Where did January go??? Got a not so crazy feeling that this year is going to be full on!
Things are going down in the weird writing world of Amy. So far this year I have:
*Completed another re-write of Jael/Mychal book. I have a draft that I’ve proof read and while it still needs more work I feel like its FINALLY heading in the right direction. Exorcists are bitches to write. It’s really one of the stories I’ve had serious doubts over but it has refused to let me go and that is generally a sign I should keep working on it. Once I finish the next round of changes it will go to the wise beta readers for plot/sensitivity/wtfAmy comments. I have a pretty exciting ending that leaves it way open for more stories.
*I’ve submitted a final assignment for uni which means that I’m now on a break for a whole semester (at least) and can have some breathing room to get more writing done.
*Today I’ve cracked out 1500 new words of Chapter Seven of KINGDOM, Book Three of the Blood Lake Chronicles. If you follow my social media you would have seen me lamenting yesterday about how my characters have already messed my structure up. This is pretty typical of this group to be honest. They like to surprise me and make work around them. In saying that its been FUN so far. It always takes me the first 20k words of a book to really find my groove but it is coming together. Hopefully I will get it finished during my uni break time. That’s the plan anyway. There is lots of magic and ravens and wolves and cities inside trees and magical swords…all the good stuff.
*I have a New Release Mailing List! Hurray! Draft2Digital has been amazing so far and they also have a nifty feature of creating a sign up list for readers. If you want an email notification of when I release a new book please sign up here. At the most I release two books a year, so don’t worry, you aren’t going to spammed.
I’ve recently become obsessed with ( and HIGHLY recommend) the following:
*Ancient Magus Bride – This anime has knocked my socks off. Celtic myth, cool mages, DRAGONS, NORDIC MAGIC…I am so in love. Its like a Studio Ghibli created a whole series. Funimation has the English dub, Crunchyroll has subtitles so pick your poison and give it a shot.
*Uprooted – Naomi Novik. I know I’m the last person reading this. Its been on my TBR since it was released but I finally got a hold of the Audible version in January. It was on a Friday. Saturday I bought the book. Sunday I finished it. I LOVED IT SO MUCH. Russian Fairytale vibe, beautiful perfect story. If you havent read it, give it a shot. It came along right when my creative well was bone dry and filled me up with magic and wonder and Dragons and forest magic.
That’s pretty much all from me. A reminder that WYLT is Free for Valentines Day so if you want a bit of hot gothic fae romance in your life pick yourself up a copy here.
I had grand plans to write a full Christmas/New Year blog but have only just managed to get to it – MY BAD. In saying that, I hope you all had a relaxing as possible Holiday season and read/drank/ate lots of good things.
I spent majority of my holidays reviewing the blur of a year that was 2017 on both personal and professional levels. I studied what worked for me and really, really didn’t. This year I am hoping for stability and more organisation than last…I say this and try not to laugh because shit will always happen. Last year I had a lot of it, but you know what? Shit fertilizes and it’s important to remember that.
In December it was my 3 year publishing anniversary. Publishing six books, and writing 4 books, in 3 years is kind of mental when you think about it. I am insanely proud of myself over it and I’ve learnt some TOUGH lessons. Indie publishing is a roller coaster and I don’t think it’ll ever stop changing, you kind of just got run with it and do your best. I’ve tried to map out a loose plan for 2018 because I never know how things will pan out between writing/publishing/uni/day job and one of my goals this year is to take more time to self-care and hell, the whole point of me publishing indie is so I can write and publish at my own pace. Right? Right.
So..loose goals/ Scheduling in 2018:
I’ve submitted a new secret project to a bunch of traditional publishers. GASP! I know. I can’t believe it either. It’s really different to the worlds I’ve been building on my indie platform so I will probably publish it under a pen name, either trad or indie depending how the luck runs. I am insanely proud of this book. It’s the biggest book I’ve written since Rise of the Firebird, and it was ALOT of research as I tied it together. Because of its size and complexity it is the only book I finished last year but I am so proud of it.
KINGDOM, Book 3 of The Blood Lake Chronicles, is currently being written. I had some time over the holidays to really sink my fangs into it. These characters are so much fun to write and its coming along nicely. Depending on drafting and editing etc I am hoping to get this out in 2018 so you guys arent waiting too long.
Speaking of Spin Offs…remember how at the end of Rise of the Firebird I mentioned I would be having drinks with Eldon Blaise and Mychal soon? WELL. For those who are in the know, The Blood Lake Chronicles is an Eldon/Merlin spin off that explores his family and mythology. Mychal’s story is still continuing..but its been a BITCH to write. I actually wrote the first draft from Mychal after the Rise of the Firebird but it wasnt right. To count it has been re-written four times…from scratch. Last year I realised a vital person and female voice was missing and needed…so I wrote a story about a female exorcist. This story is currently being edited and I realised at 1am this morning that the reason why the exorcist story and Mychal story have been not working separately is because they are part 1 and part 2 of the SAME book. Yeah. It was a punch in the guts that the answer to a question that has been plaguing me for four years was staring me in the face the whole time. If I can get this book to work, you will also see it released this year. For those who are familiar with Mychal as a character you know that his story and mythology revolve around angels and demons and other aspects of Judeo-Christian stories and theology. Because of this I know its not going to be a book for everyone and as always that is totally cool. I mash up stories from all kinds of fairytales and mythologies (my thing) so if you aren’t keen on angels and exorcists but are for other stories in my Firebird world I have GREAT news cos….
BOOM. I’m structurally planning a new spin off novel about our favourite Alfr bros, Aramis and Soren. This book I am going to start flirting with the Norse Gods pantheon (that I adore) so I’m super pumped. You probably won’t see it until 2019 but you will be hearing me gushing about it when I start writing it.
I’m currently going through the process of getting my paper backs up and running through Create Space as well as my usual Ingram Spark so I’ll keep everyone posted on that too.
Annnd that list gives me chest pains.
See what I mean? I gotta keep these plans loose because I also want to do shit like release a short stories anthology, and maybe my secret project under a pen name and do more uni. Oh, and like, work my day job. There is ALWAYS something. I literally have thirteen books structurally planned to write so who knows when I’ll get a chance to reach all of them. Fingers crossed my degree will be tied up in the next year or so, that way I can re-purpose that time just for writing.
I’ll get there, I promise, and as always I will keep you all posted.
For as long as we have been able to stand upright and speak, we have told stories. They explained the mysteries of the world: birth, death, the seasons, day and night. They were the origins of human creativity, expressed in words but also in pictures, as evidenced by the cave paintings of Chauvet (France) and Maros (Indonesia). On the walls of these caves, the paintings, which date back to around 30-40,000 BC, tell us myths or sacred narratives of the spirits of the land, the fauna of the regions, and humankind’s relationship to them.
As humanity progressed, other types of stories developed. These were not concerned with the mysteries of the meaning of life but with everyday, domestic matters. While they were more mundane in the issues they explored, such tales were no less spectacular in their creativity and inclusion of the supernatural.
These smaller, everyday stories, combining the world of humans with fantastical creatures and seemingly impossible plots are now classified as fairy tales or folk tales. Such tales, originating in pre-literate societies and told by the folk (or the average person), capture the hopes and dreams of humanity. They convey messages of overcoming adversity, rising from rags to riches, and the benefits of courage.
Fairy tales are also extremely moral in their demarcation between good and evil, right and wrong. Their justice references the ancient tradition of an eye for an eye, and their punishments are ruthless and complete. Originally for adults (sometimes for children), fairy tales can be brutal, violent, sexual and laden with taboo. When the earliest recorded versions were made by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm, the adult content was maintained. But as time progressed and Christian morality intervened, the tales became diluted, child-friendly and more benign.
Despite these changes, it is apparent that fairy tales are still needed today, even for grown-ups. In an uncanny, sometimes inexplicable way, we consciously and unconsciously continue to tell them, despite advances in logic, science and technology. It’s as if there is something ingrained in us – something we cannot suppress – that compels us to interpret the world around us through the lens of such tales. And if we are not the tellers, we are the greedy consumers.
‘Fairy tale’ princesses and ‘wicked witches’
The 20th anniversary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, for example, has been cast – like her life – as a fairy tale. Throughout the year, she has been commemorated in articles with headings such as “a troubled fairy tale”, “beyond a fairy tale”, and “just another fairy tale”. While these articles have endeavoured to deconstruct the familiar narrative, they have not been entirely successful.
The notion of a fairy tale princess has also characterised the coverage of Princess Mary of Denmark and Duchess Catherine of Cambridge. Even after 13 years of marriage, our own “Aussie princess” is described as living a fairy tale, evident in 2017 media stories with titles such as “Princess Mary and Prince Frederik’s fairy tale royal romance”. Likewise, Kate, once a commoner, now a princess, has featured in articles titled “Prince William and Duchess Kate’s fairy-tale love story” and “Kate’s Most Royal Fairy Tale Gown (To Date)”. As the titles of some of these stories show, they also feature the mandatory prince charming (William), or the prince who is revealed to be not-so-charming after all (Charles). Others extend the fairy tale formula to include wicked stepmothers (Di’s real life stepmother) and wicked witches (Camilla).
Is such recourse to fairy tales merely a media stunt to sell stories packaged in an easily consumable, gossip-laden snack box? Or do these articles reflect that deep-seated compulsion of ours to tell and, in turn, to listen to stories? The answers are “yes” and “yes”. But let’s forget the media’s role and look at the more interesting latter point.
In this tale, the beautiful Psyche is visited at night by an invisible lover – hearing only a voice – whom she is led to believe is a monster. While recorded by the novelist, Apuleius, the story is almost certainly much older; perhaps having its origins in myth and ritual, and handed down by word of mouth.
The research of Dr Jamie Tehrani has unearthed an early date for Red Riding Hood, which he has traced back to at least 2,000 years; not originating in Asia, as once believed, but most likely in Europe. Other tales studied by Tehrani have been dated to as early as 6,000 years ago.
Fairy tales are excellent narratives with which to think through a range of human experiences: joy, disbelief, disappointment, fear, envy, disaster, greed, devastation, lust, and grief (just to name a few). They provide forms of expression to shed light not only on our own lives but on the lives beyond our own. And, contrary to the impression that fairy tales always end happily ever after, this is not the case – therein lies much of their power.
They helped our ancestors make sense of the unpredictability or randomness of life. They repeated familiar experiences of unfairness, misfortune, bad luck, and ill-treatment and sometimes showed us how courage, determination and ingenuity could be employed even by the most disempowered to change the course of events.
Jack and the Beanstalk, for example, tells how a chance encounter with a stranger (an old man who provides magic beans) can bring about terrible danger (meeting a giant) but also terrific good fortune (acquiring a hen that lays golden eggs). The tale also celebrates how a poor boy can make the most of an arbitrarily dangerous situation that could have gone either way – being eaten or becoming rich – through his bravery and his intellect.
Fairytales also celebrated unexpected good fortune and acts of kindness and heroism, thereby reinforcing – even restoring – our faith in humanity. As tales of the folk, they not only entertained, but reflected the turmoils and triumphs of the lower classes, and enabled them to fantasise about how the “other half” lived.
Cinderalla and social criticism
But tales of kings, queens, princes and princesses – of which there are many – are not only a means of mental escape for the poor. They are also a means of social criticism.
In Cinderella, as recorded by Charles Perrault, the two stepsisters may have every material possession imaginable, but their cruelty renders them grotesque. And, of course, the lowly Cinderella triumphs. In the German version, Aschenputtel, recorded by the Brothers Grimm, the fate of the stepsisters is very different. Whereas Perrault’s version has the kindly Cinderella forgive them, the Grimms – clearly working from another tradition – describe how they have their eyes plucked out by pigeons!
Such stories of fantasising about a royal life and simultaneously despising it may have functioned as an emotional release similar to the ancient Greek experience of catharsis (the shedding of anxieties through watching outrageous tragedies and obscene comedies).
Taking the fascination with Diana’s life as a fairy tale, for example, we still employ the cathartic release of the genre to interrogate her and, for those of us so inclined, to find some meaning in the Di phenomenon. From the romantic courtship, to the wedding of the century and that dress, to motherhood, glamour, betrayal, heartbreak, divorce, alienation and a new love cut short by an early death.
Some, of course, have criticised the warm, fuzzy emotionalism that has sprung from the fairy tale of Di’s life. If it is not to your liking, there are more robust tales with powerful messages of resistance and resilience. In tales such as Hansel and Gretel and Donkeyskin, the young protagonists are persecuted and abused by predators.
There is much to complain about in these tales from a politically correct or feminist perspective. They are violent and subversive: Gretel pushes a witch into an oven and in Perrault’s version of Donkeyskin, a king wishes to marry his daughter following the death of his wife. But they are more than narratives of abuse. They are also about courage and ingenuity on the part of the young survivors.
Donkeyskin, variants of which are extant in English (Catskin) and German (All-Kinds-Of-Fur), champions the bravery and inherent goodness of the young heroine who dresses in the skin of a donkey and leaves the palace in order to escape her father’s desires. Her subsequent life as a servant, filthy, humiliated, reviled and renamed “Donkeyskin” by her fellow servants, never crushes her soul.
Within the fantasy and the convenient appearance of supernatural assistants or a romantic ending, both of which feature in Donkeyskin, these stories are powerful reminders that evil exists in the world in the form of human beings – but it is not definitive or unconquerable.
More dissident responses have included the photographs of Dina Goldstein, whose Fallen Princesses series (2007-2009) is an astute response to the Disney princess phenomenon of unattainable, debilitating images of femininity and romance in bowdlerised versions of the original tales. Here, Goldstein critiques the superficiality of the princess stereotype, reminding us that it is as facile for children as the Diana fairy tale dream is for adults.
Before Goldstein, photographer Sarah Moon also challenged the dilution of fairy tales in the modern west through her provocative (sometimes banned) interpretation of Little Red Riding Hood. In this powerful rendition, Moon takes her child reader back to the original and raw meanings embedded in the tale through her exploration of the theme of the human predator in the symbolic guise of the wolf.
Moon’s decision to return to the terror and drama of the Grimms’ version is testimony to the need to challenge the dilution and contamination of the tales. Even the Grimms were guilty of adding and subtracting to the material, particularly when it came to the insertion of overt Christian morality. Equally if not more so, the Disneyfication of fairy tales has stripped them of the power and the pain to which Moon returns.
Writers and poets have also responded to the tales and, like Moon, have regularly sought to return them to their once formidable status. Women authors in particular have created powerful, sometimes heartbreaking – but always real and truthful – new versions.
Among the thousands of old tales in new clothes is the literature of second wave feminists, including the suite entitled Transformations (1971) by renegade poet Anne Sexton, who takes the domesticity of the original tales and mocks, ridicules, cherishes and – literally – transforms them. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber (1979), a magnificent collection of retellings of famous fairy tales, is full of female empowerment, sensuality and violence in a tour de force that both reinstates the potency of the stories and re-imagines them.
Novelist, poet and essayist, Margaret Atwood also transforms the originals. Her response to The Girl Without Hands, which tells the story of a young woman who agrees to sacrifice her hands in order to save her father from the devil, in a poem of the same name is a profound meditation on the continuation of both abuse and survival.
The fairy tales first preserved by collectors such as the Brothers Grimm – retold, bastardised, edited, annotated, banned and reclaimed – belong ultimately to the folk who first told them. And the folk continue to tell and retell them. Closer to home than the Black Forest, a new show at the The Ian Potter Museum of Art contains work by international and Australian artists, including Tracy Moffatt and Sally Smart. The show returns – once again – to fairy tales to express social concerns and anxieties surrounding issues such as the abuse of power, injustice and exploitation.
Fairy tales are, indeed, good to think with, and their retellings shed light on cultural, societal and artistic movements. Both children and adults should read more fairy tales – both the original and the transformed versions, for they are one of our cultural touchstones.
December is going to be a massive book month here in Camp Amy so here is a brief rundown.
If you have been on my social media in the last few days you would have seen me FREAKING OUT about my awesome new cover for BLAISE, book 2 of the Blood Lake Chronicles. One more time with feeling….
YUP. I’m feeling it alright.
Here’s a description :
‘The stories claim I was born from a union of a demon and nun…well, least they got half of it right.’
Eldon Blaise, magician and misfit, has arrived at Gwaed Lyn to turn Rosa’s life upside down. Not only is he claiming to be the lost son of Eli Vane and his human wife Deryn, Rosa’s ancestor, but that he also used to be none other than Merlin Wylt, the magician of legend who fought by King Arthur’s side.
The curse the Autumn Queen has placed over the Aos Si is breaking, but she isn’t prepared to go down without a fight, and releases the one person that brought the great Merlin to his knees…Nimue.
Her spirit broken from a lifetime imprisoned by the Autumn Queen, Nimue must convince the Vanes to trust her. She wants to be free of the Queen forever, but winning over Merlin is going to be no easy task. She broke his heart, and being together again will bring back a life of pain and passion that neither of them can fight.
To defeat the Autumn Queen and protect Gwaed Lyn, Merlin will have to stop running and become the powerful man he used to be…that includes having the fearless and formidable Nimue by his side.
OMG MERLIN RIGHT!
SO it is up for pre-order on all platforms for a special price of 0.99 so get in while it lasts. Click here for a universal link that will take you to any store you like. It is out on December 14th, I’m so excited to be able to finally continue the Vane family story and mash up some Arthurian mythology in for good measure. I always wanted to write Merlin, every since I was a brat who really loved the King Arthur stories. I’m not going to lie, I fan girled pretty hard researching this one and I’m so blessed I have the opportunity to write my own version of this amazing character.
Second Editions of Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will also be released across all ebook platforms on December 5th, so all you lovely readers who have been pissed that iBooks etc dont have the other books..well they are coming soon! As per the last post, my preorder plans for them didn’t work so I’m just going to do a straight release.
In other book news my SECRET PROJECT is currently in structural re-writes (thanks to a structural edit from the awesome Hayley Stone) and will hopefully be tied up by the end of the month so I can focus 100% on KINGDOM, book 3 of The Blood Lake Chronicles. Fun times!
This December marks THREE YEARS since releasing my first book, Cry of the Firebird. I’m staggered at how quickly the time has flown by. There will be drinks to celebrate because lets face it you need to celebrate every fucking victory as a writer.
Following up from my last blog. I have looked into doing pre-orders for Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird for their universal release in December but due to being enrolled in KDP until 3rd December, I’m not allowed to even have a pre-order page up on the other sites as it still counts as sales. So there goes that idea. Now they will just be released on the 8th of December and I’ll put up a reminder on social media etc when the time comes.
If you really want them and don’t want to wait, they are availabile DRM free on Amazon (which means you can convert them to epub etc with programs such as Calibre).
It’s been a while guys…I know. I always feel a bit guilty about leaving it so long between drinks but when you’re working, doing uni, writing books and publishing, shit is bound to get a bit hectic.
Right. I’ve been underground finishing off a great Ancient History unit on the Later Roman Empire, getting inspired and fuelled for a future book I’m researching, and trying to keep my head above water. If you follow my social media you’ll know Cry of the Firebird was a no 1 best seller in September in the Amazon store – holy shit guys what a moment. Which brings me to my next topic.
In September, the reason why I managed to sell as many books as I did was my exclusivity period with Amazon finished and I launched Cry of the Firebird across all e-book platforms. I’ve been getting messages from a whole swathe new readers about the other books and I can safely say, at the beginning of December Ashes of the Firebird and Rise of the Firebird will be universally released. At the moment they are still under exclusivity so sorry, we have to wait. I’m not sure if I am going to do a pre-order for them as there is some behind the scenes tweaking that needs to be sorted before that can happen. Also, I have just (literally in the last 30 minutes) finished sexy second editions of all of the Firebirds and damn, that’s a shit tonne of words to edit and format. I’m waiting on proofs of the new paperbacks to arrive but the digitals are up and looking gorgeous. I wanted to do second editions for a whole bunch of reasons. Mainly, because no matter how many editors you use, and eyes go over your work to check and re-check, pesky mistakes still seem to get through. Also, I am an Aussie and I wanted US spelling and Grammar editions as most of my readers are currently in the US. It was a huge undertaking (I’m so dead all I want is vodka and Lord of the Rings movies) but I am really happy with the results and I hope you are too. I’m super blessed as an indie publisher that I can make these changes and be so much happier with the end product.
In Blood Lake Chroniclesnews, WYLT has also been released universally and I’ve had HEAPS of messages about WHERE THE FUCK IS BLAISE. I can tell you finally that it’s currently with my kick-ass cover designer, Fiona, who is making something truly fucking amazing. This series, this character, is super important to me so I want the cover and story right. It’s a tricky time of year for freelance editors and designers which is why I haven’t announced a pre-order for it. As soon as I have all the pieces in my hot hands you guys will be the first to know. I am aiming for mid-December but I won’t make promises without all those pieces. It is coming soon. Writing on book three, KINGDOM, has started slowly due to the mad fucking rush to get second editions of the Firebird Fairytales completed but it HAS started and damn is it gonna be a ride. Now that most of my publisher’s workload is sorted I can put my Writer Hat back on and get stuck into it. It’s a lot more Celtic Myth and I’m loving how the beginning is shaping up.
I have been reading some holy shit amazing books lately. I won’t leave reviews for them because there isn’t enough time but the ones that have really blown my shit out of the water (and made me get FULL Imposter Syndrome) are as follows:
All SoulsTrilogy by Deborah Harkness. Vampires, Witches, Daemons, Alchemy, Oxford…This series hit EVERYONE of my weaknesses and damn, like if you need your faith restored in incredible vampire books, seriously look no further. It’s not a snack though, these books are MEALS. The writing is rich and incredible and you can tell Harkness seriously knows her shit. They are currently making the TV series with a whole cast of power house actors (Matthew Goode holy shit!) and I seriously can’t wait.
The Sarah Weston Novels by Magnus Flyte.Prague, Beethoven, Alchemy, Prodigies and Princes. After suffering from a massive book hangover from the All Souls Trilogy, this duology City of Dark Magic and City of Lost Dreams, was the perfect soloution. It’s still keeping with alchemy and magic themes but tying in history and music aswell. It’s not as heavy as the Harkness books but they were still a great series. The magic in it is awesome.
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. Mysticism, Art, lost loves, reincarnations, historical romance, medieval scriptoriums… this book has it all. You know how you have those books that you think ‘that looks great I really want to read that’ but it takes you forever to get to them? This was such a book. It’s been on my radar for years but like most books that fall into this category, it found me when I needed it most. I was suffering from a massive creative burn out and it was EXACTLY what I needed. It is an incredible book that ripped my heart clean out while re-building it at the same time. It’s structured like a modern-day Dante’s Inferno, that I am ridiculously obsessed with, and it just…no words. Still. It’s a hard one to explain but worth the time.
Okay so that’s all from me, for now. I will keep everyone posted on the BLAISE front and make lots of noise when all of the Firebirds are available universally. If you are doing NaNoWriMo, you are my hero and keep your chin up.