Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review--Five Magic Spindles Anthology

Image and Summary from

Awaken the Magic!

Emma, a good-hearted midwife, rushes to warn a neighbor about the hired gunman headed to his ranch but can't prevent the catastrophe in store for his daughter.

Palli, the prophesied daughter of a king, is fated to rescue her people from the destruction called forth by a vengeful priest.

Roselee, a ghost with a faulty memory, flits through the halls of an insane asylum in search of the mortal boy who can help her save the day.

Arabella, a living spirit trapped in her own comatose body, helplessly watches from the realm of dreams as her usurping cousin plots to destroy her once and for all.

Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, struggles to make a living and doesn’t need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life.

One way or another, these beauties have no intention of sleeping away their problems.



The only word to aptly describe this collection, despite the absence of magical elements in two or three of the stories, is indeed magical. Each story’s setting thrummed into vivid life, stock full of characters that defied stereotypes and made you appreciate each author’s unique way of telling story.

            The Man on the Buckskin Horse was inspiring, to say the least. I loved how we learned so much about the Sleeping Beauty character despite her not being the narrator. Luke Palmer, someone who could have easily become a true antagonist, quickly stole my heart with his back story and his chivalry and depth despite his choice of profession. A few quibbles I had was that the true antagonist’s actions felt a little unrealistic—she risked a lot for what she wanted, and I wasn’t quite convinced to her reasoning of why she wanted the land and why she would go so far to get it. As well, I wanted more development for the secondary romantic relationship of the story.

            Guardian of Our Beauty by Kathryn Connaughy was the story that perhaps best reflected my own writing style and preferences in regards to storytelling. Her style is very much reflective of many of my favourite authors—Shannon Hale, Anne Elisabeth Stengl. I loved Neriya and Palli, and how they stood so well on their own before they even meet. Neriya especially really did not meet the stereotype of the typical romantic hero; he isn’t as certain, isn’t as confident. But he tries, and my goodness gracious, he was so lovely in that trying. Palli’s quiet confidence and even questioning make her an a-typical princess, and I loved how the scene where she pricks her spindle was turned around. This story contained quite a few of the aspects I had considered to write into my own version of the tale for the contest, and I applaud this kindred-spirit author. Again, however, the ending felt rushed, and SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY, I wished for more time to see Neriya and Palli “fall in love” before their union as husband and wife. He rescues her, and then it’s like I blinked and suddenly they’re married with children.

            The Ghost of Briardale by Grace Mullins was the story that, to me, felt the most complete and took the most advantage of the 20,000 word limit. More than any of the other stories, this one did not feel too long or too short. The amount of characters, plot, and setting that fit into this one novella was astounding. I was happy from beginning to the end, which was where it might have felt the tiniest bit tight, but it was closed enough without being unrealistic. I loved the characters, loved the Swamp, loved how everything, even the smaller elements you might have ignored, became important and all came together at the end. I adored Franz and Roselee and actually really want more of their story in the future. The setting completely charmed me—I love that late-Victorian era and the language was so bubbly and the character names made me think of J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis and were so reminiscent of this line from Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: “There once was a boy named Eustace Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” Point being: LOVED IT.

            Spindle Cursed by Michelle Pennington had dragons. That’s all I can say. As I’ve said in other book reviews I’m sure, if there are dragons, I am sold hook, line, and sinker. Edmond and Arabella both challenge readers to rethink their ideals of a prince and princess, especially when it comes to the idea of what makes someone truly beautiful and worth love. The dragon was so fun, and I loved the political struggle at the helm of their world. It was like a mix of Gail Carson Levine and Megan Whalen Turner, with a bit of Rosamund Hodge thrown in—three authors I love and admire. However, like many of the previous stories, I had a suggestion or two. I felt that so much of the story’s plot revolved around Edmond’s journey to reach Arabella, and too much time was spent on that. So when they finally meet and start interacting, I felt there wasn’t enough shown of their relationship before they’re suddenly in love. It felt far too quick and made it difficult for me to accept him calling her terms of endearment when, to me, they had literally almost just met.

             Finally, Out of the Tomb by Ashley Stangl. This story had a really strong theme and Tanza’s struggles were very real. Auren definitely had my heart, and I loved how Stangl took the Thirteen Fairy Gifts and created Virtue Names in her world. It was just so clever an idea that I’m super jealous of it! Other reviewers have haled her worldbuilding, her characters, and so there’s not much more I can really add to that conversation. There was one nitpick I had: I found the narrative voice of the story distanced me a bit from Tanza and Auren; Tanza as a character voice did not always come through in the narration despite it being third person limited. That, alongside the amount of information and terms we are fed, made me feel slightly overwhelmed and distracted from the story. I’ve seen this in other reviews from readers who read science fiction and fantasy, so it’s not an uncommon thing. I do appreciate, however, her effort to feed us info bit by bit instead of info-dump. I just felt that I didn’t actually know who was who or what was what until about halfway through the story. I kept with it, but for other readers who aren’t familiar with science fiction and fantasy, it might be a bit more challenging.

            All in all, congratulations and fantastic jobs to all the authors—and editors—involved in this collection! Four out of five stars!

Thursday, 10 March 2016

New First Steps

Hello everyone!

I fully intend to update you on what's been going on in the past year. It has been very busy, what with university, travelling/living in England for three months (!!!) and then wandering about the UK for two and a half weeks after that.

Before I delve into what I've been doing, I'd like to just ponder what's coming. I am at the edge of beginning a new phase of my life, with my final semester of university looming ahead in the fall and graduation in May of 2017.

Wow. By that time I will be twenty-four years old, and it will have been five years since I was in high school. *cue eyes bugging out* I don't feel that *old*, but it's definitely weird when so many people I know are getting engaged/married, and I'm still trying to figure out the whole "being an adult" thing.

Thankfully, I do have a game plan. Though of course I've heard it said plenty enough times, "Want to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans." So these are more... possibilities that I have been considering.

First, after graduation I want to go home, spend some time with my family/work at my coffee shop job to pay off some student debt. Then, in January 2018, I want to fly off to England to au pair for at least one year. Then, if that time makes me feel equipped enough, I hope to either go teach in Japan or South Korea, or find some sort of job over there.

This is all in-between visiting friends in the States (Wisconsin, North Carolina, Oregon, etc.) and across Canada, of course. By that time, I will have people I love in British Columbia, all the way to the Maritimes. For those of you who might not know exactly what Canada looks like, here's a map:

The yellow splotches will give you an idea of where I am (sort of--the splotches aren't completely accurate) and where my friends are. Canada takes a long time to travel across. Our provinces are definitely far larger than most of the states in the US. And it's about $400 Canadian to fly out one-way to British Columbia--it's cheaper to go to England now!

So, that's a bit about the "new first steps" I want to take in the future. Next time, I will delve into the past year and what I have been up to.


Friday, 5 June 2015

Book Review: Draven's Light, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

Image and Description from
In the Darkness of the Pit
The Light Shines Brightest

Drums summon the chieftain’s powerful son to slay a man in cold blood and thereby earn his place among the warriors. But instead of glory, he earns the name Draven, “Coward.” When the men of his tribe march off to war, Draven remains behind with the women and his shame. Only fearless but crippled Ita values her brother’s honor.

The warriors return from battle victorious yet trailing a curse in their wake. One by one the strong and the weak of the tribe fall prey to an illness of supernatural power. The secret source of this evil can be found and destroyed by only the bravest heart.

But when the curse attacks the one Draven loves most, can this coward find the courage he needs to face the darkness?


Draven’s Light by Anne Elisabeth Stengl is not as dark as I expected it to be. Rather, it reminded me somehow of Perelandra by C.S. Lewis, with its ethereal, dangerous beauty, its link to the past that is so essential, the world within worlds, the questions that did not necessarily have answers, but without being questions… In this, it moves beyond the classics of Lewis (whose great work was giving us aid in finding answers) and more towards the epic push-and-pull between characters and their “historic moment” (a university professor of mine taught me the phrase, I believe) that is characteristic of Tolkien. Stengl makes the intimate epic in the same way Tolkien made the epic intimate to the reader.

                What I especially appreciated was the good use of superstition; it made the world feel more real. Even as I disagreed with the characters’ fears and was the sort to dismiss them, I still appreciated the history behind their fears.

                Of course, Draven’s Light is beautifully-written. Some ways of description may have been used slightly too much (there was an emphasis on the eyes), but this was not noticed upon my read-through and does not detract in any way from the actual story.

                Another reviewer mentioned that she was uncomfortable with Ita’s tendency to kick her brother. I understand this completely, but I also believe that it’s a subconscious reflection on her part of her very violent world. In Ita and Gaho’s relationship, you see a microcosm of the flawed network of relationships in which they struggle to thrive. No, you should not agree with it, but on the other hand, perhaps you’re meant to be uncomfortable with it.

The interior design of the story is absolutely gorgeous; the font for the chapter titles looks otherworldly! I especially liked how you could look for the links within the story between the present and past, as there were little clues here and there. In this series, everything seems to mean something, and I was having a great time trying to guess as I went along. Even now, I realize how much Ita reminded me of another character in Stengl’s books, and I wonder if they are related…

Now, this was perhaps one of my favourite parts, but I’m biased: DINOSAURS. Anne Elisabeth had dinosaurs and people living alongside each other!!! I read that, and my inner dinosaur-loving geek squealed!! I suddenly wanted to dive through the screen, steal Draven’s canoe, and go up the river to where the dinosaurs lived and try to tame one to be my pet. That is how much I adore dinosaurs and everything related to them. I loved the inclusion of Hydrus (a river dinosaur/fish thing) and the scene with him, that again I realize now parallels in a different way with Stengl’s scene between a girl and a creature in another book (Leta and the star...). Basically, just so you can appreciate how to build a creative world that reflects the complexities of ours in a way that does not detract from darkness yet does not glorify it in a way much of modern literature does, read Stengl’s work.

As in the rest of her work, Draven’s Light does paint a lot of links to Christian theology, but trying to create too many direct links will not work. I’ve tried, and I realized that Stengl takes themes common with our faith but makes the story all her own. Attempting to fit the characters and situations into an exact Biblical parallel will lessen the impact of the message on the reader, and, if you’re like me, you may even end up confusing yourself and over-thinking things.

The one thing that does bother me a little is this: if faith in the Wood Thrush is what gets one to the “heaven” of this world, is Draven there? That’s one question that haunted me, and at the end I wasn’t sure if he believed, or what he believed. This does reflect, however, our state in everyday life—we can never know until we get there.

Stengl has a great flare for “the last word”, and the last line was absolutely lovely in this book. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Cover Reveal: Rooglewood Press's New Writing Contest!

Rooglewood Press is delighted to introduce their second fairy tale novella contest—

Five Magic Spindles

a collection of “Sleeping Beauty” stories

The challenge is to write a retelling of the beloved fairy tale in any genre or setting you like. Make certain your story is recognizably “Sleeping Beauty,” but have fun with it as well. Make it yours!

Rooglewood Press will be selecting five winners to be published in the Five Magic Spindles collection, which will be packaged up with the phenomenal cover you see here. Maybe your name will be one of the five listed?

All the contest rules and information (how to enter, story details, deadline etc.) may be found on the Rooglewood Press website. Just click HERE and you will go right to the page.

Rooglewood Press’s first collection, Five Glass Slippers is available for purchase, and our second collection, Five Enchanted Roses is scheduled to launch on July 27, and is currently available for pre-order. Be certain to get a copy of each and see what previous winners did with their wonderful retellings.

This cover illustration was rendered by Julia Popova, “ForestGirl.” You can find out more about this gifted artist on her website:

Monday, 16 March 2015

Until Midnight, Part 2

Almost a year ago, I posted the first part of my Cinderella retelling, Until Midnight, and very cruelly did not post anymore! Shame on me. So I've decided to rectify that!

For those of you who haven't read the first part, here's a link to it

And here are the next few chapters!


“Don’t let Maman see you like that, Eloise,” my younger sister, Ilyse, said as I entered the house. My dark red curls were windblown, strewn across my face. I pushed them back and gave a one-shouldered shrug.
Elle was sewing in the far corner, her head bowed over her work. I hoped she was not ill; she had not spoken much since her status had fallen from noble to servant.
Ilyse fiddled with a piece of paper in her lap, worrying her lower lip with her teeth. Per usual, she had allowed Maman to fuss over her until she looked like a princess, her amber locks perfectly curled, her eyes rimmed with just the right amount of kohl.
“What is it?” I asked, beckoning to the paper in her hands.
“An invitation,” she said, folding the page and thinning it with her fingers. “For all eligible girls to attend a ball where the prince will choose the next queen.” She simpered, shooting a triumphant look at Elle, who flinched.
I grimaced. Ilyse and Elle were the same age—seventeen, creating an air of rivalry between them. Ilyse sensed Elle was her biggest competition in the house; I was too old and too dowdy to attract any men Ilyse would set her sights on, but Elle’s sweetness and innocent, girlish figure had already captured the attentions of a few passing nobles.
Perhaps this was another reason Maman had forced Elle into servitude—to give spoiled Ilyse a better chance at snagging an admirer and making a match.
It all tasted so sour in my mouth I wanted to spit it out. “Well I guess that excludes you,” I said, tugging off my gloves. “The king wants only well-bred young women.”
Ilyse tossed her shoe at my head. I ducked, and it went sailing over me to smack the opposite wall. “Better not let Maman see you like this,” I said mockingly, running from the room as Ilyse sent her other slipper hurtling toward my face.
Prayers of the Pitiful
Most nights I did not blow out my candle until the clock in the palace tower struck twelve. This night was no exception, but instead of reading the works of Perrault in my bed, I prayed. I prayed to le Seigneur to allow Michael and I to wed somehow—how could it not be His will that I marry such a good man? I begged him, asking him to forgive me for being so wild and brash at times—I would change so much if I could only have Michael for my husband rather than a brutish court pig.
I was almost weeping when a knock came at the door. Raising my head, I croaked, “Who is it?”
The door creaked open to reveal Elle, her tiny face pale. I sat up and patted the bed in front of me. “Come in,” I said.
“Are you all right?” she whispered, slipping inside on silent feet, her ragged night dress billowing around her legs.
I hesitated, then shook my head. “But I will be fine,” I said. “What about you?”
She raised her hands to run her fingers through her loose gold curls. “Do—do you think your mother will allow me to go to the ball, too?” she asked. Her gaze strayed to my window, from which one could see the palace rising against the night in the distance. It glowed with an ethereal gleam, as though ghosts were trapped within its walls. A cool breeze slipped into the room, raising goose bumps along my skin.
“I think she should,” I said, rubbing my hands across my arms. “But all you can do is ask her.”
She sighed. “I wish Father was still alive,” she said, then jammed her fist in her mouth. Her eyes squeezed shut against tears.
“Shhh,” I whispered, stroking her arm. “It’s all right, mon chéri.”
A sob broke out of her, and she fell into my open embrace. Poor little thing. She’d had no siblings until Ilyse and I entered her life, no big sister to coddle and cheer her despondent spirits. She nestled into me like a baby bird in desperate search of warmth.
She fell asleep in my bed, tucked in beside me as though we were full-blooded sisters. In truth, I felt closer to this ragged, ash-streaked thing than I did to my own sister. Strange how the world works in such mysteries.
When I woke the next day, well toward noon, Elle was gone, leaving nothing to remark of her existence in my room but a tiny spattering of ashes.
Petrov Skimov the Second
The next day at breakfast, Maman brought up the subject of the ball. I chewed the tasteless toast and eggs that Elle served and listened as Maman listed what Ilyse and I would need. Ilyse gave Maman her full attention, her entire being enraptured with the notion of frilled dresses and scented wigs.
I shuddered. Elle scooped an extra portion of eggs onto my plate. I shot her a grateful smile, ignoring Maman’s frown. It was her opinion that my waist was too thick for courtly beauty. But courtly beauties stuffed their faces with powders and kohl, smearing colour on their lips and fake hair on their heads. It was something I could not understand. In fact, I was toying with the idea of writing a novel like Petrov Skimov—I would write a satire about the ridiculous tomfoolery that passed as elegance in the royal court of Freanc.
The nobility would go insane over my novel, without understanding it poked fun at their very selves. I hid a snicker by coughing into my napkin.
“Stepmother,” Elle said softly.
I nearly choked.
Maman looked up from the list she had been reading aloud. “What is it?”
Elle took a deep breath. Her chin trembled, but she swallowed and said bravely, “Might I go the ball as well?”
Silence settled around the table. I waited, praying fervently to le Seigneur and any saints willing to intercede that Maman would say yes.
Maman dabbed her lips with a napkin. “Of course,” she said. I caught the curve of a smile from behind the linen; my heart sank. “If,” she continued, “you can find your own dress and carriage.”
Elle nodded. “Might—might I be paid ahead this month?” she asked.
Maman arched a brow. “Why?” she asked, then paused. “Oh, how silly of me. I didn’t tell you. Upon our marriage, your father borrowed money from me—quite a large sum, in order to start a business. It failed, of course, and his only assets left were his house, which I am not willing to sell. So you’re working off your father’s debt—and since that is the case, why would I pay you? I owe you nothing. You owe me everything.”
Elle staggered, clutching the edge of the table. I rose from my seat, speechless. My stepsister’s eyelashes fluttered as her eyes rolled back into her head. Racing forward, I caught her as her knees buckled. She was terribly light, and I hoisted her into my arms and carried her out without a word or look in Maman and Ilyse’s direction.
I strode through the kitchen, out the back door, across the yard—all the way to the coach house where Michael and the other coachmen dwelled. Madame Gastave, wife of one of the coachmen, opened the door. “Mademoiselle—” She gasped at the sight of Elle. “Ah non! La fille!” Tenderly she took Elle from me and led the way through a kitchen and communal living room into a dimly-lit hall. She laid Elle on the bed of the first chamber we came to. “This is our guest room,” she said with a warm smile, stroking Elle’s forehead and pulling a light sheet up to her chin. “We’ll take care of her here.”
I nodded, but I wasn’t quite ready to leave.
Madame regarded me with pity. “Michael has gone to tell your mother of his resignation within two weeks’ time,” she said, her voice quiet. “He has found another family willing to hire him.”
This time it was my knees that shook and threatened to collapse, but I kept myself steady and upright. Madame clucked, chucking me under the chin. “All will be well yet, Mademoiselle,” she said. “Just you wait and see.”
Choking back tears, I embraced her and fled the coach house. I ran blindly back to the mansion, only to smack into a comforting bulk I knew all too well. Without thinking I wrapped my arms around Michael’s waist and sobbed into his chest.
“Eloi—Mademoiselle—” He sighed in defeat and patted the back of my head, keeping his touch light and professional—as though all distraught daughters of nobility burdened their coachmen with their sorrows. Disentangling himself, he took hold of my shoulders and gazed into my eyes. “You must be strong,” he whispered. “Do not let your mother win by allowing her to see you weep.”
I sucked in deep breaths, wiping my eyes with the back of my hand. “Do you believe in miracles, Michael?”
“Of course,” he said, sounding surprised that I should even ask.
“Then start praying for one,” I said. “For all of us.”

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Fear of Fraud: An Honest Reflection

I'm doing something a bit different here: I'm reflecting and confronting. I'm very vulnerable here, and am literally confronting some 'demons' that I've struggled with for a long time, inspired by those who have done so before me.


Beauty and the Beast is perhaps my favourite fairy tale. When I saw the contest hosted by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, my mind started racing with ideas.

However, I've struggled with a lot of things in the past few years--whispers that I'm not good enough, not original enough. That what I have is, in the end, not genuine. That I'm merely a copycat, that what I want to give to the world has already been done. That my voice, whatever it may be, shouldn't be shared because it has nothing new to give. I worried so much about being too much like others that, in the end, I couldn't find myself as a writer.

And in the end, I pounded out a story just because I couldn't let those whispers win--because if I didn't write something, I would indeed feel like a fraud. All the ideas I'd dreamed of earlier withered because I felt they were not original enough, and by the time I'd found the confidence to commit to one despite those whispers, I almost didn't finish it.

Obviously, the story I did end up writing did not win the contest. But I received a different kind of victory. A victory over the devil's lies, a victory over a plague of anxiety that has haunted me for months. And while the anxiety still lingers (and perhaps always will), I know myself again.

I am a writer.

And I will never stop writing--despite disappointment, despite desperation, despite the devil. To spite the devil.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Antics and Adventures in Albion: Vlog, Part One

Hi everyone!

I am currently living in England for a four-month semester abroad program. To record some of our adventures, my friend Kristen and I decided to vlog together. So here's part one of our Antics and Adventures in Albion! :D