Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Guest blogger: Pat McDermott Writes about Fairies

Please join me in welcoming the delightful Pat McDermott, whose new novel Glancing Through the Glimmer is a paranormal young adult fantasy. It's now available from MuseItUp. I asked Pat to discuss what it's like to write on the ancient topic of fairies in Ireland.

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Fairies and their cousins appear in the folklore of every culture in the world. They’ve inspired many tales, including Glancing Through the Glimmer, my new young adult adventure. The title is a phrase from The Fairy Thorn, an old Irish poem by Sir Samuel Ferguson. The story, a blend of alternate Irish history, romance, and fairy magic, has been a joy to research. I’ve found countless web sites devoted to fairies, faeries, fae, fay, etc. and have added several volumes on the “Other Crowd” to my personal library.
Most fairies are small, benevolent beings, but in Ireland the “Good Folk” aren’t the cute little Tinker Bell types we know and love. Many are man-sized, and they can be downright mean. Mortals foolish enough to annoy them risk losing their hair, eyes, teeth, even toenails. (As I still have mine, I trust that the fairies in Glancing Through the Glimmer were happy to join the cast.)
I had always thought of Irish fairies as leprechauns. Not so, I learned while exploring the wealth of literature depicting these elusive beings. Leprechauns belong to the class of Solitary Fairies, which includes cluricauns, dullahans, pookas, merrows, silkies, and banshees.

Then we have the Trooping Fairies, bands of rascals who live beneath the hills and lakes of Ireland. One of these troops, the Connaught Fairies, inhabits a crystal palace beneath Knock Ma, a gentle hill in Galway. Their king, a frisky rogue named Finvarra, likes a good dance now and then, though he prefers mortal dancing partners. Over the centuries, he’s stolen quite a few, and he’s still at it, as American teenager Janet Gleason learns to her dismay in Glancing Through the Glimmer.

During a recent trip to the Emerald Isle, I decided to visit Knock Ma. My husband and I drove to Tuam, a small town 20 miles north of Galway City. The town’s name comes from the Latin word tumulus, which means burial mound. Thousands of years ago, the people who lived there used the area as a burial ground, which no doubt gave rise to the local fairy legends. In one of my favorites, an Irish chieftain sets his men to work digging into Knock Ma to rescue his wife, whom Finvarra had kidnapped. The trench they supposedly dug, known as The Fairy’s Glen, is still visible.
We found Knock Ma, and though Finvarra and his troop kept to themselves that day, the postman assured us they were there. “Ah, they’re all over the place,” he said.
Perhaps we’ll meet them another time. It’s their decision, of course.
Many roads twist in Ireland because the builders refused to cut down fairy trees. My grandmother once told me that when she was a child in County Sligo (around 1910), her father would set out a row of stones before erecting any outbuildings on their farm. If in the morning the stones were still where he’d placed them, he knew the fairies had no objections, and he was good to go. If not, then the Good Folk had disapproved of his choice, and he had to try again.
Superstitious nonsense?
I’ve heard too many strange things to be sure. What do you think?

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You can purchase Glancing Through the Glimmer here,
and visit Pat McDermott at her website.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Big Rock in the Big Slime River" published in Knowonder! e-zine

Here's a link to my latest published children's sci fi story. Please leave a comment on the Knowonder! site if you get a chance to read it.

Big Rock in the Big Slime River

In other news, the release date for the charity anthology Resilience has been pushed back to January, but the cover is done.

Also checked on the Etched Offerings anthology from Misanthrope Press. They're behind, too, but do seem to be moving forward.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Guest blogger: SF novelist Bryan Thomas Schmidt

I'm very happy to welcome today's guest, science fiction author Bryan Thomas Schmidt. He categorizes his new novel, The Worker Prince, as a space opera, so I asked him to discuss what that means.

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Thanks to Anne for the opportunity to guest post today. My debut novel, The Worker Prince, came out last month. A space opera, like Star Wars, it retells the Moses story with a unique setting amongst colonists from Earth who settled the stars. It departs quite a bit from some aspects of the biblical story. In part, this came from a desire to keep it surprising and original. And in part, it resulted from the nature of the space opera setting.

According to Wikipedia: “Space opera is a subgenre of science fiction that emphasizes romantic, often melodramatic adventure, set mainly or entirely in outer space, generally involving conflict between opponents possessing advanced technologies and abilities. Perhaps the most significant trait of space opera is that settings, characters, battles, powers, and themes tend to be very large-scale.” Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, Babylon Five, these are all space operas you might be familiar with. Filled with larger than life characters, space ships, flying craft of all sorts, laser guns, space battles and lots of action in a battle between good and evil, The Worker Prince frequently evokes memories of Golden Age science fiction stories amongst readers. The similarity is deliberate.

When I set out to write the story, I’d had it in mind for twenty-five years. I wanted to capture the sense of hope, wonder and fun of the stories which had delighted me as a youth and first made me fall in love with science fiction. Given our dark times, I also wanted to write something hopeful and encouraging with a  happy ending and good triumphing over evil. So much of the nihilism of our times leaks into our storytelling, and yet, I still believe there’s hope; that one person can make a difference by doing what’s right. So I wanted to tell a story which echoes those beliefs.

When writing a genre like space opera, there are tropes one must reckon with. Readers who are fans of the genre, expect certain things. I mentioned several above: laser guns, space ships, flying craft. My story also has robots, high tech computers, and planets far away. The solar system I created has twin suns and thirteen planets. It’s both similar and different from our system in many ways, with humans only one of many species inhabiting the worlds.  I also have a romantic subplot, themes of family, political scheming, and themes of ideological differences.

While the story is intended primarily to entertain, the theme of bigotry is a big part of it. That came naturally from the Moses story itself but also was drawn from present times where we see people of opposing views so often in conflict and fighting with each other. Space opera and science fiction are great mediums to examine contemporary themes through a distant, fresh lens. And certainly as writers, we tend to work in things we are passionate about. Our characters often reflect our beliefs and values and speak into situations we have opinions about. The advantage of doing this from a setting different and distant from our own is it enables readers to distance themselves in ways that allow fresh perspective. And space opera being full of action and high entertainment value, the stories deliver any messages lightly without hitting readers over the heads.

My goal above all, as with any good space opera, is to provide readers with an escape and entertainment to take them away from the worries of their world. I’m told The Worker Prince delivers that in spades, which is gratifying to hear because we all need an escape these days. I’m happy the adventures of Davi Rhii and his friends can provide that for many.

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Bryan Thomas Schmidt can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.
THE WORKER PRINCE is available for Kindle and Nook , or in paperback.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Interview about Ebenezer's Locker

Please pop around to C.K. Volnek's blog, where she interviews me about my middle grade paranormal mystery novel, Ebenezer's Locker, and about writing in general.

Click here for C. K. Volnek's blog.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Rule of Exceptional School

In my upcoming novel, Ebenezer's Locker, an ordinary public school has some unruly spirits floating around. I've been thinking a lot lately about the prominence of schools in middle-grade literature. On the face of it, you'd think kids wouldn't want to read about schools. I mean, reading fiction is their chance to escape. So why pray for snow days even in April, yet choose books---especially books with fantastical elements---that take place in school?

But I've noticed a recurring theme in the more popular MG novels about schools: They all make schools into an extraordinary thing. Look at Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society, where a handful of students are specially recruited into this boarding-school-cum-adventure-operation. The same sort of thing happens in Gitty Daneshvari's School of Fear, in which the kids' oddest characteristics are turned into their greatest strengths.

Oh, and I've heard a few mentions of another series that's met with some success... Something about a school for wizards?

My theory is that kids long for the day when going to school is an amazing experience. They want it to be a place where they feel special, as if they have unique abilities that are necessary for saving the world. Of course, they really do, but schools don't always make kids feel that way.

What other middle-grade fantastical novels have you read that are based in schools?