mountain Christmas (my novella-length retelling of Cinderella, featuring some of the same characters you met in Show of Wonders) is now available on Amazon.  You can also view it (and review!) on Goodreads.
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Book description: Min’s childhood in foster care was marked by loneliness, relieved only by her escape into books about the magical worlds of Narnia and Middle Earth. Now that she’s of age, she’s looking for a home in the mountains she’s dreamed of all her life–only to find that working as a server in a luxury ski resort is not only lonely, but thankless and humiliating.

And then, one snowy Christmas Eve, a stranger skis into the bar where Min is working and offers her a strange invitation that could change her life forever–if she has the courage to accept it.

Join Min in this heart-warming Christmas story as she searches for her true family and the home where she belongs!

Special Offer: Wonder Mountain Christmas is only 99 cents through January 6th on Amazon! Merry Christmas to you, and hope you enjoy it!

 

Show of Wonders Published!

At long last, Show of Wonders (my novella-length retelling of Snow White) is available on Amazon. I’ve also created a page for it on Goodreads.
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Book description:  Bianca loves taking care of animals backstage and out of the spotlight for the traveling circus called Show of Wonders. But then an unexpected event causes her to become a reluctant performer under the big top.

As Bianca’s popularity with audiences grows, she threatens to displace the reigning star of the show, a beautiful high-wire walker – who also happens to be Bianca’s stepmother. When Bianca discovers her stepmother’s jealousy won’t stop short of magic-fueled murder, she must rely on her own wits – and the help of some mysterious strangers – to survive.

Show of Wonders is available in e-book format on Amazon. Novella: 72 pages; 20,400 words.

Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

Thankful to be a Finalist!

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2018 has been the most challenging year of my life due to a series of unforeseen illnesses that literally knocked me off my feet. And offline as well:  I’ve not been able to update this site since February, and I also had to stop beta reading for other indies and reviewing their work. But the most painful loss has been that I haven’t had the strength to write at all until the past week or so.

Before this trial began, however, I was able to submit a story for the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples writing contest (a collection of Snow White retellings). Although my story, Show of Wonders, was not one of the five winners that Rooglewood will be publishing as a collection (in December), I am thrilled to report that Show was selected as a finalist entry! (You have to scroll down nearly to the end of the list of Finalists to find Show – possibly because I finalized my entry just short of the contest deadline!) Not only that, but the judge awarded Show 49 out of 50 possible points, and said:

“This story was so original and immersive, it made for a great read!” 

Because of the judge’s positive response, I’ve decided to publish Show myself. I’m currently working on a cover, and if I’m able to get that done (meaning, my physical strength holds up and I can relearn the image editing program I haven’t used in more than a year!) I might even be able to get Show out sometime over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

So although of course I was disappointed that Show won’t be published by Rooglewood, at the same time being selected as a finalist has been the most encouraging experience I’ve ever had as a writer. Not only that, but I realize now that if Show had won I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with Rooglewood’s editorial deadlines (given my health problems). So in a very real sense, this has been a “best of both worlds” experience.

And I am truly thankful for it!

Next step: Look for another contest to enter in 2019!

 

January 2018 WIP

With Publisher, Awaiting Decision: A retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale Snow White for the Rooglewood Press Five Poisoned Apples fairy tale writing contest. Winners will be announced in April. If my story doesn’t win, I’m planning to self-publish it in April or May.

On My Desk: First draft of a retelling of the Grimm Brothers’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Have to say it: I LOVE this story. (Of course, I’m almost always in love with my stories while I’m drafting them. Once I reach the editing stage (especially final editing): not so much.) (“Who will rid me of this story?”) Current word count: approximately 30,000 with some partial chapters to be fleshed out. If the second draft goes to beta readers early in February, then (allowing time for revisions) I hope to publish this spring.

Top Drawer: While working on The Twelve Dancing Princesses all kinds of ideas for a series (same world, only expanded; same characters, along with new characters) dropped into my head. I’ve drafted an outline for a sequel that retells another tale. Wish I could say with confidence that I’m going to follow some inviolable production schedule and publish it in time for Christmas this year, but – well, things don’t always go as planned. So let’s just say that, in an ideal writing world, that is what I would say.

Middle Drawer: If the fairy tale series (described above) comes together, then I’d like to continue it. Ideas for other adventures keep popping into my brain. Most importantly, I know how the “overarching-series-level plot” ends (in the final volume). We’ll see how it goes!

Bottom Drawer: What is (hopefully) the near-final draft of a sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast. This turned out to be more challenging than I thought it would be! I’m happier with the rewrite than the original draft, but the final third still needs work. After stalling out a few times, I decided to run with Twelve Dancing Princesses instead because the latter is more similar (in many ways) to my Snow White retelling. And if Twelve does become a series, BATB may simmer for a while on the back burner. (Which implies I have a stovetop in my desk – and thus, once again, we must acknowledge the inherently dangerous nature of untamed metaphor.) Current word count: 54,884.

Other Bottom Drawer: Partial first draft of volume two From the Annals of the Dragon Slayer. Current word count: 37,000. I definitely want to get back to this because I hate to leave characters I care about hanging. Wish I could clone myself and work on more than one project at a time!

Trunk in the Attic: Lots of stuff in here, but there’s no point in talking about it now. If all of the above is actually written and published, anything in the trunk probably won’t emerge for at least a couple of years. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t fondly thought of, trunklings!

Burning Rose and Hansel and Gretel

To celebrate the release of Burning Rose (her first collection of retold fairy tale novellas), Hope Ann shared some intriguing information about Hansel and Gretel (the inspiration for my personal favorite in the collection, Shadows of the Hersweald):

Hansel and Gretel’s Original Plot: Two children are abandoned in a great forest, where they stumble across an old woman who captures them and tries to eat them before being tricked into her own oven where she dies a miserable death.  [Cela: Because nothing says “bed-time story” like a bit of attempted cannibalism followed by total immolation, right?]

Hope Ann’s Take on Hansel and Gretel: One of the darker fairy tales, Hansel and Gretel was great fun to work with. I chose it for my Shadows of the Hersweald novella (the third novella in my new paperback book, Burning Rose) because I enjoyed the element of siblings. And the forest offered a perfect setting for post-war rebel bands. It isn’t my favorite fairy tale by far, but that is what retellings are for: to change some elements, add others, and create something new.

Hansel and Gretel Fun Facts:

  • The original title for this story was Roland and May-Bird.
  • The title Hansel and Gretel originally belonged to a different plot, in which Hansel was turned into a deer and Gretel eventually married the prince who saved them.
  • The fairy tale that inspired the Grimm brothers’ Hansel and Gretel is a French story called The Lost Children, and is even more morbid. [Cela: Ew!]
  • The step-mother who abandoned her children was originally their real mother. The Grimm brothers changed the character into a step-mother after their stories became popular and they wanted to make them more acceptable to a wider audience.  [Cela: And obviously they knew what they were doing, because the rest, as they say, is fairy tale history….]

To learn more about Burning Rose, keep reading!

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Fairy tales retold as you have never heard them before

If you’re already looking for that perfect Christmas read for a fantasy lover or fairy tale fanatic on your list, then guess what? I have great news: your search can end here, because Burning Rose is the book for you!

Hope Ann’s work has everything a fantasy lover could want: strange creatures, interesting lore, bantering dialogue, threatening shadows, pulse-pounding adventure, and an underlying allegorical significance that ensures the parts add up to a greater whole. And if you love Christian fantasy in particular, then you’ll find much to appreciate in these resonant, interlocking stories.

Here’s a look at what you get in Burning Rose:

Rose of the Oath (Beauty and the Beast): As civil war threatens Aslaria, Elissa, a villager from the northern mountains, attempts to save her brother and ends up trapped in a hidden valley with a strange host and a treacherous enemy.

Song of the Sword (Rapunzel): The war is raging as Evrard, the Wingmaster of the Prince’s army, races against his own weakening powers to discover the location of his twin and save her from deadly mistbenders.

Shadows of the Hersweald (Hansel and Gretel): Although the war is finally over in Aslaria, the battle for individual loyalties rages on. Haydn, a pardoned rebel from Tauscher’s army, confronts shadows of myth and former comrades in his struggle to keep his sister safe and find the stolen Stormestone.

The collection also includes a bonus story, Rose of the Night (prequel to Rose of the Oath): Before the war, before the legends, before the Separation, there was a man who started it all. There was a curse, a promise, a sacrifice. There was the Oathkeeper.

Order Burning Rose now! (Available in paperback or for Kindle.)

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Hope Ann is a Christian wordsmith, avid reader, and dedicated author. Her time is taken up with writing, reading, playing with inspirational photos, blogging, helping care for the house and eight younger siblings, and generally enjoying the adventures of life on a small farm at the crossroads of America. She is the author of Legends of Light, and is currently working on several projects including a fantasy novel and futuristic trilogy. You can find out more about her at authorhopeann.com.

Burning Rose Cover Reveal

If you’ve been following this blog (or my reviews on Goodreads) for the past year then you know I’m a fan of Hope Ann’s retold fairy tales. Legends of Light is an interlocking series of epic fantasy adventures with underlying allegorical themes, and I’m very pleased to show you the fantastic cover she’s just revealed for the upcoming box set of her first three tales, titled Burning Rose. This is one of the best covers I’ve seen in a while. I absolutely love it!

If you want to learn more about Burning Rose, visit Hope Ann’s site – she’s offering a free prequel to the box set, which should whet your appetite for more!

Cover design by Kate Flournoy.The Burning Rose

Five Poisoned Apples

If you are a fan of retold fairy tales, then you’ll be glad to know that Rooglewood Press is sponsoring a writing contest in the genre.  Rooglewood has previously published three popular collections of winning tales, which are available on Amazon: Five Glass Slippers (Cinderella), Five Enchanted Roses (Beauty and the Beast), and Five Magic Spindles (Sleeping Beauty). If you love retold fairy tales, check them out!

This year’s theme is Snow White, and the collection of winning stories will be titled Five Poisoned Apples. Sadly, this will be the last contest, so if you are a writer (or aspire to write), now is the time to check out the rules and follow your muse in Snow White’s direction! Although I already have several works in progress, I do have an idea for retelling Snow White, so – we’ll see where it leads! I’ll keep you posted.

Here is a peek at the Five Poisoned Apples cover. Cover photography is by Wynter Clark. Cover design is by Julia Popova.

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Review of The Prince of Fishes

I love fairy tale retellings that improve on the original, adding new facets of thematic depth and impact. I also love speculative fiction that asks an interesting question and then explores possible answers in unexpected, creative ways. Life is short, and while I enjoy being entertained, I often want more than that from the precious hours I can spend reading: I want to reflect on some important idea or truth. I want to read edifying stories.

So it’s always satisfying when these two loves converge, as they did for me in The Prince of Fishes, Suzannah Rowntree’s witty and poignant retelling of the Grimms’ tale The Fisherman and His Wife. [UPDATE: I recently found out that author Rowntree has published all four of her retold tales as a box set collection, available on Amazon for a terrific bargain price. I’ve read and enjoyed them all, and highly recommend them!]

Set in 8th century Byzantium, The Prince of Fishes offers a well-crafted and entertaining glimpse of a fascinating period of history. The Byzantine interest in clockwork mechanisms and automata provides a sort of medieval version of a steampunk vibe (clockpunk). And against this backdrop, everyone from the lowest rung on the social ladder all the way to the top is obsessed with theology, arguing the pros and cons of iconography with all the self-declared authority and enthusiasm of a classroom of newly-minted Philosophy 101 students.

The original Grimm story explores what happens when a human being is granted any wish she wants – not only once, but many times. In Grimm, the outcome is simple: Instead of becoming more contented, the fisherman’s wife becomes increasingly greedy, first for material comfort, and then for personal power. This is a true insight into human nature: more is never enough, and having secured to themselves all the luxury this world has to offer, many people continue to expand their grasp by wielding power over other individuals and then local concerns; if possible, they move on to entire nations, and even nature itself.

The Prince of Fishes takes this scenario a step further, showing us not only this critical character arc, but also the fisherman’s complicity in – one could say he is even the catalyst of – his wife’s guilt, making him a far more complex character than in the original. Best of all, the story explores the consequences of fulfilled wishes for society at large. In author Rowntree’s world, the fisherman and his wife rise only as others fall and life-changing events unfold. Thus we have a glimpse into the “interconnectedness” of the web of this world: to change the position of one thread results in the breaking of another. It is a profound depiction that is not only interesting and engaging, but makes one pause and think.

For me, this story became a moving meditation on the theology of prayer. how often have I, like the fisherman and his wife, begged God for some thing or event? But unlike them, I’ve often been frustrated when the answer appears to be a resounding “No.” To believe this “no” is the most merciful answer possible is a matter of faith. This story was a vivid and valuable reminder to me that I don’t know where all the threads connecting my life to the lives of the rest of the souls in this world are placed. Perhaps one day I’ll know much better how grateful I should be for “prayerful wishes” that have not been granted!

Review of Shadows of the Hersweald: A Hansel and Gretel Novella (Legends of Light Book 3)

Shadows of the Hersweald: A Hansel and Gretel Novella (Legends of Light Book 3) by Hope Ann

The war is over in Aslaria, but the battle for individual loyalties rages on. Violent rebels roam the countryside, wreaking havoc among their former comrades and the Prince’s followers alike.

From the very first page I was drawn into former rebel soldier Haydn’s world. The story opens shortly after his return home from the battlefield as he tries to pick up the pieces of his pre-war life. But tensions between old neighbors and newcomers to the village soon erupt into conflict, and Haydn is forced to face his dubious past to cope with the demands of the present.

The author has pulled off a challenging feat in this story: it is a compelling adventure that depicts an intriguing fantasy world, while exploring significant themes such as the hard fact that today’s forgiveness doesn’t prevent possible future offenses, with all their associated pain and suffering. How far should any human being be willing to go in an effort to prevent such a fate?

Shadows is a novella, but it feels like a novel. Don’t get me wrong: it is a fast, engrossing page-turner, but many writers would need two or three times the page count to immerse the reader in their world. So if you love fantasy but hesitate to invest in a new series because you don’t have time, wait no longer: This is a quick but satisfying read! The same holds true if you love fantasy but aren’t drawn to fairy tale retellings, per se: Although many elements of the original tale are present if you’re looking for them, the story stands on its own as fantasy. Read either way, it works.

And if you love Christian fantasy in particular, then you will find much to appreciate in this resonant story. After I finished Shadows, I realized that in some ways Hope Ann reminds me of the young Stephen R. Lawhead. Over the years, Lawhead’s work improved from book to book as he found his voice, honed his craft, and simply gained experience.

Hope Ann’s approach in Legends of Light feels more contemporary than Lawhead’s early fantasy novels, but they have everything a fantasy lover could want: strange creatures, interesting lore, bantering dialogue, threatening shadows, and an underlying significance that ensures the parts add up to a greater whole. With each new story she’s fleshed out Aslaria and its inhabitants so that the world now has real depth.

Best of all, the author’s storytelling gets better with each release. I don’t know if she intends to write more legends set in Aslaria – certainly there is plenty of room for her imagination to roam in this world – but no matter what she writes next, I’m very much looking forward to reading it!

Shadows of the Hersweald is already available for preorder on Amazon, and is scheduled for release on March 28.

Note: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.