Freebies and Re-writes!

Greetings, Champions! First order of business as I know many of you are chomping at the bit: Swan Lake has gotten over 100 reviews, so the next freebie is out! Click here for part two of “The Best Friends!” I want to take this moment to add in a big thank you to everyone who has left a review–it is a huge help to me in more ways than I can list!

Next order of business: Like Red Rope of Fate, Beauty and the Beast has gotten a rewrite! The new version is not yet uploaded to Amazon! Currently I’m working to get the paperback updated first, and then I’ll be uploading the ebook to Amazon. Even after I upload it to Amazon, though, there will be a bit of a wait before you’ll be able to see the new version. (I have to convince Amazon that the changes are “major,” before they’ll be willing to push an update on to your account.)

It’s a little cruel to tell you such a long time before you’ll be able to read it, but I wanted to forewarn anyone who is considering purchasing the paperback version of B&B, so they know a new version (with a new cover!) is coming out soon. The changes will be very similar to what happened with Red Rope–a lot of stylistic fixes, and a few new scenes to help round things out and create a more cohesive plot.

I will make a big announcement when the newest version is uploaded and after I’ve chatted with Amazon, so stay tuned for more info! In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful week, and thanks for reading!

Swan Lake: Rothbart

We’re approaching the end of the Swan Lake themed blog posts–though the review special will continue to run! Today’s topic is probably the heaviest and the most philosophical, but it also is filled with spoilers so I want to give everyone enough time to read the book before I broached the subject. So, be forewarned if you still haven’t had a chance to read it, this blog entry has some major spoilers about the ending of Swan Lake.

Let’s jump straight into it, Rothbart. Rothbart was one of the trickiest and most difficult villains I’ve written thus far, because he ends up being  sympathetic. At the very end of the book you learned that Rothbart was either told to take over the country, or his daughter would be in great danger. As he was unwilling to endanger his daughter, but also wasn’t twisted enough to follow through with whatever darkness is pulling the strings in the background, Rothbart uses Odette to accomplish redemption for everyone… Except for himself. As he dies he breaks the “quick release” strand of his spells that Angelique identified when studying Odette’s curse, freeing everyone and breaking any of his leftover spells. (Unknown fact: He had some nasty spells placed on his castle in case Suzu came sniffing around while he was out. He broke those as well so the castle wouldn’t harm anyone.)

I badly wanted Rothbart to be the reason why the curse was broken, because in the six previous volumes of the Timeless Fairy Tales, the hero and heroine are always responsible for breaking the curse. (As they should be.) Looking ahead, I know I will be writing several more stories that include breaking curses, and everything was starting to look really repetitive. So for the sake of interest, and to keep me from going as crazy as Angelique is over all these curses, I decided to mix things up a little bit.

But although this change made the story much more compelling and interesting, Rothbart’s character was extremely difficult for me to figure out how to write when I first started the book. How could I present him so everyone knew he was a villain, but still give him the freedom and ability to end strongly?

You see, I’m a big believer in darkness and light. I love Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings because they, like fairy tales, show how important it is that you don’t compromise with what is evil. However, one thing I’ve learned as an adult, is that individual humans don’t follow that kind of division. Some of the kindest, most compassionate people I know screw up– just as we all do. And some of the meanest people I’ve met have hidden soft spots. Humans can be gray. I’m not saying it’s right, it’s just the reality we live in.

More often than not, fairy tales follow the pattern of darkness and light, and the villain is always unsympathetic and horrible. Rothbart was a real challenge for me to craft when I place him in the shadow of every other villain I’ve written thus far. However, I also feel that as the villain he is the one that stands out most. He seems  more realistic than the other villains. He was also the most secretive. Now that you know the ending of Swan Lake, if you take another gander at his scenes you’ll see tiny hints of his inner struggle. (In example, he commiserates with the wyvern in feeling imprisoned, the smugglers mention Odette is the only one he’ll tolerate–which you should now know why thanks to the In Search of a Hero extra–he openly talks about how fond he is of Odette and how much he values her ruthless protective streak, etc.)

In a totally unemotional/unrelated note, I’m sure some of you are wondering that if the original Swan Lake ballet said the evil sorcerer’s name was Von Rothbart, why did I drop the von? Kozlovka’s culture is very loosely based off historic Russia–I saw a few of you clever readers picked up on the Russian names, excellent observation! Russia does not use vons in their titles, that’s a German thing, so I dropped the von and kept the Rothbart!

So, please tell me Champions, what did you think of Rothbart? Did you find him interesting, or did you think I was attempting to be too clever for my own good? Until next time, have a lovely weekend everyone–and happy Fourth of July to my American Champions!

Swan Lake: Character Changes

Way to go, Champions! You’ve opened up the next short: Best Friends Part 1–Click here for the PDF! This short–and the last two that have yet to be unlocked–are told from Odette’s POV, and they follow her around, but they focus on getting you caught up with what’s happening to some of the secondary characters. Now, on to today’s post!

Finally, the topic I’ve been itching to write, Swan Lake’s characters and changes!

First, I’m going to assume you read my previous post that took a look at the original Swan Lake ballet. This is important because I’m going to look at the differences my characters make in the story.

One of the biggest things I changed was that I made the crown prince’s little brother Odette’s romantic love interest. (Also, I ditched the name Siegfried and made the crown Prince be called Yakov. This is mostly because I really like the name Siegfried and I suspect I will want to use it in the future.)

I did this because, as some of you might have noticed, I modeled Alexsei after the winning entry for my “Most wanted Hero” poll from January—the overlooked good guy. The easiest way to make him overlooked was to make him the second son of the Emperor and Empress, and depict his older brother as larger-than-life. I had some problems with this because if I made Yakov likeable, then you guys would be rooting for him, not Alexsei! So Yakov got a bit of a bossy makeover to help me with that.

Another big change I made was in organizing Odette’s people and making them smugglers. I looked at the original ballet and I saw how the Swan maidens followed Odette, and I realized she would’ve had to have some pretty incredible organization skills to keep all those ladies alive considering they had been cursed for a while. I took that into account when I crafted my Odette, so I made a girl who’s much more cunning and street-smart than the typical dewy-eyed Odette you see in the ballet.

Also, after quite a bit of deliberation, I turned Benno, Siegfried’s best friend, into a girl. Part of that was for balance–though Alexsei is smart he is overly courageous, if it weren’t for Benno’s female-born-practicality, Yakov  and Alexsei would’ve gotten themselves killed or seriously injured when they were little.

Also, because I was very tired of creating parent characters who are either dead (Like Cinderella’s parents) or not the most supportive people in the world(Like Gemma’s parents) I made up my mind to make Empress Sonya the most rocking, epic empress in the Timeless Fairy Tale world. She was so fun, and I was both disappointed and relieved I could only work her into a few scenes. (Relieved, because whenever Empress Sonya shows up, she’s a total scene stealer!)

I actually kept fairly close to the original plot line, and included the ball scene in which Rothbart attempts to disguise Odile as Odette  and the end in which someone falls into the lake and Rothbart’s spells are broken. However, those scenes are vastly different from the original source material due to the characters and their personalities. Alexsei doesn’t fall for Odile’s disguise because 1) he’s known Odette for more than a day and 2) he is very perceptive, and very much in love. Also, Odette doesn’t get her tail feathers in a bundle about the disguise because she’s a lot more mature and logical.

To me, this is a perfect example that shows how slightly tempering character reactions but keeping all the events the same will give you an extremely different end result. It’s the same in real life. If you and I play a chess game, and then you play a chess game with Myrrhlynn, you will get two very different games—and that’s not just because I always have a massive crush on my knights and tend to humanize my pieces.

What I’m getting at here is that personality makes a big difference. Benno the best friend went from being the idiot–or at least the idiot when compared to the brilliance of the original ballet’s Prince Siegfried–to self composed and respectable. Empress Sonya is fun and sassy instead of being moderately nagging about her son getting married–even though Sonya voices those same complaints. Rothbart is also an excellent example. I made a few strategic changes to his character, and as a result it really changed the end of the story, so much so that Rothbart is going to get his own post!

So if you’ve always wanted to do your own retelling, but you’re worried you won’t come up with anything new, just start thinking how you would change the characters, and ponder how that would affect the story.

Well, there you have it, Champions! Those are some of the biggest changes I made to my version of Swan Lake, and explanations of why I made them. I hope you found it interesting, and maybe a wee bit entertaining. Have a lovely weekend and enjoy the freebie!

Swan Lake: The Ballet

Since enough time has passed, today I wanted to take a look at the original Swan Lake story, but before I jump in to it we have a few quick housekeeping things. First of all, Wild Swans is free TODAY to celebrate the first day of summer and Father’s Day, so pick up a copy if you don’t have one already! Also Swan Lake has cleared 50 reviews, so the next short story has been unlocked! In Search of a Hero: PDF. Thank you to everyone who reviewed!

Okay, on to the summary. Swan Lake is a bit of a new venture for me because it is not, in fact, a fairy tale, but a ballet. Even so, I knew from when I first thought up of the series that I wanted to include Odette from Swan Lake. This is probably because I grew up with the cartoon movie “the Swan Princess” and Odette was one of my all-time favorite princesses. But long before that movie existed, there was the ballet.

Swan Lake was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in 1875-76–making it the most modern story I’ve adapted. Though many now consider Swan Lake a classic/well-known ballet, when it first debuted it was a pretty big failure. (Based on what I’ve read, it was mostly due to the dancers who played the main roles) It wasn’t until it was “revived” in 1895 that it begin to enjoy some popularity. (As a Tchaikovsky fan, I think it’s important to note that Tchaikovsky’s original score was changed for that revival, and this very same revival is the one that is now usually seen on stage.)

Now because it’s a ballet, there are no speaking roles in Swan Lake, which meant I got to be really free handed with how I interpreted some of the stuff. The basic gist of the story, though, is as follows.

Prince Siegfried is partying hard with his childhood friend, Benno, when his mother waltzes in and tells him he needs to get married. The Playboy prince is super bummed, and decides to go hunting when he sees the flock of swans flying overhead. Prince Siegfried and his hunting party follows swans all the way to the lake. There the prince get separated from his friends, but finds the swans. Just as he begins to take aim at them with his bow, they transform into beautiful maidens.

Siegfried meets the most beautiful of all the swan maidens, Odette, the Swan Queen. She explains to him that she and her friends are victims of a curse cast on them by the evil sorcerer Von Rothbart. By day, they must be swans, and at night they can turn into humans again if they are by the lake. Of course, the spell can be broken (one of the many reasons why Swan Lake fits in so perfectly with the rest of my fairytales) but only if one who has never fallen in love before swears to love Odette forever.

Von Rothbart comes around to break up the party and gets in a fight with Siegfried, but eventually he leaves. Siegfried and Odette spend time together, and fall in love. (Because that wasn’t predictable.)

Prince Siegfried’s mother throws a party, intending that Siegfried will choose his future bride at it. Siegfried is totes not interested because he’s in love with Odette, but he sits up and takes notice when von Rothbart arrives in disguise with his daughter, Odile, transformed to look exactly like Odette. Because Siegfried has known Odette for exactly one day (no joke, it seriously happens in one day, as fairytales have to take place in a 24-hour window or it’s not dramatic enough) he mistakes Odile for Odette, and dances with her. Although Odette appears to him in a vision (yeah, I don’t get that part either) Siegfried announces to his courts that he is in love with Odile and intends to make her his wife. Von Rothbart reveals his trick, and Siegfried, horrified with his actions, rushes back to the lake.

Odette is heartbroken by Siegfried’s betrayal, and resigns herself to death for all of two seconds until Siegfried shows up and reaffirms his love for her. Von Rothbart drops by (I gotta say I’m weirdly fond of him, he is the only fairy tale character I know of who has impeccable timing) and demands that Siegfried honor his vow and marry Odile. Siegfried refuses and declares that he would rather die with Odette, so naturally the happy couple decide to jump into the lake? This manages to break von Rothbart spell, so all the other swan maidens are free of the curse. The broken curse affects von Rothbart’s power, and he is killed as a result, and the swan maidens watch as Siegfried’s and Odette’s spirits ascended to heaven together.

Not gonna lie, the ending reminds me a lot of the ending from the original version of the Little mermaid. Now, while I do mock the original story, you have to remember that I do this only because I love it just as I love all the other fairy tales I have taken apart and criticized. In preparation for writing the book, I watched quite a few clips of the ballet. I actually watched clips from around the world; New York, London, Moscow; Swan Lake is popular, and after seeing it I can definitely see why. (Just sayin’, I think Tchaikovsky did an awesome job at the music!)

Now, I think it’s important to add that while there is no original fairy tale for Swan Lake, there is a German fairy tale (the stolen veil) and a Russian folktale (the white duck) that supposedly were source material for Tchaikovsky’s ballet. In doing research for my version of Swan Lake, I looked up both of those fairy tales, and it is true that pieces of them bear structural resemblances to Swan Lake, but it’s my opinion that neither of them are nearly as dramatic as the ballet.

I’m going to end it here, but I hope you enjoy the new short story! (It’s the one about Rothbart!!!) Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

Swan Lake Short #1

I’ve got tons of comments and messages from you amazing Champions that I badly need to reply to, but as Swan Lake is closing in on 25 reviews, I thought you would be more interested in having me unlock the first short. So here it is in a PDF file: Flying.

I’m really happy with the feedback I’ve gotten thus far, so a big thanks to everyone who has reviewed Swan Lake! If you haven’t reviewed it yet, please do! The reviews help me with sales rank, but they also help me a lot in my writing process because they let me keep track of what people are looking for and like. But…I also really want you guys to unlock the next extra super fast because it’s a short story told from Rothbart’s pov, and it was so fun to write, and it digs into his thoughts, and I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT!!!

Ahem.

So…let’s just say I’m eager to discuss the story, shall we?

As Swan Lake has been out for less than 48 hours, I’ll refrain from discussing the story, but this weekend I’ll be replying to comments so if you haven’t read it yet you may want to steer clear of those areas as they may contain spoilers. Alright, I’ll cut myself off there before I start dropping hints left and right. Have a lovely weekend, Champions, and enjoy the extra!

Swan Lake is Launched!

The wait is over, Swan Lake has arrived!

I can’t wait to hear your reactions! The book is a little shorter compared to the likes of the Snow Queen series, but so much happens in it so it feels a more intense/adventuresome than some of my other fairy tales. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Beauty and the Beast.) I’m not going to talk about it much because I know only a few of you have had a chance to read it, but I still have a few things I wanted to cover.

I’m holding my usual review challenge for Swan Lake’s launch! For every twenty-five reviews posted on Amazon and Goodreads, I’ll release a new Swan Lake short story/extra until it hits 125 reviews. You can see the top post of my blog for a few of the freebies’ titles. I’m pretty excited about these extras, because I used a lot of the feedback on what you really liked reading about in the Snow Queen extras when I was deciding what books to write.

Tacked on to that, this is just a reminder that I do keep an eye on the reviews for feedback. I have particular stories I want to write, but you guys do influence the way I tell them, so thanks in advance to everyone who reviews!

Also, I’ve updated the Timeless Fairy Tales Timeline, adding in events from Swan Lake. Caution: The timeline contains spoilers for several fairy tales! If you haven’t read all the fairy tales you might not wish to view the timeline.

Remember to mark your calendars for June 19 and 20, when Wild Swans will be free to celebrate Father’s Day and the first day of summer.

Okay, that’s everything. Have a fabulous day, Champions. I hope you enjoy Swan Lake!

Book News

Greetings, Champions! I’m pleased to announce that Swan Lake is now available for pre-order! Woohoo! I am a mash of excitement and apprehension with this puppy. I’m excited because Odette, the heroine, was so much fun to write. To start with, she’s sarcastic–which is my FAVORITE to write because it opens the doors to humor–but she is also exceedingly practical and a bit mouthy. I hope you guys like her as much as I do. I am nervous, though, because this is the first story I’m publishing after the Snow Queen books. The Snow Queen books had a phenomenal reaction, and a lot of new Champions joined our ranks as a result of it, which is amazing, wonderful, fabulous, and a whole string of adjectives I would list here that would make my editors tell me to narrow down my word choice…but it’s also a bit intimidating because Rakel is now something of a standard my characters have to live up to.

So, I’m really looking forward to hearing what you all have to say about Odette and her crew.

Next, more book news! Red Rope of Fate is getting an audiobook! It’s my first audiobook ever, and it’s being produced by Tantor Media. Lucy Rayner is the narrator, and she’s got some serious narrating creds. She narrated the audiobook version of Maleficent and Brave. (If you want to here a sample of her work, click here to go to the Maleficent Audible page, there’s a sample you can listen to. Try to listen to the whole thing as the sample starts with her in the middle of a piece of dialog.)

So far the processes has been a lot of fun! I worked with a production assistant to pick the narrator, and I got to email back and forth with Lucy to confirm some of the pronunciations. They are still working on producing it, so Red Rope of Fate‘s audiobook will be available sometime in mid to late July.

That’s all of my exciting news for now. Have a marvelous weekend, Champions, and thank you for reading!

Cover Reveal: Swan Lake

Good day to you, Champions! Great news: I’m hopeful that Swan Lake (Timeless Fairy Tales book 7) should be available for preorder by the end of the week! In the meantime, I thought I would hold the cover reveal!

SwanLakeCover2

I think Wild Swans is my favorite cover Myrrhlynn has made for me, and I had no idea how she was going to top it for Swan Lake as the themes are somewhat similar, but she blew me away with this one! The girl pictured is, as you probably guessed, Odette. She’s a really fun heroine–perhaps a little gruff but she’s an absolute sap when you get to know her. The hero, Alexsei, who is not pictured is just about the exact opposite. He’s openly sweet, but he’s got a hidden spine of iron he busts out whenever he thinks someone important to him is in danger. (If you can’t tell, I had fun putting these two through their paces. They’re very demonstrative, unlike many of my other characters.)

Focusing back on covers! Myrrhlynn also made a new cover for the Robyn Hood books, and Rumpelstiltskin!

Rumplev2  robynhood2  robynhood1

I used the smaller versions so this post wasn’t huge, but you can click on them if you want to see the big versions. I’m really happy with the new covers, and with Swan Lake’s, so a big thank you to Myrrhlynn for putting them together. What do you think, Champions? Which of the covers is your favorite?

Fan Art: Sacha

Hello Champions! I’m dropping in today because I wanted to show off some beautiful fan art sent to me by one of your fellow Champions, Sacha!

This is Gemma of Rumpeltstiltskin and Hvit! (I ADORE Hvit, and he doesn't get enough page time, so I was tickled pink when I saw this!)

This is Gemma of Rumpeltstiltskin and Hvit! (I ADORE Hvit, and he doesn’t get enough page time, so I was tickled pink when I saw this!)

I know I’ve said this several times before, but I think it bears repeating: I couldn’t draw to save my life, so it’s incredible for me personally speaking to see my characters brought to life. I’m always thankful when readers find my characters compelling enough to use their own talents!

This is Phile of The Snow Queen books--I think Sacha perfectly captured her mischievous temperament, don't you?

This is Phile of The Snow Queen books–I think Sacha perfectly captured her mischievous temperament, don’t you?

I’m hoping to get around to a site redesign, and when I do these puppies will have a permanent home. In the meantime, thank you, Sacha, for sharing your talent! Have a great day, Champions, and stay tuned! (I’ll be ready for Swan Lake‘s cover reveal in a few days!)

Enchanters

Okay. We’ve talked about the price and limits of magic, but we’ve skirted the role of enchanters in enchantress is, so that’s our long overdue subject for today!

As you’re probably aware, enchanters and enchantresses are the most powerful magic users in the Timeless Fairy Tales world. Because they are so powerful most of them have a price for using their magic. As I mentioned in the previous post, sometimes they can edge around the price by using something to supplement their magic. An example, someone intending to cause darkness and chaos could use the blood of innocent creatures or people—like the sea witch. Or, someone whose heart is in the right place could use things like love to supplement their power. Angelique always uses the power of love when modifying curses, because love is the only thing that strong enough to overcome such dark magic.

As you can see by my examples, obviously enchanters and enchantresses are capable of doing more than core magic. You have not yet seen Angelique’s core magic, but you have seen her do some illusion magic, curse breaking, and a bit of weather magic. That’s because now, with centuries of schooling under their belts, enchanters and enchantresses have been able to harness their powerful core magic and use it for auxiliary powers. They can harness their powers through spells, or the use of magical artifacts.

However, just as there are limitations to their core magic, there are limitations to their auxiliary powers as well. To begin with, they aren’t that strong. A weather mage will always be able to beat out an enchanter or enchantress in terms of weather magic. This is true for just about every magic they can use. Someone whose core powers lie in that particular discipline will almost always be more powerful at it than enchanter or enchantress. Only the low-level mages would be less skillful.

You can see this kind of reflection in real life. Let’s use me as an example. As a writer, my greatest strength lies in my ability to write fiction. However, because I’m a writer, there are additional skills I’ve picked up along the way. For example, I’m a fairly skilled observer– because you never know when I could use something the book– I’ve had to improve in marketing and business matters to shore up my career, I’ve gotten much more skilled at budgeting, the list goes on.

The basic idea is that the enchanters and enchantresses are so powerful in one area, that their power spills over into all other areas of magic. They cannot do everything, and they have to be taught it. (As you might remember, Angelique is very limited in the number of curse modifiers she knows because her teacher only taught her two.)

Besides having a lot of power, enchanters and enchantresses are also different from other magic users because they’re limited in the kinds of jobs/positions they can fill. They can help anyone who asks for their aid–whether it’s royalty or a peasant–but they cannot hold a position outside of the Veneno Conclave. This is a rule to keep magic from being unevenly distributed–or the rich countries would try to hire all the top tier magic users, and the poor countries would be extremely limited. IF an enchantress or enchanter swears alliance to a particular country–in example, Queen Ingrid of Arcainia, who was an enchantress before marrying the King of Arcainia–they have to forsake their magic and swear to never use it. Historically, this has only happened a few times. Queen Ingrid is the most recent, but otherwise it hasn’t happened in well over a century.

However, the ban that the Veneno Conclave placed from any and all magic being used in Arcainia was unprecedented. Most believe it was placed because the Conclave was worried other magic users would see it as their duty to come help Ingrid and Arcainia. (Before Queen Ingrid married the King, the Ogre was still ruling over Carabas. Other magic users very likely would have banded together to overthrow the ogre out of kindness to Ingrid, giving them an unfair advantage. As such, the Ogre remained alive until a particular miller’s daughter and her mouthy cat strolled onto the scene.)

Okay, this is a long post, so I’m ending it here. Have a lovely day, Champions! Thanks for reading!