May 27, 2018

FAIRY TALE FLASH - The Song by E.L. Bates

A song called to her 
that no one else could hear...

“Can’t you hear it? Can’t you hear the song? It’s calling to me, and I must answer.”

“We’ve been through this before, Marina Alexandrovna. There is no song!”

Marina looked at the carrots she was supposed to be scraping for dinner. No song? How could her mother not hear it? She could hear almost nothing else.

It was a melody like none she’d heard before. Wilder, deeper, richer, purer than the gusli or the svirel played by the Wanderers who often came to the village fair.

Marina’s feet danced in response. Duty told her to stay; the passion burning in her chest urged toward a higher calling.

Leaving carrots, dinner, a startled mother, and her home behind, Marina followed the song.

Through the darkest forests, over the steepest mountains, across the frozen steppes, until her shoes wore through and fell from her feet and her clothes were nothing more than rags, Marina followed the song.

Despite the people who thought her mad, who told her to stay, who tried to hold her back, Marina followed the song.

Through times of despair when the notes were faint on the wind, when she was ready to abandon all hope, when it seemed her quest was nothing but a dream, Marina followed the song.

Until the day she found the singer, in a tree of silver apples beyond the world’s end.

The golden firebird trilled one final note and vanished in a cloud of sweet-smelling smoke, leaving behind a single golden feather in Marina’s hand.

She looked at it and smiled, at last understanding why she had been called.

Feather in hand, she set off once more, this time to carry the song to all who could not hear it for themselves.


E.L. Bates is the author of the fantasy-mystery novel "Magic Most Deadly" and the space opera "From the Shadows." She lives outside Boston, MA, where she spends her days homeschooling her children and dreaming of other worlds.

You can find out more about her at https://stardancepress.com/
or follow her on Twitter @E_L_Bates

Cover: Amanda Bergloff
Check out LARRY'S BOOKS HERE

May 25, 2018

GHOST STORIES and THEIR PLACE IN FAIRY TALES by Kiyomi Appleton Gaines

Ghosts have always played a role in fairy tales, and Enchanted Conversation Magazine's contributing editor, Kiyomi Appleton Gaines, explores the topic in this week's article:
I was in a car with my family in Thailand, and to pass the time, asked my sister in law if she knew any Thai fairy tales or folk tales. No, she said, there aren't any Thai fairy tales. My brother in law chimed in, "Thailand could use some nice happy stories with fairies and happy endings."

No folk tales? Of course I didn't believe them.

"We have a lot of ghost stories," my sister in law said, and I asked her to tell us one.

I spend so much time in these stories and thinking about the shape and content of traditional tales and the stories of the marvelous that we tend to refer to as a body of folklore, or fairy tales, that I forget and am surprised when people still think of them as Disneyfied children's stories, where the girls are always beautiful and the princes are always charming. Of course, much has already been said to turn this notion on its head, and any cursory perusal of "original" fairy tales will quickly correct that perspective.

Ghosts have always played their role in fairy tales, from the unloved child who returns as a bird to claim justice for their murder, to Cinderella and Vasylissa's mothers, who guide and protect their orphaned daughters, as godmother, tree, or doll. Dead mothers, a frequent fact of medieval life, are a common thread through fairy tales, and it isn't a far stretch to imagine their influence in the magical assistance given to their children in other stories as well, even when it isn't spelled out as such. The selkie, for example, is known to return, secretly and unseen, to take care of her children after she regains her skin and returns to the sea.

As in the case of the fairy tales mentioned previously, ghosts can also be identified with, or even replaced by, fairies, elves, demons, or other types of fay or spirits in various tellings. The ghost of Cinderella's mother, for example, is replaced by a fairy godmother.
Most often, ghosts in fairy tales represent the voices of children killed by neglect, or murdered outright. In a world where child mortality was also quite high, it can be seen as a way for a community to reckon with the loss. For example, in the case of the Juniper Tree, step-parents are warned they must be good to the weak and vulnerable in their charge, or certainly justice would be meted out - and if no ghost appears, then there was truly nothing else that could be done to save the child.

In the broader category of folklore, ghost stories have always been important, serving a similar function to wonder tales or fairy tales. One of the most common tales, told in variation around the world, is the White Lady. The White Lady is usually a tragic tale of a woman who has lost a loved one, and her spirit continues to wait for that person's return. She is often the victim of murder, or suicide brought by cruel circumstance, and occasionally is described as having died in an accident. She is always dressed in white, often her wedding gown. She either seeks justice in the case of her own or her loved one's death, or serves as a warning to others of the dangers of a particular place. This article presents a good overview of The 8 Most Common Types of Ghost Stories, and you can find a version of the White Lady story to cover almost every one of them. White Lady stories can be traced back to the 1300s, but interestingly most versions seem to take place in the modern automotive era.

Like fairy tales, ghost stories can be retold for nearly any circumstance, and it's impossible to identify one specific "true" and "original" version. Ghost stories serve a similar function to other folk tales in that they outline right behavior, reinforce social norms, and lay out consequences for violating those standards. Though ghost stories tend to fall more into the realm of horror than fantasy, they are deeply rooted in folk and fairy tales, and can shed new light on how we understand our favorite stories. For example, if Cinderella is helped by her mother, and not by a fairy in return for her goodness, that can change the reading.

Ghost stories almost universally represent some unfinished business, either a personal obligation left unmet, or some failure of the family or community to observe some standard of behavior. Many of the rituals we associate with death and proper burial, such as placing a coin on the eyes or lips of the dead, and covering mirrors, are to prevent the spirit from lingering. In their absence, the ghost only becomes dangerous when that social duty is delayed or forgotten. Once the need is met, the ghost can rest, usually never to return. In this way, these stories remind us of the essential importance of community, of taking care of each other, especially the most vulnerable; children, travelers, those living with disability and mental illness, the elderly, the marginalized. Failure to provide care in life, these stories tell us, will lead to misfortune. But, although the dead will stay dead, there is a path to redemption. Bad choices, neglect, unkindness can't be undone, but these stories tell us that we can find forgiveness in observing culturally prescribed rites.
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines is a contributing editor at Enchanted Conversation Magazine who writes stories and articles inspired by folklore and fairy tales. 
Find more of her writing at A Work of Heart
and follow her on Twitter @ThatKiyomi

Cover: Amanda Bergloff 

Thanks for reading, and please share your thoughts about Kiyomi's article in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!
Interested in reading more about Cinderella and her ghostly fairy godmother?

May 21, 2018

FAIRY TALE FLASH - Selkie Lament by Connie Todd Lila

The embrace of the sea surrounds
the whole of you at once...
“Sing us your silky song, Gran.”

“That’s Selkie, poppet.” Gran smiled and dropped a kiss on top of the sleek, umber hair tickling her chin.

“Will you sing it?”


Clearing her throat, Gran sang the lament past bitter memory.


“The Moon is high…


She paints the waves

with sequins o’re the water
But Her sacred song
I cannot dance…
So grieves Her Selkie daughter…”

“Tell us about Graypa, Gran. Only please don’t cry this time.”
This time she didn’t.                                                                                                        

He’d been a fisherman, kept his boat out in the dusk, and so saw her swimming. Unclothed, he thought her a mermaid and chased her to shore. When she ran on two legs, he followed her wet footprints to a crevice in the rocks. Some of the kelp tossed over it was hastily pulled aside. Squeezing through, thinking to corner the maiden, he found instead and held before him an animal skin. Sleek it was, umber-colored and soft. Lightning-struck, he realized he possessed the pelt of a Selkie.
And, thus, the Selkie herself.
He gathered dry tinder to lay a fire and wait. In the weak light, he saw dune grass move in the still evening air. Looking to that direction, he held up the pelt. She stood, stared at him, took a step.
He folded the pelt and sat down upon it, then held out a tin mug filled with hot tea. She came to the fire, eyes on her pelt. He gave her the tea and wrapped her in his woolen coat without moving away from the pelt. The coat was a poor, smelly substitute. But it warmed her, as did his tobacco-scented tea. He spoke as she sipped, promising the warmth of hearth and home, and the nearness of her pelt, if she came with him.
She followed her pelt.
Each time he left for the fishing, she searched the poor cottage he kept her in, never finding the hiding place. Nor would she. The very first time he left her for the sea, he stowed the pelt in a metal chest weighted with stones, locked it fast. The key went over one side of his boat, the chest over the other, bubbling and burping as it sank away.
Years later, after a daughter and a broken promise, he drowned in a storm, taking his secret to his grave.
“A man’s love will give you a firefly flash of pleasure, poppet, if you’re lucky…and then you’ll still hunger. The embrace of the sea surrounds the whole of you at once, fulfilling the yearn, calling you to more, and fulfills you again. No man or woman’s love can match it.”
Gran shifted the girl on her lap and looked into her dark, liquid eyes.
“The yearning will call you from a deep slumber…call you until you find yourself walking barefoot into the waves in your bedclothes instead of your sleekness…stolen…stolen…as your poor mother did. When her man went to war and never returned, the sea call came upon her, too strong to ignore, the desire for salt water to take you.”
Gran looked out the window. Smoothing the sleek, dark head with her hand, she said, “It’s time.”
The girl ran to the bed and pulled a small, folded shape from inside a pillow cover. She and her Gran left the humble cottage and walked to the shore, where the moon scattered sequins across the waves.
“Farther this time, poppet. Farther and deeper.”
Holding her pelt close to her bare chest, the girl ran to the water and dove into the curl of a wave. Moments later, a sleek, dark form rose from the surface, spun joyously in the air, then sliced the water gracefully, nose first.
“Farther, poppet…farther and deeper until you can’t come back this time. Stay safe with your own.”
A single tear slid down her cheek, pearl-like beneath the moon.
“Stay whole.”
Connie Todd Lila writes, tends herbs, and reads fairy tales in the Central Wisconsin woods she shares with her husband, their resident flock of crows, and the Devas that preside over their gardens. "Rumi - and one of my Runestones - both advised, 'Unfold your personal myth', so that is what I am doing."

Cover: Amanda Bergloff

Thank you for reading today's Fairy Tale Flash story. Share your thoughts about Connie's story in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!
Check out Karen's website HERE

May 18, 2018

MAY ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - Meet Michael Mitchell Jr.



This month's
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT
shines on artist/illustrator,
Michael Mitchell Jr.
Michael is an artist, writer, and musician whose work includes illustrations for books, comic strips, and roleplaying games. He has been exploring imaginative worlds and developing character designs for most of his life, and his passion for storytelling drives every aspect of his art and writing.

Find out more about him in his interview below, and share your thoughts about his art in the Comments section. We'd love to hear from you!

Hi Michael. What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve always loved sci-fi and fantasy stories, whether it was movies, illustrated books, or comic books. At an early age, I wanted to be a cartoonist. Comic book artists such as Carl Barks, who drew and wrote Disney’s Uncle Scrooge, really inspired me. I spent way too many hours learning how to draw those ducks! The Star Wars movies and toys, early Disney films, and Saturday morning cartoons were all major inspirations to my developing imagination.
I discovered that drawing was a way I could escape, tell stories, and express myself. I was thrilled with the idea that I could bring my own characters to life on the page. That excitement has never left me!

What is your favorite medium to work in?
I feel the most confident with a pencil in my hand. I think many artists start with pencils, as they are easily accessible, and we all doodle in our notebooks during school. All of my art begins with a pencil sketch, and then I move into colored pencils or inks. I’m currently illustrating a book primarily using colored pencils (and a few acrylic paints).
I’ve been incorporating more digital tools in my work (for coloring & inking), but I still begin every idea with an HB pencil in a notebook before I scan it into the computer.

Who has influenced you as an artist and why?
My parents encouraged reading in our home, so our house was filled with wonderful books and illustrations. The art of John R. Neill (Baum’s Oz books) and Pauline Baynes (Lewis’s Narnia series) are both major influences. Richard Scarry, Arthur Rackham, and Charles Vess are some other favorites. I love all the details, textures, and characters in their work.
My mom Sharyn was also an amazing artist with an incredible imagination and a gift for storytelling. One of my earliest memories was the two of us building a miniature zoo together (with cardboard, construction paper, and plastic animals). Our awesome menagerie filled the kitchen table! She always encouraged me to pursue the arts and to keep drawing and creating.

What else would you like to add for our readers...
I have an M.Div. and an M.A. in English, which has informed my creative writing and art, and I’ve been a college instructor for the past decade. I’m in the process of finishing my first illustrated children’s book this year, which is an original fairy tale and will be available on my website. It’s an all-ages story about identity and finding one’s place in life. Music is another passion of mine, and I’ve been a musician and songwriter for over twenty years.

I’m also available for art commissions or collaborations,
so feel free to contact me at michaelmitchellart@gmail.com
or visit my website: michaelmitchelljr.com

Check out Michael's enchanting art:
Afternoon Rain

Trees are Friends

Alice in Wonderland

Frog Warrior

Lady of the Woods

Mouse Bard

Winter Forest Companions
Follow Michael on Twitter @MitchellJrArt 
Read Michael's story from our "Of Frost & Firelight" Issue

May 16, 2018

MARRIED TO SUPERSTITION by William Gilmer

Weddings and superstitions...
Writer, William Gilmer, delves into the history of
some well known traditions just in time for the "June Brides" out there.
I have some exciting news to share this month! In August, I will be marrying Dena, my best friend and favorite person in the world. In an effort to steady the shaker bottle of anxiety churning in my stomach, I decided to research the history of some well-known wedding traditions. My anxiety ramped into overdrive as I slowly learned the dark truths behind these customs. It turns out there is a whole host of evil spirits just waiting to ruin our big day.

The thing about evil spirits is that, well, they’re evil, and will do whatever they can to spoil a good time. I certainly wasn’t going to stand by and let some disembodied jerks ruin our big day, so I looked at what people had done in the past to thwart these supernatural wedding crashers. My hope was to incorporate some safe guards into the ceremony without worrying my soon-to-be wife about the peril she might be in. The first possible solution involved the bridesmaids.

You wouldn’t guess it by today’s standards, but the bride and her bridesmaids used to wear the same color and style of dress. The idea was that if the bride shows up to the wedding with a group of people that look like her, the spirits wouldn’t be able to figure out who the actual bride is. It seemed like the answer to my problem, but as I started thinking, I couldn’t remember ever seeing a wedding where the bride and the bridesmaids were all dressed the same. It turns out that we can thank Queen Victoria for unintentionally putting a stop to this tradition. 
White didn’t always dominate the wedding color wheel, in fact, white used to be the color of mourning in medieval Europe among many other places. For weddings, brides of the past generally just wore their favorite dress. That is, until the marriage of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1840. The Queen decided that she wanted to wear white, and commissioned a beautiful gown that changed wedding garb forever after. She wasn’t about to thumb her nose at the spirits though, her bridesmaids wore white as well. It was quickly decided that white represented purity, and therefore was the perfect color for the bride to wear, but inappropriate for the bridesmaids. This effectively ended the tradition as people modeled their weddings after those of the Royals. I asked Dena what she thought about having matching dresses for her and the bridesmaids. It was in that moment I learned that the human face is capable of expressions that put spoken words to shame. Not a sound was needed to let me know that she would not be wearing the same color as her bridesmaids. Thankfully, traditional wedding fashion had another option for disguising the bride, the veil.

The veil is a truly ancient tradition, dating all the way back to the biblical Genesis.   One explanations of why the bride is “given away” during a wedding is because the veil was said to make it so difficult to see she needed to be escorted down the aisle to avoid bumping into anything. The meaning of the veil has changed throughout the centuries and varies from culture to culture. It has been used as a symbol of purity and rebirth, as a form of insurance in arranged marriages where a participant may not be overjoyed by the aesthetics of the other, and, most importantly to me, as protection from evil spirits.    
The thinking behind this one is that the spirit, if it knew the bride, would not be able to recognize her at the wedding, or, if it was a more general variety of spirit that was just out to ruin a happy day, the veil made it so the spirit wouldn’t be able to see the bride laughing or smiling, actions that tend to irritate the nasty spirits of the world. When I asked Dena if she was going to wear a veil, her response was less than enthusiastic. “We’re getting married at midday, outside, in August. It’s going to be hot enough without adding a veil to the mix.” 

Later that night she walked in on me drilling holes into soup cans. At first her expression was one of confusion, but I watched it changed to curious disapproval as I explained that if she insisted on not match her bridesmaids, or wearing a veil, then this was our last option. Traditional Irish/Celtic folklore says that spirits cannot stand the sound of metal hitting together, this theory also shows up in many other cultures where bells and gongs are used to cleanse a space of negative influences. Tradition also claims that the sound of the cans will drown out the voices of the newlyweds, preventing the spirits from learning where the honeymoon will take place.


“Well something tells me the limo company isn’t going to like that very much. What if a can bounces up and scratches the paint? Besides, if any spirit shows up I’m just going to put it in a headlock and give it a swirly in the holy water, problem solved.”


Sometimes all it takes is a different perspective to find a solution. Weddings are foolish places for evil spirits anyway, any book on superstition will tell you that love is your best weapon against evil.
EDITORS NOTE: On behalf of myself (Amanda), Angelika, Kiyomi, and Craig, we here at Enchanted Conversation would like to congratulate William and Dena on their upcoming wedding, and we wish you two a very happy ever-after!


William Gilmer is a writer and poet living in Michigan where Fall never lasts long enough. Over two dozen of his pieces have been published both online and in print. Keep an eye out for his monthly articles in Enchanted Conversation Magazine, and if there isn’t enough going on in your feed, follow him on Twitter @willwritethings

Cover Art: The Marriage of Oberon and Titania by Thomas Stothard, 1806


Thanks for reading! We'd love to hear from you, so share your thoughts about William's article in the comments section below.
Check out Jude's novelette:
FAEGOTTEN

May 14, 2018

DOUBLE FAIRY TALE FLASH - The Great Escape AND Pond Life

This week, Enchanted Conversation Magazine 
presents two classic Fairy Tale Flash stories with a twist:
The Great Escape by Fanni Sütő
and
Pond Life by Jane Dougherty
Rapunzel didn't remember when she arrived to the tower or when she first sat in the window. The rich gold of her hair had turned into silver, shining bright in the moonlight. Nobody asked her to let down her hair, so it just grew and grew and it twirled around her, filling up the room slowly but unstoppably. Rapunzel sighed and looked into the spyglass again, She was hoping to spot a prince. Or a young merchant. A soldier. A handsome peasant maybe. Or even an average looking peasant. Anybody, please?

But nobody came.

The surroundings of the tower proved positively princeless. And merchantless. No man was to be seen, neither near nor far. No woman either, for that matter. Rapunzel bathed in total, utter loneliness. A bird used to visit her, he sang to her every day but it hadn't been around for a while. It must have found a mate and flown away to build a nest.
Rapunzel's body felt like stone, her backside sunk into the chair, melted into it as if it didn’t want to break away anymore. Her eyes were tired from the endless looking and watching and peeping. Yet she couldn’t rest, what if… What if the moment she closed her eyes, the moment her saviour appeared and she missed her opportunity. No, she couldn't allow that.

Other days despair seized her. What if humanity died out and she was the only survivor? What else could explain the fact that nobody had come for her?

One day when she was even more bored than usual, she started playing with her spyglass, looking at its shiny copper body more carefully. She span it around, and found herself eye to eye with the big, curious lens of the telescope. Her own distorted reflection stared back at her. It was the first time she'd seen a human form in years. Her hair had grown unruly and long hair, the glass had dug a permanent wrinkle under her tired eyes. Her lips were dry and smileless. The unexpected meeting made her realize that she'd had enough. She got up from the chair which was reluctant to let her go. Her legs trembled at first because they had forgotten how it felt like to stand. After a few minutes, she felt her blood rushing through her body; it was a new, intoxicating sensation.

She stuck a pair of scissors in her belt, tied her hair around the foot of the spyglass, went to the widow and jumped. The wind rushed into her face and the claws of freedom tore into her dress. Her landing was painful, but she survived with only a few scratches. Rapunzel cut her hair tying her to the tower and her old life. She sighed with satisfaction; after all these years she finally saved herself.
Fanni Sütő writes poetry, short stories and a growing number of novels-in-progress. She publishes in English and Hungarian and finds inspiration in reading, paintings and music. She writes about everything which comes in her way or goes bump in the night. She tries to find the magical in the everyday and likes to spy on the secret life of cities and their inhabitants. Previous publications include: The Casket of Fictional Delights, Tincture Journal, Enchanted Conversation. Fundead Publications.
Follow her on Twitter: @Fanni_Pumpkin

A frog sat on a lily pad watching the mayflies. A shadow fell across the pond and the flies whizzed away. The frog sighed—she was wearing gumboots today.
“C’mon,” the princess said, wading into the pond. “Just one little kiss.”
The ripples made the lily pads bob like boats in a tempest. The frog dived beneath the agitated surface and hid among the lily roots.

The next day, the princess came back with an excavator. She drove the excavator into the pond and within half an hour she had emptied it of weed, water, mud and pond life. She poked gloomily among the expiring minnows and tadpoles. No frog. But there was a toad. A toad that tried to crawl out of the way, but the princess was too quick. She pounced and raised the bemused creature to her pouting lips.
“At last,” she breathed, “I will have my very own prince.”
The toad croaked and squirmed, but the lips came closer and smacked upon its broad mouth.

In a ditch by the trees beyond the wreckage of the pond, the frog watched sadly. His fairy frogfather hopped out of the culvert to watch the scene by the pondside.
“Shall I?”
“It’s the only way to stop her,” the frog said with a heavy sigh.
So the fairy frogfather waved a willow wand, and the toad turned into a great, green, warty, and very hungry, swamp ogre. And that was the end of the frog prince nonsense.

Jane Dougherty is Irish, brought up in Yorkshire and now living in South-West France. She writes stories where the magical and the apocalyptic mesh, where horror and romance meet, and the real and the imaginary cohabit on the same page. Her first YA post-apocalyptic fantasy trilogy is published by Finch Books. She has self-published three collections of short stories, and has poetry and short fiction published in anthologies, literary journals and magazines.
Amazon author page HERE

Covers: Amanda Bergloff

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