February 24, 2017
February 23, 2017
"Chanwa, the wife of the Maddion leader, uses the disorder created by the changer to lead a coup against her husband in a desperate attempt to ensure she and the other Maddion women are treated as equals. Her life, and the future of every Maddion woman, depends on her success.
"Both women know the only way to succeed is to come together in an unlikely alliance."
"We've also redesigned the covers of Roland's first two books, Shards of History and Fractured Days."
Ends March 3, 2017
Enter to win an advance review copy! Just click here.
“I came for the Japanese mythology, and I was not disappointed. Readers who want variety in their urban fantasy beyond the werewolf and vampire staples are advised to pick up Dream Eater.”
"SONOFAWITCH! is still considering contemporary fantasy short stories until March 31st. See what anthologist Trysh Thompson is looking for here."
February 22, 2017
Oh Charles Perrault, you sure gave the world some fantastic tales when you published Tales of Mother Goose 350 years ago. This tale, which I think of as "Diamonds and Toads," is such a favorite of mine that my first fairy tale site was called Diamonds and Toads.
The submission window for the "Diamonds and Toads" issue opens March 1 at 12 a.m., EST, so I thought publishing the story here might help writers and poets who wish to submit. And don't forget that the window closes at 11:59 p.m. On March 30, EST. and please read the guidelines. Here they are: https://tinyurl.com/zb3ex9x
I'm also going to share my thoughts on the story, so--spoiler alert! Scroll below and start reading the story before coming back up here for some perspective.
Why do I love the story so much? Probably because its message is that words can be jewels or they can be nasty and animalistic. Also, when my sisters and I were growing up, our mother would admonish us about fighting by saying "toads and snakes are dropping from your lips!" Our poor mother!
I used to think that having jewels and flowers popping out of my near-constantly chattering mouth would be quite a gift. But now, much older, and a little wiser, I hope, I see both the gifts for the "sweet" daughter and the "curse" for the surly daughter are, in fact, both curses.
What kind of gift is having rocks, however pretty, ejecting themselves from your mouth? What if the "lucky" sister talks in her sleep? Wouldn't she choke to death? And wouldn't she be forced to babbble ceaselessly by greedy people who get their mitts on her?
And that prince! Princes in fairy tales are booby prizes, because they are almost always greedy, creepy (as in "Snow White") or barely one dimensional. In this story, the prince finds the heroine very pretty, but it's what jumps out of her mouth that seals the deal. That doesn't bode well for the good sister's future.
The other, surly sister ends up an outcast who dies. Yes, she was pretty awful, but did she deserve to be rejected from society and die?
As in many fairy tales, the parent is the real villain here. That mother plays obvious favorites, then ends up driving both daughters away! Fairy tales can be so enjoyably nasty, can't they?
(Top image by Margaret Evans Price, next is by Mabel Lucie Atwell, next is unknown, and last, Gordon Laite.)
Toads and Diamonds
There was once upon a time a widow who had two daughters. The eldest was so much like her in the face and humor that whoever looked upon the daughter saw the mother. They were both so disagreeable and so proud that there was no living with them.
The youngest, who was the very picture of her father for courtesy and sweetness of temper, was withal one of the most beautiful girls ever seen. As people naturally love their own likeness, this mother even doted on her eldest daughter and at the same time had a horrible aversion for the youngest—she made her eat in the kitchen and work continually.
Among other things, this poor child was forced twice a day to draw water above a mile and a-half off the house, and bring home a pitcher full of it. One day, as she was at this fountain, there came to her a poor woman, who begged of her to let her drink.
"Oh! ay, with all my heart, Goody," said this pretty little girl; and rinsing immediately the pitcher, she took up some water from the clearest place of the fountain, and gave it to her, holding up the pitcher all the while, that she might drink the easier.
The good woman, having drunk, said to her:
"You are so very pretty, my dear, so good and so mannerly, that I cannot help giving you a gift." For this was a fairy, who had taken the form of a poor country woman, to see how far the civility and good manners of this pretty girl would go. "I will give you for a gift," continued the Fairy, "that, at every word you speak, there shall come out of your mouth either a flower or a jewel."
When this pretty girl came home her mother scolded her for staying so long at the fountain.
"I beg your pardon, mamma," said the poor girl, "for not making more haste."
And in speaking these words there came out of her mouth two roses, two pearls, and two diamonds.
"What is it I see there?" said the mother, quite astonished. "I think I see pearls and diamonds come out of the girl's mouth! How happens this, child?"
This was the first time she had ever called her child.
The poor creature told her frankly all the matter, not without dropping out infinite numbers of diamonds.
"In good faith," cried the mother, "I must send my child thither. Come hither, Fanny; look what comes out of thy sister's mouth when she speaks. Wouldst not thou be glad, my dear, to have the same gift given thee? Thou hast nothing else to do but go and draw water out of the fountain, and when a certain poor woman asks you to let her drink, to give it to her very civilly."
"It would be a very fine sight indeed," said this ill-bred minx, "to see me go draw water."
"You shall go, hussy!" said the mother; "and this minute."
So away she went, but grumbling all the way, taking with her the best silver tankard in the house.
She was no sooner at the fountain than she saw coming out of the wood a lady most gloriously dressed, who came up to her, and asked to drink. This was, you must know, the very fairy who appeared to her sister, but now had taken the air and dress of a princess, to see how far this girl's rudeness would go.
"Am I come hither," said the proud, saucy one, "to serve you with water, pray? I suppose the silver tankard was brought purely for your ladyship, was it? However, you may drink out of it, if you have a fancy."
"You are not over and above mannerly," answered the Fairy, without putting herself in a passion. "Well, then, since you have so little breeding, and are so disobliging, I give you for a gift that at every word you speak there shall come out of your mouth a snake or a toad."
So soon as her mother saw her coming she cried out:
"Well, mother?" answered the pert hussy, throwing out of her mouth two vipers and two toads.
"Oh! mercy," cried the mother; "what is it I see? Oh! it is that wretch her sister who has occasioned all this; but she shall pay for it"; and immediately she ran to beat her. The poor child fled away from her, and went to hide herself in the forest, not far from thence.
The King's son, then on his return from hunting, met her, and seeing her so very pretty, asked her what she did there alone and why she cried.
"Alas! sir, my mamma has turned me out of doors."
The King's son, who saw five or six pearls and as many diamonds come out of her mouth, desired her to tell him how that happened. She thereupon told him the whole story; and so the King's son fell in love with her, and, considering himself that such a gift was worth more than any marriage portion, conducted her to the palace of the King his father, and there married her.
As for the sister, she made herself so much hated that her own mother turned her off; and the miserable wretch, having wandered about a good while without finding anybody to take her in, went to a corner of the wood, and there died.
February 20, 2017
February 19, 2017
Fairies are among the sneakiest and least forgiving of all supernatural creatures.
It's dangerous to make a deal with any supernatural creature. The Wee Folk in particular are famous for their arrogance, touchy temper, fondness for playing pranks, and their tendency to steal anything from thimbles to fully grown human beings. This being so, humans would do well to avoid being put in the position of making any kind of deal with one or more of the Fae.
As the saying goes, good stories come from bad decisions, so folklore has more than a few tales of humans who have tried to solve a problem by making a deal with a fairy. The usual pattern of folk tales results in the fairy coming up with an interpretation of the deal's terms that makes the human's problems that much worse. Often the human's own carelessness brings about an unforseen fulfillment of the terms of the deal.
Most of the time the fairies get the best of humans, but there are occasions when the human comes out the winner. Outsmarting the Wee Folk is not a good way to make long term friends of them. Matters go two ways from there. One, the fairies respect the human and keep their distance. Two, the fairies' revenge is well timed and very costly.
Lillian's fiction has appeared in Fantastic Stories, These Vampires Don't Sparkle, and DAW'S The Year's Best Horror Stories XXI and XXII. Her Christmas ghost story "The Family Spirit" appeared in Weird Tales #322 and "Maeve" appeared in #333.
The perils of bargaining with a powerful fairy is the central theme of her short story "Beware the Fairy's Price." This story will appear in Wee Folk and Wise, a new anthology forthcoming from Sky Warrior Press. Visit Lillian at lillian888.wordpress.com.
February 15, 2017
Editor's note: "Donkeyskin" is a disturbing fairy tale, but it is rich with possibilities for writers and poets. Before I go any further, spoiler alert: If you don't want to read anything about the details of the story or if you have never read it, skip down to the tale and read it first.
Charles Perrault was a well-born 17th century Frenchmen and a man of many talents. He was involved with creating the Academy of Sciences and was a member of the Academie Francaise. He advised Louis XIV, and as such, was wise in the ways of power. He was also a writer, who, happily for fairy tale fans, published Tales of Mother Goose, which made fairy tales very popular in high circles. I consider him the Father of Fairy Tales, but I realize many people will disagree. Certainly most people, even fairy tale fans, have never heard of him.
His understanding of government, court, power and sycophancy reveal themselves in in his fairy tales. His understanding of the abuse of absolute power is most evident in "Donkeyskin." In it, morality, the taboo against incest, and the powerlessness of women, even princesses, are thrown into bold belief. Yet, it seems to me that because he was a wily fellow, Perrault couched his commentary in a simple fairy tale--he even published the stories under his son's name, Pierre Darmancort. You need to be careful when you're a retired servant of Louis XIV, the Sun King. (Although to be fair, Louis XIV was never accused of incest, to the best of my knowledge.)
In this story, ministers, the church, and everyone else bow down to the king, who is even more powerful than most rulers because of his immense fortune. (They bow down by NOT trying to stop him in his quest to marry his own child. And some versions of this story have them collaborating with the king.) The fortune is built on a donkey who poops gold. So this perverted king's empire is built from a mountain of crap. How is that for commentary?
I won't tell the story in my comments, but I urge you to notice the shocking way Perrault resolves the story. By 21st century standards, its really terrible. In fact, the whole story is terrible, but very appropriate for 2017 USA, on many levels.
What do you see in the tale? And what do you make of the "moral" of the story? Does it ruin the tale for you?
Whether or not you agree with my assessment, or don't even see it as political commentary, it's quite a tale.
The tale is from D.L. Ashliman's site, which is 100 percent worth visiting.
Once upon a time there was a king who was the most powerful ruler in the whole world. Kind and just in peace and terrifying in war, his enemies feared him while his subjects were happy and content. His wife and faithful companion was both charming and beautiful. From their union a daughter had been born.
Their large and magnificent palace was filled with courtiers, and their stables boasted steeds large and small, of every description. But what surprised everyone on entering these stables was that the place of honor was held by a donkey with two big ears. However, it was quite worthy of this position, for every morning, instead of dung, it dropped a great load of gold coins upon the litter.
Now heaven, which seems to mingle good with evil, suddenly permitted a bitter illness to attack the queen. Help was sought on all sides, but neither the learned physicians nor the charlatans were able to arrest the fever which increased daily. Finally, her last hour having come, the queen said to her husband: "Promise me that if, when I am gone, you find a woman wiser and more beautiful than I, you will marry her and so provide an heir for throne."
Confident that it would be impossible to find such a woman, the queen thus believed that her husband would never remarry. The king accepted his wife's conditions, and shortly thereafter she died in his arms.
For a time the king was inconsolable in his grief, both day and night. Some months later, however, on the urging of his courtiers, he agreed to marry again, but this was not an easy matter, for he had to keep his promise to his wife and search as he might, he could not find a new wife with all the attractions he sought. Only his daughter had a charm and beauty which even the queen had not possessed.
Thus only by marrying his daughter could he satisfy the promise he had made to his dying wife, and so he forthwith proposed marriage to her. This frightened and saddened the princess, and she tried to show her father the mistake he was making. Deeply troubled at this turn of events, she sought out her fairy godmother who lived in a grotto of coral and pearls.
"I know why you have come here," her godmother said. "In your heart there is a great sadness. But I am here to help you and nothing can harm you if you follow my advice. You must not disobey your father, but first tell him that you must have a dress which has the color of the sky. Certainly he will never be able to meet that request."
And so the young princess went all trembling to her father. But he, the moment he heard her request, summoned his best tailors and ordered them, without delay, to make a dress the color of the sky, or they could be assured he would hang them all.
The following day the dress was shown to the princess. It was the most beautiful blue of heaven. Filled now with both happiness and fear, she did not know what to do, but her godmother again told her, "Ask for a dress the color of the moon. Surely your father will not be able to give you this."
No sooner had the princess made the request than the king summoned his embroiderers and ordered that a dress the color of the moon be completed by the fourth day. On that very day it was ready and the princess was again delighted with its beauty.
But still her godmother urged her once again to make a request of the king, this time for a dress as bright and shining as the sun. This time the king summoned a wealthy jeweler and ordered him to make a cloth of gold and diamonds, warning him that if he failed he would die. Within a week the jeweler had finished the dress, so beautiful and radiant that it dazzled the eyes of everyone who saw it.
The princess did not know how to thank the king, but once again her godmother whispered in her ear.
"Ask him for the skin of the donkey in the royal stable. The king will not consider your request seriously. You will not receive it, or I am badly mistaken." But she did not understand how extraordinary was the king's desire to please his daughter. Almost immediately the donkey's skin was brought to the princess.
Once again she was frightened and once again her godmother came to her assistance. "Pretend," she said, "to give in to the king. Promise him anything he wishes, but, at the same time, prepare to escape to some far country.
"Here," she continued, "is a chest in which we will put your clothes, your mirror, the things for your toilet, your diamonds and other jewels. I will give you my magic wand. Whenever you have it in your hand, the chest will follow you everywhere, always hidden underground. Whenever you wish to open the chest, as soon as you touch the wand to the ground, the chest will appear.
"To conceal you, the donkey's skin will be an admirable disguise, for when you are inside it, no one will believe that anyone so beautiful could be hidden in anything so frightful."
Early in the morning the princess disappeared as she was advised. They searched everywhere for her, in houses, along the roads, wherever she might have been, but in vain. No one could imagine what had become of her.
The princess, meanwhile, was continuing her flight. To everyone she met, she extended her hands, begging them to find her some place where she might find work. But she looked so unattractive and indeed so repulsive in her Donkey Skin disguise that no one would have anything to do with such a creature.
Farther and still farther she journeyed until finally she came to a farm where they needed a poor wretch to wash the dishcloths and clean out the pig troughs. They also made her work in a corner of the kitchen where she was exposed to the low jokes and ridicule of all the other servants.
On Sundays she had a little rest for, having completed her morning tasks, she went to her room and closed the door and bathed. Then she opened the chest, took out her toilet jars and set them up, with the mirror, before her. Having made herself beautiful once more, she tried on her moon dress, then that one which shone like the sun and, finally, the lovely blue dress. Her only regret was that she did not have room enough to display their trains. She was happy, however, in seeing herself young again, and this pleasure carried her along from one Sunday to the next.
On this great farm where she worked there was an aviary belonging to a powerful king. All sorts of unusual birds with strange habits were kept there. The king's son often stopped at this farm on his return from the hunt in order to rest and enjoy a cool drink with his courtiers.
From a distance Donkey Skin gazed on him with tenderness and remembered that beneath her dirt and rags she still had the heart of a princess. What a grand manner he has, she thought. How gracious he is! How happy must she be to whom his heart is pledged! If he should give me a dress of only the simplest sort, I would feel more splendid wearing it than any of these which I have.
One day the young prince, seeking adventure from court yard to court yard, came to the obscure hallway where Donkey Skin had her humble room. By chance he put his eye to the key hole. It was a feast-day and Donkey Skin had put on her dress of gold and diamonds which shone as brightly as the sun. The prince was breathless at her beauty, her youthfulness, and her modesty. Three times he was on the point of entering her room, but each time refrained.
On his return to his father's palace, the prince became very thoughtful, sighing day and night and refusing to attend any of the balls and carnivals. He lost his appetite and finally sank into sad and deadly melancholy. He asked who this beautiful maiden was that lived in such squalor and was told that it was Donkey Skin, the ugliest animal one could find, except the wolf, and a certain cure for love. This he would not believe, and he refused to forget what he had seen.
His mother, the queen, begged him to tell her what was wrong. Instead, he moaned, wept and sighed. He would say nothing, except that he wanted Donkey Skin to make him a cake with her own hands.
"O heavens," they told her, "this Donkey Skin is only a poor, drab servant."
"It makes no difference," replied the queen. "We must do as he says. It is the only way to save him."
So Donkey Skin took some flour which she had ground especially fine, and some salt, some butter and some fresh eggs and shut herself alone in her room to make the cake. But first she washed her face and hands and put on a silver smock in honor of the task she had undertaken.
Now the story goes that, working perhaps a little too hastily, there fell from Donkey Skin's finger into the batter a ring of great value. Some who know the outcome of this story think that she may have dropped the ring on purpose, and they are probably right, for when the prince stopped at her door and looked through the key hole, she must have known it. And she was sure that the ring would be received most joyfully by her lover.
The prince found the cake so good that in his ravishing hunger, he almost swallowed the ring! When he saw the beautiful emerald and the band of gold that traced the shape of Donkey Skin's finger, his heart was filled with an indescribable joy. At once he put the ring under his pillow, but his illness increased daily until finally the doctors, seeing him grow worse, gravely concluded that he was sick with love.
Marriage, whatever may be said against it, is an excellent remedy for love sickness. And so it was decided that the prince was to marry.
"But I insist," he said, "that I will wed only the person whom this ring fits." This unusual demand surprised the king and queen very much, but the prince was so ill that they did not dare object.
A search began for whoever might be able to fit the ring on her finger, no matter what the station in life. It was rumored throughout the land that in order to win the prince one must have a very slender finger. Every charlatan had his secret method of making the finger slim. One suggested scraping it as though it was a turnip. Another recommended cutting away a small piece. Still another, with a certain liquid, planned to decrease the size by removing the skin.
At last the trials began with the princesses, the marquesses and the duchesses, but their fingers, although delicate, were too big. for the ring. Then the countesses, the baronesses and all the nobility presented their hands, but all in vain. Next came the working girls, who often have slender and beautiful fingers, but the ring would not fit them, either.
Finally it was necessary to turn to the servants, the kitchen help, the slaveys and the poultry keepers, with their red and dirty hands. Putting the tiny ring on their clumsy fingers was like trying to thread a big rope through the eye of a needle.
At last the trials were finished. There remained only Donkey Skin in her far corner of the farm kitchen. Who could dream that she ever would be queen?
"And why not?" asked the prince. "Ask her to come here." At that, some started to laugh; others cried out against bringing that frightful creature into the room. But when she drew out from under the donkey skin a little hand as white as ivory and the ring vas placed on her finger and fitted perfectly, everyone was astounded.
They prepared to take her to the king at once, but she asked that before she appeared before her lord and master, she be permitted to change her clothes. To tell the truth, there was some smiling at this request, but when she arrived at the palace in her beautiful dress, the richness of which had never been equaled, with her blonde hair all alight with diamonds and her blue eyes sweet and appealing and even her waist so slender that two hands could have encircled it, then even the gracious ladies of the court seemed, by comparison, to have lost all their charms. In all this happiness and excitement, the king did not fail to notice the charms of his prospective daughter-in-law, and the queen was completely delighted with her. The prince himself found his happiness almost more than he could bear. Preparations for the wedding were begun at once, and the kings of all the surrounding countries were invited. Some came from the East, mounted on huge elephants. Others were so fierce looking that they frightened the little children. From all the corners of the world they came and descended on the court in great numbers.
But neither the prince nor the many visiting kings appeared in such splendor as the bride's father, who now recognized his daughter and begged her forgiveness.
"How kind heaven is," he said, "to let me see you again, my dear daughter." Weeping with joy, he embraced her tenderly. His happiness was shared by all, and the future husband was delighted to find that his father-in-law was such a powerful king. At that moment the fairy godmother arrived, too, and told the whole story of what had happened, and what she had to tell added the final triumph for Donkey Skin.
It is not hard to see that the moral of this tale is that it is better to undergo the greatest hardships rather than to fail in one's duty, that virtue may sometimes seem ill-fated but will always triumph in the end.
The story of Donkey Skin may be hard to believe, but so long as there are children, mothers, and grandmothers in this world, it will be remembered by all.
Images by, in order: Warwick Goble, Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Rie Cramer and HJ Ford.